What should I avoid in a small kitchen? 8 mistakes to steer clear of when remodeling

Remodeling a small kitchen can be a challenge. With limited space, every design decision is critical. The wrong choices can make the kitchen feel even smaller and less functional. Avoid these 8 common mistakes when remodeling a small kitchen:

1. Not having enough prep space

A small kitchen needs smart storage and at least one spacious countertop for food prep. Without enough prep space, cooking and cleaning will feel crammed.

What to do:

  • Install pull-out shelves in lower cabinets to maximize vertical storage space.
  • Use a kitchen island or peninsula to add more counter space.
  • Get creative with countertop space. Add a rolling cart or install a butcher block directly on the wall for extra prep area.

2. Poor lighting

Dark, gloomy lighting can make any kitchen feel small and enclosed. Proper lighting is especially critical in a small kitchen.

What to do:

  • Add recessed ceiling lights for overall illumination.
  • Under-cabinet lighting brightens up countertops for food prep.
  • Pendant lights over islands or dining tables provide task lighting.
  • Strategic placement of mirrors can help bounce light around.

3. Bulky cabinets

Cabinets with thick frames, molded edges, and ornate details steal visual space in a small kitchen. Clean, slimmed-down cabinets open up the room.

What to do:

  • Choose flat-front cabinets with recessed pulls or handles.
  • Opt for open shelving rather than upper cabinets.
  • Use glass-front cabinet doors to prevent a closed-in look.

4. Ignoring vertical storage

In a small kitchen, you need to utilize every inch of available space. This means going vertical with storage whenever possible.

What to do:

  • Mount spices, utensils, pots and pans on the walls or inside cabinet doors.
  • Install pull-out vertical drawers for pantry items.
  • Stack appliances to free up counter space.
  • Add a utility cart for extra storage.

5. Clutter

Clutter makes any space feel smaller, but it’s especially problematic in a petite kitchen. Keep counters clutter-free and organize items for easy access.

What to do:

  • Use trays, turntables, and risers to corral items.
  • Store lesser-used items like blenders in nearby pantries.
  • Add hooks on walls or cabinets to hang utensils.
  • Use drawer dividers and organizers.

6. Bulky appliances

Oversized appliances like giant refrigerators can quickly overwhelm a small kitchen. Seek out slimmer, more compact appliance options.

What to do:

  • Look for refrigerator and dishwasher models with slim profiles.
  • Choose a smaller cooktop or wall oven combined with a separate microwave.
  • Consider portable induction cooktops to save space.

7. Closed floor plan

If a small kitchen doesn’t connect visually with other spaces, it will feel cut off and boxy. Knocking down a wall or two can work wonders.

What to do:

  • Remove walls between the kitchen and dining room.
  • Create a wide pass-through window into the living room.
  • Open up sightlines wherever possible.

8. Bad workflow

Poorly planned workflow turns a small kitchen into a frustrating maze. Analyze how you cook and arrange cabinets/appliances accordingly.

What to do:

  • Position the refrigerator near the entry for easy access.
  • Cluster main appliances in a compact work triangle.
  • Ensure at least 42 inches between opposite cabinets and appliances.
  • Place the sink under a window with views to make washing dishes pleasant.

Key Takeaways

  • Maximize vertical storage with pull-out shelves, mounted racks, and utility carts.
  • Choose lighting that brightens up the whole kitchen.
  • Opt for sleek, space-saving cabinets and appliances.
  • Eliminate clutter and organize using trays, turntables and dividers.
  • Open up the floor plan if possible to avoid a cramped galley layout.
  • Carefully plan the kitchen work triangle and workflow.

With smart layout and storage strategies, you can create an efficient and inviting small kitchen. Focus on brightening up the space, streamlining storage, and opening up sightlines. With the right remodeling approach, size limitations won’t impede your enjoyment of the kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some common questions about avoiding mistakes when remodeling a small kitchen:

What’s the best way to maximize storage in a small kitchen?

Optimize vertical storage space with wall-mounted racks, extra tall cabinets with pull-out shelves, utility carts, and ceiling-height pantry units. Also use lazy susans in corner cabinets and install drawer organizers.

How many appliances can I reasonably fit in a small kitchen?

Stick to essential major appliances like a slim refrigerator, cooktop and oven, dishwasher, and microwave. Avoid bulky specialty appliances that won’t get much use. Consider portable induction cooktops.

Should I close off the kitchen if it’s tiny?

No, an enclosed galley layout will only exacerbate the confined feeling. If possible, open up sightlines by knocking down walls and adding wide pass-through windows. Even modest openings make a difference.

What size island or peninsula works for a petite kitchen?

In a kitchen under 150 square feet, a 30-36 inch wide island or peninsula provides usable counter space without cramping the room. Include seating on one side for a dining spot.

How many cabinets can I fit in a 10 x 10 foot kitchen?

In a 100 square foot U-shaped kitchen, you can expect wall space for 4-5 base cabinets per wall, 1 corner cabinet, and 4-5 wall cabinets. Place cabinets strategically to maximize function.

Should I avoid upper cabinets in a small kitchen?

Not necessarily. While open shelving has a lighter, more spacious look, upper cabinets provide essential enclosed storage. Use glass-front doors and focus on keeping wall cabinets slim.

What small kitchen remodel costs should I expect?

For a major remodel of a kitchen under 150 square feet, expect costs of $15,000-30,000. Minor remodels like cabinet refacing may cost $5,000-8,000. Always get multiple contractor estimates.


Remodeling a small kitchen requires careful planning and strategic use of every inch. Focus on opening up sightlines, streamlining storage with slim cabinets and vertical space, and choosing compact appliances. With the right approach, you can create an inviting kitchen that makes the most of its petite footprint. Pay close attention to lighting, prep space, and workflow. If you avoid common small kitchen pitfalls, you’ll wind up with a beautifully efficient and personalized space.