7 Things a Designer Would Never Do in a Small Kitchen

Updated 03/01/19

The kitchen is often one of the most used rooms in the house. It's where homecooked meals and take-out plates alike are prepared. It's where snacks are munched, lunches are packed, and likely where you and your family or roommates sit down together to enjoy a meal and a bit of company.

So, even if your kitchen is on the smaller side, it's still vital to get the most out of this space. "It's important to make kitchens as efficient and organized as possible," says interior designer Anne Hepfer. According to her, space planning is important in both large and small kitchens, which is why no matter what type of space you have, you'll want to consider your needs before you start decorating or redesigning.

For example, sometimes drawers are better than shelves, but sometimes shelves make more sense in a small space, according to the designer. "It's easier to stack dishes on floating shelves than to tuck them away in a cabinet that makes a space feel smaller," she points out. No matter what, the goal is always to make every bit of space you have in a small kitchen count, whether that means installing new shelves, creating a microwave drawer under the counter to free up space, or organizing trays and cookie sheets in narrow spaces (just to name a few ideas).

If you're ready to make a few changes to your small kitchen but don't want to make a common mistake, keep reading to learn the design faux pas to avoid what to do instead. Ahead, Hepfer shares seven things that she would never do in a small kitchen. 

1. Never use a small grout tile

Small Kitchen
Sarah Sherman Samuel

According to Hepfer, using small grout tile behind a stove is one thing she would never do when designing a small kitchen. This isn't necessarily because of the aesthetic effect of the design element, but, instead, due to the fact that it can be difficult to keep clean. And in a small kitchen, keep your space clean is of the utmost importance.

The Fix: Try using larger tiles or a stone slab behind the stove instead. These materials are far easier to maintain.

2. Never leave space between the upper cabinets and the ceiling

Small Kitchen Cabinets
http://bhdmdesign.com/BHDM Design

Hepfer suggests avoiding a small kitchen design that allows for space between the upper cabinets and the ceiling. "It visually lowers the height of the room and becomes a dust collector on the top," the designer explains. If you can help it, it's best to steer clear of this design element when it comes to small kitchens due to both the look and upkeep.

The Fix: Even if your small kitchen comes with this tricky design feature, Hepfer has a few ways to get around it so you can maximize your space. "Either add a top row of smaller cabinets or fill the space with a fascia," she advises.

3. Never use honed stone for a countertop

Small White Kitchen
BHDM Design

When it comes to any kitchen, especially one on the smaller size, choosing the right material for your countertop is key. Honed stone is one type that Hepfer says she would never use in a kitchen because of how easy it will stain. Since you'll want your small kitchen to be as clean as possible, you may consider avoiding this material.

The Fix: A few of Hepfer's favorite materials for the kitchen countertop include Caesarstone, quartzite, polished granite, and marble. These are highly durable options, according to the designer.

4. Never use fake flowers or fake fruit

Small Kitchen with Flowers
BHDM Design

According to Hepfer, she would never use fake flowers or fake fruit as accessories in a small kitchen. Although the design idea is spot on, Hepfer prefers not to turn to faux options.

The Fix: "Always spring for the real thing," the designer says. She recommends displaying plants like orchids, succulents, and cacti in the kitchen. "Orchids last longer than real flowers," she notes, adding that "succulents and cacti look beautiful and require very little maintenance." Or just head outside and take some clippings from a tree or shrub. These bring nature inside without spending a fortune. It's all about how you style it and the vase.

5. Never use materials that will date easily

White and Sage Kitchn
Sarah Sherman Samuel

Hepfer shares that she makes a point not to use material that will date easily in her kitchen designs. "[It's] not good for resale value," she explains. While trends may be fun to experiment with, you may want to think about the future before going all in on a style that may quickly fade in popularity with time.

The Fix: "Instead, invest in quality materials that will always be in style," the designer says. And, if you're still itching to try out a recent trend, you can always incorporate the look in less permanent ways.

6. Never use butcher block as a countertop

Marble Kitchen Countertops
Catherine Kwong

Another material that Hepfer would never use on a kitchen countertop is butcher block. "It's hard to keep sanitary," she explains. And while she thinks that marble can work well as a backsplash application, she notes that this material is also not an incredibly durable or practical choice for a small kitchen.

The Fix: The designer suggests turning to quartzite or Corian. "Both of these products don't stain or scratch easily," she points out. "[And] both are functional and beautiful." Along with these alternatives, she also recommends granite because it is quite durable and often contains more pattern and textures, helping to camouflage stains and general wear and tear.

7. Never allow clutter to gather

Clean Kitchen
Courtesy of Fantastic Frank

Along with avoiding stains and ensuring that your small kitchen stays clean, Hepfer advises keeping the countertops as free of clutter as possible in a small space. "Countertops should be free of clutter and appliances with the exception of something one uses daily like a coffee maker or toaster," she says.

The Fix: Prioritize having a place to store all appliances when they're not in use. Simply displaying a clean countertop will do wonders for making a small space feel larger.

Related Stories