When I moved into my new rental, I wasn’t able to tear out the kitchen and remodel the space from scratch. The biggest downside to this was that I’d be stuck with the least build-quality black-and-white kitchen I’d ever seen – something that’s definitely not my style.
Limited by budget and size, I knew I had to draw on some small kitchen ideas and general home decor ideas to try to spruce up the space without painting the cabinets or replacing the countertops.
It’s safe to say that this was one of the biggest decorating challenges in my new home, so here’s what I did to finally make it a space I enjoy cooking in.
9 things I learned when I decorated my small kitchen
Accessorizing a small, unstylish space was not easy! While a cool-toned room can work wonders for some people, it’s just not my style.
This is what I did to decorate my small kitchen and add warmth and character to this newly built space.
1. Accent lighting isn’t just for living rooms
My kitchen has six bright white LED spotlights on the ceiling, which is great for when I’m cooking an intricate meal and need to focus, but terrible for casual evening baking or midnight produce (yes, I admit that I’m guilty of some late dinners – but I know I’m not alone).
Fixing the kitchen lighting ideas was my first task and was probably the easiest step in trying to fix my kitchen. Although lighting ideas for small kitchens often focus on opening up the space and ensuring it remains functional, accent lighting is just as important in a small kitchen as it is in a cozy living room.
As a homebody who loves to bake, the addition of a simple table lamp in the corner of my U-shaped kitchen took me one step closer to the aesthetic cozy kitchen ideas I see everywhere. Houses and gardens and Pinterest. Adding a candle or two also helped achieve this warm effect as well as helping to remove some of the less favorable kitchen smells (yes, salmon, I’m thinking of you!).
2. Put appliances away
I found that storing away my bulkier appliances, like the microwave and toaster, not only helped free up space on my limited counter top, but also helped make my kitchen look more streamlined and sophisticated.
I obviously have to deal with less than generous small kitchen storage ideas to put my appliances away, but I found that decluttering and getting rid of things I never use ever gave me extra cabinet space to put away, when I’m not using them. This was one of the most important steps that made my kitchen look and feel more luxurious. After all, there’s nothing less glamorous than a bulky stainless steel microwave cramping up a kitchen side!
3. Functional items can be decorative in tiny spaces
I knew that the main way to achieve my dreamy decorative kitchen ideas was lots of details, but trying to balance this cozy look with keeping the space functional was not the easiest thing.
I like the “functional clutter” in my spaces. While some people like a much sleeker look, I think using functional objects such as a beautiful pot, cutting boards and sculptural salt and pepper shakers, for example, helps to create structured ‘messy’ areas that help my kitchen to feel cozier and lived in as opposed to perfectly polished.
Adding these smaller areas around my stove, for example, really helped make my kitchen more inviting.
4. Decant food into aesthetic containers
When I started decanting my food items to help them last longer, I realized the true decorative potential of even the most basic foods in my kitchen cupboards.
Given that I needed to save space to actually cook in my kitchen, I decanted pantry staples such as sugar, flour, salt, and grains into decorative jars like these on Amazon (opens in new tab)allowed me to use my naked things as decor pieces throughout the room. What’s more, it also helped me organize kitchen cabinets!
5. Always replace the hardware
Learning how to install kitchen cabinet handles helped me warm up my space and add my own personal touch to my build kitchen. I replaced the cooler toned chrome handles on my cabinets and drawers with brass pulls to add some variety. I made sure to choose heavy, high quality metal surfaces that would feel nice when used to give the kitchen a luxurious appeal.
The handles weren’t the only thing I replaced, but my light switch panel also fell victim to my need to decorate my small kitchen without any permanent updates!
I firmly believe that hardware is what really ties any kitchen together.
6. Add characters
Adding kitchen art ideas in vintage frames along with other vintage finds helped introduce some character to my otherwise bland little kitchen space.
I wasn’t able to repaint my kitchen, let alone change the kitchen tile ideas, so adding art and interestingly textured vintage decor pieces broke up the monotonous white walls and black counters.
I found that you don’t just have to hang frames on your kitchen walls either, with frames leaning against the backsplash next to a decorative cutting board, creating a little interesting feature. Even better, this tip is also renter-friendly – or just good for those of us who take a while to decide.
7. Never underestimate the power of plants
I think it goes without saying that decorating with plants is one of the most common ways to add color to a room regardless of its size. At first I felt it wouldn’t make sense to add a planter or vase to an already cramped kitchen, but the bright color it added, along with its interestingly sculpted leaves, introduced a nice variety to my space.
I will admit though that I almost killed the first plant I put in my kitchen as the humidity from cooking was just a little too much for the poor thing (oops!). Now that it’s safely recovering in my home office, I’ve made sure to research the best kitchen plants that can withstand everyday cooking.
8. Use a rug to warm the room and hide the floor
My kitchen has an incredibly old marble tile floor. It may sound luxurious, but no matter how much I scrub, I know there are some brands I will never be able to get rid of.
The addition of a kitchen rug not only hid the awful floor, but also helped introduce color into a more unexpected part of the kitchen. Even better, the addition of a rug or runner didn’t clutter up the room in any way, making it the ideal addition to a cramped tin room.
By using a low-pile, washable floor runner, I can easily freshen up the rug when I spill something, taking the stress out of making a mess.
9. Adding window coverings makes any room cozier
My kitchen originally had a simple roller blind and no exciting window treatment ideas whatsoever.
Hanging curtains is not something I have considered in my kitchen until I saw a designer suggest it H&G. Although blinds are technically more practical than kitchen curtain ideas, they easily add a much-needed softness to the room as well as continue to add color and texture to an otherwise drab space.
What color should you paint a small rental kitchen?
To make a smaller kitchen look bigger, use lighter color palettes to give the space the appearance of being light and airy. If white isn’t your thing, consider lighter neutrals like beiges and creams, or even pastels for a positive pop of color.
How do you make a small kitchen feel cozy?
One of the most important ways to make a tiny kitchen feel cozy, especially if the space is painted in light, bright colors, is to get the right lighting. Adding warm toned accent lighting will help set the mood and warm up the space for late night cooking and a cozy dining experience.