Big Dreams for My Small Kitchen

When kitchen makeovers are shared online, most are of spacious kitchens that were done with huge budgets and the latest and greatest of appliances and decorating trends showcasing $10,000 ranges with ornate hoods and islands the size of Manhattan.

Shared less, are small kitchen makeovers that focus on how to make every inch highly efficient and attractive on a smaller budget.

This is what I need to find more – finding great ideas for small kitchens. Since I am not finding the inspiration I seek, I am going to do it myself which is to share doable smaller kitchen layout and design ideas in a series of posts about the dreaming stage for my small kitchen that overall measures 10′-0″ x 24′-0″ and this includes a 3-foot hallway. Then if the stars align, putting the plan into action.

A white kitchen where the brown counters were painted to look like Carrara marble.

When we first moved into our house, I made over every inch of the early 1970’s era kitchen cosmetically. You can see how I did it in my Budget DIY Kitchen Makeover post.

In my previous house I had a large pantry that stored quite a bit and I got pretty used to it. In my house now, there is a Small Pantry Closet that I made over to make more use of the space.

Both the kitchen and pantry function for us, but they could be so much better as kitchen layout and design has evolved quite a bit since 1970.

Side view of house AFTer getting a new color of paint on the exterior

Over the 7 years we have lived in the house, Ed and I have mostly thought about adding an addition off the the side of the house shown in the above photo.

Doing this would double the size of the kitchen and give us a walk-in pantry, but after a lot of thought, the expense of that doesn’t make sense for us in this stage of our life.

We are content with the space, but the custom-made cabinets and drawers that are original to the house which is going on 40 years are not opening and closing as well as they once did.

Kitchen counter painted to look like Carrara Marble

I also painted the countertops to look like Carrara marble a few years ago. They were brown formica and came out great and still look fine, but I would love to have the real thing or some kind of stone counters.

So now I am looking at how to use the existing kitchen footprint and designing it to function for the way we use and work in the space.

Drawing of existing kitchen layout and size measurements

I drew a basic layout of the kitchen for you to see. It is not to scale, but will give you an idea of what I have to work with.

Small kitchen counter top organization

What I would like to remove – the awkward peninsula, the U shape counter and replace with one long section of cabinet to make room for a larger island. Also remove the far wall cabinets that are not on a wall, but hung from the ceiling that blocks the light to the hallway beyond the kitchen.

Putting a lamp on a kitchen counter

Looking from the work area of the kitchen over the peninsula view to the dining area and view out to the lake. (I darkened this photo on purpose so you could see out the sliding glass door. In normal light photos, the light coming in the glass doors always washes the doors and view out.)

Other Small Kitchen Remodeling Ideas I Like

blue island in kitchen
photo: Pinterest
  • Get a range/oven in one and use the floor to ceiling space where the double ovens and microwave are now for easy to access storage.
  • Get a better designed refrigerator. The current one takes up too much space.
  • We had a banquette in the kitchen in our previous home in Pennsylvania. We loved it and I do miss having one. I would like to create a smaller one on the wall under the window by the kitchen table.
  • I would like an island with open storage underneath-more like a work table and painted or stained a different color than the cabinets.

I am thinking of taking my plan to the kitchen designers at Lowes or Home Depot to see what they come up with. Has anyone used them to help plan out and remodel a kitchen?

white kitchen inspiration

But even better for kitchen ideas is asking you for ideas. If who have remodeled a kitchen, what did you change, add, love or found you didn’t use or need at all. I would love to hear what you did.

If you haven’t remodeled a kitchen, but are like me, in the dreaming stages, what would you love your dream kitchen to have?

