Tips to Add Style and Function to a Small Kitchen

Easy tips that will add beauty and style to your small kitchen, as well as ideas to make your kitchen function better for everyday living! 

 decorate area behind kitchen sink

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Do you love your kitchen?

If you're a fan of HGTV design shows, it may seem as though everyone these days is lucky enough to have their dream kitchen, a huge space with tons of storage, a huge island, up to date fixtures and everything else you could ever dream of.

The truth is that most of us have a kitchen that we don't love, but due to budget restrictions, time or other issues, we're just not able to update it at the moment.

Kitchen challenges

We were fortunate when we moved into our (early 1980's) home 4+ years ago, that all the dark cabinetry had been painted and the kitchen had been updated. You can click here to tour my home.

The reality is that the updates that were chosen, while I'm sure a huge improvement from the original, don't really reflect my style. My marble counters are very dark with a busy pattern, my backsplash is outdated and my cabinets really need to be repainted.

The biggest challenge in my kitchen is space. I have limited storage, and the location of the island means it's really just a one-butt kitchen 😉 It's difficult for more than one person to work in the kitchen unless they stand still and don't move!

I'm thankful to have a dedicated pantry, as I know that is something missing from a lot of older homes, and we've removed the wire shelves and weird corner lazy Susan, making it function so much better. 

But the pantry is behind closed doors. Today I want to address the visible aspects of a kitchen, and how to use decorative items to help your kitchen function better.

How to make your small kitchen work harder without sacrificing beauty

Today I'm excited to share with you some tips and tricks to maximizing the storage on your kitchen counters. Many of these ideas are not only functional but pleasing to the eye and so they double as style.

I'm a momma who cooks several times a week and I need my kitchen to be a happy place to be in, with pleasing things to look at, as well as being functional. I hope you're inspired to try some of these ideas in your own kitchen.

Deceive the eye

I mentioned that I'm not a big fan of my dark countertops and I don't care for the beige backsplash. Until such time as we can change those, I find that using light colored items on the counters helps to deceive the eye and make the kitchen as a whole appear lighter.

white decor lightens a dark kitchen

When there's something pretty to look at and it's in a contrasting color to the items you don't like, your eye tends to be drawn to it. A large white metal ceiling tile plaque behind the sink helps to cover up a large portion of the backsplash in that spot, and you'll see that I've used this 'deceive the eye' trick around my kitchen in different spots.

When our home was built, around 1983, beige was big. All of the outlets in our home were the original beige covers, which have since dulled to a not-so-charming dingy yellow. Mr DIY has changed some of them out, but he's not an electrician and it's a big job that can be dangerous. The outlets in my kitchen are cleverly hidden by the items on my countertop.

Let's see if you can spot them. There's one behind the bread box and another behind the kitchen tools.

You can see that I've strategically placed decorative (and functional) items so that the outlet covers are hidden. They're still there and easy to access, but they're not visible.

Clever decorative storage

My second trick to adding decorative function to your kitchen counters is by using clever storage. I've utilized some items from my collections here in my kitchen. You can see that I have some of my white ironstone pitchers holding my kitchen tools (this is also very helpful as I don't have cabinet space for them).

vintage ironstone to corral kitchen tools

My white bread box is actually where I store my tea towels. Here in humid Texas, we need to keep our bread in the fridge or it goes moldy.

fresh hydrangea plant on kitchen counter

I have a small galvanized caddy beside the stove top with my olive and avocado oils. This is especially handy to have them right there where I use them, and the clear oil bottles are more decorative than the original bottles! I actually buy the huge plastic bottles at Costco and then refill these decorative one.

metallic knife holder and oil caddy beside stove top

Elevate everyday items

I cannot say enough positive things about having a magnetic knife holder! It gets the knives off the counter (or out of drawers), and it's so much easier to grab the knife I want when they're all visible! Saves on space, and makes me look like a real chef! 😁

This same tip applies to kitchen tools. Rather than having them all stuffed into multiple drawers, my most-used tools are upright in beautiful pitchers. I found a set of miniature kitchen tools that match my decor and they add some color and style.

The small tools are cute and interesting and help to draw the eye away from the corner of beige outlet that's peeking out behind that vertically place cutting board (can you see it now?) I find I use those mini spatulas so much, they're so handy for scraping food out of cans, batter from a bowl, etc.

mini kitchen tools in an ironstone pitcher

Placing the trio of ironstone pitchers on a wood tray corrals them and makes them act as a single unit, rather than just a bunch of stuff on the counter.

Show off collections

It's no secret that I'm an avid collector! I love vintage blue and white dishes, white English ironstone, copper, Rae Dunn and so much more!

Rather than hiding my collections away in cupboards, I love to display them. Like the ironstone pitchers, if I can utilize them in a functional way, even better!

With all the white and black in my kitchen, it feels a little blah. Strategically placing some of my treasured blue and white dishes around the kitchen does three things: 
  1. it adds a pop of color (blue is my fave)
  2. it creates a theme without feeling "theme-y"
  3. it draws the eye

vintage blue touches in the kitchen

If you have any glass front cabinets, this is the place to display your favorite items! It will bring a smile to your face to see something pretty up there! Don't clutter up cabinets that you can see into, you'll create a visual nightmare!

decorative items in glass front cabinets

Hang it up

Having items you love and use in full view means you'll actually use them more, and if you're strategic about what you have out, those items can double as decor.

I used to have a wreath hanging above our metal trash can. But a year or so ago I splurged on this sturdy hanging mug rack. It's a great way to not only display favorite mugs, but also a range of decor! I added a metal basket to the bottom row of hooks and keep fabric napkins here.

copper mugs hanging on metal mug rack

You can see how I incorporated copper touches into my kitchen as another way to add visual appeal.

Something green

Whether fresh or faux, adding greenery will add life to your kitchen! I've since planted this hydrangea bush in my flower bed, but it lasted for quite awhile on the kitchen counter. Consider a pot of fresh herbs, or if you don't have a green thumb, go faux!

black and white kitchen island with wood stool

farmhouse modern kitchen with mug rack, copper and vintage blue accessories

Even though there are things I would love to change in my kitchen, I was able to make it function harder and still be beautiful, by incorporating some simple strategies.

What are some of your biggest challenges in your kitchen? 

(click on the pictures below for detailed info)

bringing beauty to the ordinary,


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  1. I noticed that you have a corner sink. I have one too, and I love it. But I have trouble coming up with ideas how to decorate the back of it, in the triangle shaped space. I was wondering if you could write a post on that some time or even a pin board with inspiration would be great. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Pamela, I already have plans to write a post with ideas for decorating that awkward space!

  2. Thanks for all you excellent ideas. I wanted to give you a heads up about an article I recently read about olive oil. I learned it should always be kept away from heat and light. I also buy it at Costco and put it into a smaller clear bottle which I guess is okay if it's kept in a closed cabinet. I have been looking for a dark glass bottle but so far am unsuccessful.

    1. Thanks Carol, that's a great tip! I never use that small back burner so I should be okay!


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