Almost everyone wants their kitchen to be bigger and better, and in fact, 30 percent of respondents to Angi’s 2022 Home Projects Survey said a kitchen makeover was the top priority in their remodeling plans. But what if you can’t literally expand your kitchen – due to lack of space, lack of money or because you’re renting?
No fear; There are ways to enlarge your kitchen. Some are about looks: “The more you can do to trick the eye by adding visual cues to your design, the bigger it will appear,” notes Maddy Kozoyed, interior designer and blog owner of Whatsoever Things are Lovely. But there are also really space-saving measures you can take.
Here are some small kitchen design ideas – ways to make them appear larger and function better.
Implement wall shelves
Open shelves can be a sensible alternative to closed kitchen cabinets. Their horizontal lines draw the eye across a wall, making it appear wider and longer, and allowing more light into your space. They also improve functionality as you can easily grab items from the shelf. You can buy pre-cut kitchen wall shelves in different textures and colors.
Minimize the colors
The color tones of your kitchen affect how it is perceived. “Use a minimal color palette,” says Kozoyed. “It allows the eye to perceive the entire space as larger.
“If you have white cabinets and white walls, you’re off to a great start. Alternatively, if you have dark cabinets, choose a color or removable wallpaper pattern that is of a similar value (or brightness) so your eye can tie the walls and cabinets together into a single space.
“If you have the opportunity to paint your cabinets, a two-tone option with darker cabinets adds style fun at the bottom while visually adding height at the top.”
Choose large floor tiles
Your flooring can do a lot to trick the eye and create the illusion of spaciousness. Particularly effective: large format floor tiles, particularly light. You can even get china that simulates wood. They have a long, narrow shape, making the room appear larger and more elongated than it really is.
Position the lights
Shadows and darkness make a room appear cramped. You want well-placed lighting (ideally above the cabinets) that draws attention upwards. Properly placed, lights remove the shadows cast between the cabinets and the ceiling, creating a sense of spaciousness. Lighting installed under wall units and aimed at the worktop has the same effect.
When considering options, “renters can purchase battery-powered LED puck lights that work with remote controls and have built-in dimmers,” said kitchen designer/builder Sean Walsh, CEO of Walcraft Cabinetry in Mansfield, Ohio. “Homeowners may be able to install LED strip or rope lighting above their cabinets.”
Switch to shallow cabinets
Did you know you can buy cabinets that are super narrow, just 12 or 15 inches deep? Adding narrower cabinets has several benefits: it makes your space appear wider, and it increases functionality—you don’t have to reach back as far to get the items you need. You install in whatever way best suits your space: There is no hard and fast rule that all your cabinets are the same depth.
Install slimmer devices
Your traditional dishwasher is 24 inches wide. However, compact models are available as small as 18 inches – that alone saves you six inches of cabinet space and makes your kitchen appear larger. Such “Slimline” dishwashers are just as efficient as their conventional relatives, but of course the amount of dishes per load is smaller.
The same applies to refrigerators. A shallower fridge (that sits flush with the counter instead of protruding) will do wonders for freeing up more space. Yes, the interior holds less, but that only reduces the chances of forgotten leftovers turning into biological experiments.
Do it with mirrors
Create the illusion of a larger space by adding a mirror to one (or maybe more) of your kitchen walls—a traditional bathroom trick. “Mirrors reflect light and make a room appear brighter and bigger,” says Kate Diaz, interior designer and co-owner of Swanky Den, a design website.
Go with glass
By reflecting light, glass always creates the illusion that you have more space than you actually have. Install glass doors on your closets that draw the eye to them instead of stopping at a solid door (you can always use opaque panes if you want to hide the clutter inside). Light or white woodwork will maximize glass doors the most.
On the same principle, install a skylight if your floor plan allows. A skylight brings fresh light into your kitchen and makes the room appear brighter and larger. The project won’t break the bank either, according to HomeAdvisor, with an average cost of $1,728. And it could enable you to turn off the lights during the day and save on energy bills.