More Kitchen Decorating Ideas

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40 Comments

  1. My experience is that Home Depot / Lowes are extremely overpriced. Usually double the price. For a budget remodel I would definitely go with Ikea for the boxes and look at custom doors or even their doors if budget/style fit. I would find a local company for countertops to at least compare pricing. The bonus is that if you are up for it you can install yourself too which adds to the savings!!! You can embellish/add moldings/details too and just color match the cabinetry!! You can make it look totally custom. They also have in store planning to help too and II believe a 25 year warranty!!! I’m sure whatever you do it will look amazing!!!

  2. Hi Diane, I am looking forward to updates on this! :)

    My small kitchen also needs work. It was last done in 1967 or 1969. It is had the old laminate counters (white with gold specks), awful flooring, dark panelled walls, and separate stovetop and wall oven. The cabinets are solid wood (orange maple color). It also has a drop ceiling. I wish I could take a picture and show everyone here – it’s so dark and ugly. Hahaha

    I can’t expand its size but my plans are:
    1. Keep the cabinets, probably paint them, and replace the knobs / drawer pulls.
    2. Replace flooring – I don’t know what with yet
    3. I bought brushed nickel height adjustable pendant lights years ago (the primary inspiration)
    4. Remove the paneling and paint walls who knows what color.
    5. Replace stovetop and oven (they are from ’67 or ’69). Considering a freestanding range/oven to gain counter space, even though I like the wall oven even if it is smaller
    6. New dishwasher (current one is decades old) and refrigerator
    7. Replace the countertops and backsplash. My dream is soapstone.
    8. I would love a farm sink but they are expensive so I may keep the current stainless steel because it is older and sturdy/thicker than what is made today.
    9. Replace double-hung windows above the sink with casement windows.
    10. Remove drop ceiling.

  3. Sorry for the delay! I had a Pacemaker put in last week.

    Always love everything you create! Looking forward to watching this project in progress.

  4. Original cabinets from 1965 which have had some upgrades – some doors upgraded to glass and some cabinets removed and replaced with shelves. Large deep pantry which I work on to pretty up. Latest prettying is lower area curtains in the pantry and considering removing the door as it looks great without. I am considering removing lower cabinet doors and replacing with fabric – and would like some feedback on this – what do you think? Also would like to upgrade range/stove to aga or similar with range hood as this would totally upgrade the kitchen. Cost would be prohibitive so am looking at Marketplace for aga/wolf or like. Thank you much Diane for all your posts which I find very helpful. I am still thinking about painting floor tiles with Grout Renew as you did – how are they holding up for you? Best luck with your proposed kitchen upgrade – looking forward to your kitchen posts.

  5. Last year, I finally renovated my small (1970’s)galley kitchen. I had to use the footprint, so I was limited, but that also meant I had fewer decisions to make. My best purchase was a true counter depth fridge by Fisher & Paykel. It makes the room seem so much bigger and is large enough for me. Also, I used wavy white subway tiles for the backsplash. It added some contrast and movement without being flashy.
    Best of Luck, Diane!

  6. Lots of ideas in the comments. My daughter and sister both had wall ovens and both hated them. They are usually smaller with 25-27 inches wide so “normal” cookie sheets or roasting pans don’t fit. When they both had their kitchens remodeled, both eliminated the wall ovens and opted for the freestanding ranges.
    We had our kitchen redone in 2017. I kept the lower cabinets but had them refaced. The uppers go to the ceiling and I love the extra space. A friend said she would need a step up to reach the things on the top shelf. That doesn’t bother me as I needed one to reach the second shelf anyway. Seldom used items are on the top shelf.
    The island has pull out shelves and I have a 14-inch high drawer in one base cabinet for all my platters that stand up in a rack like a file drawer.
    I love the look of marble but not the staining and it scratches too easily. I chose quartz that looks like marble but don’t have to worry about red wine stains or scratches.
    Can’t wait to see what you plan.

  7. I know that you mentioned not doing an add-on, but this would be my idea – extend the kitchen into your seating area for more wall cabinetry & counter space plus allowing a longer slim island. Then creating a brand new dining room/sun room starting where your back windows are, onto your deck. This way you would also be dining closer to your fantastic waterfront view and you have a lot of deck space already so it wouldn’t be a big sacrifice. During times of high pollen or bug season it would be a wonderful space. It would also allow even more light to flow into your home & really show off that waterfront view that you have.

