Small Kitchen Design Rules I Always Use – To Maximize a Compact Space

Designing a small kitchen can be challenging. With limited space, every inch must be utilized efficiently to maximize storage, workflow, and comfort. After designing many compact kitchens over my career, I’ve developed a set of go-to rules to optimize these petite yet powerful cooking spaces. Follow these small kitchen design rules I always use to maximize your cozy culinary footprint.

Choose Multifunctional and Space-Saving Appliances

When working with a small kitchen, multifunctional appliances should be your best friend. Look for appliances that can boil, sauté, steam, and more all in one. That way you aren’t cramming your counters with a series of single-use gadgets. Some space-saving all-in-one appliances I recommend are:

  • Multicookers like Instant Pots that can pressure cook, sauté, steam, and more. Choose a model with different insert pans to expand the functionality.
  • Toaster ovens that can toast, bake, broil, and rotisserie. This eliminates the need for a full-sized oven in tiny kitchens.
  • Air fryers that can crisp and cook foods with little to no oil. Great for petite prep spaces.
  • Microwave-convection oven combos that can microwave, bake, broil, and convection cook.

Look for appliances that serve multiple purposes, have compact footprints, or can be easily stored away. For example, hand mixers take up less room than stand mixers. You can also find blenders that double as travel cups. Every appliance you choose should earn its keep!

Install Pull-Out Shelving For Easy Access

Deep pull-out shelving is a small kitchen’s best friend when it comes to storage and accessibility. Mounted on drawer glides, these shelves fully extend from the cabinet allowing you to see and reach every item in the back. I recommend installing pull-out shelves in:

  • Pantry cabinets – No more crawling and digging to find ingredients!
  • Base kitchen cabinets – Keep pots, pans, and servingware handy.
  • Corner cabinets – Eliminate frustrating blind cabinet corners.
  • Upper cabinets – See and access all your dishes, glasses, mugs.

Look for pull-outs with built-in convenience features like spice racks, towel bars, and tiered levels. And don’t forget the sink base! Add pull-out shelving under the sink to neatly organize cleaners and supplies.

Incorporate Retractable Extending Islands and Tables

Even the tiniest kitchens can benefit from extra counter space and seating with retractable extending islands and tables. Look for:

  • Rolling islands that can be moved around your kitchen then tucked away.
  • Expandable islands that fold up against the wall when not in use.
  • Hidden drop-leaf islands with folding panels that disappear into the island frame.
  • Extendable kitchen tables perfect for petite eating nooks. Some even have folding leaves to accommodate extra guests!

When not extended, these mobile islands and tables tuck neatly out of the way against a wall or into an unused corner. Then simply roll or fold them out when you need more workspace or seating for entertaining.

Utilize Your Wall Space with Floor-to-Ceiling Shelving

Going vertical is a great way to multiply storage in a small kitchen. Floor-to-ceiling shelving helps you utilize every inch of available wall space. Install these tall shelving units to store:

  • Extra pantry goods, small appliances, cookbooks.
  • Display cookware, dinnerware, or glassware.
  • Organize cleaning supplies, bulk goods, overflow pantry items.

Look for shelving systems with adjustable levels so you can customize to fit your storage needs. And don’t forget the space above your cabinets! Add matching tall units or open shelving to take advantage of this often-wasted area.

Embrace Portable and Folding Kitchen Carts

Portable kitchen carts are essential for adding movable storage and prep space to small kitchens. Look for carts with multiple functions such as:

  • Prep carts with cutting boards, knife blocks, towel bars, and spice racks.
  • Microwave carts with storage below for cooking tools.
  • Ingredient storage carts like bakers racks to hold dry goods.
  • Dish storage carts with drying racks and space for dishes.

Carts on lockable wheels are excellent for mobility. For a smaller footprint, choose folding utility carts that can be collapsed and stowed out of the way. Use kitchen carts to bring storage, organization, and extra prep space anywhere you need it!

Take Advantage of Hidden Storage Potential

Don’t overlook the hidden storage potential lurking in small kitchen spaces! Here are some clever spots to stow away kitchen supplies:

  • Cabinet tops: Use wasted space on top of cabinets for small appliances or dinnerware.
  • Toekicks: Install storage drawers in the toe kick space under cabinets for spices and utensils.
  • Dead corners: Add pull-out corner cabinets or lazy susans to access awkward corners.
  • Range hood: Choose a style with built-in racks for pans and pots.
  • Island overhang: Use vertical space under an island for hanging pans and utensils.
  • Inside cabinet doors: Mount racks or hooks on the insides of cabinet doors to store spices, foil, cleaning supplies.

Maximize every niche and nook to invent storage space in a small kitchen!

