Renovations to Make a Small Kitchen Feel Bigger

For many, the kitchen is the crown jewel of the household where you can create culinary masterpieces or, like many of us in the bustling Bay Area, let chef microwave take the lead while you make yourself a cup of coffee. Sadly, making memories and fulfilling routine tasks can pose a challenge in a dark, cramped kitchen. 

It might seem like the best and easiest way to make a small kitchen feel bigger is to knock down walls. But, there are several easier and more cost-efficient options that will make a kitchen feel more spacious without a complete remodel. Minimal but effective renovations in lighting, storage, and design can maximize space without major construction. 

However, if you are more ambitious with your renovation visions, there are significant alterations you can make in terms of walls and additions, that are widely effective as well. Keep reading for renovation ideas for making a small kitchen feel bigger. 

Use Storage to Your Advantage

Apart from cooking, one of the primary purposes of a kitchen is storing your food items, dishes, cooking utensils, and more. 

Effectively storing these items and reducing clutter in the kitchen will undoubtedly make it more spacious. Here are a series of suggestions for how you can accomplish this. 

Replace Your Cupboards

If you have large, protruding cupboards that seem to reach China, the best option would be to replace them with slimmer, shallower cupboards. Most cabinets have a 24-inch depth, but you could potentially cut that depth in half for some or even all your cabinets. 

Not only will this make storing and extracting objects from the cupboards easier, but it will also make the kitchen space feel larger by reducing how far they protrude from your walls, especially for eye-level cupboards. 

Consider Open Shelving

If you find that there is plenty of extra space in your cupboards and you don’t have enough dishware or cooking appliances to fill them, open shelving might be the prime alternative. Replacing bulky cupboards with sleek shelves with help your kitchen walls feel more spacious. 

This option is most efficient if you have enough materials to fill the shelves without overloading them. Adding visual clutter will only make your kitchen feel smaller. 

Try putting only your everyday set of plates and cups on display, or put typical cooking ingredients, such as flour and sugar, into large containers and display those. This way, they will take up less space in your other cupboards or storage units while providing a personal visual touch to your kitchen. 

Add More Storage

Nothing is more irritating than pulling the handle on your new cupboards and discovering it’s not a real drawer or cabinet. Kitchens, especially the counters, can easily become crowded when there is a lack of proper storage. 

By converting fake drawers into real ones or adding racks underneath the cupboards that you already have,  will effectively clear your counters and create more room for prepping and cooking.  

Take the Doors Off

If your kitchen  is very small, opening the cupboard doors might require you to maneuver around more than should be necessary, especially if your kitchen has an island. 

A simple solution is to remove the doors from the cupboards to reduce awkward flow in the kitchen. 

If you are concerned about everyone seeing what is in your cupboards without doors, try to organize their contents into bins or containers, so it has an element of display, rather than a potential mess. 

Remove Cabinet Door Handles

If you are standing in a circle of cabinets with handles protruding in your face at every turn, removing these handles is a realistic option. 

There is touch-release technology that can be installed onto your cabinets. This will allow you to open them with ease and limit the potential of you getting caught on them as you move around the kitchen.  

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Integrate Appliances with Your Storage

The floor plan or layout of some kitchens can be woefully inefficient. The fridge might be all alone on one wall while the stove and oven line another, while your cupboards and storage line an entirely different space altogether. 

Integrating all these elements so that they are flush with one another, will create more floor space and help your kitchen feel much larger. 

Cabinet Integration 

One of the best ways to integrate appliances would be to insert your refrigerator into your cupboard space. Before doing this, make sure this fridge is the appropriate size for your needs. 

Some find that the size of their fridge doesn’t suit their lifestyle, and so replacing this with a smaller or slimmer fridge and then building cabinets around it will save space overall. The same concept can apply to the stovetop or oven.

Shelving Integration

Another option is to incorporate storage sections or shelving for mounting a microwave or other appliances. Again, the goal is to keep these appliances off the counter to reduce clutter. 

You can also renovate a lower-level cabinet to hold your garbage and recycling bins so that they stay off the kitchen floor and free up space. 

Alter Existing Amenities 

Sometimes, the amenities that come with the kitchen reduce the space’s effectiveness and make it appear smaller than it is. By recognizing your kitchen needs and upgrading accordingly, you could potentially create space with one simple change. 

