Renovating a small kitchen? 5 ways to make the most of your space

This small kitchen got a whole new look thanks to clever design

small kitchen
(Image credit: Laura Brophy)

 As an interior designer, Laura Brophy has a knack for unlocking a space’s full potential—and her home in Corona del Mar is no exception. When Brophy first saw the 804-square-foot place, she fell in love with its proximity to the beach as well as a slew of shops and restaurants. Problem was, the house had a small kitchen, and it was outdated. 

“[I wanted to] expand and open up the kitchen to create more space to cook and to create a communal space for entertaining,” she shares. “My husband and I both enjoy cooking and entertaining friends, so this was pretty important for us.” 

One year after she moved into the home, Brophy embarked on total kitchen overhaul. She traded in the galley layout for an open setup, complete with an island. A neutral color palette, updated fixtures, and pendant lights round out the space, making the kitchen appear larger and more luxurious. 

Want to make the most out of your small kitchen, but have no idea where to start? Brophy offers an intimate look at her kitchen renovation—and how to get the look in your own home.

And for more kitchen ideas, check out our guide.

1. Break the fourth wall

small kitchen

Brophy's kitchen "before"

(Image credit: Laura Brophy)

Convinced your kitchen’s layout can’t be changed? Think again. As Brophy’s renovation project proves, it’s important to think outside of the box. In order to open up the kitchen, she removed the interior wall and accompanying serving. While Brophy started the renovation with a constricting galley kitchen, she ended up with an open space that’s perfect for entertaining.

“It had the biggest impact on helping us make the most of the small space,” she explains. “It really opened up the space and made the home feel considerably larger.”

Not only did Brophy change her kitchen’s layout, but she also took it to new heights by removing the dropped ceiling, which makes her space appear nearly a foot taller.

Ready to rethink your layout? Check out these smart small kitchen ideas.

2. Invest in double duty decor

small kitchen

(Image credit: Laura Brophy)

There’s only so much room to place cabinets, furniture, appliances when square footage is at a premium. If you want to make the most of your small kitchen, invest in multi-purpose pieces.

“Although the expanded kitchen footprint took away from the space that would normally be reserved for a small dining table, this was a tradeoff I was more than willing to accept—especially since I was able to integrate bar seating into the island,” Brophy explains.

By adding an island, Brophy has one convenient place to meal prep and eat the final product.

3. Bring style to your storage

small kitchen

(Image credit: Laura Brophy)

It doesn’t matter if you’re an aspiring chef or just finding your footing in the kitchen, it’s important to have enough space to store your pots, pans, and appliances. But just because storage has a strictly practical purpose doesn’t mean it can’t look good. Brophy swapped out the upper cabinets above the counter for sleek, floating shelves.

“They provide ample space to store all of my glassware, dinnerware, serving trays, and more,” Brophy says. “[It] also helps to make the space feel larger, and adds a unique and interesting flair to the space—all while providing just as much storage.”

When it comes to storage in a small kitchen, Brophy says prioritization is key.

“Keep the things you love and use regularly, and donate the items you no longer use,” she adds. “Storage tools such as The Container Store's Stacking Pantry Bins can greatly increase the usability of a small kitchen.”

4. Embrace every nook and cranny

small kitchen

(Image credit: Laura Brophy)

No matter how selective you are about what goes into your cabinets, there’s a good chance your kitchen will still be short on storage. When in doubt, get creative. Brophy extended her storage by placing a counter in a corner that shares a wall with the kitchen. Not only does this addition make the kitchen appear larger, but it also offers a convenient place for Brophy to brew her morning cup of coffee. A framed print, leafy plant, and hanging baskets complete the corner, making this one storage solution that doesn’t skimp on style.

Fortunately, you don’t need a renovation to copy this tip. Create your own caffeination station by placing a slim console table near your kitchen.

5. Create an illusion with color

small kitchen

(Image credit: Laura Brophy)

While a paint shade won’t magically add more feet to your small kitchen, the right color palette can create the illusion of a larger space. For her California home, Brophy decided to stick with a refreshing array of neutrals—and it certainly paid off.

“The monochromatic white color scheme definitely helps to make the space feel larger and more open,” she says. “I would definitely recommend a lighter colored monochromatic color scheme for anyone who wants their small kitchen to feel relatively larger.”

Worried an all-white kitchen will veer toward “basic” territory? Take a cue from Brophy and experiment with texture. The subway tiled backsplash and marble countertops create plenty of visual interest without making this tiny kitchen feel even smaller. Plus, the black hardware and two pendant light offer a subtle pop of color without compromising the kitchen’s open and airy feel.

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