Modern Design Blog

Small kitchen design

Small kitchen design: Optimizing your space - Part 1

"Limits are liberating." ~ Adam Judge

A small kitchen design can be a challenging but very rewarding endeavor. Just because you have a limited space to work with doesn’t mean you can’t fulfill all your functional and aesthetic needs. 

Here’s a list of top tips to maximize layout, floor space, and work surfaces. Part 2 of this post focuses on small kitchen design guidelines for storage, appliances and aesthetics. 


The so-called “U-shape” design is one of the most used kitchen layouts, even (or, better, especially) for small kitchens. However, contrary to popular belief, a U-shape layout is not always the most functional solution in a restricted space. Filling three entire walls with cabinets can make the room feel claustrophobic, so don’t get stuck on this rather traditional approach for your small kitchen design. Consider these ideas instead:

  • Break up the kitchen triangle and set up the three main functional areas side by side.
  • Include a small island, which can house the sink, a microwave and a dishwasher (or just storage) while offering extra counter space (for dining, food prep and other tasks).
  • Use a peninsula layout, which can also double as dining area and work surface.

Small kitchen design with island


One of the biggest hurdles of any small kitchen design is having to deal with limited floor space. However, there are quite a few tricks to overcome this.

  • Eliminate empty hallways by turning them into walk-through work spaces.
  • Substitute a side-by-side washer and dryer with a front-loading stacked unit.
  • Replace swinging doors with open doorways or sliding doors that free up some space.
  • Expand the pantry units into adjacent spaces.

Pantry in small kitchen design

  • Remove a wall to join two rooms into a bigger space. Before doing that, consider whether you’ll need to have a support structure (like a beam or side columns) to replace the wall and whether you’ll have to relocate plumbing and electrical. These changes can have a big impact on the budget of your small kitchen design, so it’s better to plan ahead.
  • Also, keep in mind that freestanding dining tables (no matter how small) usually occupy a lot of space because they require you to leave walk-around room on every side, which can quickly use up your floor space. Incorporating your dining area into an island or peninsula is often a more functional solution. Alternatively, when the space allows for it, you can create a cozy banquette seating/dining area where two or even three rows of seats are placed directly against the walls without calling for walk-around space.

Dining nook in small kitchen design


Work surfaces are another element that is usually in scarce supply in small kitchen designs. This is because we try to fill every space with storage cabinets, appliances, and utensils. Here are some ideas to increase counter space:

  • Opt for a curved countertop, like the one featured in Snaidero’s Skyline kitchen. Countertops like this expand your operational surface with added depth whenever your kitchen is short in width.

Curved countertop in small kitchen

  • If you prefer keeping things linear and the floor space allows for it, choose slightly deeper base cabinets that can afford you a few extra inches of counter surface.
  • Place the sink diagonally in a corner. The right sink will still be easy to use in such a location and you will free up more counter space on the sides and along the wall units.
  • Choose sinks that can be fitted with slide-in chopping boards and other accessories to double as working surfaces.

Small kitchen work station

  • Again, use the “jack of all trades” of small kitchen design…a peninsula or island layout where the surface can function as dining area and food preparation. Alternatively, you can create space for a bar/snack counter/work area by carving an opening into an existing wall. With this solution, you don’t have the hassle of removing the wall altogether and you also create an easy visual and functional relationship between the kitchen and the adjacent living area.

Small kitchen design

Check Part 2 of this post, focusing on storage, appliances, and aesthetic guidelines to create an efficient small kitchen design.

Do you agree with these guidelines? How did you deal with a small kitchen design?