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Planning a kitchen

Small kitchen ideas

By Kate Martin

Article 9 of 10

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Small kitchen ideas

From savvy storage solutions to fold-out furniture, our small kitchen design ideas will help you create a space that suits your needs and lifestyle.


Wouldn’t it be great if all our kitchens were as big as those gracing glossy magazines and TV screens? In reality, many of us have to make do with a kitchen that’s far more compact than we would like.

But with a little planning, there's plenty you can do to transform your small kitchen into a beautiful but practical space that works for you.

If you want to invest in a new kitchen, find out which are the best and worst fitted kitchen brands, as rated by thousands of customers.

How to get a small kitchen design right

Whether you're designing from scratch or improving what you already have, start by thinking about how you use your kitchen so you can shape the layout to fit your lifestyle. For example:

  • do you need more worktop space?
  • which gadgets or utensils do you use regularly?
  • can you move easily between the fridge, cooker and sink?

Consider which layout would work best with the shape of the room. U-shaped kitchens are a good way to get lots of units into a small space while galley kitchens are usually best in long narrow spaces.

You might even be able to open up the layout and create an open-plan space by knocking through a wall into an adjacent room, such as a living room or dining room.

Kitchen designers can help you consider all these factors and plan the layout. Many of the big-name kitchen brands offer free design consultations.

Find out more about layouts and get design inspiration with our kitchen design ideas.

Choose the right kitchen cupboards


If you’re buying a new kitchen, think about how you can squeeze the most storage room out of the cupboards.

If you don’t mind losing a bit of worktop, consider a full height cupboard. Or look for taller wall units or bespoke cupboards fitted up the ceiling to take advantage of more of the vertical space in your room.

Corners are often wasted when you install standard units, so instead choose corner cabinets with carousels that make better use of the space.

Find out more about kitchen units and see which brands were voted the best by kitchen owners.

Consider open shelving


Shelving can be a practical and cost-effective alternative to buying new cupboards, and will help to give your kitchen a more open feel.

You could install shelves instead of wall units, or add them above the cupboards to store the things you don’t use very often, like that bulky cake stand that only comes out twice a year.

Bear in mind that shelves do expose the items stored on them to more kitchen grease and grime, so be prepared to spend a bit more time keeping them clean. 

Search Which? Trusted Traders for kitchen fitters in your area to help you create your dream kitchen, whatever the size.

Maximise your kitchen storage

Storage is vital in any kitchen, but particularly a small one, so think creatively about the space you have to play with.

You can buy a vast array of baskets, shelf-risers, racks, hooks and other items to make the most of the space inside cupboards and drawers.


Even the most overlooked areas can be useful. The top of the fridge or microwave can house small appliances you don’t use very often, such as blenders.

Or your window sill could become a bookshelf for your favourite cookery books, as long as it doesn’t block the light.

Buy compact appliances

Although you might dream of a big range cooker or American-style fridge freezer, it’s probably not practical in a small kitchen.

Instead, look for slimline or compact versions of the appliances you need. If you’re worried about space inside your fridge, use the same creative storage ideas that you’ve applied to your cupboards.

Integrated appliances that are built into your kitchen units can give a sleeker, tidier appearance and be great space savers.

You should also consider whether you really need certain appliances. As much as we all hate washing up, it’s far easier to fit a pair of rubber gloves into a small kitchen than it is to squeeze in a dishwasher.

Read our guide on how to find the best appliances for your kitchen.

Get a kitchen island


Kitchen islands aren’t just for large kitchens; you can find small versions, often on wheels, which can fit in more compact rooms and give you extra worktop space.

Some models include storage underneath, and can also double up as a place to eat or a trolley to move food and drink between rooms when you’re entertaining.

Create versatile dining areas

A dining table doesn’t always have to be a big solid wood affair with four to six chairs.

As well as an island, a breakfast bar or a fold-out table is a good way to add much needed dining space into a small kitchen. It can also provide extra work surfaces for preparing meals.

Use kitchen lighting wisely


Lighting is important to give your kitchen a spacious feel. Avoid blocking natural light coming into the room by keeping windows clean and clear.

Go for bright ceiling lights, such as spotlights, that won't be obstructed by a shade. Add lights under your kitchen units to brighten up worktops.

Glossy, reflective or mirrored surfaces can help to bounce the light around the room. You could choose stainless steel units and appliances for an industrial feel, or high-gloss cupboards, which come in a range of colours and finishes.

Or install a glass or reflective splashback, either as a one-piece or using tiles. Cupboard doors with clear glass panes can also add light to your room and allow you to display your best china.

Find trusted electricians in your area to brighten up your kitchen with Which? Trusted Traders.

Play with colour


Clever use of colour can 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 you have to stick to neutrals. If you use the same colour consistently, a deeper shade could give the wow factor. Just steer clear of very dark colours.

An alternative approach is to make a statement with splashes of bold colour, to draw people's eyes to the design rather than the dimensions. You could create a feature wall, brighten up kitchen doors or install a coloured splashback.

If you want to use patterns, horizontal stripes can make a room feel wider while vertical lines will give the appearance of a higher ceiling.

Keep it tidy


Clutter can quickly make any space feel overcrowded, so if you have a small kitchen, it’s vital to keep it tidy – which includes dealing with dirty dishes quickly.

You can reduce the number of items cluttering up worktops or drawers by adding hooks, magnetic knife racks or shelves to the walls.

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