  8. Marcia Brink says:

    If I were the designer, I’d need a little more info, mostly about the flexibility of moving doors, etc.:

    1. How many people do you want the banquette to seat? (Do you have another more formal dining area when you have company, etc.?)

    2. Are you willing to give up the sliding door as long as beautiful views of the lake are preserved with, for example, windows and a single glassed door?

    3. Do you want access to/from the kitchen to remain the same — from the deck, from the main entry hallway, from the garage, from the studio, and from, I assume, the living area or whatever lies beond the current eating area (on the wall containing the cooking elements)?

    4. Are you able and willing to consider moving any of those access points?

    5. Are you willing to do without some of the upper cupboard storage? How do you feel about some open shelving?

    6. Is having a TV in the kitchen important to you? How about acess to computer, laptop, or tablet for recipes, etc.?

    Good luck with your project. I think you can definitely have the things you want and a beautiful, convenient kitchen in this existing space in your lovely home!

  9. Valarie Sanford says:

    So excited for you, wonderful ideas Diane! And I’m in the process of doing your countertops in my kitchen.
    Blessings!

  10. Beth Fagundes says:

    One thing that we did that was ridiculously expensive but OH SO WORTH IT, was to put our microwave in the island and to purchase a drawer microwave that slides out with all the controls on the top to reduce the bending down to use the microwave. I love it!

  11. I think your idea of a small kitchen and mine are different! You’ve got lots of room and I’m sure you’ll come up with something beautiful! I

  12. I used to live on Lake Marion in Manning, SC. We bought a lake house and gutted the kitchen (it was originally a weekend house only) but we were going to be there full time. I took my kitchen measurements to Lowe’s and they did an amazing design job for us. We did everything ourselves and it ended up being a beautiful kitchen and there was even a pantry built into the design. Try it, you don’t have to commit and you might be surprised.

  13. Michele M. says:

    I have a nice kitchen, I do – it’s well made and has nice finishes….but I dream about having it remodeled ALL the time. Every single day. You see,
    both my husband and I cook often and well – and we entertain quite often.
    What I love most about our kitchen is the huge walk-in pantry. But what I would LOVE to change: we are constantly dancing around one another b/c
    our stove and oven are one unit and the microwave is above the cooktop.
    I loathe them being all together like that – we are constantly in one another’s way and it is so cumbersome. Also – the dishwasher is between the stove/oven and the sink. I’d love to move the dishwasher to the other side of the sink. It’s nuts all being together like that – then I have a huge other side of the kitchen we never use with a big table and chairs. Oh to bring the entire kitchen to the other side – soooooo much room. So my dream kitchen would def have a double wall ovens. And one of those lift-out Kitchenaid mixers stands inside a floor cabinet. And I’d love to have one of those pull-out garbage cans. I could go on and on – but this is your post, not mine, haha. I hope we both get our dream kitchens. But I daresay the longer I wait the less I want it. Because 20 years ago this WAS my dream kitchen. Just in living with it I realize it’s just not “built for two.” ♥♥

  14. Hi Diane, we too have a very small kitchen but we’re able to save lots of space by backing up the refrigerator into our garage- the depth of the fridge is about halfway into our garage now saving precious floor space in the kitchen. I don’t know if you might have that option depending what you do with your hallway. It took a few contractors to come up with our current design before we remodeled. Also a drawer microwave saved some upper cabinet space. Remember to install a pot filler – so fun to have over the stove. Good luck!! I look forward to seeing what you come up with. ~ Linnea

  15. I’m so excited for you!!! I would remove the peninsula as well and run the cabinets the entire length. Cabinets to the ceiling would be nice with some glass fronts with lighting inside. Perhaps on either side of your big window near the sink. If you can fit an island how about seating at the island instead of a table? Anything you do we all know is going to be amazing. Friends in HH used Home Depot for cabinets and design but tweaked the designs to their liking. We used a cabinet maker who designed our kitchen to our vision/space and the cost of the cabinets were less than Home Depot brand. Lower cabinets as drawer’s is the way to go. Good luck on your new adventure!!

