10 neutral small kitchen ideas to modernize your space

Neutral small kitchen ideas are anything but boring

Neutral kitchen with white island and black lights
(Image credit: West Elm)

Add a fresh look to your space with some new neutral small kitchen ideas. Opting for an overall neutral look can include choosing appliances or natural materials that blend well with these tones. 

More than their luxurious appeal, neutral tones are also popular because they can act as a backdrop for bolder designs, making any accents you want to highlight stand out. 

If you find yourself gravitating towards minimalist design or visually open spaces and want to transform your small kitchen, make the most of your physical and visual kitchen space. From incorporating natural materials to creating bold contrasts, designing with neutrals in a small kitchen is easier than it looks. 

Neutral small kitchen ideas to freshen up your space

By nature, small kitchens require a design that isn’t overwhelming or too visually cluttered. As a design philosophy, opting for neutral tones is a safe bet, especially if you desire an atmosphere of serenity or you'd like to brighten up a small kitchen.

From incorporating more bright white tones to letting your kitchen's details take center stage, here's how to upgrade the look and feel of your small kitchen using an elevated palette of neutral tones. 

1. Utilize natural materials

Wooden table with wooden chairs

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

Neutral hues and organic materials complement each other seamlessly. Neutral colors provide a fantastic backdrop to display the beauty of natural materials, including stained and unstained wood, marble, and natural fibers. 

If your goal is to create a serene environment by decorating with neutrals, consider elevating your kitchen design with real and natural materials. A solid wood dining table, like this round table from Wayfair, would look great in a neutral small kitchen.

2. Experiment with near-neutrals

Kitchen with light sage green cabinets

(Image credit: Wayfair)

Traditionally, blues and greens aren't considered neutral colors when designing a small kitchen. However, today there are many paint colors on the market with a gray or white undertone (like this soft sage green color from Lick), making it a great option to accomplish what a neutral paint tone can do. 

"When we talk about neutral, don't just box yourself into white or beige," Barry Gant, CEO of the kitchen remodeling company 7 Day Kitchens, advises. 

"You've got a whole palette at your disposal. Imagine walls in a calming gray, cabinets in a toasty earth tone, and a floor in a rich, deep color. This combo adds a cozy depth that keeps things from looking too plain." 

Combining these types of colors (and even yellow or pink with heavy gray undertones) can inject more dynamism into your neutral kitchen. 

Barry Gant

Barry Gant is the proud owner and driving force behind 7 Day Kitchens, a renowned kitchen remodeling company in Charlotte, NC. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, Barry's journey began with the establishment of a family-owned business, built on the foundations of trust, dedication, and a deep passion for transforming spaces. 

3. Stick with the neutral classics

Neutral kitchen with white island and black lights

(Image credit: West Elm)

Although there are plenty of gray-hued color choices available, there's something to be said about the simplicity of sticking with the colors most commonly considered neutrals — white, black, and gray. 

A warm way to accomplish minimalist design, these tones pair well with other light tones and transparent decor, such as clear glass and linen curtains, like these ivory-colored curtains available on Amazon.

4. Curate your open shelving

Open shelving in kitchen with food items

(Image credit: West Elm)

Neutral kitchens exude an open, serene, and calm atmosphere, making them an ideal space for integrating renter-friendly shelving or installing floating shelves. If you're going for a DIY solution, we love these floating shelves available on Amazon.

Yet, overloading your kitchen shelves with numerous items can compromise those virtues of your neutral design. A curated shelf is as easy as repackaging your food storage and creating a cohesive design, continuing your preferred style throughout every detail of your kitchen. 

“A great way to add subtle pops of color in a neutral kitchen is to display decanted ingredients in glass jars,” Laura Price, the owner of The Home Organisation, advises. You can snag these glass jars on Amazon to recreate the look.

“Rice, pasta, and grains all have beautiful natural coloring to them, which when displayed on a shelf, can make a great focal piece without being too overbearing or distracting." 

Laura Price
Laura Price

Laura owns the home organization company, The Home Organisation.

5. Look for minimalist neutrals in decor

Breakfast nook with neutral bench and throw pillow

(Image credit: West Elm)

Much like in a minimalist small bathroom, achieving a cohesive neutral small kitchen involves a careful curation of design elements with minimal, neutral decor.

Stick with a subdued color palette and choose wall art pieces and decor that coordinate with everything in the room. 

