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A young woman kneads pizza dough in her small kitchen. She's maximized her space by hanging common utensils and by keeping things uncluttered

18 Small Kitchen Ideas on a Budget

Kitchen Remodeling

by Kat Piccolo Posted on March 25, 2024
It’s obvious: In a small kitchen, every square inch of space matters. So if you’re looking for small kitchen ideas (or very small kitchen ideas) on a budget, we’ve got you. And the best part? You don’t need a ton of materials. From implementing small kitchen storage ideas to creating a more spacious feel overall, here are 18 ways to elevate your cooking space and maximize your square footage without blowing your budget.

1. Consider Light and Airy Colors.

Paint is one of the easiest ways to transform a space, which makes it one of our favorite budget kitchen ideas. If you’re planning to paint the cabinets or walls, keep this in mind: Light colors can make a space feel less cramped. When you have lighter colors in a room, it allows both the natural and artificial light to bounce throughout the space. When you have darker colors, they absorb the light and can make a space feel smaller and more intimate.

And while colors can play a huge part in defining the space of your kitchen, the amount of natural light is also important. If your space is north-facing or doesn’t have a lot of natural light, consider off-whites and warm grays — stark white paint in a low-light kitchen can end up looking dingy.

Here are a few of the most popular light and airy paint colors for kitchens:

  • Benjamin Moore Simply White
  • Behr Snow Fall
  • Benjamin Moore White Dove
  • Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee
  • Sherwin Williams Creamy
  • Behr French Gray
  • Sherwin Williams Amazing Gray

Pro Tip: Finding “oops” paints are great for people on a budget. These are colors that were mixed incorrectly at home improvement stores, but they’re then sold at a big discount. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?

2.  Maximize the Space Above Your Cabinets.

Vertical space is key when it comes to small kitchen storage ideas. Add storage by utilizing the room above your kitchen cabinets. Buy a set of stylish bins, like these decorative baskets and bins from Target or these creatively designed utility baskets from World Market. Then, you can store all kinds of items you don’t use regularly — plus they double as beautiful decor above your cabinets. Try DIY-ing your own basket labels to keep track of everything.

small kitchen hack hanging pots and pans

Hang pots and pans from the ceiling or from a wall-mounted rack, so they won’t take up valuable cabinet space

3.  Hang Pots and Pans From a Ceiling Rack.

Another way to create vertical storage? Hanging a rack on the ceiling. You can hang pots and pans instead of letting them take up valuable cabinet space. These options from Wayfair are affordable and designed to hang from the ceiling. Don’t have the clearance for a ceiling rack? Consider a wall-mounted rack, like these from Home Depot. Whatever type of solution you choose, just make sure it’s rated to hold heavy pots and pans, if that’s what you need.

4. Bring in Some Color With a Small Rug.

Upgrade your standard kitchen mat with a vibrant flat weave rug in a small size, like a 2' x 3' or small runner. It’s an easy way to introduce a bit of color and warmth to a small kitchen. You can find fun, unique designs for affordable prices. Just be sure to look for a rug woven from durable materials that are easy to clean, like recycled polyester or washable cotton. And make sure to get a non-slip rug pad for underneath to ensure it stays in place — which is especially important for high-traffic areas like the kitchen.

Displaying functional items in a small kitchen

Try streamlining your kitchen must-haves and keeping them close at hand, so they’re easy to grab when you need them.
(Source: @ahomediary via Instagram)

5. Display Your Favorite Functional Items.

When storage space is at a minimum, often the only spot for things is on your countertop or wall. Try streamlining your kitchen tools to the items you actually use, and then use hooks to hang them from the wall or keep them on display (but still easy to grab when you need them!). Here’s a few quick budget kitchen ideas: Stack up your cutting boards or hang them from hooks, use a magnetic strip on the wall to display your best knives, or hang pots and pans on the wall in front of the stove

6.  Add Storage to the Inside of Your Doors.

For another way to maximize small kitchen space, consider adding storage to the inside of your cabinet doors. A great spot to start would be the cabinets below your sink. Instead of cluttering your sink area with dish soap and sponges, stow everything away in a basket attached to the inside of your cabinet. There are affordable over-the-door options, or you can try one of these DIY cabinet door storage ideas.

Small kitchen updates with teal backsplash

While storage is always crucial in a small kitchen, open shelving can make it feel bigger — plus it doesn’t cost much if you do it yourself. 
(Source: @moonstickers via Instagram)

7.  Switch Up Your Backsplash.

There are more options for easy kitchen updates than ever before — thanks to the popularity of home DIY projects. For an instant impact in your small kitchen, update your backsplash to something with a bold color or fun pattern. Home Depot has an entire section of peel-and-stick backsplash, which takes little time and effort to install. And with many options under $15 per square foot, it won’t take much moolah to update the small space, either!

8.  Utilize the Space Under Your Upper Cabinets.

Free up your counter space with another storage solution: racks installed to the underside of your upper cabinetry. It’s the perfect spot for a paper towel holder. You can also find special racks made for hanging wine glasses or wine bottles. And if you don’t want to attach anything to the underside of your cabinet, you could install a small shelf or storage rack to the wall below. It’s an ideal spot for storing dishes, cooking utensils, or mugs.