  16. Your kitchen has so much potential and space!! I totally gutted and remodeled my much smaller u-shaped kitchen about 10 years ago. I splurged and have marble countertops, I’m still in love with them. I went for a counter depth refrigerator which is small, I had to put a fridge in the garage, but the room gained is worth it. Two well placed glass front cabinets add a lot of light. I can’t emphasis enough, to make use of the lost space in a long corner cabinet,install articulating shelves. I have so much stored, nothing is out of sight or mind. The only change I would make, I have a small cabinet with a silverware drawer, then doors with a shelf. I’d swap that out for more deep drawers. LED under mount lighting for the countertops makes all the difference. If I could I’d send you a picture. After 10years I’m still loving my small kitchen…have fun with your project. looking forward to the reveal..

  17. One thing I would do with our kitchen is replace the bottom cupboards with drawers. As we age it is so difficult to get down on your knees to find something in the far back. I like the idea of running your cupboards and counter top to the dining room window. I’m not sure if you have the space but that would definitely give you more storage. I know islands are popular right now but do you have the space for one. I sometimes think they are a roadblock in a smaller space. Best wishes and I look forward to seeing what you do with your kitchen!

  18. We remodeled our small kitchen recently. It measures 8X22. We removed the bulkhead and have our cabinets go all the way up to the ceiling. We added more drawer cabinets on the bottom which I love. We also added three pantries with a 12″ depth instead of the usual 24″ because of our narrow space. These were actually catalogued as utility cupboards meant for brooms and such but they work wonderfully after my husband added shelving. I’m so glad we added these. We also chose a gas range with two ovens. Mostly we only use this upper smaller oven but have the larger bottom one for the roasting turkey or when we are having a party and need more oven use. Good luck to you as you decided on what you need. I can’t wait to see everything.

  19. Linda Schombert says:

    Hi Diane, we took a graph of our kitchen area to Home Depot’s kitchen planner and she suggested what would best fit in our plan. She was fantastic! We ended up having custom cabinets in hickory made by a local cabinetmaker, who was between jobs and he ran the cabinets up to the ceiling at no charge at a lower price than Home Depot quoted us for stock cabinets – we were so lucky! That was 24 years ago and we are still pleased…good luck!

    1. Linda Schombert says:

      Ooops, it was 14 years ago!

  20. We plan on remodeling our kitchen in the near future, too. We still have the original oak cabinets from the late 80’s and the original laminate butcher block countertops! No backsplash. Our kitchen is an eat-in one (no dining room), so unfortunately, no room for an island. We are in our early 60’s and don’t know if we’re going to stay here during retirement or move. So we’re not replacing the cabinets – just will have them painted. Besides, our neighborhood would not command the price of an expensive kitchen remodeling project if we were to sell. It’ll be interesting to see what you do with your kitchen!

  21. Banquettes are wonderful for sure. I was thinking that if you remove that peninsula and then continue the cabinets along the window wall to the slider, that would give you so much storage. That is what we did in our kitchen and we love all the extra counter space as well as storage space. When we have large gatherings I use that counter for all the food etc.
    I’m excited to see what you come up with for a plan 😊

  22. I agree with taking out the peninsula and a cabinet depth refrigerator would be a tremendous help. Why don’t they just make all refrigerators cabinet depth? Also, I would update the ceiling fans. Good luck!