Sink Modifications

Sinks come in all shapes and sizes, and not all of them are appropriate for the kitchen. An example of effectively altering a kitchen sink would be to replace a small or shallow sink with one that is wider or deeper. This option can suit kitchens that don’t have a dishwasher. 

A farmhouse kitchen sink is a trendy and effective option because they are incorporated into counter space well. They are significantly deep to help hold plenty of dishes while you cook. 

Additionally, they are a prime replacement for double sinks that waste space by compartmentalizing it. 

Dishwasher Alterations

If you have a dishwasher, there are a few options available. For a smaller family, consider installing a compact dishwasher that will take up less space and possibly free it up for more storage. 

For larger families that need a decently sized dishwasher or even want to upgrade theirs to a bigger one, consider reducing the size of your sink. If the dishwasher does all the work, you don’t need a large sink in your kitchen.  By doing this you can create more counter space, which is always a plus.

Limit and Blend the Backsplash

Your backsplash doesn’t necessarily have to stretch from your counter to your cupboards. If your cupboards are a decent foot or so above your counters, this is the perfect time to insert a short backsplash, perhaps 4 inches high. 

Ensure it is of a material and color that blends into or compliments your walls. This will help the space between your counters and cupboards seem taller.

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Let There Be Light

It is entirely possible that, in terms of square footing and efficient storage, you have a large kitchen, but for some reason, it still feels small. This could be a result of poor lighting. A dark space will always appear smaller to human eyes. Therefore, improving the lighting, either naturally or artificially, can improve the space immensely. The Bay Area is notoriously sunny almost  all year-round, so let it shine through!

Three great options for adding natural light to your kitchen would be to either add a window, enhance one already present, or build a skylight.


Most kitchens line an outer wall and come with a window. However, if this window is small or obstructed, it might not be allowing natural light to shine into your kitchen. 

Therefore, inserting or expanding a window, typically over the sink, can not only brighten your kitchen but, as a result, allow it to feel more open and spacious. Clearing any obstructions caused by kitchen clutter, vegetation, or dark drapes will also help. 


Depending on the floor plan of your living space, a skylight might not be an option. However, if you already have windows but direct sunlight is still blocked for whatever reason, and you have the option to install a skylight, it could be worth considering.

Skylights will not only brighten the kitchen by allowing natural light to pool in from above, but they are also great aesthetic additions and will improve the overall worth of your home and resale value. 

Artificial lighting

When all else fails, artificial lighting is your go-to for brightening a kitchen. Simple additions such as accent lights beneath the cupboards or adding/enlarging the central light will help the kitchen feel much more inviting and spacious when everything is properly lit. 

For maximum results, install a large floating light in the center of your kitchen, as this will provide an even distribution of light, from one bright source. 

Creativity in Design

The design of your kitchen can play a massive role in how big, or small a space feels. Simple elements such as a plain backsplash or dark matte paint on the walls can lead you to feel like everything in your kitchen is closing in on you. Luckily, there are simple alterations that will reduce this effect.

Steer Clear of Dark Palettes

Just as it is important to flood your kitchen in natural or artificial light, the opening effect this can have is easily undone if your kitchen is full of dark accent pieces or walls. The brighter your kitchen feels, the bigger it will seem. 

Therefore, try to keep the walls, counters, and floors lighter or neutral-toned. White is the best option, but you can choose a different light color to use uniformly throughout your kitchen. 

Another option is to incorporate slightly different shades of the same color to provide a slight contrast between walls and cabinets without darkening the space.

Refrain from choosing a light-colored wall with a bold cabinet or vice versa. Stark contrasts will captivate attention and potentially cause the space to feel smaller and cramped.  However, this does not mean you can’t have bold accent pieces anywhere in the kitchen.  For example, a bold floating light-fixture, copper pots hanging on a wall rack, or even small splashes of bold color in a generally light-colored backsplash can provide that pop of color and personality you want in your kitchen without darkening the overall aesthetic.

Implement Reflective Surfaces

The science behind incorporating reflective surfaces in your kitchen is that light-colored or shiny surfaces will reflect light while dark surfaces absorb it. Therefore, if your kitchen is already bright from natural light and light-colored décor, you can make the  feel bigger by taking this one step further and installing a glass-tiled backsplash or chrome appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and microwaves. 

