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Planning a kitchen

Small kitchen ideas

By Liz Ransome-Croker

Article 9 of 9

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Small kitchen ideas

Our small kitchen ideas will help you create a small but perfectly formed kitchen that works to suit your daily needs and lifestyle.

It would be great if all our kitchens were as big as those gracing the glossy magazines or TV screens. But the truth is that many of us make do with a kitchen of far smaller-than-ideal dimensions.

With a little planning, there's plenty you can do to transform your small kitchen. Read on for our small kitchen ideas to help you transform your kitchen into a beautiful but practical space that works for you.

Small kitchen layouts 

Layout has a huge impact on how easy you kitchen is to cook in, and how pleasant it is be in. Whether you're starting from scratch or adapting a current space, think about how you use your kitchen and what tasks you do most. Don't just think about putting breakfast together and cooking dinner every night, but be more specific. 

For example, at breakfast, what do you need to get to easily and quickly? Where are your breakfast bowls, your cutlery drawer and fridge in relation to each other? The closer together the things you use most are, the more enjoyable it'll be to use your kitchen.

Think also about tasks other than daily morning and dinner prep. Do you bake a lot and therefore need some clear worktop space and easy access to your baking gadgets and oven? Do you like to cook big batches of food to freeze? If you do, you'll want your food processor and food containers to hand.

U-shaped kitchens are a great solution for a small kitchen as they mean a high number of units in an easily reachable space. Galley kitchens, with units running down each side are the only sensible option for particularly long and thin rooms. 

Have you also thought about opening up your kitchen? If the layout of your home allows it, you could knock through to open it up to your living space. This would make the space feel bigger and enable you to be more sociable. Incorporating a kitchen breakfast bar, as in the image below, means your kitchen becomes a dual-purpose space.

It's worth getting a few kitchen designers in to help plan your layout and storage options. Many of the big-name kitchen brands offer free design consultations. For more advice on the different types of layouts, visit our kitchen designs page. 

Visit our kitchen brand pages, including B&Q, Homebase, Ikea and John Lewis, to find out exactly what each offers, and see which kitchen owners rated as the best and worst kitchen brands.

Also visit our Which? kitchen Best Buys page to find out which three brands gained Best Buys for their kitchen units when we assessed their quality, joins and sturdiness in our lab.

Kitchen storage 

Storage is of paramount importance in any kitchen, but particularly a small one. One obvious way to maximise storage space is to have wall units running above your base units, effectively doubling your kitchen storage potential. 

You could also look to have some open shelving, which, as well as being practical, will help give your kitchen a more open feel. A hanger for pots and pans or utensils can be another great way to store items that would otherwise take up space in your cupboard.

Pull-out storage is a key way to use every inch of space in your kitchen. This could include pull-out racks, as in the image below, that fold back on themselves, allowing you to access items right at the back of your cupboard that would otherwise be a pain to get to. 

If you have space for it, a full-height cupboard with a pull-out shelves or racks is a great way to store a large number of items, particularly packaged food and jars, in one space. You could even get a thin version if needed for your space.

It's also worth thinking about cupboard storage baskets as a cheap and simple way to pack a lot of items into a space that's then easy to use. And consider storage racks, such as plate racks, so you can sit items on top of each other, again, effectively doubling the space in your kitchen cupboard. 

And to eke out every last inch of usable space, how about hangers for the inside of your kitchen doors? This could be particularly useful for keeping your bin hidden away and consequently removing a bulky addition to your kitchen.

Also, have you thought about a kitchen island? They're normally associated with large kitchens, but you could consider a smaller option. There are a number of islands or work stations, many on wheels, which have a number of purposes, including:

  • added storage with shelving, baskets or cupboards;
  • incorporated chairs so it can double up as a place to eat;
  • use as a trolley to deliver food if you're entertaining.

A number of these storage solutions can be incorporated into your fitted kitchen, whether you go for a big-name kitchen brand - Ikea in particular has a lot of storage options - or opt for a bespoke kitchen. But it's also worth looking at storage shops, such as Store (www.aplaceforeverything.co.uk), Lakeland or Argos, for cheap options.

For more information on planning your kitchen design and, in particular, measuring up, visit our page on planning a kitchen.

Small kitchen design ideas 

You can do a lot with colour to make your small space feel bigger. Using the same colour across the cupboards and walls will give you a seamless look, making the space appear 'endless'. 

And that doesn't mean sticking to pale colours or cream and white. If you use the same colour consistently, a deeper shade could give the wow factor. Just avoid very dark colours. 

Or you could make a bold statement with just splashes of colour, to draw people's eye to the design rather than size of kitchen. There's a range of kitchen doors and cupboards that come in bold colours - Ikea, Wren Living, Wickes and Homebase in particular do a few ranges - so you could go all out or just have a few doors in the bright colour. 

But before you buy, find out how their customers rated them for quality, value for money and customer service in our guide to the best kitchen brands, as well as whether any became Best Buys when we put their units through rigorous assessments in our lab.

You can also by kitchen door paint if you want to update your current units. If you do, make sure you go for the right paint to match that surface, for example wood or melamine, and prepare them appropriately first. You can also paint worktops, too.

A feature wall, either in a bold paint colour or wallpaper, is also a great way to add colour. If you choose to paint, you could go a step further and add a statement piece of art or collection of pictures as well.

If you choose to wallpaper, bigger prints will make a room feel cosier, while smaller prints could feel too busy. Horizontal stripes are good for making a room feel wider and vertical lines will give the appearance of a higher ceiling. 

A bold splashback is another simple way to add colour, particularly good for a small space if it's in high gloss. Lastly, you could use coloured or patterned tiles, say as a splashback around your kitchen worktops, to create interest.

Sleek lines are also a good way to to make a small kitchen seem bigger. If you like a modern look, going ultra modern with handleless cupboards and uncluttered surfaces will create an open feel. Just be careful it doesn't become too clinical - some textures or patterns, like these wood grain cupboard doors below, will ensure it doesn't become cold. 

Glossy, reflective or mirrored surfaces are also a good option. You could go for stainless steel units for an industrial feel, or high-gloss cupboards, which come in a range of colours and finishes. This is a particularly good idea if you decide to go for a darker colour scheme. 

If you don't want to go as far as incorporating this through the cupboards, you could look to add a glass splashback, either as one piece or with tiles. Clear glass cupboards are something to consider too - it'll add light to your room and allow you to display your best china.

Lighting is also important. Lights under your kitchen units will help to give your kitchen a spacious feel. Go for bright ceiling lights, such as spotlights, that won't be obstructed by a shade - you want the maximum amount of light to flood into the space as possible.