Everything plus the kitchen sink: Small kitchen ideas from compact design to clever storage

When designing a small kitchen, planning is everything. First, it’s a good idea to assess your possessions to make sure you’re not hanging on to superfluous equipment. Once you know how much storage you need, you can start planning the kitchen layout. If you’re a keen chef, you will need to make your space work harder to squeeze everything in and guarantee enough room to cook. 

Architect Angel Rico designed this concealed kitchen. Moving elements fold out to reveal different functions, from a floor-to-ceiling partition to a deep shelving unit. Once the doors close on the kitchen, it becomes invisible. Image: Eugeni Triado. Design: Angel Rico. Kitchen L​iving, Gestalten 2019

‘The best way to do this is to have all the essentials, but in compact form,’ says Rebecca Benichou, founder of Parisian studio Batiik, which specialises in overhauling compact spaces. ‘For example, a small sink and hob will free up your countertop for food preparation.’ Rebecca also recommends seeking out combined appliances, such as a space-saving oven-and-dishwasher duo. Try candy-domestic.co.uk for a selection of multitasking appliances. Rebecca’s preferred design for smaller spaces is to ‘hide’ the kitchen by integrating it within existing architecture. ‘It shouldn’t look like a kitchen,’ she explains. Cupboards should open up and slide back, housing a kettle, blender and chopping boards. 

This is actually a two-wheeled wagon that can be easily moved around. Designed for smaller homes by May Kukula, it can transform from dining table to kitchen workbench when needed, thanks to its hidden electrical sockets, induction hob and integrated storage. Image: Skinnycouple. Design: May Kukula. Kitchen Living, Gestalten 2019

Flexibility is your friend, with portable and freestanding kitchen island options becoming increasingly attractive for the spatially challenged.

When space is at a premium, clever storage is key. This can be implemented in a wealth of ways, from slender floor-to-ceiling cabinetry to deep drawers. Overhead racks and wall-hung shelving will also help to free up additional space – but don’t forget to keep your excess clutter in check. The less items you have out on display, the roomier your kitchen will appear. Try string.se for a selection of space-saving units. 

Architect Nicholas Agius based this kitchen on the concept of a tool box. The cupboard opens to reveal a sink, oven, hob and cleverly configured storage. Sunny yellow woodwork adds a pop of cheer and helps the room appear larger than it is. Image: Tom Ross, Rubin​ Ultama. Design: Agius Scorpo. Kitchen Living, Ge​stalten 2019

From reclaimed wood to polished stone, the right materials and fixtures can upscale even the simplest and smallest of kitchens. For inspiration, start by collating images from various sources – whether from magazines or Pinterest – to define your aesthetic. Then you can start to re-create that look to suit your space. Colourful MDF cabinets, eye-catching splashbacks, mirrored panels and worktops presented at interesting angles all help to create focal points and add interest to hub kitchens. 

A rchitects Catrina Stewart and Hugh McEwen have used a bold, varied palette and materials to define different spaces in this kitchen of a West London home. Bright yellow grout was used to set the pale pink herringbone tiles, which is a continuation of a colour theme used elsewhere in the house. It adds depth to the small space. Image: French & Tye. Design: Office S&M. Kitchen Living, Gestalte​n 2019

Shop the look

Smart ideas for the compact kitchen

Trolley, £399, aram.co.uk

Sideboard, £1,288, skandium.com

Jar, £9, ikea.com

Countertop dishwasher, £155, aldi.co.uk

Wine rack, £185, gardentrading.co.uk

Fridge-freezer, £1,699, smeguk.com


This is an edited extract from Kitchen Living by Tessa Pearson, published by Gestalten, price £35, gestalten.com. To order a copy for £28 until 12 May, visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15