How to brighten a small kitchen — 5 expert-approved ways to add sparkle

Learning how to brighten a small kitchen will make your space look stylish and spacious

Learning how to brighten a small kitchen will achieve airy looks like this white kitchen with white shelves, a countertop with oranges on it and a tap, plus three wooden stools
(Image credit: Donny Mak / Polina Pigulevsky)

Learning how to brighten a small kitchen will banish the gloom and usher in a lighter, airy feel in your space. With just a few clever tricks, you can make your kitchen feel fresh and fab.

From clever color choices to vibrant decor, there are lots of fun ways to lighten up your kitchen. We've spoken with interior designers who reveal their five favorite ways to do this.

When looking for small kitchen ideas, finding ways to make it bright will also make it look bigger, creating an inviting space to cook and host in.

How to brighten a small kitchen

If you want to make your small kitchen look bigger, finding out how to brighten it up should top your priority list.

As well as getting the lowdown from designers, we've also found some swish buys to help you get started on transforming your place with their advice in mind.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article.

1. Organize your surfaces

A white kitchen with shelving and cabinets and a wooden floor with a runner rug

(Image credit: WORKSHOP / The English Den)

Look, we get it. It’s great having all your sauces and spices right where you can get them. But if they’re overwhelming your surfaces, it's time to organize your small kitchen.

“Organization is key to keeping a small kitchen feeling light and bright,” says Julia Lauve, interior designer and co-founder of WORKSHOP | studio.

A picture of Julia Lauve, a blonde woman in a white t-shirt standing in front of a metal shelf with vases
Julia Lauve

Julia Lauve is an interior designer and co-founder of WORKSHOP | studio. Known for her eclectic interiors, Julia focuses on practical elegance. This always comes in useful when she's brightening small kitchens.

She continues, “No matter how much sunlight it gets, a cluttered counter will instantly make a space feel uninviting.”

You can quickly declutter your small kitchen by removing anything almost empty or out of date, categorizing everything, and then rearranging the groups in small kitchen organizers like lazy Susans and tiered or stackable shelves.

2. Bring in polished hardware

A white kitchen with a stove, fridge, and copper pans and a kettle

(Image credit: @thistle.harvest)

You might have cleaned your kitchen so it’s shiny and fresh, but you can always add extra sparkle power with any hanging pots and pans.

“I find it really fun to select hardware like polished brass and chrome,” says Carly Rose, principal designer and founder of Rose Design.

A picture of Carly Rose, a brown haired woman wearing a brown dress
Carly Rose

Carly Rose is the principal designer and founder of Rose Design. Rose Design’s goal is to offer interior spaces and experiences with individuality. Brightening up small kitchens is just one way she does this.

You could also bring in this element with a dreamy copper kettle (we love how gorgeous this vintage inspired copped kettle at Anthropologie is), or a coffee machine with a sleek silver finish. 

The small footprint and programmable, customizable features of the Keurig® K-Supreme Plus Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker make it a great fit in a small kitchen.

If you want to go for a vintage vibe, you may be able to easily thrift some quirky pre-loved cookware in these shades from secondhand furniture stores.

3. Add clever lighting

A red and brown kitchen with white countertops and wall sconces

(Image credit: Emily LaMarque Design Studio / Douglas Hill)

Even if you have pendant lighting in your kitchen, chances are it still feels a little dull when you’re using.

Julia says: “I like to use under cabinet lighting, as it’s a fantastic way to quickly brighten a small kitchen.”

If you’re renting you can add this to your cabinets and inside your drawers, by using adhesive lights. This way, you can easily find your favorite snacks, all while keeping your kitchen brilliantly bright. 

Motion detect adhesive lights will reduce unnecessary energy use. This 30-sensor LED under cabinet light duo from Amazon has a motion detection setting and is USB rechargeable.

As well as this, you could also add wall sconces onto the wall to add a decorative finish and to add dimension to your kitchen space.

4. Be considerate of color

A kitchen corner with white cabinets, blue walls, and dark blue cabinets

(Image credit: Olive & Barr)

Picking the best paint colors for your small kitchen is a key part of keeping it bright. Don’t worry, you don’t need to just keep it white — you can play about with contrasting shades, too.

Carly explains, “When designing small kitchens, I like to do lighter and brighter on top and a comparably deeper tone on the bottom.”

She continues, “I will typically select a medium tone for the countertop in whatever material you are using, and a deeper tone on the bottom half of the cabinets and floor.”

This tiered approach, draws your attention up and makes a small space feel larger. Carly adds, “I find using stronger or lighter contrasting tones makes the space feel brighter."

Before you go full-on with the paint, be sure to test out a sample on the space, to see if it reflects light and dimension as intended and you like how it looks throughout the day, and in your kitchen's particular type of natural light.

5. Go for bold

A white kitchen with a pink cabinet, a breakfast bar, and blue blinds

(Image credit: Hillarys)

When we talk about brightening up a small kitchen, we aren’t just talking about whites and lights.

Carly says, “I love bringing in a pop of color with a fruit bowl or vase. Something with high contrast saturated color and texture is fun and adds a playful levity to the small space,” she explains.

Along with livening up your countertops, don’t be afraid to look high and low when it comes to zhuzhing up this room. 

“Bring in bright accessories, sparkly lights, and a colorful area rug to infuse a powerful, quick dose of personality,” explains Emily LaMarque, interior designer and founder of Emily LaMarque Design Studio.

A picture of Emily LaMarque, a woman wearing a blue blazer, white top, and blue jeans
Emily LaMarque

Whether the project is a blank canvas or a complete restoration, Emily brings to the table over 15 years of experience and a meticulous eye for detail to deliver spaces rich with style and individuality. This is an approach she also takes to brightening up small kitchens.

Whether you go for complementary colors for a monochrome finish or clashing ones for a maximalist approach, this is a must-try.

By using a mixture of bright colors and bold lighting, you can give even the smallest kitchen a total glow up. If you don't want to stop there, lightening up your small living room is also a smart idea, as this is the area many guests see first.

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.