Small Kitchen Decorating Ideas
DIY Home Staging Tips
for a faster, more profitable home sale

Apply a few small kitchen decorating ideas when staging your home to help it show better on the real estate market. 

Small kitchen interior design picturesWhite can visually expand a small space. Open legged furniture extends sight lines.

Many buyers base their home buying decision on the size, style and condition of the kitchen, so having a fantastic kitchen is definitely a bonus. Unfortunately, many of us lack that gorgeous kitchen that will blow home buyers away.

A small kitchen is definitely a disadvantage when trying to compete in the market place. Because tiny kitchens can look cramped and uncomfortable to work in, many buyers will walk away no matter how great the rest of the house may be. 

Some interior designers say that the eye travels more quickly through a small space, so it is important to keep it moving as long as possible. Accomplish this by eliminating anything that stops the flow of the eye; clutter, contrasts in color, dark window treatments, etc. 

A kitchen renovation can really pay off in the end when you're planning a home sale, but most people just can’t afford to do this.

No matter, there are plenty of home staging tips and small kitchen decorating ideas that can help visually expand the space, create storage solutions, and make your kitchen more inviting to buyers.

Paint colors for small kitchen design

Color is one of the keys to successful decorating— it can work magic by visually expanding or shrinking space, and raising or lowering ceilings. Color can even effect our dispositions.

Knowing a few basic rules of color theory will guide you to make good choices with your small room decorating ideas.

Most people respond positively to light neutral colors. We have all seen successful powder and dining rooms in dark paint colors-- this is to make them appear cozy and intimate. But, since dark colors don't appeal to everyone, this isn't always the best choice when staging your home for sale.

Your goal is to make your home appeal to the largest number of home buyers possible. 

Small kitchen interior design picturesPale colors and lots of natural light can visually expand a small space
  • Pale paint colors reflect and multiply light. Combine this with lots of natural light flowing in through the windows to visually expand your small kitchen.
  • Light colors will appear to push walls back. 
  • Dark paint colors absorb and deflect light, and can make a small space feel closed in.
  • Cool paint colors appear to retreat, while warm colors seem to advance. 
  • Cool whites, creams, soft grays, greens, blues, pale colors in general, are all receding colors that reflect light, creating a feeling of spaciousness.
  • Successful room designs will have a combination of cool and warm colors in the design palette, but one or the other should dominate.  
  • Warm, pale paint colors are great for kitchens. Accent warm wall colors by painting trimwork white for a fresh, contemporary look.
  • Nothing freshens a room faster than new paint colors. Many people put off painting because they're afraid of making a color mistake. So what! A can of paint is the cheapest and easiest way to instantly change your home decor.
    Always try paint samples on the walls before painting an entire room. Neutral color undertones are often hard to see until they're up on a wall. Check out the color samples under natural and artificial lighting, as colors will change under different lighting.
  • Incandescent lights will add a warm yellow cast to colors, whereas fluorescents add a cool cast. Halogen lights produce a white light with very little color distortion. 
  • Too much of one color can upset the harmony in a room.
  • Kitchen cabinets painted the same light color as the walls will appear to blend into the walls, creating a greater feeling of spaciousness.
  • Dark cabinets can create the illusion that the room is much smaller than it is. 
  • To create a feeling of maximum space, use the same light color palette on the walls, floors, cabinets, window treatments and trimwork. 
  • Employ a light hand when adding pops of color, using no more than two or three colors in a tiny space.

Small kitchen decorating ideas for pattern and texture

Introducing pattern and texture will bring life and movement to a small kitchen.

Small kitchen interior design picturesPatterned window treatments add interest to this small kitchen

Texture adds interest when light hits the uneven surfaces, bringing varying degrees of lights and darks of the same color.

Don't overwhelm a small kitchen with too much pattern!

Add pattern and texture to your small kitchen in the window treatments, accessories, chair cushions, flooring, area rugs or lighting fixtures. Not all at once, though!

Vertical stripes on the walls or backsplash can elongate and bring movement to a room. 

Horizontal stripes on the walls or backsplash can visually raise a low ceiling. 

When using a monochromatic color scheme, select a monochromatic print of the same color.

White color schemes in a small kitchen

Small white kitchen interior design picturesSmall monochromatic kitchen in varying shades of white

Swathing an entire kitchen in white will create a uninterrupted space without breaks of color contrast that prevent the eye from moving on.

