7 No-Reno Ways to Add More Space to a Cramped Kitchen, According to Interior Designers

published May 15, 2024
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Some kitchens are big, bright, and airy — a place people want to gather, whether it be for food or for fun. Others are small, dark, and cramped, and for one reason or another, knocking down walls and reconfiguring layouts isn’t always realistic. If you find yourself stuck with a less than desirable kitchen, before you accept a life of cooking solo while everyone hangs out in the living room — or not cooking at all and just pretending the kitchen doesn’t exist — you should know that these dramatic steps aren’t your only options for adding space to your kitchen. 

There are plenty of interior designer tricks to make a closed kitchen feel more open, no renovations required —  below, you’ll find seven of them. Here’s what the experts recommend to work magic on your layout (without actually changing your floor plan).

1. Layer lighting

According to Matthew O’Grady, director at Thomas Matthews Kitchens, well-lit kitchens tend to feel more spacious. He recommends using a combination of task, ambient, and accent lighting to illuminate the space in a way that provides dimension and depth.

Colette Archambault and Karen Cacciatore, co-founders of Hunter Hill Interiors, agree. They specifically like to employ sconces and recessed lighting to accomplish the job. “Installing sconces with upward lighting can elevate the ambiance, accentuating the space’s height,” they advise. “Also, opting for better, recessed lighting fixtures ensure an even distribution of light, getting rid of shadows and creating a welcoming atmosphere.”

2. Brighten up walls and cabinets

The colors you choose for your kitchen make a major impact, especially in one that’s lacking in space and natural light. That’s why Founder and Principal of Collected Studio, Julianne Schaefer, recommends using lighter hues. “They reflect more daylight, making spaces appear larger and more open,” she explains. White, light gray, white oak, or even pastels are all fair game.

3. Incorporate reflective materials

Things like high-gloss paint, mirrors, and shiny hardware (think polished brass or chrome) all do a great job at catching the light and casting it through the room. This trick, Schaefer says, creates the illusion of openness in a space that’s dark and cramped. 

4. Create visual continuity

According to Schaefer, creating some form of consistency as you walk from your kitchen to the neighboring room “blurs the boundaries between spaces, making the kitchen appear more open.” Using the same rugs, color palette, paint, and/or textures will accomplish the desired effect.

5. Get creative with storage

O’Grady insists that one of the most important steps to making a closed kitchen feel more open is to declutter, especially visually. Once you’ve done that, enlist creative organization solutions such as wall-mounted racks and magnetic knife or utensil holders. “Keep only the essential items on your countertops, eliminating unnecessary distraction that might cause the space to feel cramped,” he advises. 

6. Use larger patterns and art

Gallery walls are pretty, but in a closed-off kitchen, they tend to look cluttered and busy. Instead, Schaefer recommends using large art or even a statement wall clock to draw the eye and make the room less crowded. She notes the same concept applies to the scale of wallpaper and tile: “Larger patterns can make the space feel bigger.”

7. Remove window treatments

Why compromise what little natural light you may already have? In closed-off rooms, Archambault and Cacciatore always opt out of window treatments. “Anything that obstructs natural light from streaming in through the windows further enhances the kitchen’s openness,” they explain. Plus, you get to take advantage of the view, blending together the kitchen with the great outdoors. If you just can’t resist hanging up something, Schaefer recommends sheer curtains.

What’s your favorite trick for making your kitchen feel more open? Let us know in the comments below!