Share this Article

How to Make a Small Kitchen Look and Feel Bigger

August 21, 2023

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Feeling crammed in your kitchen? Looking for ways to visually stretch the space? Whether you’re a passionate cook or a midnight snacker, there are a few tricks anyone can use to make a small kitchen feel more spacious. Check out these seven cool tips on how to make your tiny kitchen look bigger.

Don’t worry, you won’t need to tear down walls. Each step of this guide is split in two parts: a solution for more minimal adjustments followed by more radical changes for those ready to invest money and time into big fixes. If you are renting, remember to always ask your landlord before making any major changes, such as repainting the walls or changing cabinet doors because being too creative might cost you your security deposit. Small kitchen design is all about working with the space you already have and thinking outside those four walls. With that, prepare to unleash your inner interior designer and let's begin your kitchen upgrade!

1. Choose a Light Color Scheme


Big improvement: Let’s begin by laying the foundation for how to visually expand your kitchen. One option is to play with colors. Darker, gloomy shades tend to shrink and weigh down a space. If you’re repainting your walls, opt for neutral or pale colors that will make your kitchen feel light and airy, full of open space. White will reflect light, which gives the illusion of a mirror, expanding the space even further. Paint your wall trims the same color as the wall, as they outline the ends of the ceiling and the floor, and can help expand the room. Painting them a different color might put you at risk of feeling boxed in by the borders. To help large appliances or cabinet doors blend in and disappear, try to find them in similar hues as the walls. This will decrease visual obstruction and make the space appear larger.

Small improvement: If repainting your kitchen is not an option, try matching color patterns throughout the space with decor elements. Maintain a color theme with your utensils, small appliances, and furnishings. By limiting the number of colors you use in the small details of your kitchen, you visually expand the space.

2. Play with the Optics


Big improvement: Now that the paint has dried, it’s time to decorate. A good trick for opening up a small space is to literally remove the doors—kitchen cabinet doors that is. Removing solid cabinet doors will allow the eye to wander in between the shelves, exposing space closer to the wall and expanding the visual perimeter. If open shelving is too risky for your environment, opt for glass-front doors as they have a similar effect.

Small improvement: Small changes in design can play a big part in enlarging space. A runner rug will make your kitchen feel stretched out and mirrors will create an illusion of boundless space. As a general rule of thumb, stick to using clean, vertical lines, which create an optical illusion of more space, and your kitchen will appear to expand all on its own.

3. Direct the Eye Upward


Big improvement: Don’t forget about all the space you have above your head! You can add simple, delicate details to your ceiling with crown molding. Be forward with your creativity and play with the shapes you choose, just remember to keep the color scheme in unison with the rest of the room. Molding will direct your attention upward, making the room feel more spacious.

Small improvement: Hang vertical decor, such as photos or banners, closer to the ceiling than the floor. This will force your friends to not only admire your photography skills, but to also look up and remember that there is more to your kitchen than just the fridge.

4. Fill the Space with Light


Big improvement: Lighting is everything, and not only in photos. Pendant lights (light fixtures that hang or drop from the ceiling) help direct the eye upward. For added effect, go for stainless steel pieces, as they will reflect natural light during the day and shimmer at night.

Small improvement: Trick the eye of the beholder into believing your kitchen is way bigger than it is by filling the space with plenty of light. One suggestion is to play around with window treatments. Replace blinds with curtains, preferably light ones that will let light seep through, but will still give you the desired amount of privacy. Most blinds can be easily reattached, but if you are unable to take them off, you can keep them up as if they are not there—the curtain will do the rest!

5. Try an Island


Big improvement: Large electronic appliances can take up a lot of precious square footage in a kitchen, and if you want a table anywhere in the room there goes most of your floor space! Installing an island can provide your small kitchen additional counter space, a table, and storage for large appliances. An island is a great way to maximize your space, as they are so versatile.

Small improvement: If you don’t have a kitchen island, but feel the need for one, try using a roller cart version. This will provide you with flexibility and some extra storage space. If you are currently using your kitchen island as your dinner table, make sure to complement it with bar stools that are proportional and slim.

6. Invest in Storage


Big improvement: With any kitchen remodel, make sure to provide yourself with enough storage space. This will help you avoid cluttering your counter space, which is key to making your space look bigger. Install a sliding pantry as another form of recessed storage. Bonus points if the door of your recessed storage can be disguised as a mirror, as the reflection will also make your space appear bigger than it is.

Small improvement: Installing a sliding pantry is not an option for most of us living with a  cramped kitchen. Instead, try to declutter as much as possible before looking for additional storage space. If that’s still not enough, look at a small shelf unit, such as this option from IKEA.

7. Merge into a Larger Space


Big improvement: If you are still feeling tight on square footage, maybe it is time to turn your kitchen into a kitchenette and merge it with another vicinity, like a dinning or a living room. Take out the doors separating the two spaces and replace it with an arch and a smooth schematic transition.

Small improvement: If you are unable to make changes to the layout of your apartment, create a smooth visual merge between two different room through the use of colors and patterns. Create a visual overlap between the two spaces. A dining room that echoes the colors of the kitchen will suggest the illusion that the door between them is an intentional, decorative move.

Embrace Comfort: Find Your Dream Apartment Today!

Apply these design tips and transform your kitchen into the place where you want to be cooking. Even if you are short in square footage, you can open up the space to make it more livable and accessible. Let us know your tips for making a tiny kitchen feel bigger by tweeting us at @ApartmentList.

Share this Article

Angelina Bader
Angelina is a Marketing Specialist at Apartment List where she writes content on rental lifestyle. Angelina previously worked as a Russian and German language specialist at Facebook and Google, and has a BA in Applied Linguistics from UCLA. Read More

Explore properties in Ashburn, VA

1 of 54
1 of 35
1 of 32
1 of 19
1 of 30
1 of 37
1 of 30
1 of 30
1 of 16
1 of 29
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest apartment hunting tips.
Next Up
14 Ways to Make a Small Bedroom Look Bigger
DIY Apartment Decorations You Can Build in a Weekend (for under $100)
Your browser is no longer supported. Not all features may work as intended.