This home design tactic tricks you into thinking the space is larger than it is. Abrupt shifts from dark to light will trip the eye. 

An all white room can often be too intense. To avoid blinding people in your stark white kitchen, punctuate the small space with spots of color in the form of kitchen accessories, artwork, fresh cut flowers or live greens.

Monochromatic color schemes in a small kitchen

Monochromatic, or low-contrast color schemes, is the most successful color palette for small room designs. Monochromatic color schemes create harmony, visual cohesion and a sense of relaxation in any room.

This home decor style mixes light and dark variations of one color in different shades, tints, tones and textures. Any color can be used, but when home staging, stick to neutrals, like whites, beiges, tans and grays.

Many people may yawn at the idea of a room that is basically designed around one color, but by incorporating variations in tones, textures, and accessorizing with glass, metals, objects from nature, greenery, etc., you can create a feeling of spaciousness and sophistication.

A monochromatic room design also creates the perfect backdrop for displaying artwork and collections.

Replace kitchen cabinet doors with glass

Small Kitchen with glass cabinetsGlass-faced cabinets add depth because you can see all the way to the back

By swapping out some (or all) of the upper kitchen cabinet doors and with glass, you'll be lightening up the cabinets and creating extra depth in your kitchen.

Your eye will be pulled into the cabinets and to the back, making your kitchen appear more expansive by extending sight lines.

  • Avoid using dark colored glass and keep the interiors uncluttered. This glass cabinet door ploy only works if the insides are neatly staged.

Open shelving in a small kitchen

Some small kitchen decorating ideas include sacrificing a few upper cabinets and installing open shelving in their place.

Open shelving reduces visual weight and adds extra depth by allowing your eye to travel all the way to the wall.

Floating shelving is the most effective shelf style for home staging, because they take up less visual space than those with heavy corbels or ugly brackets.

Open shelving should be neatly staged to avoid a cluttered look. 

Small kitchen with open shelvingBeautifully accessorized open shelves in a small kitchen

A great home staging tip is to decorate the shelves with objects the same color as the wall behind them. 

When accessorizing open shelves, keep plenty of space around objects. This creates breathing room, which translates to that open, airy feeling. Focus on staging with a few standout accessories, rather then a collection of small objects, which can look cluttered.

Follow the advice of HGTV interior designer, Sabrina Soto. "Never use an accessory smaller than the size of a grapefruit."

Small kitchen decorating ideas for lighting

Natural light

Kitchen with lots of natural lightLarge windows and lots of natural light can make a small kitchen feel open and airy
  • Lots of natural light flooding into a room creates a feeling of airiness, translating into spaciousness. Keep window treatments minimal, or simply go without. 
  • Remove heavy or dark window treatments, which can be oppressive and block natural light. 
  • If your small kitchen lacks a source of natural light, consider installing a large window, if possible. This will extend sight lines to the outdoors.
  • Or, install a skylight or solar tube to bring natural light in from above.
  • Hang a mirror opposite a window or where it will reflect a light fixture to scatter and bounce light around the kitchen.

Lighting fixtures

A kitchen with insufficient lighting is a depressing place to be. Who wants to cook in a dark gloomy space?

Pendent lighting small kitchen decorating ideasSee-through lighting fixtures will extend sight lines in a small space

Dark corners and shadowy recesses along the countertops will strain your eyes and make your kitchen look smaller. A kitchen should have a good mix of natural, task and ambient lighting.

  • Consider adding under-cabinet lighting to flood the space with light. Under-cabinet lighting will improve the look, function and safety of your kitchen.
  • For task lighting, like pendent or track lighting, select a clear glass or see-through pendent lighting fixture to extend sight lines.
  • House hunters love the ambience that recessed lighting provides! Recessed lighting is the answer for low ceilings, because the fixtures are flush with the ceiling.

