Small Kitchen Design

We have a tiny, old kitchen and it’s only now that I’ve accepted that it’s not getting any bigger that I’ve started getting excited about how to get the most from it.   The kitchen has been the embarrassment of our home rather than the heart.  Reactions to our kitchen over the last 5 years has ranged from ‘OMG, How on earth do you cope?’, ‘Is it supposed to look like that?’, ‘Wow the puppy really DID eat it, didn’t she’….


Houses like ours were build as ‘starter’ homes for young married couples in the 1930’s and the glorious large Victorian kitchens were deemed unnecessary waste of space.  Ironically now these 1930’s semi detached and detached houses are now much sought after for the space the other rooms – the bedrooms are massive, the garden is wonderful and spacious and you can get a good 4 cars on the driveway.  But the kitchen is the one room that really lets them down and is the most extended room.

Our kitchen measures 8×8 and we have a usable work surface of about 2ft and floorspace of 4ft x5ft. There is no room for a washing machine, tumble drier or a dishwasher.  Frankly it drives me nuts, god knows how women in the latter 20th Century lived here with 3-4 kids?

We started the remodelling idea a year ago and I had a local kitchen company come plan a new kitchen.  I thought that they would be able to come up with some space saving ideas and appliances.  However the plan was exactly the same as what I have currently and the quote for 8 cupboards with no appliances, tiling or flooring….£9,000!?!?

I then called an architect in, who suggested knocking the wall between the dining room and the kitchen. And then building a utility room on the side of the house and then knocking into that.  The price…£20,000 plus.   We both loved the idea, but it’s a lot of money to spend on a house when house prices are all over the place, and this isn’t a forever house. So that plan was out the window.

So I decided that I would come up with a list of things I really wanted from the kitchen:

I needed:

A Dishwasher



Coffee Machine

Sink (with new taps)

Prep Space


To get that I ditched the upper cabinets on the right hand side and replace them with Ikea shelves and removed the cupboards beneath to create space for the dishwasher. Removing those four cabinets made the room look so much more spacious – it was amazing.

I’ve painted the laminate cupboards with ‘cupboard’ paint from Dulux so they are now white (read how here).  But if you have regular cupboard sizes (our aren’t) you could also just buy in new doors.

The biggest thing was to only keep what I needed, for some reason I had loads of wine glasses that I never ever used so I donated them to charity, which freed up a load of space. Also don’t be afraid to move the functions of the room around. I’ve moved where I make tea and coffee over to where the dishwasher is and I now have the space where it was for food prep.  Wish I’d done it years ago!



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  1. You definitely DO have a small kitchen Liz, but you also have some very positive things about your particular small kitchen that others would give their eye teeth to get.

    That wonderful window, ledge, and view for one!

    There also seems to be a fair amount of storage, and the cabinets are probably no more than 15-20 years old. The counters look in good condition too.

    You seem to be planning to lighten up the new kitchen and that is a good start. White or light painted cabinets recede if you keep the backsplash light as well. Look to Scandinavian kitchens for inspiration too.

    You also seem to be leaning toward simplicity, and that is good. Simple cabinet door also recede.

    You might want to consider eliminating the base cabinet on the right-hand side of the kitchen along with the upper cabinets. You would regain the counter frontage you now have by doing that, and the corner storage issue would be eliminated with more accessible storage. You would also have room for a full-size dishwasher, and gain floor space as well.

    A lazy susan base cabinet in the left corner would provide increased accessible storage IF you would still have some room for drawers somewhere in the kitchen

    Good luck with your project and please let us know how it turns out.

  2. Hi Peggy,

    Thanks so much for the wonderful advice. I love the idea of getting rid of the lower cabinet on the right hand side, that would mean somewhere for the bin to go and easy access into that cabinet (god knows what’s in there at the moment!). That hadn’t even occurred to me!

    I’m thinking that the front left lower cabinet should be a 3 drawer unit with a large lower drawer for pans and then I’d have drawers for other items as well, enabling a lazy susan in the back left corner cupboard.

    Part of my thinking, is as you say I have a wonderful window with a beautiful view over the garden. I want to make the kitchen as plain as possible making the garden the focus of the room, rather than the size.

    I’ll let you know when it’s completed and I’ll post photos. Thanks again you’ve really helped!


  3. I actually think you have very good bones to work with. Just painting your cabinets white or off white would brighten the space up and not make it feel so small. I think you’re right on with wanting to do open shelving. It looks great, forces organization and is the ultimate in simplicity, I think. I actually wish that I had open shelving in my kitchen but I have extra kitchen cabinets as it is that I have had to make use of in other rooms. As long as you maximize the use of your base cabinets (pullouts and an in-cabinet trash bin), you can pack a lot into a small space. I can’t really tell what is on the right side at the end of the counter. Is that just a little space for a stool? You could go floor to ceiling with a pantry there, maybe.

    Have fun! Can’t wait to see your progress!

  4. Hi Emily,

    I did paint the cupboard a pale cream (great minds think alike!) however the puppy we bought completely trashed the paintwork, so I had to strip it all back and now it looks terrible close up :(. So unfortunately we do need new cupboards and the worktop is very old and worn too.