When searching for the right decor, consider choosing pieces with clean lines, a pared-down color palette, and anything that embraces the aesthetic versus taking attention away from it.  This beige canvas wall art from Amazon looks great and makes a small kitchen look luxurious.

6. Experiment with curves

Dark dining table with five chairs and overhead light

(Image credit: Etsy)

In a neutral kitchen, curved decor can work to soften the overall aesthetic, leading to a kitchen that feels serene and put-together. 

A great contrast to any straight lines and angular shapes commonly found in the kitchen (from the counters to the appliances), this softening effect can contribute to a more inviting space. 

Try this dome pendant light from Wayfair to add a bold statement piece to the room.

7. Utilize clean lines

Marble kitchen counter with four barstools

(Image credit: Homary)

There are plenty of lines and angular shapes in any kitchen from the small kitchen cabinets, to the countertops and everything in between. 

Rather than working against these elements, a neutral kitchen can utilize these lines as a decorating element. Adding new lines by installing under-the-cabinet lighting (you can use these strip lights from Amazon) or vertical grooved wood paneling can create visual interest without creating more clutter. 

8. Don't negate the cozy elements

@joyfulhomebody's white kitchen with black pendant light

(Image credit: Instagram.com/joyfulhomebody)

When choosing to integrate more neutrals in your kitchen, it might be tempting to go full-force on the stark gray and white. Instead, there are plenty of ways to create a warm environment with neutrals using the right decorative elements. 

From farmhouse-style lighting fixtures (like this farmhouse-style fixture available at Pottery Barn) to traditional Shaker cabinets, these classic elements are a great way to create an inviting space. 

9. Work with existing architectural elements

Kitchen with wooden island and wooden stools

(Image credit: https://www.instagram.com/victoria_at_thewhitecottage/)

It could be tempting to paint everything in your kitchen a cool greige, or one of the best colors to paint a small kitchen, in order to implement a neutral makeover, but there are plenty of reasons for leaving your kitchen's original architectural elements as they are. 

From saving exposed wood to keeping vintage wood cabinets the same, there are a variety of great ways to work around these design elements without destroying these historic elements of your home. 

10. Choose bold items carefully

Green pendant light above dining table

(Image credit: Lampsmodern)

Every great neutral small kitchen deserves a bold decor element or two. Add some modern home decor in fun pops of color like navy blue, rich green, or deep purple.

The key, however, is to keep the bold color tones confined to only a few decorative elements, such as a dark-painted ceiling light (like this dome pendant light from Wayfair) or a bright-colored lemon bowl (like this Raawii bowl from Design Within Reach). 

Neutral small kitchen buys

It's no secret that neutrals are taking over as one of the biggest small kitchen trends. See our fave items to pick up to freshen up your space.

Prices were correct at the time of publishing.


How can I incorporate neutral tones in a rented apartment kitchen?

If changing your cabinets or countertops isn't an option, there are plenty of ways to create a neutral small kitchen in a rental house or apartment. A few options include incorporating wallpaper, peel-and-stick tiles, and cookware that follows a distinct neutral color scheme. 

What are popular neutral color choices for small kitchens?

Even when designing a neutral-toned kitchen, the first order of business is still choosing a color palette. Sticking with three distinct color tones (from the classic neutrals — white, black, and gray — to more contemporary neutrals (including gray-toned greens and blues), will allow you to create a serene and inviting atmosphere without overwhelming your space. 

Clean lines, uncluttered surfaces, natural materials, and neutral hues are always in style. Often associated with luxury, these colors have the power to evoke a sense of sophistication and refinement, as long as you avoid the worst colors to paint a small kitchen.

Whether you want to open your space with bright whites, natural light, and a minimalist design, or prefer to go the dark and cozy route with deep wood tones and black paints, neutral hues could be just the key to inject some luxury into your small kitchen design.

Kate Santos

Hello! I’m Kate Santos, a writer and photographer based in Los Angeles. In the design world, I got my start working as an Editorial Intern for Dwell magazine in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve written about design and architecture in many national magazines and online publications, including Playboy, Hunker, and The Culture Trip.

I grew up in a very old house in North Carolina and am still influenced by the rustic, charming, antique and aged elements of a home. Sustainability and longevity is extremely important to me and I believe learning to reuse materials or purchasing items you’ll love forever goes a long way. I also lean towards the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi when designing my own home, embracing the perfectly imperfect items I can find.