9.  Build Your Own Shelving.

While storage is always crucial in a small kitchen, open shelving can make it feel bigger and less closed in — plus it doesn’t cost much if you do it yourself. All you need is some wood, shelf brackets, and nails or wall anchors. And you’ll want to make sure there’s around 15 to 20 inches of space from your countertop to the bottom of your lowest shelf. For inspiration, see how the blogger behind Lemon Thistle created kitchen shelves for less than $20 each.

10. Add a Statement Light.

Since many small kitchens only have one light, it’s the perfect opportunity to go for something bold. Make a statement with a unique flush-mount light or colorful pendant, like these budget IKEA options. Consider an oversized light for a statement in a small space — one large light can expand the room, while multiple small lights can make it feel more cluttered. Always measure your space first, so you can ensure the size of your light fixture or shade doesn’t affect functionality. And unless it’s above an island, a light fixture should hang at least 7 feet from the floor to ensure there’s enough clearance for walking underneath.

11. Switch Up the Hardware.

Switching out the hardware around your kitchen is a great way to give it a much-needed facelift. The best part? You can easily find cheaper options on Facebook Marketplace or Etsy. If you’re in a thrifty mood, you can peruse garage sales around the neighborhood. You never know. You might strike gold and find vintage options! But if you’re in more of a rush, there are modern options — like this 30-pack of Ravinte cabinet pulls on Amazon — that can still give you a new look.

12. Do a Small-Scale Remodel.

You don’t need to blow out entire walls and rearrange your kitchen’s layout to have an effective remodel. In fact, small changes can go a long way. While there are plenty of great options to change up your entire floor plan, small kitchen remodel ideas on a budget are going to end up easier on your wallet in the long run.

So how do you maximize a small kitchen? Find hidden spots to put unique storage solutions or invest a bigger part of your budget on custom options for your small space to get the most bang for your buck. Open shelving on smaller walls is especially effective for not only maximizing your space but also making it your own.

13. Add a Pantry.

Your first thought when hearing the word “pantry” might be a completely separate room for all your kitchen essentials, but that’s just one of many. Pantry ideas for a small kitchen are available in abundance — they just take some creativity. Separate shelving units, dedicated drawers, or combining rooms in your home (Can you sacrifice some dining room space for food storage?) can help you achieve this effect without taking up much-needed space in your already small space.

14. Make the Most of Built-Ins.

If you’re asking, “How do I design my small kitchen while still going for a timeless look?,” a built-in dining table under a few big windows is a great way to get there. Even better: If you’re wanting to combine your dining area with a pantry, we recommend going for a built-in storage solution combined with a bench to sit on. Your dinner table can be pushed up against the bench for extra seating, and you can make the most of cabinets on either side of it with storage inside the bench.

15. Add an Island.

We know, we know. An island in a small kitchen?! But hear us out: Kitchen islands don’t always have to be massive. And they also don’t have to be stationary. Consider using a small cart with wheels instead, like one of IKEA’s offerings, that can be moved out of the way when it’s not in use.

16. Add Art.

If your kitchen is still feeling drab after new paint colors, brighter fixtures, and new hardware, you can always hang a few art pieces. Whether it’s a vibrant abstract piece or a collection of small framed prints, wall art is a great way to set the tone for your space and enhance its overall mood. It’s also easy to switch out with the seasons, or whenever you feel like changing up your space.

17. Thrift Your Furniture.

Whether it’s a new dining table or frames for a gallery wall, thrift stores are treasure troves waiting to be discovered. They’re also great for budget buyers. If you’re going for an eclectic makeover, you’ll be able to find one-of-a-kind plates, cups, mugs, jars, cake stands, and so much more. They’re also great places to score vintage finds from brands like Pyrex or KitchenAid. You might be surprised by how many luxury items you score while digging around! And voila! You just found the perfect way to switch out your old with new-to-you!

18. Brighten Up Hidden Spaces.

Finally, we recommend placing light in even the most hidden places. And we’re not just talking about battery-powered portable lights. If you have open or even glass-door cabinets, you can actually use wallpaper along the back to brighten up the space. Going for a farmhouse kitchen look complete with closed shaker-style cabinets? Line the backs of your cabinets with a bright contact or wallpaper, too, to add a nice (surprise!) touch to your kitchen without breaking even the smallest of budgets.

Let These Small Kitchen Ideas Inspire Your Next Update

Whether you’re constantly cooking or a pro with the microwave, working with a small kitchen can be hard. That’s why cosmetic updates and ingenious storage solutions are easy wins for small kitchen ideas. Planning a remodel to eventually enlarge your tiny kitchen? Consider using a PODS portable container to store items during your project.

Kat Piccolo is a St. Petersburg-based freelance writer whose only roommate is their cat. A frequent PODS Blog contributor, Kat loves finding ways to make moving into new spaces simple and stress-free. Between yearly apartment hopping, you can find them on the waterfront or experimenting with new ways to make coffee.

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