Maximize Your Small Kitchen With These Budget-Friendly Ideas

Story by Alyssa Gautieri, Amanda Garrity

From cooking and cleaning to enjoying meals with loved ones, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen — it’s the heart of the home, after all. While having a big, spacious kitchen is a dream for many homeowners, small kitchens can be just as functional when properly designed and organized. To help you make the most of your limited square footage, we rounded up small kitchen ideas that pack a lot of style.

Even if you’re sticking to a tight budget, it’s possible for small kitchens — even very small kitchens — to feel functional and stylish. Tackle kitchen clutter by putting up shelves, hanging pots from the ceiling or bringing in a rolling cart. If you’re dreaming up a major refresh, consider painting your cabinets a fresh shade (light colors make a small room pop) or install a tiny kitchen island that doubles as extra counter space.

Whether your kitchen design is modern, traditional or country, you’ll find ways to infuse personality into small spaces. Try experimenting with checkerboard floors, layering in vintage accents or taking a kitchen back splash all the way to the ceiling. Swap upper cabinets for open shelving (a great hack for galley kitchens) or go big with artwork (it can easily become the focal point). Whether you live in an apartment, condo or your house is lacking kitchen space, you’re sure to find design inspiration to steal.

1) Infuse Color With Tiles©SolStock – Getty Images

Bring a bold backsplash all the way to the ceiling to emphasize the height of a room. A skylight window also helps draw the eye upward.

2) Embrace Checkerboard Flooring©Tessa Neustadt

Weave in retro design elements, like a classic checkerboard floor and vintage-inspired gold hardware. This bright kitchen, designed by Brady Tolbert for Emily Henderson Design, also makes use of vertical space with sky-high open shelving.

3) Steal From Vintage Kitchens©Avery Nicole Photography

From the butcher block countertop and moody green cabinets to the cafe curtains and glass pendant light, this small kitchen — designed by Sarah Stacey — is packed with vintage charm and character.

4) Hide the Fridge©Boxwood Avenue

Try a panel-ready fridge, which means the appliance comes with a custom cabinet panel so it blends seamlessly with the rest of your space. Here, a mini fridge hides behind the light gray (Gossamer Veil By Sherman Williams) cabinets.

5) Let Counters Play Double Duty©Vostok – Getty Images

Blending seamlessly with the kitchen counter, this built-in peninsula offers additional surface space for meal prep. Later, pull out the backless stool and there’s a convenient spot to work, entertain or enjoy meals.

6) Bring in a Dining Table©Arnt Haug

Due to the placement of a back door, this kitchen is split in two parts, leaving a lot of open floor space. It’s the perfect opportunity to bring in a small dining set.

7) Install a Small Kitchen Island©BJORG MAGNEA

Your kitchen island doesn’t have to conform to expectations, especially if there isn’t enough space for a standard setup. Here, Philip Consalvo of PJCArchitecture installs a practical island to fit this room’s unique footprint and the surrounding space.

8) Use Two-Tone Cabinets©Bakes & Kropp

In this Upper East Side galley kitchen, Bakes & Kropp allows dark lower cabinets to define the space and keeps it minimal up top. Open shelving on one side help make this narrow space feel less narrow.

9) Create a Small Seating Area©Union of Art Interiors

Extend the kitchen counter to include just enough space for two bar stools, which actually face away from the kitchen. To save on counter space, Union of Art Interiors also creates a cubby for the microwave to live.

10) Maximize Every Part of the Kitchen©Almost Makes Perfect

Display dishes, mugs, cutting boards and spices within reach — even if you’re tight on space. Stacked shelves over the counter and a slim shelf over the fridge — painted the same color as the walls — put every small spot to use.

11) Try a Farmhouse-Style Kitchen Island©Brigette Muller

Not only does a dark wood accent (like this farmhouse-style island) provide additional counter space, it adds warmth and contrast when paired with white kitchen cabinets. Here, blogger Brigette Muller of @hummusbirrd also adds stools for a small dining spot.

12) Go Big With Art©Lindsay Salazar

Just because you’re working with a small space, doesn’t mean you can’t display your art collection. Use a mix of small and large prints to create a gallery wall that adds dimension to your kitchen.

13) Make the Most of Kitchen Corners©Monica Wang

Learn to work with the space you have by capitalizing on every corner and nook. If your actual kitchen is small, there may be a small crevice or awkward nook that can be reworked into additional kitchen space.

14) Add Corner Shelves©Lauren Pressey

If you don’t have the space for wall-to-wall open shelving, go for small corner shelves. Designer Kate Lester created instant storage by hanging three reclaimed barn wood shelves.

15) Take a Maximalist Approach©Brian Woodcock

Go with over-the-top patterns, colors, rugs and decorative accents. Piling it on with purpose will help your space feel cozy, not overwhelmed.

16) Create the Illusion of More Space©Design by Jess Bunge; Photo by Sara Tramp

Mirrors reflect light and trick the eye into perceiving a space is larger than it actually is — plus, they look great while doing it.

17) Go Bold on Top, Neutral on Bottom©Barbara Egan/Reportage

Here’s a playful way to make your smaller space feel more vertical: go for bright upper cabinets. What’s more? This modern kitchen has double-stacked cabinets for a ton of storage space. Keep it neutral on the bottom to create contrast.

