Now This Is How to Decorate a Small Kitchen

Updated 03/15/19
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If you grew up watching Home Alone and Nancy Meyers movies, you too probably dream of cooking feasts in your imaginary sprawling kitchen and being able to entertain your entire extended family around your breakfast island. In reality, most of us don't live in large homes with kitchen islands that sit eight and enough cupboard space to store an entire restaurant's dishware collection. Instead, we live in tiny studio apartments, starter homes, or city condos. But even though we don't quite have the space for that dream kitchen doesn't mean we shouldn't make the most of the space we do have.

Come to think of it, a small kitchen offers plenty of benefits: It forces us to be frugal with our kitchenware—who needs a dozen cake stands anyway?—and it means that we have the luxury to spend more per square footage than we would in a larger space. To help you make the most out of this newfound decorating budget, we outlined a few tips and tricks to make your tiny kitchen prettier, more efficient, and more versatile. Ready to completely transform your petite space? This is how to decorate small kitchens and show your guests that the best things come in small packages.

Embrace the One-Wall Layout

How to Decorate a Small Kitchen
Courtesy of Fantastic Frank

In the age of open kitchens with sprawling breakfast islands, it seems almost unfathomable to have an entire kitchen restricted to one wall, but when properly laid out and organized, it can save a ton of room in an open-space layout, which can then be used for a larger dining table. The trick: Maximize your cupboard space by reserving part of the wall for floor-to-ceiling storage, and make it look seamless by building in your appliances.

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Build In Your Seating

How to Decorate a Small Kitchen — Seating
Courtesy of Space Exploration

Want an eat-in kitchen but have very limited space? Save a few inches by building in a banquette. While a regular table requires you to have at least a couple of feet behind each chair for people to be able to slide back easily when getting up, the slide-in banquette requires no space at all. That way, you can focus on using all the space to maximize the number of people you'll fit around the table.

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Frame Your Breakfast Nook

How to Decorate a Small Kitchen — Breakfast Nook
Courtesy of Liljencrantz Design

You might think that a wall used for a table or breakfast nook is lost storage space, but that doesn't have to be the case. Frame your breakfast nook with high shelves or cupboards, and use them to store items like fine china or dinner party serveware. That way, you're not sacrificing important storage space for a dining table. In this case, you really can have your cake (on a fancy cake stand) and eat it too.

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Maximize Your Dining Space

How to Decorate a Small Kitchen — Dining
Courtesy of Studio Ashby

In small spaces, it can be tricky to find the space to entertain. But not having room for a dining table that seats 12 is no reason not to throw an occasional dinner party. The solution: Get creative with seating. A kitchen island can easily fit a few barstools tucked away, and a small bistro table can easily extend into a larger one. Look for drop-leaf tables or extendable ones that can fit more people when needed, and consider throwing your dinner parties buffet-style—where everyone can serve themselves and sit down informally where there's room.

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Bring Your Storage to the Ceiling

How to Decorate a Small Kitchen — Storage
Courtesy of The White Arrow

Storage can be a challenge in a small kitchen, but there's one space that's often overlooked: the top of kitchen cabinets. Whether you're building in more cupboards to extend all the way to the ceiling or simply displaying larger items on the top shelves, use that vertical space to your advantage. If you have many beautiful pieces and are generally tidy, glass cabinets will also make your space seem larger.

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Make Your Space Modular

How to Decorate a Small Kitchen — Island
Courtesy of Pella Hedeby

When space comes at a premium, it can be tricky to maximize the functional aspects of a kitchen. The solution? Keep an island on wheels that you can move around to suit your needs. Tuck it away or use it as a buffet when entertaining a bigger group, and pull it out when cooking a big feast. Having your island on wheels is a small change you can make to your kitchen that will make a world of a difference to how you operate in your space.

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Crate and Barrel Sheridan Black Kitchen Island $699

Focus on the Finishes

How to Decorate a Small Kitchen — Finishes
Courtesy of Fantastic Frank

The silver lining of having an extra-tiny kitchen? You have less square footage to consider when choosing finishes. Have you been dreaming of a beautiful marble slab for your countertops? Go for it. Want to upgrade or paint your cabinets? It's a quick and easy job. Want to upgrade your hardware? You don't have that many pulls or knobs to buy. Treat your tiny kitchen like a jewelry box—and revel in the knowledge that what your space lacks in square footage, it more than makes up for in style.

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And now, why white kitchens will always make a striking statement in any home.

This story was originally published on December 1, 2018, and has since been updated.

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