Furniture for a small kitchen

  • Using fewer pieces of furniture instead of many small ones that can make a room feel less crowded.
Small kitchen interior design picturesSelect furnishings with open legs that show the floor below
  • Select furniture with a small footprint to reveal as much floor space as possible.
  • The farther the eye can see into a room, the larger it will seem. Keep traffic areas clear of furniture. Furniture blocking the view into a room can also make it look cramped.
  • Select low profile furniture for open concept rooms to keep sight lines open. For instance, in a kitchen/living room combo, use a sofa with a low back or an armless low-backed chair. In the kitchen, use bar stools without backs.
  • Avoid cumbersome furniture with a large pedestal or heavy ornamental carvings. Instead, select furniture with open framework, features that allow you to see the floors and walls beyond. 
  • If you have room for a small mobile island, select one with an open framework that allows you to see through to the other side. 
  • For eat-in kitchens, consider a dining table with a glass top and open metal legs. Seeing the floor through the glass will give you more visual space. 
  • Remove all the leaves from a dining table, and place no more than 2 to 4 chairs around it. See staging the dining room.
  • For island seating, choose backless barstools that tuck neatly under the counter ledge.

Steal space or remove a door

Remove or open up a section of a wall separating the kitchen from an adjoining room. It won't increase the size of the kitchen, will can bring in more light and extend sight lines, giving the feeling of a larger room.

Simply removing a door can feel more roomy. Or, replace a regular door with a pocket door. 

Remove a door and widen the door frame to increase the sense of space.

Floors and ceilings in a small kitchen

Kitchen with striped floorsWide stripes can visually elongate a small space

Avoid scattering small rugs around a small kitchen. It will look cluttered and chopped up. 

Create a long path that the eye can glide along without interruption by painting wide horizontal stripes, oversized diamonds, or other elongated geometric patterns on the floor. This will have the effect of stretching, or visually widening the room. I don’t recommend painting stripes or diamonds on hardwood floors before selling your house, though, unless the color change is very subtle, as this is very “taste specific.”

An alternative to painting stripes is to place a long striped runner on the floor. Remember the warning about wearing horizontal stripes? That it'll make you look wider. It's true!

Light colored flooring will open up a small kitchen. Kitchen cabinets, walls, and floor in similar colors work in conjunction to visually enlarge a small space.

To avoid abrupt color changes, link adjacent spaces with the same flooring, or at least the same color if floors are made of different materials.

Use white or another pale color on a low ceiling to visually raise the space above.

Use vertical space in a small kitchen

Kitchen with a high ceilingTaking kitchen cabinets all the way to the ceiling can add visual height

Drawing the eye vertically can make a room appear taller than it really is. If you have a low ceiling in your small kitchen, there are a few tricks you can employ to fool the eye.

  • Kitchen cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling will create the effect of visually raising the ceiling, plus give you more storage!
  • A less expensive option is to add accent molding to the tops of the cabinets to direct the eye upward. 
  • If upper cabinets don’t extend to the ceiling, a FEW well placed accessories, like large decorative plates, baskets, or framed prints along the tops of the cabinets can increase perceived ceiling height.
  • When home staging, be stingy with accessories to avoid a cluttered look. Avoid stringing fake ivy above the kitchen cabinets as well— it looks messy. See staging the kitchen.
  • When accessorizing the kitchen, select objects with elongated patterns or shapes that direct the eye upward, like a tall vase or plant.

The range hood in a small kitchen

Range hoods can be bulky and take up a lot of visual space in a kitchen. If you're planning on replacing your range hood, choose a streamlined or see-through model that takes up very little space.

Or, do away with the need for a range hood by installing a cooktop with built-in downdraft system. A downdraft works by pulling air across the cooking surface and down through a duct that leads outside the home. This isn't cheap, though, and does require some carpentry skills to install ducting under the floor.

Eliminate clutter in a small kitchen

Cluttered kitchen counterRemove counter top clutter

Before you stage your home for sale, you should declutter and pack away all the kitchen items you use only once a year, have duplicates of, or never use. Or have a yard sale!

Removing everything from the kitchen countertops can instantly make your kitchen look larger! If you have viewers coming over, remove all but one appliance from the counter.

In really small kitchens, remove ALL appliances from the countertops. Keep one cabinet empty to quickly stash appliances inside when buyers are expected.

Refridgerater clutterHard to see the kitchen in this mess!

Countertops aren’t the only recipients of overcrowding. Windowsills, the fridge and upper cabinet tops are also recepticals for clutter. Keep them clear.

Old-fashioned and outdated decorative details on your kitchen cabinets, like heavy corbels or ornate cabinet pulls can make a kitchen feel worn out and tired.

Update kitchen cabinets instantly by swapping out dated cabinet hardware for modern ones.

Remove that bulky butcher block knife holder from the countertop. 

