Small Kitchen Ideas

11 small kitchen design ideas and how to make them work for you

Getting the most out of the busiest room in the house is easier than you think.
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Cooking and cleaning in a tiny room can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility. But don’t be disheartened– there are plenty of easy ways to transform your small kitchen into a stylish and efficient space. There are particular kitchen designs that work better for small spaces and many methods for making your small apartment kitchen feel enormous.

Here are some of the best small kitchen layouts and tips for designing your space effectively.

1. Minimalist

When it comes to small kitchen ideas, keeping it simple is your best bet. Embracing minimalism in your kitchen design can help establish a feeling of order and create the illusion of space. Opt for light colours, clean lines, similar textures and tones, and simple accessories.

Marble kitchen with herringbone timber floors
Luxe Carrara marble and secret storage behind 2-pac cabinetry make for a streamlined kitchen in this renovated bayside home in Melbourne. (Credit: Photography: Armelle Habib | Styling: Julia Green)

2. Concealed

One of the biggest emerging trends in small kitchen design is concealed kitchens. The cabinets are so stylish it’s easy to forget they’re designed for storage, appliances that disappear before your eyes, and touchable textures that make you think you’re in the living or dining room.

More and more, designers are giving us the ability to hide or camouflage parts of the kitchen at our own choosing. There’s a big push towards creating concealed work areas, like the Inside System by Ernestomeda and Logica Celata by Valcucine, which boast sliding doors that close and hide the entire kitchen structure.

Timber kitchen with matte black hardware
Timber is the hero of the kitchen in this heritage home in Melbourne, allowing functionality to take a back seat. (Credit: Photography: Alex Reinders | Styling: Sarah Elshaug)

3. Freestanding modular

Flexibility in the kitchen once meant a butcher’s block on wheels. But with renters on the rise and homes getting smaller, there’s an increasing demand for modern, multifunctional, flexible kitchens. Opting for a custom creation will give you the ideal kitchen design for your small space.

4. Galley

The galley kitchen was originally designed for compact cooking zones on boats, so it’s ideal for smaller homes. It’s made up of two parallel countertops with a walkway in between.

All white galley kitchen with dark timber flooring and concrete benchtops
Bespoke joinery in this Federation-era home on Sydney’s North Shore was fashioned from carcasses from the old kitchen and finished with new doors. (Credit: Photography: Ran Linnegar | Styling: Fiona Gould)

5. One wall

One-wall designs are particularly popular in smaller apartments and homes. As the name suggests, all of the appliances and cabinetry run along one wall, giving the kitchen a greater sense of openness.

Careful planning is required, however, to ensure that adequate room is available for food prep, as the sink, cooktop and refrigerator can take up most of the space. One solution is to use the dining table for extra workspace or include a wheeled butcher’s block.

One wall kitchen with timber dining table in foreground
The cooking and casual dining zone appears forever clean and uncluttered thanks to an abundance of concealed storage in this weekender on the Mornington Peninsula. (Credit: Photography: Eve Wilson | Styling: Beck Simon)

6. Cut clutter

Minimalism may be the word on everyone’s lips but the concept behind living with less is the key to not only a stylish home but a sustainable one. Buying only what you need is the best way reduce your footprint and save time, stress and money.

Cull unwanted items and from your drawers, cupboards and pantry and make a rule that moving forward items only come in to your kitchen to replace something that breaks or runs out.

Dark green kitchen with white tiled splashback and gold hardware
A place for everything in the sleek kitchen of this northern beaches retreat. (Credit: Photography: Rebecca Lu | Styling: Rachel Peters)

7. Savvy storage

Use your space wisely. Built in storage makes the best use of available space and wherever possible, try to make spaces do more than one job:

  • fix racks to the inside of cupboard doors to hold spice racks or pots lids
  • fit shelves into corners and take them right up to the ceiling for seldom-used items
  • use your island bench as a breakfast bar and store mugs or cutlery in drawers beneath

8. Utilise utensils

Make your kitchen stylish and functional by investing in cookware, utensils and appliances that are nice enough to leave on display. Mount knives together in a block or on a magnetic wall strip. 

Seek out a matching set of mixing bowls in commercial stainless steel or colourful ceramic that stack inside one another neatly and look attractive when stacked on open shelves. Take inspiration from professional food preparation space and have everything close at hand.

Coastal style kitchen with large wooden dining table
Open shelves are decorative and efficient in this Cape Cod-inspired beach house on the Sunshine Coast. (Credit: Photography: Anastasia Kariofyllidis)

9. A cohesive colour palette

Choosing all one colour to create the illusion of space doesn’t have to mean white everything.

Borrow from surrounding spaces by continuing kitchen colours to finishes in adjacent zones, extending them to create a combined footprint.

10. Keep it light

Adding a skylight or window splashback can give your small kitchen a bright, airy feel and create the illusion of a larger space.

Modern kitchen with window splashback
Light floods the kitchen via the window splashback in this contemporary prefab home, making it appear larger. (Credit: Photography: Simon Whitbread | Styling: John Mangila)

11. Creative shelving

Not everyone with a small kitchen is blessed with built in storage. If you fall in that camp, it’s important to ensure you have ample and effective shelf space. 

Floating shelves make for a modern and minimalist storage idea, while utilising wall space with creative cabinetry can help.

Modern farmhouse kitchen with concrete island bench clad in feature geometric tiles
Recycled timber shelving creates texture and interest as well as useful storage in this Hervey Bay oasis. (Credit: Photography: Louise Roche | Styling: Kylie Jackes)

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