Small Kitchen Layout and Design Tips

small kitchen with teal wall

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Bigger isn't always better. And where matters of money are concerned, that's especially not the case.

The cost, duration, and complexity of your kitchen remodel are in direct correlation to the planned size of the kitchen; it's a verifiable fact. On a one-for-one comparison, with all other factors being the same, the small kitchen will cost less, use fewer materials, and will come to completion sooner.

Mint green small Kitchen in a vacation cottage
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Advantages of Small Kitchens

Small kitchens have a number of advantages over larger kitchens. If you have only a small space available for the kitchen, this might actually be a blessing in disguise.

More Efficient Design, Better Ergonomics

A tighter work triangle makes for a more ergonomically correct and efficient workspace. In a small kitchen, the key work stations can be accessed by simply turning around, not by walking 10 or 20 feet.

Less Expense For Building Materials

Overall costs for building materials are considerably less in a small kitchen, simply because there are smaller quantities necessary. Countertops are shorter, flooring area is smaller. Expensive areas like tiled backsplashes use less tile.

DIY Construction Is More Practical

A smaller space using fewer building materials means that the DIY option is more practical with a small kitchen. And you'll find that your kitchen remodeling project can be completed faster, especially if you are doing the work yourself. 

High-End Materials Are More Affordable

Have you been eyeing that artisan tile, premium quartz countertops, or expensive stone flooring? With a small kitchen, you'll be more apt to afford it. Because you are purchasing less material (e.g., 30 square feet of granite countertop instead of 300 square feet), you can afford to upgrade the quality of materials you use. 

Design Is Easier

With the small kitchen, you have fewer options in terms of design, but this can be a good thing. Because of the limited layout and floor plan options, you can give more attention to the selection of materials and fixtures than to extensive counter and cabinet configurations.

Living Space Is Maximized

Because less space is given over to the kitchen, this means that there is more space in your home for the living room, family room, or dining room. Or, you can create entirely new rooms that may not have been possible with a huge kitchen: a small office to the side, a hobby, crafts, or sewing room, or a breakfast room.

Choose a Kitchen Layout That Works

Your range of potential layout designs is limited in a small kitchen. But that's a good thing. For one, by maximizing the functionality of the space, there will be less unused dead space. Open expanses of flooring and high ceilings are great, but they don't help you cook the meal.

Galley or Corridor Kitchen Layout

The galley or corridor-style kitchen is the most popular layout for the small kitchen. In this layout, services (dishwater, stove, sink, etc.) are usually clustered within a small area.

Storage is reserved for upper and lower cabinets, leaving counter space free for cooking purposes. A galley kitchen can fit in a space as narrow as 8 feet. Yet a well-design galley kitchen is a perfectly practical full-service kitchen. 

One-Wall Kitchen Layout

Many homeowners find the one-wall kitchen layout too tight for their needs. Essentially, this layout is half of a galley kitchen, with less than half of the amount of counter and cabinet space.

Also, you'll find that you may need to sacrifice services that are nice but not essential, such as dishwashers.

But for homeowners who don't particularly enjoy cooking—or for homeowners who lean toward takeout or restaurant meals over cooking at home—a small, one-wall kitchen may be just the right solution.

More Design Tips for Small Kitchens

Since you don't have the vast, limitless space of a huge kitchen, you need to be a bit more economical in your design when dealing with a compact kitchen. Surprisingly, you won't find it too hard to do.

For one thing, kitchen services tend to automatically associate with each other. Dishwashers need to be near water supply and drain areas (i.e., sinks). Refrigerators with automatic ice makers need a water supply. Kitchen cabinetry tends to be clustered together into cohesive units rather than spread out.

So, pulling together a tight kitchen really makes sense from a commonsense, practical point of view. 

Tile back splash, ventilation hood and stove in kitchen
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Some other ideas that can help a small kitchen:

  • Do you really need that kitchen island? You might. But then again, kitchen islands use up a lot of space and are not always as useful as they may appear. If you're worried about space, try to craft a kitchen design that doesn't include an island. You might be surprised to find that you can operate perfectly well without an island.
  • Push cabinetry all the way to the ceiling. Often, standard kitchen cabinetry has an open space at the top. While this does create a more airy feel, it's a luxury you often cannot afford in the small kitchen. After all, would you rather have a dead space or more usable shelving? You might want the former over the latter, but it's definitely a point to consider.
  • Use glass cabinet doors. The downside of pushing cabinetry up to the ceiling is it can make a kitchen more claustrophobic. Cure this by installing glass cabinet doors. Adding interior lighting to the cabinets can also make a huge difference. 
  • Go for neutral or lighter colors. Darker colors will make the small kitchen feel heavier, darker, and smaller.
  • Opt for larger floor tiles. While this may sound counterintuitive, small flooring tiles make a room feel smaller.