  23. susan cuss says:

    We remodeled our galley kitchen a couple years ago and love the result. Instead of a counter and a backsplash, we used quartz and ran it up from the counter to the cupboards for a seamless look that made our small space look larger. We added a quartz waterfall to each of the ends of our counters, too, to expand the space. The quartz is white with re-cycled glass in pale blues and with sparkles! The wood flooring the previous owners put in was removed for large, vinyl, rectangular tiles in a light blue/white pattern that mimics a cloudy sky. The white, shaker, soft-close cupboards were given crystal knobs to reflect light and add a bit more sparkle. The walls and ceiling were painted a pale blue. We extended the width of one counter adding storage underneath accessible from both sides. Our appliances were all in black stainless steel. Although we have used Home Depot to assist with 2 kitchens, the latest one was mostly our own design. We used the basic footprint of the original kitchen, but moved the fridge for a better visual while adding more cupboards. I love the large farmhouse sink we installed and the 3 pendant lights over our wider counter. Now my kitchen is light and bright and sparkles! I like your ideas about extending the cupboards under the window and building in a banquette with storage underneath. I would suggest having some counter area beside your new oven for holding cooking items and placing pans, etc. on the counter or creating a coffee bar where your cooktop is now and cupboards below with shelves or cupboards above. We went with chrome for our taps to add more shine. Have fun creating your new kitchen!

  24. Diane, your work is always fantastic and you have great style. What you’ve already accomplished is amazing 🤩. BTW your view is to die for 😍
    We’ve redone several kitchens, big and small. One with ikea, and they do have the best use of space ideas, drawers within drawers etc. also their upper cabinets are 15 inches deep instead of standard 12 inch. Platters etc fit easily. 💯percent agree drawers on bottom are so much better, never dig for hard to reach items. Also agree counter depth refrigerator is a must for small kitchen. Because of door placement the kitchen I just moved into has a wall of 12 inch deep cabinets that go almost to ceiling, it’s amazing how much storage is there and super easy to access and see everything. I don’t like microwave over stove like someone else mentioned, I always move them. Also agree you may want to rethink storage in island for a small kitchen. You can do it and still leave it movable 👍. I would try ikea planner, even if you buy elsewhere. Can’t wait to see what you do ☺️

  25. I think the all white kitchen has had its moment. Update yours with different colored lower cabinets.

  26. Gail Ann McCreary says:

    We remodeled a kitchen in our former house years ago. I used a tile and kitchen store and was very pleased with their design. Our wall oven was replaced with a slide-in range as mentioned in another comment. I lost the upper storage but gained 3 feet of countertop and a cabinet with pullout shelves. As I’m only 5’2″ I liked the lower oven better. We did have to re-do the ceiling though when the upper cabinets were removed. I personally would opt for an island with storage, rather than a work table, with a built-in microwave. I definitely do not recommend having the microwave over the stovetop as we have now. Even with a vent it stays greasy and hot to the touch when cooking on the stovetop. I hate having to reach over hot pans to access something in the microwave and am always concerned about my sleeves catching on pot handles. I loved the pullout spice drawer that was added in the remodel. It was a handy place to store measuring cups and spoons in addition to spices and condiments.

  27. Diane,
    You’ve done an amazing job with all of your updates, I’ve no doubt this will turn out beautiful as well. The first thing I would budget for is a counter depth refrigerator. My kitchen is smaller than yours and changing out our fridge made a huge difference in feel. I now walk past it, not around it!

  28. Back in the early 2000s I considered a kitchen remodel and got so far as picking out finishes with a kitchen designer. Started looking at the final price tag for my very small, 9×11 kitchen and decided to stop the project before anyone could swing a hammer. I then took the designer’s plans to Home Depot. They found numerous flaws. The sink was actually not even centered on the window, there was one cabinet door that could never fully open. Lots of basic design flaws the designer should have seen. Short story, check dimensions several times to assure it will work before ordering. Btw, I never remodeled that kitchen , just gave it the cosmetic refresh like you did! Biggest asset was the rollout drawers I had in the lower cabinets. Wish I had them now at the age of 69-but this kitchen is at least twice the size and has a walk in pantry.

