Monday Inspiration: Small Kitchens with Big Style

vivian lee, james macgillivray, wayne tobin, miele appliances, schoolhouse electric, minka ceiling fans

As designers, we’re constantly scouring Pinterest, blogs, retailer sites and (maybe most of all) the homes of family and friends for inspiration. Kitchens are a constant obsession – they’re the epicenter of the home and can often employ the most beautiful combinations of style and function – and we’ve had the opportunity to work on plenty of wide, spacious ones.

Recently, though, we’ve been thinking smaller-scale. And in our internet travels of late, we’ve come across a few of the more beautiful-yet-compact kitchen spaces we’ve ever seen.

They come in all kinds of styles (some of which mirror our projects, others that have helped us expand our horizons) and are eye-opening reminders of what can be done with a little style and creativity.

Classic Cabinetry

Emmy Rossum, New York City apartment, Bertazzoni hood and range, Scavolini cabinets
Photograph by Roger Mayne

This apartment kitchen makes the most of its smaller area by utilizing dark cabinetry with a classic, no-frills touch. It doesn’t overcomplicate, and the antique runner adds a pop of rich color to balance out the monotone.

A Bold Backsplash

Moscow apartment, Olga Kulikovskaia-Ashby, pendant lights, tom dixon, vitra chairs, seletti plates
Design by Olga Kulikovskaia-Ashby

This small Moscow apartment is understated and almost mutely modern but for the eye-catching marble backsplash, subtly decorative plates, and unifying light fixtures.

Subtle Shelving

cape cod cottage, small kitchen, farrow & ball paint, antique stove
Designed by Ken Fulk

While this space is pretty distinctly colonial (the designer opted to keep the original blue floor, giving the room a uniquely aged feel), its principles can be applied to any style of kitchen that’s running short on square footage.

The designer leaned into the eccentricities of the space and stuck to minimalistic shelving that didn’t overwhelm the unconventionality of the room. It has just the right amount of counter space, shelving, and utilities. Nothing more, nothing less!

cape cod cottage, small kitchen, farrow & ball paint, antique stove

I had to add a photo of this cozy breakfast nook/game table as well. I love how the designer preserved this home’s natural grace!

Subtle Shelving

Greenwich Village penthouse, Ralph Lauren Home linen, French sconce
Photograph by Stephen Kent Johnson

It’s tough to imagine a kitchen being smaller than this one. But the preserved cottage style and smart use of space makes for a gracious and homey place to do the dishes while soaking in the naturally flowing light.


All the elements of this space work together to create a farmhouse feel (in the most classic sense of the word)! It seems straight out of Pride & Prejudice or Tess of the D’Urbervilles – the designer wasn’t afraid to carefully decorate, even with the limited space.

Consistent Color

kitchen countertops, poured concrete, custom cabinetry, greek home
Photograph by Bjorn Wallander

When you’re working with a single row of countertops, a pop of color may be just the trick. And if you’ve found a color you love, why not employ it consistently throughout?

This kitchen utilizes a soft custom green, along with creative dish shelving, to make for a fun and interesting space. The windowsill is tastefully used as a shelf of its own – not at all off limits!

Creative Shelving

asko dishwasher, cork flooring, french garden chairs, viking range, small kitchen
Photograph by Douglas Friedman, Design by Alexandra Hayden

Who says you can’t put shelving under your range hood? This kitchen isn’t afraid to use everything it’s got – and the red 1940s French garden chairs add a robust flair that might be otherwise missing from a white-heavy room.

I think my favorite part of this kitchen is the photo frame leaning up against the backsplash. Don’t be afraid to leave your pictures unhung!

Moody Tones

charcoal cabinetry, marble countertop
Emily Andrews Photography

This smaller kitchen space does a beautiful job of utilizing moody black and charcoal tones, with bright marble and wooden accessories. Those differing tones don’t always come together all that cleanly – so this kitchen is a real feat!

By using floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, and only opening up the counter when necessary, you create a sophisticated and smart space that doesn’t take anything for granted. Besides, the wide marble island makes up for any space lost to cabinetry, ensuring that the homeowner has plenty of room for storage and meal prep.

Utilize Antiques

vintage french table, hamptons home, waterworks, ceiling beams
Photograph by Bjorn Wallander, Design by Mark Cunningham

Now, we don’t all have access to amazing vintage tables like this one, but there’s so much to appreciate about this quaint, bright kitchen. A high ceiling complemented by strong, simple beams can make a small room feel infinite, and the utilization of a few antique pieces (no matter what they are!) can almost always be made to fit.

Windows, Windows, Windows

vivian lee, james macgillivray, wayne tobin, miele appliances, schoolhouse electric, minka ceiling fans
Photograph by Jane Beiles, Design by Vivian Lee and James Macgillivray

The window-lined countertops in this open, yet private kitchen help the space to achieve a modern homey-ness. Black windowsills bring sophistication and contemporaneity to what is otherwise a more casual rustic farmhouse, and the use of natural wood ties it all together.

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