5 design tricks for a small kitchen

Jennifer Noonan | Improvement Center Columnist | January 4, 2016

small kitchen design ideasThe American kitchen has doubled in size over the last three decades, growing to an average of 300 square feet. These days, the kitchen is not only where we cook, but where we entertain, where the kids do homework, the family business happens, and more. New construction homes are designed with the kitchen at the center of the house, as the social hub. The growth in kitchen size, then, seems a natural by-product of this cultural shift. Many homes built before the 1980's, however -- and certainly older, historic homes -- have much smaller kitchens than their modern counterparts. That makes using space efficiently of paramount importance. No one, these days, wants to hang out in a cramped kitchen. So, if you are remodeling a small kitchen, use some of these creative ideas to keep it feeling larger and more inviting.

1. Keep it light & bright

It's a standard remodeling rule: lighter, brighter spaces feel bigger. Keep a small kitchen feeling more open by letting in as much natural light as possible. Minimize your window treatments, or forego them completely. Not only will the room feel more open, it will feel less cluttered as well. If you have the opportunity to add a skylight, do it. Let the sun shine in. What you can't do with natural light, mimic with artificial light. Full spectrum light bulbs emulate natural sunlight, and are now pretty widely available.

2. Install space saving cabinets

If your kitchen is small, you need to seriously maximize your cabinet space. Space saving ideas and clever cabinet solutions are abundant in the current kitchen remodeling scene. Using cabinets with large drawers, as opposed to doors and shelves, will hold more pots and pans, and make them more easily accessible. Cabinets with integrated glass and wine racks keep bottles off the counters and glasses off the shelves -- minimizing clutter and saving space for other things. You can even squeeze an entire pantry into an 9 inch cabinet. It's all about design.

3. Minimize upper cabinets

If you do a good job maximizing space in your base cabinets, you can minimize your upper cabinets, or use open shelving instead. The smaller profile of open shelves will make the space feel lighter and more airy, while at the same time, giving you an opportunity to show off decorative pieces that might otherwise remain behind closed doors.

4. Use a free standing table for an island

Everybody loves a kitchen island. It provides extra storage and work space -- something you can never have enough of in any kitchen. But traditional kitchen islands are constructed with bulky cabinets which take up space and can feel overwhelming in a small room. For a small kitchen remodeling effort, use a free standing table instead. You'll have more choices in size, and just like open shelving, it will feel lighter and more airy, giving the illusion of more space. As a bonus, it will also be cheaper! A table with a shelf on the bottom adds more storage space. But if you'd like your kitchen island to double as a breakfast bar, get one without a lower shelf, and buy some backless stools to tuck underneath when it's not being used for dining. That's a big multi-functional win for a small kitchen.

5. Utilize ALL of your space

It's not a new concept, but if you are remodeling a small kitchen, be sure to use ALL of your space. All of it. Especially the vertical space. A small shelf installed a foot below the ceiling can be a storage boon for off-season items, or can display decorative items you don't have room for elsewhere. The inside of cabinet doors can be tricked out with hooks to hold seasoning packets, and the front of your refrigerator can house your spices in magnetic containers. Get creative!

Even a small kitchen can feel comfortable and roomy enough to keep the family gathered together, or to entertain friends. If you keep these space saving solutions and design ideas in mind, your newly remodeled small kitchen will still end up being a vibrant and well-used social center of your home.

About the Author

A confessed DIY junkie, Jennifer writes about home improvement, gardening, upcycling, and all things do-it-yourself. She lives in Delaware with her husband and daughters, where she is ardently teaching the next generation how to use power tools.