    I’m really looking forward to having open shelving and I’m also hoping to get a plate rack so we can cut down on the amount of plates we have – which is loads 🙂

    On the end of the right hand side is the bin as it’s the only place for it, so it’ll be good to get rid of that end cupboard and make more space there for rubbish and recycling. I’m hoping to get one of those 3 in 1 bins to make it look sleeker and more tidy.

    I promise to let you all know how it goes, thanks for the good advice!

  5. Finally, someone who has a kitchen almost as small as mine.
    Mine is 6×4.
    I have 2 counters by my sink & then a super duper teeny one by my stove.
    I have a portable washer in there that I keep against the one empty wall & push to the sink when I want to do laundry.

    3 boys, one manchild….I am constantly cleaning up my small kitchen.
    I grew up in the same layout house that I live in now so I am used to a small kitchen.
    Altho for 3 or 4 years I had large kitchens before I moved back to the area I am in.
    I miss those days! LOL

    Like what you are thinking of doing!!!

  6. Hi Meghan,

    Thanks for stopping by! Maybe we should start a small kitchen sufferers club??

    It’s a nightmare having such a small kitchen isn’t it! I moan having one daughter, manchild and giant dog in mine – I can’t imagine having another couple of kids in there too!! You have my total sympathy! Isn’t a nightmare when you try and cook and there is no counter space to put anything?

    Good work getting your washer in there, mine is in an outside cupboard which means I have to go outside to wash and dry no matter what the weather. I love doing the washing in the rain and snow in the winter – LOL!!

    I keep promising myself that the next house will have a big kitchen and a washer *inside* the house… day eh 😉

  7. Great post, I had an even tinier kitchen in my old house! I have a real fondness for small places though so if you can make it work it can be SO charming! Sounds like you are off to a great start! I love your inspiration photos!


  8. Hi Liz,

    Just wanted to wish you luck with your project. It is a small kitchen but I bet it looked a whole lot bigger when you had it painted.

    Peggy’s given you some good advice. Just a couple of alternatives to consider:

    Have you thought of a big modular corner sink?
    (like this Blanco one:
    It would bring your units back around the right hand side a bit – but not as far as now – and it would give you extra worktop under the window.

    Or – instead of getting rid of the right hand unit altogether – consider using a wall unit as a base unit. That way you get more floor space but also some shallow worktop to put stuff on – helping to keep the main worktops clear.

    Oh and one other thing. For the “lazy susan” have a look at these corner storage solutions from a distributor called East Coast Fittings (they supply kitchen companies – I don’t know if you’ve decided where to get the kitchen yet, but most individual showrooms would be able to get them)

    I’m actually not entirely sure what a “lazy susan” covers but these are a whole lot better than a bog standard carousel. Which one would suit you best, depends on what sort of corner base unit you have

    I hope it all goes well for you … and do keep us up to date with what you’re doing


  9. Hi Majjie,

    Thanks so much for your suggestions, I do like that corner sink especially if I get a dish washer in there – that would be ideal for our needs and as you say give us more workspace.

    I’ve just looked at the ‘lazy susan’ and it’s really good, it’ll be nice to know what’s in my cupboards 🙂


  10. Hi Liz,

    How did your kitchen upgrade go? Is it finished? I look forward to seeing some pictures. My kitchen is of a similar size (starter home also), I am interested to see what you do make the room feel bigger and utilise the space…and if you’re kind enough pass on the tips.



  11. Hi Dave,

    Well so far it’s been a bit disastrous! We thought that we could get away with painting the cupboards and re-painting the walls as the tiling wasn’t that offensive. But the paint didn’t take on the wood properly and now the dog has scratched it and it look AWFUL! So I don’t know whether to re-do it with another product, or just rip it all out and start again? I’ve seen a nice kitchen in Howdens so I might just got for that as it’s pretty inexpensive as we only need 6 units.

    But the one thing that worked was the colour of the doors, despite the scratches the room looked so much bigger with cream doors on the cabinets. I think that I’ll have a fake limestone tile floor installed as well so it’ll reflect the light in and help make it bigger. I’m also going to try and find a smaller microwave/inbuilt one as ours takes up too much surface space.

    Good luck with your renovation and I’d love to see photos too. I’ll post some here when ours is done 🙂


  12. Thanks Liz.

    Maybe you can find some stronger paint.

    Good idea about the neutral colours. My brother used small glass tiles around his worktop and they seemed to make the room look bigger as well.

    1. I need super strong paint, I didn’t realise she could do so much damage!

      I like the idea of small glass tiles, they’d reflect light brilliantly. I’m also going to try and have fewer wall units to make the room more streamlined.

  13. Small kitchen can be a pain or a blessing…I’m doing one over now…very small…but it’s been fun to think outside of the box….I like the ideas you have…I’m sure you will make it fabulous.
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  14. I imagine that anyone viewing your blog from the States must have their chins on the floor aghast!
    Small kitchen? No massive utility? No mud room? How can you possibly cope, but I think its really interesting how we in the UK manage in a small space and what we pack into it. It certainly makes you think creatively. I look forward to the outcome as I am in a similar position. Though my kitchen isn’t quite as small as yours it is quite an awkward layout. Just in negotiations with my husband about the budget. I may end up having to be incredibly creative!