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7 Ways to Make a Small Kitchen Feel Larger

Posted on Jul 2, 2020 in:
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Remodel
  • Homeowners
  • Build

Small, colorful kitchen, photo courtesy CRD Design Build

Q: Are there any design tricks for making my tiny kitchen feel bigger?

Even if your kitchen is on the smaller side, that doesn’t mean you have to live with a cramped, uninviting space. Let's go over a few simple ways to make your cozy kitchen into a bright, spacious cooking place.

1. Replace your oven and microwave with a multi-function speed oven

Your appliances are essential for food prep, but they also take up a ton of precious space. Consider switching out your space-hogging range and microwave for a compact cooktop and a separate speed oven. What’s a speed oven? Popular in restaurant kitchens, speed ovens combine a high-speed convection oven with a microwave in one quick-cooking unit. If you’re not cooking meals for a large family every night, a speed oven can be even more useful than a traditional oven. They’re available in ergonomic wall-mount styles and as under-cabinet drawer-style units for the ultimate in space saving.

2. Replace lower cabinets with drawers

When it comes to under-counter storage, drawers are simply better than cabinets. They maximize usable storage space by giving you easy access to the entire contents. And they are a great universal-design feature. No more bending over and trying to reach to the back of a cabinet. Just pull out the drawer and everything is right there in front of you, easy to see and easy to reach.

3. Choose compact appliances

You can't shrink appliances, but you can replace bulky ones with smaller, more streamlined alternatives. A counter-depth fridge makes your small kitchen feel bigger by not jutting out into the room. Column-style refrigerators are narrower and taller to make better use of the space. Get a smaller, energy-efficient dishwasher to save on space, electricity, and water. Ultra-narrow, full-height apartment-style dishwashers have largely given way to full-width single drawer-style dishwashers that leave space below for usable storage.

4. Get a handle on your tiny kitchen

Handles can add visual clutter to your small kitchen space. If you are ordering new cabinetry, consider choosing cabinet doors and drawer-fronts with hidden or integrated pulls that do not require handles or other external hardware. Touch-latch cabinet doors, which pop open with a gentle push, are another clean-looking, hardware-free option.

5. Sink or swim

The trend toward oversize apron-front farmhouse sinks is fun—but only if you have the space. If your kitchen is smaller, a hulking, double-bowl behemoth can rob you of much-needed counter space. Consider instead a single-bowl sink that will not only save space, but will be visually proportional to your compact kitchen. Choose an undermount option that helps give your countertop a streamlined look.

6. Let the light shine

Light makes a small room seem bigger. Dark rooms tend to feel cramped, claustrophobic, and unsettling. If you have enough wall space, add windows. A window over the sink is a natural choice. Long, low windows between your countertop and upper cabinets are a possibility if you are truly pressed for space. Another approach is a skylight. If your roof design can’t accommodate a traditional skylight, consider a tubular skylight, which can bring natural light to almost any room in your home. Be sure you have a good artificial lighting plan that incorporates general lighting and task lighting, such as under-cabinet lights. Adding in-cabinet lighting and frosted glass cabinet doors can make your kitchen feel bigger and lend a warm and cozy touch when the sun sets.

7. Splash some color around

Adding a fresh coat of paint to your kitchen can work wonders. Light colors and pastels create the illusion that your kitchen is more expansive, and it's not nearly as expensive as knocking down a wall. Great colors to try are sunny yellow, pastel green, sky blue, and eggshell white.

Consider working with an interior designer

These are just a few ideas for redesigning your small kitchen to look and feel bigger. If you truly want to maximize your mini kitchen, I recommend you work with an experienced interior designer, who can help you not only make your space feel bigger but can optimize its ergonomics and function. After all, you want your kitchen to not only look great, but to be a joy to use.


Leslie Eiler is design manager at CRD Design Build, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’ more than 2,600 members, write to

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