The Small Smart Kitchen

By Marsha Fottler –

Because of a general trend in America among empty nesters to downsize to homes of 2,000 square feet or under, kitchens are getting smaller. Also, smarter meaning more efficient. Which means easier to maintain. What a great idea.

If you’re moving into a home with a smaller kitchen than the one you now have or if you’ve already got a tiny kitchen and want to make it function better, here are some tips from design experts to help you live large in tight quarters.


  1. Invest in better lighting – overhead, under counter, strip lighting at the toe kick, inside glass-front cabinets. Consider how you use your kitchen, where you do the most prep work and decide where you need more and better lighting. Any kitchen will seem roomier with good lighting. And light changes everything including the color of the cabinets and paint on the walls.
  2. Inventory pots and pans. Every cook has too many. Evaluate which ones you actually use and which ones you’re holding onto for sentimental reasons or because you paid too much for them. Get ruthless and get rid of the extras. You’ll be amazed at the new storage space and the liberating emotional result.
  3. Mirror the backsplash with budget-friendly mirror tiles. This will visually increase the dimensions of the room. This is a design trick that I see professionals use all the time. Depending upon the style of the kitchen the mirror can be new or distressed or antiqued.
  4. Choose cabinetry with a plain front. The more ornate the kitchen the more closed in it will look. And, do you really need knobs or pulls?
  5. Have cabinets open garage-door style instead of into the room. Saves space and looks great.
  6. Slim-Line Refrigerator

    Investigate smaller, thin appliances. Think European. Maybe you just need an under-counter refrigerator or an 18-inch wide dishwasher or a slender refrigerator such as the Liebherr CS 1360. Small appliances are being designed and manufactured today for American kitchens (they always have been in Europe) that save space but don’t compromise on efficiency. You probably don’t need to store as much food as you think.

  7. Use those walls. But vary closed cabinetry with some open shelving so you don’t feel like you’re working in a canyon with looming structures on all sides.
  8. Make the ceiling a wow factor. Think about beadboard, metallic paint, wallpaper or embossed tiles that look like tin are are easy to install. Doing something creative with the ceiling doesn’t take up space and is a great way to personalize your little kitchen.
  9. Keep clutter off the counters. Especially is you have a mirror backsplash. Ideally what should be on your counter are a couple little pots of herbs that you use in cooking or a bowl of fruit. If that’s too Zen, strive to have the bare minimum on the counters, just the things you have to have within reach because they are in constant use.
  10. Carefully consider color. White makes a kitchen seem bigger and it bounces light around so the kitchen appears brighter. But color is such a personal decision, you need to go with the color scheme that makes you happy to be in the kitchen. One color in three different finishes – flat, semi-gloss and high gloss – will actually appear to be three different shades once you’ve painted the walls, baseboard and trim, and ceiling. And, of course, there is no law that says the ceiling has to be white. If your kitchen opens to another room, say the great room, you’ll want to coordinate the colors of the two rooms and treat it as one big space. It’s so much easier than trying to determine where one room ends and the other one begins.


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