Top 10 tips for renovating a small kitchen

When it comes to renovating a small kitchen and other projects, my motto is, “Give them something to talk about!” Don’t worry about being trendy; instead, do what you love. I oversee renovations in a lot of older homes with small kitchens, and you can do a lot with a very small space as long as you remember that good design must be functional and beautiful. It’s all in the details.

Choose the right appliances

You might choose a smaller sink, a 24-inch stove, or a smaller fridge. If you’re not trying to accommodate a huge fridge, you’re leaving extra space for cabinetry and shelving. Appliances can be overwhelming in a small space, so having smaller appliances, or hiding them, lets you focus on other, more visually interesting things like the cabinetry or hardware — the fun stuff!

Consider hiding your range hood

When renovating a small kitchen, a hood fan can be a nice detail, but it may overwhelm a small space. I sometimes turn the fan into a decorative element so it has more in common with the cabinetry than the appliances.


Combining open and closed cabinetry plus lots of light make a small kitchen feel more open. Photo: Justin Van Leeuwen

Go with a combination of open and closed cabinets

Divide up the space. Having both open and closed cabinetry gives a less bulky feeling. Visually, the open cabinets are nice, while the closed cabinets can hold appliances and utensils that are essential but ugly.


Open up your kitchen to your living space

Smaller kitchens have less floor space, so by opening them up to the dining or living area, you make everything more social.

Use every available centimetre of space

I often take the cabinetry right up to the ceiling when renovating a small kitchen. You have to carve out every bit of space, so, for instance, if you have six inches, maybe you can use it as a slim cabinet that holds trays.


Bar counters, reflective backsplashes, and abundant light make a small kitchen seem larger and more welcoming. Photo: Justin Van Leeuwen

Think about putting in a bar counter

You might consider this instead of a straight counter because it provides a visual divide between the kitchen and the eating area. You have to make sure the bar size is functional, though; it has to be wide enough to actually use and eat at.

Tiny tricks can make a big difference

Small ideas can infuse big drama when renovating a small kitchen. For instance, shiny backsplashes look beautiful and reflect light in a small space. The cement tile backsplashes that are coming into fashion right now are also very clever because they create interest, but you can swap them out in a few years if you want a change.


Lots of light is a great idea

Light makes your kitchen feel lighter and more spacious. If there isn’t a lot of natural light, consider pot lights or pendant lighting.

renovating a small kitchen

A retro stove with texture and pops of colour provide dramatic focus in a small kitchen. Photo: Justin Van Leeuwen


Choose one element to be unique

When renovating a small kitchen, you can sometimes create drama by focusing on one element, like a really amazing stove.

Don’t be afraid to use colour

There are no colour rules when you’re renovating a small kitchen. Sometimes a darker, smaller kitchen can be dramatic or warm. You might go with light upper cabinets and dark lower cabinets. Or you can do a light kitchen with accents to create pops of colours. You want a good layout, but in terms of colour choice it just has to be beautiful and work together. Almost any colour can work if it’s done well.

About the Author

Emma Doucet

Grassroots designer Emma Doucet says her passion for design was born in her grandpa’s workshop where she spent many hours wallpapering her dollhouse and changing the finishes. She has transformed a lifelong enthusiasm for good design into a busy 14-member business known for an aesthetic that’s both forward-looking and classical. You can reach her via or on Facebook.



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