Five ‘must-have’ features for small kitchens to make the space ‘appear bigger’ than it is

Even the teeniest kitchen can become the hub of one’s dream home, all that’s needed is a few small kitchen design tricks and tips, according to Ruth Lavender, a design expert at Benchmarx Kitchens and Joinery.

She said: “Having a small space can be a challenge, but it doesn’t mean you have to abandon the idea of creating your dream kitchen.

“With careful consideration and clever planning, you can maximise the space available and create an impactful design that perfectly meets your needs. With this in mind, here are my five must-have features for a small kitchen to maximise space and make it feel larger.”

1. Light colours 

Opting for lighter, neutral tones for cabinetry is one of the “oldest tricks in the book” when it comes to making spaces “appear bigger”. These hues reflect light better than darker paint shades, “instantly making a space feel brighter”.

The designer suggested that households can add interest to a neutral colour palette by opting for white or light grey cabinets and pairing them with natural textures, such as warm wood accessories and stone-finish surfaces. Highly adaptable, neutral tones can complement every accent colour and metal, so you can tailor a look to an individual style.

While many think that only light colours should be used in small kitchens, Ruth disagreed with this. She said: “It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t rule out dark cabinetry if that’s your preference, as it can work well in a small kitchen when balanced with light work surfaces, splashbacks and surrounding walls.

“Combining two different cabinet colours is another great way to create a sense of space and style – a dark finish for floor-standing cabinets pairs well with a lighter option on wall-hung units, without feeling overbearing.”

2. Lighting 

Getting the lighting scheme right is “essential” because without layering a mixture of both natural and artificial light a kitchen may feel “dark and dingy”, leading to the space “appearing even smaller”.

The kitchen designer suggested that skylights and bifold doors are perfect for flooding a room with natural light. Maximising windows to the outside world will make a kitchen feel like it extends beyond external walls, preventing it from feeling enclosed.

Households can even maximise their task lighting by adding lights to the underside of cabinets, as well as LED strips under work surfaces and shelving, to eliminate any dark spots, add extra depth, and provide warmth to the room.

For those looking for an “attractive way to add more focused illumination”, whilst at the same time introducing an additional design feature then they should introduce pendant lighting.

3. Clever storage 

Clutter can easily make a kitchen feel “pokey”, so keeping worktops clear is crucial. Internal storage across a kitchen design is key to maximising space and keeping surfaces tidy.

Ruth suggested: “Integrated carousels are excellent for convenience as they allow you to locate different utensils quickly without you having to scramble around at the back of the cupboard.

“Pan drawers are another great option as they provide the depth needed to store larger items whilst keeping them accessible. You can make the most of every inch of your cupboard space with concealed drawers, pull-out wire shelves and storage baskets too.”

When used effectively, “open shelving looks stunning” as it opens up the space and gives households a chance to inject personality into the design. Ruth advised: “In smaller kitchens, use open shelving sparingly to create a sense of spaciousness by breaking up rows of cabinetry.”

“Open shelving also provides easy access to everyday essentials such as dishes, glasses and cookware. Households can use them to store cookbooks, display houseplants, and showcase decorative vases; making them versatile and easy to re-style when you fancy a change.”

4. Integrated appliances 

Integrated appliances are “perfect for small kitchens” as they keep appliances like a dishwasher and washing machine behind closed doors. This will help to maximise the sense of space by giving a kitchen an uninterrupted run of cabinets. The designer said: “Discreet dishwashers are a particularly great solution, as they help to keep the sink and work surfaces clean and tidy with minimal effort.”

5. Seating nook

For those who don’t have room for an island, but still want to achieve a flexible space, Ruth recommends incorporating a seating nook.

She explained: “Building bench seating into surrounding units will maximise floor space and positioning a small table in front creates a truly versatile feature. You don’t have to forgo storage either, as you can incorporate clever solutions beneath the seating area and in the surrounding zone.”