We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

We’re told over and over again that the kitchen is the heart of the home, but how are those of us with small spaces supposed to interpret this maxim? Where are we meant to throw our get-togethers over cheese platters when countertop space is nonexistent? We’ll admit it’s not always easy to see the plus side of living in a tiny house or apartment (if for no other reason than the lack of storage), but the 10 cozy kitchens ahead reveal more than one silver lining. Between their mood-boosting bright colors and smart organizational solutions, these spaces defy their size.

The One That Squeezes in a Banquette

Rather than go the typical bistro table route, Jess Bunge, the editorial director at Emily Henderson, built a space-savvy banquette out of red oak stair treads, DIY velvet cushions, and a brass rod secured with a french cleat. (Psst: The benches are freestanding, aka landlord approved.) The wall-mounted backrest leaves just enough clearance to slide into the nook. 

The One With Good Appliance-to-Cabinet Ratio

Homeowners Megan Ananian and Andrew Ginn came to an important realization during their Park Slope, Brooklyn, renovation: They didn’t actually need a standard 24-inch-wide dishwasher. “I have always had an 18-inch dishwasher in all my apartments in the city and I think it’s totally fine,” says Ginn. So in getting rid of their too-big appliance, they freed up more space for drawers, including a narrow one to the left of the oven for a pullout spice rack. 

The One With Smart Flatware Storage

Over their sink, jewelry designer Sarah Burns and photographer Adam Caillier built a separate, deeper shelf for cutlery that they call their “flatware trough.” Not only does the addition free up precious drawer space in their railroad-style apartment, it allows Adam to show off his collection of prized silverware. Other clever ideas in this kitchen? They crafted two freestanding cabinets to house dry good and pots, swagged light fixtures to bring warmth to whatever countertop they’re working at, opted for two chairs and a stool combo in the dining area, and mounted knives and spatulas with a combination of magnetic strips and nails. 

The One With Faux Marble Counters

Instead of tearing out the ugly countertops in her 400-something-square-foot NYC apartment, Madelynn Furlong resurfaced them using a $200 paint kit she scored on Amazon that’s supposed to look similar to black stone. “It’s pretty convincing,” she says, noting that it sort of looks like an ’80s resin marble. To get the look of veining, she applied the Funfetti-like white paint that comes in the kit by holding the spray bottle at a 45-degree angle. 

The Leanne Ford–Designed One

The kitchen in Leanne Ford’s guesthouse is unsurprisingly full of scrappy ideas. The oven is wrapped in a terracotta-colored custom vinyl, the wood used for the open shelving is from the ceiling rafters she removed upstairs, and she hid the fridge behind old confessional doors she found at one of her favorite thrifting spots.

The One With a Modern Dining Setup

What Erin Starkweather’s L.A. kitchen lacks in storage it makes up for in pedigree. The apartment was designed by famed mid-century architect Craig Ellwood, and so there was no way she was touching the cabinets. Instead she admits it “forces me to not hold onto things that I don’t like or need.” Underneath the two bonus upper cabinets that hang from the ceiling, Starkweather leaned into the mod vibes with a set of bent birch plywood chairs, originally designed by Alvar Aalto for Artek in 1935, and his Table 81b design.

The One With Zero Empty Corners

When you see a smaller space, your immediate instinct might be to keep it as bare as possible—but there are other ways. Layering in potted plants and bowls brimming with fruit adds character (and will inspire you to get your five-a-day in), made possible by the homeowner incorporating storage elsewhere. A paper towel holder spans the window, and knives hang on a metal wall strip. 

The One That’s Neutral But Not Boring

With butcher block counters and a retro stove, this all-white kitchen is anything but one-dimensional. We love that the homeowner made use of the dead space above the cupboards, housing storage baskets for some extra function. 

The One That Doubles Up on Open Shelving

You might think floating shelves equal more dust, and to that we say you’re right. But when they look this good, they’re worth it. Keep bulky utilitarian cooking equipment tucked away behind closed doors, and use the open space to display your favorite tools (and that artisanal pepper grinder you got for Christmas). 

The One With Multipurpose Everything

See that little table? The sides fold out for dinner and up to become an extra meal-prep space. Plus it looks like it was sourced from a vintage shop, so it was likely an inexpensive addition. Similarly, a cutting board on top of the stove turns the surface into the perfect area for chopping veggies.