Embrace Open Shelving for a Breezy Feel

While closed cabinets are essential for storage, too many can make a petite kitchen feel cramped. For a lighter, airier look try installing some open shelving. A few spaced-out open shelves show off your favorite cookware and dinnerware while opening up the room. Use open shelving to store items you use frequently for easy access. Just be sure to display only your visually appealing kitchen items! A few styling tricks:

  • Edit ruthlessly. Only show your pretty cookware and coordinating dishes.
  • Style neatly. Keep shelves organized and clutter-free for a streamlined look.
  • Mix materials. Combine glass, wood, metal to add visual interest and texture.
  • Light it up. Position open shelves near windows or under lighting. The glow showcases items beautifully.

Choose Tables That Can Do Double Duty

From work space to dining space and more, a table pulls overtime duty in a small kitchen. Look for styles that can multitask as:

  • An island prep space then expand into a dining table with leaves.
  • A buffet counter for serving then a casual dining spot with stools.
  • A work table for cooking prep then a place to eat quick meals.
  • Extra seating for gatherings then game storage when folded.

Opt for a rectangular or oval expandable table that can contract into a slimmer footprint. Round folding tables tucked in corners are also excellent for flexible space.

Install Space-Saving Sliding or Pocket Doors

Swinging doors gobble up precious floorspace in a petite kitchen. For a more spacious feel, replace bulky hinged doors with sliding or pocket options. Some smart space-saving ideas:

  • Pantry sliding doors – Mount flush with wall when closed.
  • Barn door style slider – Glides open for freestanding pantries or closets.
  • Retractable doors – Disappear into cabinetry housing when open.
  • Cafe-style pocket doors – Sit flush within the wall framing when closed.
  • Louvered sliders – Allow air circulation while obscuring contents when closed.

Sliding and pocket doors not only save space but also create a smoother, cleaner aesthetic in a small kitchen. Select versions with soft-close features for peace and quiet!

Embrace Extra Touches Like Glass-Front Cabinets

Small design details can further maximize perceived space in petite kitchens. A few special finishes I love to use:

  • Glass-front cabinets – Display favorite dishware while keeping contents visible.
  • Mirrored backsplashes – Reflect light to add depth and dimension.
  • Glass shelves – Maintain an airy, open look for wall shelving.
  • Clear canisters – Allow visibility of pantry goods on shelves.
  • Slim-profile hardware – Sleek, tubular pulls keep things lightweight.
  • Lighting under cabinets – Brightens workspaces while opening up the room.

While good storage is key, these extras add style and visual space to small kitchens. Don’t be afraid to have some fun and showcase your personality!

Summary of Small Kitchen Design Rules

To recap, here are my top small kitchen design rules I always use to maximize compact cooking spaces:

  • Choose multifunctional and space-saving appliances.
  • Install pull-out shelving for easy cabinet access.
  • Incorporate retractable extending islands and tables.
  • Utilize vertical space with floor-to-ceiling shelving.
  • Embrace portable kitchen carts for flexibility.
  • Take advantage of every hidden storage nook and cranny.
  • Allow some airy open shelving to prevent a cramped look.
  • Opt for tables that can double duty as extra space.
  • Install space-saving sliding or pocket doors.
  • Add glass cabinets, mirrors, and lighting for visual space.

By following these simple guidelines, you can create an uber-functional petite kitchen tailored perfectly to your needs. The result is a stylish and efficient space for cooking and entertaining even on the tiniest footprint.

Frequently Asked Questions About Designing Small Kitchens

Here are answers to some common questions about maximizing compact kitchen spaces:

What are the best appliances for small kitchens?

Look for appliances with small footprints and multiple functions, like multicookers, toaster ovens, and microwave-convection ovens. Hand mixers and personal blenders also work well.

How can I add more kitchen storage in a small space?

Use pull-out shelves in cabinets, floor-to-ceiling shelving, kitchen carts, and take advantage of hidden nooks. Also embrace open shelving to prevent a cluttered look.

What is the best way to add extra work space to a small kitchen?

Retractable and movable islands, tables, and kitchen carts can provide temporary workspace as needed then tuck neatly away.

What kind of sink works best in a compact kitchen?

An undermount, single-bowl sink keeps things streamlined. For more length, choose an extra-long rectangular sink. Apron-front sinks also maximize workspace.

Should I use one big window or multiple smaller windows in a tiny kitchen?

One large window draws the eye outward, making the space feel more open. Multiple windows can chop up the view. Place above the sink for functionality.

How can I make a small kitchen feel airier and less cramped?

Use glass-front cabinets, mirrors, glass shelves, and open shelving selectively to prevent a cluttered look. Undercabinet lighting also brightens and opens up the space.

Final Thoughts

Small kitchens may be short on square footage but can also provide cozy charm and efficient functionality. By following these fundamental design rules, you can create a petite culinary oasis tailored to your needs. The strategies outlined above allow you to make the very most of every inch while enhancing workflow and livability. With innovative storage solutions and space-expanding touches, tiny kitchens can feel fresh, expansive and open. While compact, these kitchens serve up smart, stylish cooking spaces that you and your guests will savor and enjoy.