Small kitchen layout ideas — 6 expert-approved ways to use your space

These small kitchen layout ideas are making us want to shuffle things around

Small kitchen layout ideas are always useful. Here is a a white kitchen with blue cabinets, a black kitchen island, and black dining table and windows
(Image credit: Annie Garner / Maren Baker Design)

If you're struggling to fit everything, you might need inspired small kitchen layout ideas. Having a few tricks in the back of your mind will help you make yours feel spacious and much more functional.

We've chatted with interior designers to find out how you bring in lighting, storage ideas, and organization hacks to make the most out of your space.

Even when looking through small kitchen ideas, it's a good idea to know where everything is going to go before you start adding all your decorative touches. This way, you'll have a finished room with a cohesive feel. 

Small kitchen layout ideas

For those looking to make a small kitchen appear bigger, starting with the layout is the way to go. As well as tips from our design experts, we've also rounded up some useful buys to help you start switching up your place.

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

1. Choose an unconventional island

A white kitchen with blue cabinets, a black kitchen island, and black dining table and windows

(Image credit: Annie Garner / Maren Baker Design)

While kitchen island ideas for small kitchens are brilliant, going for skimline replacements will maximize space while providing an extra zone to prep food.

“I find a lot of smaller kitchens are too wide, so a console table or a freestanding table is a great way to eat up some of the space,” says Maren Baker, interior designer and founder of Maren Baker Design.

A picture of Maren Baker, a blonde woman wearing a brown top sitting on stairs
Maren Baker

Maren Baker is an interior designer and founder of Maren Baker Design. She works with clients to take their home beyond the expected to inspire delight and create a unique sense of place.

She continues, “It’s a bonus if this has a little drawer or shelf for extra kitchen storage.”

You could fill these with spices or utensils, making them easy to grab while chopping and cooking, or keep it to the side and place your microwave there.

2. Pay attention to natural lighting

A white kitchen with shelving and countertops with cookware and utensils on, and a window and door

(Image credit: @thistle.harvest)

When laying out your small kitchen, make sure you aren’t blocking your windows or doors, as this may make yours look dark and uninviting — no thanks.

“I always recommend paying attention to the power of lighting,” says Ricky Allen, interior designer and director of Ever Wallpaper

A picture of Ricky Allen in a suit
Ricky Allen

Ricky Allen is the interior designer and director of Ever Wallpaper, experts in high-quality wallpapers and murals suitable for kitchens and beyond.

He continues, “Ample natural light can make a small kitchen feel larger and more inviting.”

You can also tidy up your window sills, moving any indoor plants or decorations to countertops or other areas of the home, as this will help more light come in, too. 

3. Use small organizational features

A pink kitchen with wall shelves with pantry jars and a countertop with spices, shelving, and books

(Image credit: Smile Kitchens)

This is a message to all of those who have cringed at their countertops and think it might be time to declutter their kitchen.

“I love using small kitchen organizers to allow more efficient movements in this room,” 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, which she founded after recognizing a need for interior design services offering flexible service models. Rose Design’s goal is to offer interior spaces and experiences embodying the companies and individuals they represent. 

She adds, “For example, you could use a wall-mounted magnetic knife block made with wood matching the finish of your cabinets.”

You could also use tiered organizers or lazy Susans to keep all your sauces and spices in one place, rather than having them spread out everywhere.

4. Pick a smaller fridge

A white small kitchen with cabinets, a countertop, fridge, and a chandelier

(Image credit: @mycityapartment)

If you aren’t renting and can swap out your fridge for a smaller one, doing so will help free up valuable square footage. 

Maren explains, “Wider ones are not only an eyesore when they stick out beyond the counter, but also really encroach on the space. My clients have usually found a smaller fridge is ideal as they don't waste as much food and can see everything."

For those who do need extra fridge storage, Maren suggests putting a smaller fridge or upright freezer in places like the garage, basement, or mud room instead.

She adds, “People find they don't actually need all their freezer foods in the kitchen after all.”

Just make sure to keep stock of what you have in your freezer if you do this, so you don’t forget and buy duplicates. We’ve all been there.

5. Have a freestanding trash can

A kitchen with white and blue walls, black and white tiled flooring, white cabinets, an oven, and a kitchen trash can

(Image credit: @domandecors)

This may not be the most glam part of kitchen layouts, but it’s arguably one of the most functional. After all, those onion peelings and banana skins have got to go somewhere.

Carly explains, “I find in small kitchens the cabinet space is used up with food storage and equipment and the trash can becomes a necessary freestanding piece.”

She continues, “I always recommend finding a quality trash, recycling, or compost unit if it’s not integrated into your cabinetry, as it’s worth spending on a quality unit with a lid which fits the space and looks good.”

You can go for separate kitchen trash cans for each need, but if you need to save space, there are also ones out there with separate compartments for trash and compost.

6. Add a peninsula

A white kitchen with a peninsula, wooden stools, cabinets, and wooden flooring

(Image credit: Annie Garner / Maren Baker Design)

Adding a swish design feature like a peninsula to your small kitchen layout will help break it up into zones.

Maren says, “I like a peninsula for a small kitchen if it makes sense for the layout. This acts like an island and a table with an overhang for stools,” she adds.

Not only this, but it can triple as storage. “Instead of fitting a corner cabinet, I make the peninsula corner accessible, creating a secret little storage spot for kitchen items you don't need very often,” she explains.

This is a useful trick for those who own their homes and can renovate them. You could even DIY your own, if you want to save costs and be more sustainable. 

While renters might not be able to do this, you could always add a storage trolley (this Amazon Basics one has over 8,000 five-star reviews) to act as an extension of countertop space.

Prioritizing your small kitchen’s layout and style is important no matter if you’re renting or owning your place.

Carly finishes by saying, “Kitchens are utilitarian spaces we spend a lot of time in, so it’s important to elevate the function with the look and feel of the space.”

If you’ve been inspired to carry on zhuzhing up this room, finding out ways to organize your small kitchen may also come in handy.

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.