8 small kitchen cabinet ideas to upgrade your space

Plenty of small kitchen cabinet ideas, as recommended by experts, from vintage-inspired to ultra-contemporary

(Image credit: Homary)

With seemingly endless small kitchen cabinet ideas on the market, choosing the style, color, and type can be a daunting task. From vintage-inspired to brilliantly bold to ultra-contemporary (and everything in between), there are plenty of choices when it comes to how you want your cabinets to look and function.

More than anything else, even the flooring and the backsplash choices, the set of cabinets you choose can make or break the kitchen’s interior design. Rather than getting lost in the sea of options both online and in stores, streamline your search by pinpointing the colors and styles you prefer (and those you don’t) when it comes to the array of kitchen cabinets on the market. 

Whether you’re ready to start shopping today or are brainstorming small kitchen ideas, here are eight different styles, colors, and types of cabinets to get you inspired to create the kitchen of your dreams. 

Small kitchen cabinet ideas approved by experts

From finding a cabinet idea that works with your design preferences to sourcing the right materials to get the look you desire, there are plenty of considerations to make when it comes to transforming your kitchen cabinets. 

Whether you plan to start a new renovation project or just add a new coat of paint to your existing cabinets, here are a few expert-approved ideas to get you started on your cabinet makeover journey. 

1. Try semi-custom options

RTA Cabinet Store

(Image credit: RTA Cabinet Store)

Interior designer and CEO of Blythe Interiors Jennifer Verruto recommends going for custom options when installing kitchen cabinets if you have the budget.  “These bespoke options are tailored to your exact specifications, offering unmatched creative freedom in terms of design, materials, and finishes,” she explains. 

If customizing your cabinets isn’t within your budget, Verruto has an innovative solution. “Semi-custom cabinets,” she explains. “These strike a balance between customization and affordability”. With plenty of companies offering semi-custom choices, there are plenty of design styles available to create the look you desire. 

Jennifer Verruto
Jennifer Verruto

Jennifer Verruto is the founder and CEO of Blythe Interiors with offices in San Diego, CA and Spokane, WA. 

2. Traditional shaker style

RTA Cabinet Store

(Image credit: RTA Cabinet Store)

Shaker style are traditional-style cabinets that feature a recessed square design with clean lines. For decades, these cabinets have remained a popular choice for all styles of kitchens. They also look good in an assortment of kitchen cabinet colors.

“In sеlеct cabinеtry, thе Shaker stylе stands out for its timеlеss appеal,” explains interior designer Artem Kropovinsky

“Thеsе cabinеts work bеautifully in all kitchеn layouts. Solid colors can be added to classic whitе for a sharp yеt harmonious look, adding shinе and pеrsonality.” 

You can order ready-to-assemble shaker cabinets online, like this highly-rated white wall cabinet from Wayfair to get started on your small kitchen transformation.

Artem Kropovinsky
Artem Kropovinsky

Artem Kropovinsky is an interior design expert and founder of Arsight, an award-winning interior design studio based in New York.

3. For a contemporary look, go frameless


(Image credit: Anthropologie)

One of the biggest decisions when choosing new cabinets is to understand whether to shop for frameless or framed-style cabinet fronts. Although framed cabinets feature a more traditional look, frameless cabinet doors, such as this Sonoma Impression Door available at Semihandmade, can look sleek and modern in the right kitchen. 

“Also known as European-style cabinets, frameless cabinets have a sleek, contemporary aesthetic with full-overlay doors, maximizing interior storage space,”  Verruto explains. “They suit minimal and modern kitchen designs." 

4. Explore other material options


(Image credit: Homary)

It might be tempting to opt for solid wood when deciding on cabinetry but in this modern world, there are plenty of great (and less expensive) options to consider. 

Jennifer Verruto of Blythe Interiors recommends thinking beyond solid wood for cabinet options which, as she describes, can be vulnerable to heat and humidity, leading to warping. 

A great alternative is a medium-density fiberboard or high-density fiberboard. “These alternatives provide a smooth surface that can be easily customized with paint or wood veneer,” she says. 

This wide wall cabinet available from Wayfair is made with versatile fiberboard and comes in white and black, but you could paint them or even install new handles for a more custom look.

5. In rentals, try a freestanding cabinet

Urban Outfitters

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

Those who rent might be unable to make permanent changes, making freestanding cabinets the way to go when you want to create more storage space in your small kitchen. Plenty of options, including this Mid-Century Glass Cabinet from West Elm or this more compact Mason Curio Cabinet from Urban Outfitters, are great styles that can blend with your current cabinetry. 

Even for homeowners, adding a freestanding cabinet can be a great way to expand your storage options and put a bit of your own preferences in your kitchen’s look and feel. For example, this Emerson Cabinet from Room & Board is a great way to add a splash of color to your kitchen. 

6. Go neutral with gray undertones

Miller Paint

(Image credit: Miller Paint)

If you’d like to choose a color scheme for your cabinetry that will still blend in no matter how your home’s style changes, consider going neutral. But don’t fret — going neutral on your cabinets doesn’t mean everything has to be painted a dull gray. 

Instead, breathe some life into your neutrals by choosing paints that have gray undertones. These colors, like this soothing light lavender color with gray undertones from Lick, are a great way to inject some color into your kitchen while creating a style that can be adaptable for years to come. 

7. Dark color toned cabinets


(Image credit: Wayfair)

Bright minimalist kitchens have been all the rage for the past few years but opting for darker cabinet tones can create an elegance in your kitchen’s feel. 

A more traditional style means classic darker tones, such as this Rookwood Dark Green from Sherwin Williams or this Surf Camp dark blue from Backdrop, to create a versatile and dramatic appeal in a style that will last for years to come. 

8. Refinish your existing cabinets


(Image credit: Wayfair)

Not everyone has the time, patience, or budget to replace their cabinets entirely. After all, the cost of installing kitchen cabinets can be quite high. That's why Jennifer Verruto of Blythe Interiors also recommends refinishing or painting existing cabinets as a cost-effective alternative. 

Her tips? “Hire a professional for quality results, understand that painted cabinets may require periodic touch-ups due to chipping, cracking, or scuffing, and consult with a designer to determine if your cabinets are suitable for repainting based on their existing finish”. 

Consider us readier than ever to tackle our own kitchen’s redesign, starting with the cabinets. 

Small kitchen cabinet buys


How do I choose the right kitchen cabinet hardware?

When shopping for handles for your kitchen cabinets, take into consideration the colors and textures found in your kitchen. For instance, if your sink features a brass faucet, consider finding brushed brass handles for your cabinets to create a cohesive look. Always purchase a sample to get an idea of what the hardware will look like before committing to an entire set. 

What are the biggest mistakes people make when choosing kitchen cabinets?

Mistakes such as ignoring your budget, neglecting functionality, or choosing poor-quality materials are all common mistakes when it comes to choosing the right kitchen cabinets. Taking the time upfront to order samples and consider the style you want will end up saving you time (and possibly, money) in the end. 

While some home dwellers might need to gut their entire kitchen to achieve the look they want, others can accomplish their goals just by adding a fresh coat of paint, finish, or a new door. 

A few things to consider before getting started include whether or not you want to brighten your small kitchen, or what colors you want to have in your space. Whether you plan to go custom, semi-custom, or fully do-it-yourself, the first step is to gather inspiration and create a plan. 

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.