The reflection of light off of these surfaces will help make the kitchen feel more open.

Mirrors are also an excellent option, especially for a backsplash or above the sink, where you would typically have a window. This will help the artificial light in your kitchen to bounce around, causing the space to appear larger than it is. 

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Use Patterns and Shapes 

Using patterns and shapes will help trick the eye into thinking something is taller or longer. This can help your ceiling seem higher, or your counter space seem longer. One option is to use a unique shape for your backsplash that will catch the eye, such as fish scale tiles, arabesque tiles, or even subway tiles. 

Different patterns will have different effects, so be sure to have the desired goal for maximizing the space horizontally or vertically. 

Another option is be to swap regular cabinet doors for textured glass. An aquatex, haze, reeded, or patterned glass can be a unique kitchen accent and help the space feel larger by giving the impression that the cabinets are taller. 

Keep it Sleek

Besides minimizing clutter in the kitchen, acquiring sleek amenities, and keeping the design lines within your kitchen crisp and even, will make the room look organized and spacious. 

This means limiting contrasting elements, such as too many patterns or colors within the space. Excessive amounts of color and patterns  force the observing eye to bounce all over the space and exude a sense of chaos. You want viewers to be able to take in the entirety of your kitchen as one cohesive look. 

Get the Sledgehammer

At the end of the day, sometimes the only thing you can do to make a small kitchen feel bigger is to knock down some walls and implement some additions. 

Whether they alter the floor plans entirely or allow easier mobility and better storage, these renovations are sure to make your kitchen more expansive.

Go for the Open Floor Plan  

Open floor plans are increasingly common in modern design, and for good reason. By eliminating one of your kitchen walls, not only will the space feel larger now that you can see into the adjacent room, you will no longer have to worry about maneuvering around a cramped area. 

One of the major concerns with tearing down a wall is losing all the cabinet space that might have been connected to it. A simple solution to this would be to add an island. A spacious island can have a multitude of functions. 

The top can be used as counter space for prepping and eating. You can  even move your stovetop onto the island for a better kitchen flow. It is also common for  the island to have built-in storage which makes up for any storage lost from removing the walls. 

Create a Bar or Wall Cut Out

Sometimes knocking down a whole wall can be pricy, especially if there is a low-bearing beam involved for structural support. 

An excellent alternative would be to merely cut out a section of this wall or go the whole nine yards and create a bar. These will have the same effect as the open-floor plan by allowing you to see into other rooms, and at the same time create the impression that the kitchen is still its own separate space. This is also a good option for when you want to create additional counter space. 


Repurpose Awkward or Unused Space

Sometimes kitchens are created with floor plans that just don’t make sense and render certain spaces relatively unusable. 

This might be an awkward counter island or a gap between appliances, or the fact that a door swings open to cover valuable counter space and cupboards. Renovations are opportunities to fix these structural anomalies. 

Consider altering or expanding counter space to encompass all kitchen appliances or swap a door that opens into the kitchen for a sliding door, or even remove it altogether. 

If your kitchen storage is inadequate and you have an awkward unused corner, you can take advantage of this space by adding a butler’s pantry which  will help make your kitchen seem significantly larger. 

A butler’s pantry will allow you to move all of your goods, infrequently used appliances, and even cookware into this vast cupboard. Not only will this be more organized, but it will also give you the opportunity to limit the number of  large obtrusive cabinets in the kitchen. It may even allow you to remove them altogether and replace them with small shelves.

Final Thoughts

Although having a smaller kitchen may sometimes be frustrating because of the limited space and storage, it is possible to make some minor changes and get the best out of the available space. 

It can be easy to create space in a home without throwing a significant sum at renovations that would ultimately alter more than one room in the house. For the most part, the potential solutions discussed here are cost-effective with maximum results. 

Simple alterations in storage, design, layout, and integration can make a small kitchen feel twice its size and improve mobility and efficiency in the space. 

Renovation is also an opportunity to be creative and put personal touches into your small kitchen to help you love the space more because it is entirely of your making when you are done. So, make sure you try some of these in your homey kitchen before you give up on it. Check out our what to know before remodeling your kitchen tips article for more helpful information.


For more information about our Bay Area kitchen remodeling services 

Contact us today for a free on-site consultation and get a bid for your home remodeling project

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