Use reflective surfaces in a small kitchen

Kitchen with reflective backsplashThe reflective backsplash adds luminosity to this small kitchen

Reflective surfaces, like glass tile backsplash, stainless steel, sleek cabinets and shiny hardwood floors will illuminate your kitchen by amplifying natural and artificial light.

A mirrored backsplash may seem like a “no-brainer,” but they're actually very “taste specific” and require constant cleaning. Instead, put up a light colored tiled backsplash that will reflect light and increase the feeling of openness in the space.

Fixtures and appliances in a small kitchen

Small kitchen

Kitchen appliances should always match when staging your home for sale!

These days you can find kitchen appliances that will accommodate any size kitchen, even a small one. 

Gain a few more inches of countertop by installing a 24” cooktop instead of the standard 30-36” size.

If your tiny kitchen doesn't have room for a standard or small fridge, an under-counter model might be the solution.

Make sure that the fridge fits flush with the kitchen cabinets. An overly large fridge that juts out past the cabinets looks awkward and overwhelming.

Microwaves should be built into the cabinetry or hung under cabinets to allow for more counter space. Or better yet, do away with the bulky microwave completely by installing an oven with a special microwave function.

Kitchen fixtures should be kept simple and compact in a small kitchen. 

For small sinks, install an articulated faucet that can bend out of the way to make room for large kitchen pots and pans.

Or, mount faucets on the wall instead of on the sink area to provide more countertop space.

Storage solutions for a small kitchen

Kitchens of all sizes can have storage issues, but a small one is especially challenging. Countertops, windowsills, the top of the fridge, and above the upper cabinets are often crowded with excess clutter. The end result is a dysfunctional and cramped looking kitchen.

Kitchen corner storageModern corner space savers like these offer more storage and easy access
  • The kitchen counter is a valuable work space in every kitchen. When you're staging your home to sell, keep counters clear of anything that can be mistaken for clutter. If you're using the countertops for storage, home buyers will think that there isn’t any room in the kitchen for their things!
  • Take advantage of unused vertical space by replacing cabinets with taller ones that go all the way to the ceiling.
  • Hang a pot rack from the ceiling, but only if it doesn’t interfere with sight lines and make the kitchen look cluttered.
  • Instead of storing kitchen utensils on the counter surface, hang a wall-mounted rack for pots or utensils. Or install a magnetic strip for knives. Don’t do all of these options at the same time, though. There is a fine balance when using wall space in a small kitchen—using too much wall space can make a tiny kitchen look even more cluttered and tiny.
  • Sneak extra storage in the kitchen by using chairs with built-in storage.
  • Take advantage of modern corner cabinet space savers that go deeper into the corner, and come all the way out for easy access. 
  • Moving a kitchen sink to a corner is another option for using that inconvenient space. The area under a kitchen sink is never very usable, so why not just place the sink in a corner?

Small kitchen decorating ideas for accessorizing

Kitchen with white ceilingClear accessories and objects matching the wall color will take up less visual space

If adding window treatments to a small kitchen, keep them the same color as the walls to avoid contrast in the space, or simply go without.

Avoid complicated details, like ruffles, swags and bows for window treatments. Use valances or shades, or blinds—aim for a clean contemporary look and maximum natural light.

When accessorizing countertops in a small kitchen, keep it simple and sparse. Avoid complicated vignettes with too many objects.

Place a live plant or vase of flowers on the counter.

Display colorful fruit in a pretty bowl, glass container or basket. Oranges, limes and lemons add a fresh splash of color to any kitchen.

During holidays, fill bowls with pomegranates or mandarin oranges.

Fill a wire basket with natural colored eggs.

Fill a bowl with clusters of grapes, allowing them to flow gracefully over the edge of the bowl.

Kitchen fruit accessories

Create a tempting vignette using elegant bottles of oil and vinegrettes in varying shapes and sizes on the counter top next to a small breadboard, bread knife, and a loaf of bread.

Display colorful fruit in a pretty bowl, glass container or basket. Oranges, limes and lemons add a fresh splash of color to any kitchen. During holidays, fill bowls with pomegranates or mandarin oranges.

Fill a wire basket with natural colored eggs.

Fill a bowl with clusters of grapes, allowing them to flow gracefully over the edge of the bowl.

Create a tempting vignette using elegant bottles of oil and vinegrettes in varying shapes and sizes on the counter top next to a small breadboard, bread knife, and a loaf of bread.

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