4 Tiny Kitchen Tweaks That’ll Make a Big Impact, According to Designers

published May 31, 2024
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Open shelf above countertop with built in stove.
Credit: Photo: Suzanna Scott, Design: Regan Baker

It’s no secret that a kitchen renovation is about as large a design undertaking as they come — even in the smallest of footprints. But just because the challenge of completely gutting this space looms large doesn’t mean you have to go to that extreme. As it turns out, tiny kitchen tweaks can transform the way in which you cook, organize, and entertain with wide-reaching results (no sledgehammer needed!). 

“Kitchens are ripe for easy swaps, renter-friendly DIYS, and fun yet practical decor,” says designer and New York Times best-selling author Emily Henderson

Designer Regan Baker agrees, emphasizing how much time the typical person spends in this space. “Because you use the kitchen so much, it’s good to invest in durable and personal touches to make it enjoyable,” she adds. 

Moving forward with small-scale kitchen updates will likely feel more empowering and less intimidating than a total overhaul, but it can still have a big impact. Here’s how these designers would approach this task in four tweaks, so that your kitchen functions and looks better than before. 

Do away with dark corners.

Everyone wants a kitchen with plenty of natural light, but if yours seems dark, you don’t want to be stuck preparing meals in the shadows. Consider adding sconces above dimly lit countertops and nooks, which will illuminate and add ambiance to these areas. 

“I’m a big sconce fan, so installing a plug-in or remote-controlled sconce or two is a great way to add extra light,” Henderson says. “And FYI: A dimmer is always your best friend.”

Baker leans toward more sculptural or artistic light fixtures to “bring a quirkiness or a sense of history that sparks conversation.” So it may be worthwhile to coordinate these details with the architecture of your home or the surrounding furnishings. But if you’d rather not mess with your walls, Henderson suggests styling “a little table light on the counter or on an open shelf.”

Get creative with storage.

Most kitchens could benefit from more storage or at least better organization. And while Henderson recommends adding open shelving in vertical spaces — which is prime real estate for showcasing pretty glasses and leaning art — both designers agree you should think about additional storage pieces apart from your standard cabinets and drawers. 

“There are a ton of great wall units on the market that only really require a drill and screws,” Henderson says. In this instance, you may prefer a plate rack to an open shelf, which can be easier to manage your everyday kitchenware. 

Another idea? If you have a breakfast nook alongside your kitchen, then map out a spot for a stylish armoire. “Adding an armoire can create visual interest and be a place to store and showcase more decorative items,” Baker says. “It can also cover up any oddly shaped corners!”

Credit: Suzanna Scott

Incorporate texture in various forms.

Kitchens that lean too far into functionality can be a drag to cook and hang out in. If you’ve noticed that your space is all work and no fun, change the vibe by adding more texture. 

“One solution could be to add in a cute new rug and dish towels,” Henderson suggests. “It could be about installing peel-and-stick backsplash tiles. Even hanging a woven fruit basket will add some visual texture and instantly make the space feel warmer. And don’t forget about edible or decorative plants, as they bring in instant life and color.” 

Baker says limewashing the walls could also be an on-trend yet timeless way to make your kitchen feel more inviting, and the process doesn’t have to require a professional. “I’d also consider matching an inexpensive stacked tile or peel-and-stick tile pattern to the limewash color to add a really interesting texture,” she says. 

Sprinkle in art as much as possible.

Framing meaningful scenes and keepsakes can easily boost your mood and the overall aesthetic of your kitchen (even on your fridge), so don’t forget about the power of art. “I love art in kitchens — especially little pieces,” Henderson says. “They look great leaning on the counter or a shelf or hung on the side of a cabinet in, say, a stack of three. If you hang something behind your stove, though, make sure it’s protected and isn’t a piece you care too much about, in case the grease wins.” 

Think of open walls as a gallery, says Baker — even in the kitchen, which can be filled with any decor you want. But if your budget can’t accommodate the art of your dreams right now, never fear. “Paint and hardware can go a long way, and then you can consider investing in more splurge-worthy items such as interesting light fixtures and art later,” she notes. 

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 4 Tiny Kitchen Tweaks That’ll Make a Big Impact, According to Designers