  29. Close the open cabinets. Run cabinets to ceiling. Measure only the real kitchen area, not the hallway. Use a natural color on the countertop. Research small kitchens on line and in books. Consider the value of custom cabinets versus using
    regular cabinets.
    These are tips from three complete remolding adventures. Allow 10 percent more in the budget for surprises in doing the work.

  30. Caye Cooper says:

    Hi Diane! Your kitchen looks lovely as it is, but I know how it is to want to make changes. I’m not remodeling my eens-teensy kitchen because that would require way more than I want to afford. My big desire, however, is to have a wall oven. I would love to have it because I can just quickly look in to see what’s happening with some baking projects, instead of having to open the door because I can’t stoop down so far to get the view. I don’t like having to lift a cast iron Dutch oven from that level, and once I did spill boiling liquid on my foot.
    Good luck with your visioning! I know it’ll be the “cat’s meeoow” when it’s done.

  31. We’ve done two major kitchen renovations and it’s often the little things. Hidden trash and recycling are the best plus cabinet roll-outs. No more black holes! Can’t wait to see where you land.

  32. I’ve done 2 kitchens in the past 10 years. Both of them small.I used Ikea for the first, and only didn’t with the second because my brother was able to get me cabinets at cost. My experience was that the ikea online kitchen design software was amazing. Made it so easy to put together different scenarios. Even if you don’t buy cabinets from them, try out the software to design what you want. The Ikea options, especially to optimize storage, are fantastic. And no matter where you get them, I found banks of drawers, rather than traditional base cabinets, were so much better!

  33. Alison Johnson says:

    I love my standing combination range and oven as opposed to the wall oven and separate cooktop. It was a huge space saver in our floor plan. Love the convection option that works great for cooking multiple dishes at once. I agree with previous comment that downfall is bending over and lifting pan from low level but i have managed fine so far. Husband helps with Thanksgiving turkey but otherwise it hasn’t been a problem.
    Also love pantry with sliding shelves and under cabinet lighting on dimmer.
    Have fun planning!

  34. Kathy Cain says:

    I have a 10 x 11 kitchen with a 5 x 11 walk-in pantry. Counter space is 2.5′, 1.5′, 1′ and 10″, so you can see it is sorely lacking in counter space. I bought a cabinet that is 5′ long to help with the counters. I love my walk-in pantry and gave up the counters so I could have that. I don’t have a lot of cabinets, but put two 32″x 16.5″ x 63″ sturdy storage shelves in the pantry to house my small appliances and staples, so that helps with my lack of cabinets. The one thing I miss is counter space. Whatever you do, make sure you have enough counters if you cook at all.

  35. Mary Brewer says:

    Your post came at the right time to help me with our kitchen remodel. I started working with Home Depot and it did not work out so I’m looking for another company.
    My aim is to replace the countertops and have the cabinets painted. I did get the sink and faucet from Ferguson’s and I’m very happy with them.
    Good luck with your remodel.

    1. Jane Desson says:

      Hi Mary, I am deciding between Ikea & Home Depot. Wondering why Home Depot did not work out? Jane

      1. Anonymous says:

        He did not have the experience and did not know what needed to be done and in what order. Every week was a change and told us we had to find the tradespeople to do it.

  36. Your ideas sound spot on! And this kitchen doesn’t seem that small…. What a lovely view. You might also think about a kitchen plan with IKEA if there is one close enough to you. We haven’t used them but someone I know did and found it useful.

  37. We have used Lowe’s twice to remodel kitchens and have been very pleased. We did it when they had special financing options which offered 10% off or 0% interest. In both cases we opted for a slide in range but today, at 69, I wouldn’t do that because of having to lean over so far to use the oven( and I’m an active, physically fit 69 year old!) I find a wall oven so much easier to use. Good luck!