It’s that classic kitchen conundrum: when your counters are crowded with appliances and the open areas are loaded with furniture, you hardly have any space in your kitchen to breathe, let alone cook.
If that sounds like your home, you’re not alone. Kitchens are famously pressed for space. They’re one of those places where builders often skimp on the square footage, leaving you with a cramped and frustrating work space—and a room that’s so cluttered, it makes your eyes cross.
Thankfully, there are lots of sneaky ways to squeeze a few extra inches out of a kitchen—or just make yours seem more roomy than it really is. These tricks will help you learn to love your itsy-bitsy kitchen, and make the most of what precious space you do have.
There are a few general rules of visual design that apply here. First, when you’re trying to make a space appear larger, it’s always best to minimize transitions—moulding, trim, paneling, and other decorative elements that break up a wall only make small rooms seem busier and thus more crowded and cramped.
Along a similar line, while clutter can make any room overwhelming, in small spaces, you need to be especially careful to keep countertops, floors, tables, and other surfaces clear of excess clutter—especially a concern in kitchens, where counters can easily collect small appliances, dishes, and other cooking implements in between uses. Those are just the general guidelines, however. To really dive into the specifics, take a look at these six tips that will help you make the most room out of your kitchen area.
Ditch the kitchen table
While it may feel blasphemous to think of scrapping this timeless kitchen classic, the truth is, most of us hardly have time for a few bites of cereal before zipping off to work, much less a full seated breakfast. More often than not, we’re piling our plates and heading into the living room or in front of the television for supper. Meanwhile, your dinner table is sitting, gathering dust and taking up otherwise serviceable room in an area where space is at a premium. Instead of guiltily bemoaning the loss of family dinner time, get rid of your table entirely, and opt for a narrow kitchen island or extended countertop with bar seating. You’ll still have a place to sit when you need it, but one that doubles as counter space for those that love to cook.
Opt for glass cabinets
Glass is one of those miracle materials—its reflective surface adds dimension to small spaces, while its transparency makes your kitchen appear more open and airy. Use its properties to your advantage by installing glass doors on all your cabinets. Of course, see-through storage means you’ll have to work harder to keep the interiors from gathering clutter, so you may need to first cull your cookware for unnecessary or infrequently-used items that can be given away.
Paint cabinets the same color as the walls
An interesting cabinet color can definitely add pizzazz to a larger kitchen area, but in smaller spaces, abrupt color transitions distract the eye and break up a room’s continuity. Instead, match cabinets to your wall’s hues—the uniform color scheme will create a flowing, spacious feel. The same goes for curtains—long, graceful window treatments paired to the surrounding wall add a feeling of depth in a tiny kitchen nook.
Minimize countertop clutter
Similarly, small appliances like a coffee grinder, food processor, toaster, or coffee maker would do better tucked away in a pantry or cabinet until they’re needed, rather than letting them crowd a small counter area. Many modern kitchens achieve this by including what’s known as an “appliance garage”—a tall cabinet with a flip-down drawer that can house any number of countertop appliances when they’re not being used. It’s a great way to ensure that you have the maximum work space available—and keep clutter contained. Feel free to display one or two of your favorite appliances, rather than a line up of all of them on your countertop.
Opt for clean, modern lines
If you love the look of ornate Victorian furniture but are stuck with a tiny kitchen, save the flourishes for the living room. Sleek, thin appliances and crisp countertops bring a feeling of ease to a small area—there aren’t as many decorative elements that can overwhelm the eye with distracting details. Keep the lines in your kitchen sleek and modern, and instead honor your penchant for the ornate with an elaborate chandelier or cluster of pendant lights that will draw the eye upward, adding to the sense of spaciousness.
Let there be light
Rooms look more, well, roomier when they’re well-lit. Diminishing lines foreshorten a space, making it appear less lengthy than it really is. Natural light, especially, can lend an open, airy feeling to a kitchen, so make sure to select window treatments that are sheer or at least unimposing in order to make the most of any sunlight you receive. Dealing with a windowless kitchen? Make sure to screw in 80 to 100 watt bulbs in all overhead fixtures, which will help give an extra-luminous boost to your kitchen. You can also install small under-cabinet task lights that will brighten up cooking and cleaning.
No matter how tiny your kitchen, with a few smart design choices, you can really create the illusion of space with one or more of these tricks. Now, if only fixing dinner were so simple!