Narrow Kitchen Layout Rules – Designers Say These Tricks Make Your Space Look Wider and Function Better

Kitchens are often one of the smallest rooms in a home, yet they are the hub of day-to-day activity for most families. Designing a functional and beautiful kitchen in a narrow footprint can be challenging, but not impossible. We asked top designers for their best tips on optimizing narrow kitchen layouts, and they shared clever ideas that make the most of the space. Read on for narrow kitchen layout rules and tricks to make your small kitchen look and feel wider.

Choose Light Colors for Walls, Cabinets, and Counters

Light, neutral colors like white, off-white, light gray, and pale yellow visually open up narrow kitchens. Dark colors have the opposite effect, making the space feel closed in and crowded. To make the room appear wider:

  • Paint the walls a light color or white. Consider using the same neutral tone from the floor to the ceiling for a seamless look.
  • Select white, light gray, or pale wood cabinets. Shaker-style cabinets with a minimalist design give a spacious impression.
  • Use a light-colored natural stone or quartz for countertops. White marble, soapstone, and light quartz counter shades keep things light.

Install Mirrored Surfaces to Reflect Light

Strategically placed mirrors in a narrow kitchen double the sense of space by reflecting light and images. Mirror the entire backsplash, or use individual mirrored tiles like penny tile as accents to expand the look. Install a mirror on the wall opposite windows so it can reflect light and scenery outside. The reflective qualities of a mirrored backsplash make the kitchen feel bigger and brighter.

Choose Open Shelving Over Upper Cabinets

Upper cabinets make high walls in a narrow kitchen feel bulky and overwhelming. Swap some or all upper cabinets for open shelves to keep things light and airy. This shows off decorative dishes and gives a less confined feel. Design the shelves to fit the wall space perfectly so they don’t stick out into the room. Add chaotic elements like plants, baskets, and books for interest.

Keep the Floor Plan Clean and Uncluttered

A clean floor plan free of visual clutter is key in a narrow kitchen. Steer clear of an overabundance of bulky furnishings and avoid crisscrossing patterns on floors and walls that chop up the space. Keep patterns and lines simple and streamlined. Arrange the work triangle of sink, stove, and refrigerator in a single-file line instead of across from one another to open sightlines. Minimalism is best for small spaces.

Let In Natural Light

Sunlight makes any space feel more expansive and inviting. Maximize natural light through:

  • Windows – Install larger windows or additional windows to bathe the kitchen in sunlight. Glass doors that open to a deck or yard also bring in light.
  • Skylights – Skylights, both fixed and operable, allow light to pour in and eliminate a closed-in feeling. Place skylights over a sink or prep area.
  • Light Colors – As mentioned, lighter paint and material colors spread light around and make the room feel more open.

Use Glass Cabinet Doors

Glass fronts in cabinets keep them from looking bulky while allowing light to filter through. The transparency makes the kitchen feel less crowded. Use glass on both upper and lower cabinets or alternating cabinets to expand the look. Frosted, patterned, and colored glass offer beautiful options beyond clear glass. Just be sure to display attractive dishware to show through the glass fronts.

Install Sliding Doors or Pocket Doors

Swinging doors require extra clearance in tight kitchens. Replace hinged doors with sliding doors or pocket doors that tuck into the wall to open. These smooth-gliding door styles need minimal space, taking up less visual room. Track hardware allows sliding doors to bypass each other and stack out of the way. Pocket doors disappear into pockets in the wall, completely freeing up floor space when open.

Opt for Slim, Compact Appliances

Standard appliances look clunky and dominating in a thin kitchen. Look for slimmer options that fit in less depth while still being full-featured:

  • Slim dishwashers 24 inches wide save space over standard sizes.
  • Low-profile microwave hoods mount flush with cabinets instead of jutting out.
  • Slim refrigerator columns fit in narrower footprints.
  • Long, shallow cooktops and wall ovens take up less area than stovetops and ovens.

Add Discreet Extra Storage Solutions

Narrow kitchens need smart storage solutions that tuck neatly out of the way and don’t take up space. Useful options include:

  • Pull-out vertical drawers for pots and pans behind cabinet doors
  • Deep drawer organizers for utensils and tools
  • Under-cabinet lid racks to store awkward lid shapes
  • Spice drawer inserts to hide spice clutter
  • Pegboards for hanging commonly used tools
  • Pantries, tall cabinets, and other hidden storage

With the designer tips above, you can create an open, uncluttered look and feel in even the skinniest kitchen. The light, mirrored surfaces, glass elements, and space-saving layout ideas maximize every inch. What narrow kitchen layout tricks have worked for you? Let us know in the comments.

Frequently Asked Questions About Narrow Kitchen Layouts

What is considered a narrow kitchen?

Kitchens under 8 feet wide are generally considered narrow kitchens. These compact kitchens require smart layout and storage solutions to make them highly functional and livable.

How wide should a kitchen be?

Ideally, kitchens should be at least 10 feet wide and 12 feet long to accommodate enough counters, appliances, and cabinets for most needs. But narrow kitchens under 8 feet wide can work beautifully too with the right design.

What kitchen layout is best for small kitchens?

For narrow kitchens, a single-wall or galley layout with the work triangle in a single line is best. The work zone flows continuously along one wall instead of broken up into segments, opening up space.

How do you maximize space in a narrow kitchen?

Maximize space in narrow kitchens by using wall-mounted or slimline freestanding cabinets, smaller appliances, pull-out and hidden storage, multifunctional furniture, open shelving, mirrored backsplashes, pocket doors, and light colors.

Should cabinets go to the ceiling in a small kitchen?

No, ceiling-height upper cabinets make a narrow kitchen feel boxed in. Opt for shorter shelves or cabinets with space above, floating shelves instead of uppers, glass fronts, or eliminating upper cabinets entirely. This keeps sightlines more open.

What color makes a small kitchen look bigger?

Lighter colors like white, off-white, light gray, pale blue, and light yellow help narrow kitchens look larger and brighter. Darker colors tend to make them feel smaller and more closed in.


Designing an efficient and inviting kitchen in a narrow footprint presents challenges but can absolutely be accomplished. Key strategies like using mirrored surfaces, glass cabinetry, greenery, slim appliances, pull-out storage, and lighter colors make small kitchens feel more open and spacious. Arrange furnishings in a single line and avoid clutter for a streamlined look. With clever and minimalist design, narrow kitchens can be beautiful, livable spaces families will love.