Small kitchen design ideas
small kitchen decor ideas: use pale accents with dark colours

11 design tips for a small kitchen

Ideas to make the best use of limited space or an awkwardly shaped room

By Paula Woods | 8 April 2022

Don’t write off a compact or awkwardly shaped space as a lost cause. These small kitchen design ideas will help you maximise space and functionality, from larger jobs like adding windows or rooflights and bespoke cabinetry, to minimalist interventions like clever colour palettes that create the illusion of space.

1. Add brightness overhead

A rooflight brings in a greater amount of light than an equivalently sized window and creates the impression of greater ceiling height. While it will require some financial outlay, this small kitchen design idea will make the room feel much bigger. Pictured below: Suffolk kitchen in Fog, from Neptune.

small kitchen with rooflight, pale green cabinets and open shelving

Photo: Neptune

2. Wraparound layout

A U-shaped arrangement of cabinets is a classic small kitchen layout idea. It’s space efficient and ideal for an easy working triangle, but plan for adequate clearance between units for ease of movement and so you can open doors without obstruction. A minimum of 1m between cabinets is recommended. Pictured below: Bespoke handleless kitchen in pure white, by John Lewis of Hungerford.

Handless u-shaped kitchen layout in white by John Lewis of Hungerford

Photo: John Lewis of Hungerford

3. Hardworking galley

The classic galley layout is another good way to gain maximum storage and worksurface space, especially in a long, narrow room. Make preparing meals easier by fitting the sink, cooker and fridge so that they are within a few steps of each other. Pictured below: Bespoke kitchen in Abet White Laminate on Ply, with worksurfaces and splashbacks in Silestone Gris Expo, from Jack Trench.

galley kitchen with sink, cooker and fridge close by for a good working triangle

Photo: Alexandria Hall

4. Integrated lighting

Integrated lighting such as recessed spotlights and under-cabinet LED strips help create a space-enhancing, streamlined look in a kitchen. Instal them on different circuits so you can light different areas separately, such as when preparing food or entertaining. Pictured below: Bespoke kitchen design, from Catherine Wilman Interiors.

LED strip lighting under pale grey cabinets with white worktops and white sink

Photo: Catherine Wilman Interiors

5. Bespoke cabinetry

Turn architectural features such as alcoves and a redundant fireplace to your advantage with built-in furniture. You may be able to adapt off-the-shelf cabinets and shelving, but made-to-measure suppliers come into their own when it comes to small kitchen design ideas. Pictured below: The Real Shaker Kitchen, from deVOL.

bespoke cabinet with open shelving in an alcove painted dark green

Photo: deVOL

6. An open aspect

Doing without wall cabinets makes a room look bigger. To maximise storage in the base units, consider having a high proportion of drawers, including deep pan drawers, to cupboards. But if wall units are inevitable, select handleless designs in a colour that blends with the walls. Pictured in the panel below: Natural Crown Cut European Oak and Fenix Bianco Male cabinet fronts, from Custom Fronts.

Natural Crown Cut European Oak and Fenix Bianco Male cabinet front from Custom Fronts

Natural Crown Cut European Oak and Fenix Bianco Male cabinet front from Custom Fronts

7. Floor-to-ceiling cabinets

A bank of floor-to-ceiling cabinets takes up less floor area than a run of wall and base units. It’s one of the best small kitchen design ideas you can employ, and certainly one to consider at the planning stage if you want to make room for somewhere to sit and eat. Pictured below: Arcos kitchen in Vintage Oak and White 3D, from Schmidt.

floor-to-ceiling cabinets in a small Scandi-style kitchen

Photo: Schmidt

8. Use accent colours

When using a colour scheme including darker shades in a small kitchen, include pale accents and an interesting mix of matt and gloss finishes that draw attention and prevent an oppressive monotone effect. Pictured below: Bespoke kitchen with Moss Green lacquered cabinets, classic antique brass cup handles and ceramic worksurfaces, from Day True.

dark green cabinets with pale accent colours, marble splashback and crittall-style windows

Photo: Day True

9. The one-wall approach

Another great small kitchen design idea, especially when considering places to sit and eat, is to fit all your storage and appliances along one wall. This layout provides room in front for a narrow table or island unit. Pictured below: Alderley kitchen, from Kitchen Makers.

monochrome kitchen with matt black cabinets, white worktops and white walls

Photo: Kitchen Makers

10. Bifold or lift-up cabinets

Cabinets with sliding, bifold or lift-up doors require less empty room in front than forward opening versions. Or go for a 300mm-wide base cupboard in a really tight spot, which halves the free space needed compared to a standard 600mm unit. Pictured below: H Line Sutton kitchen in Inkwell with 2m wide Linea lift-up wall cabinets, from Masterclass Kitchens.

navy lift-up kitchen cabinet doors with marble splashback

Photo: Masterclass Kitchens

11. Integrated appliances

Create a streamlined look and sense of space by installing built-in appliances. Select and extractor fan that fits flush beneath a wall cabinet or a ceiling-mounted model, which leaves wall space free for storage. Pictured below: Sleek 2.0 built-in, voice and app controlled extractor hood with LED lighting, available in two sizes, from Elica.

Integrated kitchen hob and extractor with metallic gold splashback

Photo: Elica