18) Add Sleek Open Shelving©Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Suspend open shelving from the ceiling or hang a rack high on the wall to add height and create the illusion of more space. At the same time, the added storage will minimize clutter on the counter.

19) Use a Bar Cabinet©Design: Reena Sotropa In House Design Group; Photo: Phil Crozier

Don’t waste cabinet space on booze. Here, interior designer Reena Sotropa uses a geometric bar cabinet to create separation in a small space.

20) Get Smart With Floating Shelves©Jessica Alexander for Pure Salt Interiors

Don’t let windows get in your way. Stretch floating shelves across the entire wall, making sure to leave enough room between them to allow the natural light to come through.

21) Stick With One Color©Stoffer Photography for Jean Stoffer Design

Embrace a monochromatic palette to create a sense of harmony in a small kitchen. Whites and grays are classic options, but bold colors can be just as timeless (if done right).

22) Mount a Metal Rack©Art Streiber

Skip a decorative backsplash and hang this metal rack instead. Attach metal hooks to hang pots, pans, pitchers, cutting boards and other cooking must-haves.

23) Extend Tile from Countertop to Ceiling©Mike Garten

Help the eye travel from the floor to the ceiling by covering the entire wall with an understated backsplash. Mix in fresh greenery and florals to freshen up the area.

24) Install a Pegboard Wall©Annie Schlechter for Country Living

Paint a pegboard in a cheery hue to create a functional focal point. Once attached, load it up with some of your kitchen must-haves — measuring cups, wooden spoons, cast iron skillets and more.

25) Highlight an Open Layout©Taylor Architectural Photography

The work of John McClain Design, this small kitchen is also a dining room and living room — and, yet it feels super spacious and sophisticated. Two small bistro tables near the sofa provide additional dining space.

26) Keep Most-Used Items on Shelves©Mike Garten

While, yes, pretty dishware doubles as decor, it’s way more practical to load floating shelves with items that you use on the daily, like cookware and mixing bowls.

27) Use Small Nooks for Dining©Gridley+Graves

Even a narrow nook can comfortably seat the whole family if you choose built-in benches instead of chairs.

28) Choose Floor-to-Ceiling White©Mike Garten

We all know that light, bright spaces feel more spacious than dark, dreary areas. Stick with white cabinets, walls and trim for your small kitchen, then layer in wood accents and black cabinet hardware to keep things trendy.

29) Create a Portable Stove©Cherished Bliss

Instead of installing a full stove, blogger Ashley Rene went for something much more versatile: a double burner on a rolling cart and a vent hood with a charcoal filter. When the homeowner isn’t cooking, they can easily put the burner away and have infinite more space.

30) Disguise Your Dishwasher©Aliyev Alexei Sergeevich

For those of us with limited cabinet space, a dishwasher can take up half the kitchen. If you want to achieve a clean and streamlined aesthetic, install your dishwasher to fit seamlessly beneath your kitchen counters.

31) Double up on Pattern and Color©Callie Hobbs of Studio McGee

Further proof that small doesn’t equal boring. Mix and match different patterns and colors into your space, working your way up from the floors to the ceiling. Here, rich green cabinets are offset by a subway tile backsplash and black-and-white ceramic tile floor.

32) Keep it Classic©Hearst Owned

Pair classic horizontal subway tile with a creamy, all-white palette to nail a classic look. For a little drama, choose geometric flooring tile.

33) Add a Built-In Seat©Design by Studio Merlin; Photo by Richard Chivers

In an effort to merge the kitchen with the living room, Studio Merlin Founder Josh Piddock added a built-in kitchen seat into these rich blue cabinets from Reform.

34) Go for Light Appliances©Design by Velinda Hellen; Photo by Sara Tramp

While stainless steel appliances are most popular, this sleek Smeg fridge proves that white appliances can look just as chic. Lighten up your space by pairing it with crisp white tiles, blonde wood floors and baby blue cabinets.

35) Try Backless Stools©Miki Duisterhof

When living in a small home or apartment, you need all the counter space you can get — even if that means creating your own with a dining room table that serves two purposes. Plus, backless stools can live under the table to conserve space when they’re not being used.

36) Craft a Wine Nook©Jessica Bordner

Turn dead space into a smart storage solution to corral cutting boards, wine bottles and anything else you like to have on hand while cooking.

37) Get Bold With Your Backsplash©Peter Molick for Maureen Stevens

Use tile to trick the eye: lay it vertically to create the illusion of height or horizontally to make the room seem wider. Color also comes into play, which is why designer Maureen Stevens opted for a geometric tile that played up the kitchen’s white cabinets and walls.

38) Add Task Lighting©Amy Bartlam

Illuminate a specific area — your prep station, perhaps? — with stylish sconces. Find ones in the same finish as the rest of the kitchen’s hardware for consistency’s sake.

39) Invest in a Rolling Kitchen Cart©David A. Land

A stainless steel kitchen island on wheels is made with small spaces in mind because you can move it out of the way when you aren’t using it.

40) Use Vertical Space©Victoria Pearson

Make the most of your space by hanging pots in multiple places. Keep your most-used pots and pans above your oven, and then your specialty cookware above your kitchen island (or the other way around, your call).

41) Spruce up Basic Cabinets©Buff Strickland

High-end kitchen design details can take an extra-small space (hello, mini fridge!) and make it feel larger than life. Here, patterned tile, turquoise paint and gold hardware make this tiny space look luxe.