4 of the Best Paint Colors for Small Kitchens—Plus, How to Make This Room Feel More Spacious

Bold colors and cohesive applications will make the hub of your home feel like a larger workspace.

Kitchens are used for so much more than hectic weeknight cooking: It's where you roll out your grandmother's fresh pasta recipe with your nieces and nephews, decorate holiday desserts for your neighborhood cookie swap, share a glass of wine at the counter with your bestie, and put together a science fair-winning volcano with pantry staples. But if your workspace is best described as "cramped but efficient," then choosing the right paint colors and techniques can help your room feel bigger and brighter—without the investment of a major renovation.

"A small kitchen can be a thing of beauty, but it requires more discipline than perhaps a larger area would," says Patrick O'Donnell, the international brand ambassador for Farrow & Ball. "Painting is an effective and often cheaper option than a full refurbishment, and if you get the color right, you can turn an unpromising space into your dream kitchen." Here, learn how to use color to make the heart of your home feel more expansive—and the shades you need to do it.

blue small kitchen

KatarzynaBialasiewicz / GETTY IMAGES

Lean Into Color

While conventional wisdom is that white always makes a space look bigger, choosing from the rainbow—bold yellow, rich blue, cozy tan, and fresh pink—allows you to create a more personalized atmosphere. "Kitchens are dynamic, lively, creative hubs in your home, so they can carry color well," says paint and color expert Annie Sloan, creator of Chalk Paint. "Nothing, bar nothing, is so charming as a painted kitchen. The best color to choose is the one you love most, whichever that is."

One benefit of choosing a bold color, says Sloan, is that it adds visual interest and a sense of your style to the room while allowing you to keep valuable prep space free of adornment. "Uncluttered sides make all the difference in a small kitchen," she says. "By painting with personality, you won't feel the need to keep so many knickknacks or decorative objects on display."

Draw inspiration from the expert-recommended shades below to select a color that expresses your personal aesthetic while establishing your kitchen's vibe. "Just like any other rooms in the home, kitchen should also reflect your life and design style," says Hannah Yeo, manager of color marketing and development for Benjamin Moore. "Do you prefer a clean, bright kitchen for easy cooking and baking? Or do you like moody spaces for hosting social events? Create the atmosphere that enhances your lifestyle."

Work With Existing Elements and Natural Light

If you aren't embarking on a full kitchen renovation, then it's important to choose a paint color that works with your small room's current layout, natural light, and fixtures. "Consider design that already exists in the kitchen," says Yeo. "What are the colors of the cabinets, countertop, backsplash, and hardware? Is the kitchen open to other rooms such as dining room or living room? How much natural light does the room get?"

If you want an open-plan kitchen to feel larger and cohesive with the dining and living spaces next to it, match the wall shades: "Repeating a color from adjoining rooms, particularly hallways or large spaces will give the psychological illusion of a bigger space," says Sloan.

If your kitchen benefits from big windows and all-day natural light, then O'Donnell recommends a color that is "clean and fresh," like the gentle green-gray of Cromarty or the pale blue of Cabbage White. "If natural light is scarce, look to warmer tones to bring intimacy to your kitchen," he says. "Whilst the latter won't make your kitchen feel bigger, it will play to the disadvantages. Sometimes, you just need to lean into the limitations of a small space, as fighting against constraints can make a project feel forced. Romantic, blush pinks like Setting Plaster will bring a soft glow."

Choose a Single Shade

Using the same shade for your entire room—a technique sometimes referred to as "color drenching"—unifies a kitchen's many disparate elements for a fully cohesive finished look. "With multiple surfaces and appliances, the chances of starting off with pre-existing colors are high," says Yeo. "Keep it simple by using one color for cabinets, walls, trim, and ceiling. It not only unifies the space, but it also makes it look larger by blurring the lines between the surface areas."

Yeo recommends off-white Chantilly Lace or Cloud White to create a continuous "blank canvas," while O'Donnell suggests grey-toned Ammonite. "This allows you to get creative with accessories you bring to the space such as colorful plates, vases, or artwork on the wall," says Yeo. Bolder choices offer "more depth and interest" (try Narragansett Green or Graphite from Benjamin Moore, or Farrow & Ball's "richer, cocooning" Red Earth).

If a full color-drench is too much commitment, Sloan offers another option: "Rather than sticking to the exact same hue, a tonal color drench, using different strengths of the same shade, will give some interest," she says. "This will work best using one strong shade and two much lighter, more neutral riffs on the same color. For best results, repaint floor tiles, linoleum, or floorboards in the darkest color, which will give the feeling of more depth and height in a room."

Or Balance Multiple Colors

Incorporating several different tones into your kitchen, with different hues on upper and lower cabinets, walls, and even the ceiling, allows you to define different spaces within the room—but if you're worried about size, the best approach is to use as few colors as possible. Keep it simple, say the experts, with your darkest shades below counter height to ground the space and lighter ones at or above eye level to add brightness.

"If you choose a wall color in the off-white or pale neutral family, you can carry this over the ceiling, too," says O'Donnell. "The best way to view a limited palette of colors is to avoid too much contrast, so consider painting the upper units in your chosen wall color but in the appropriate finish; this will create a subtle difference due to the different sheen levels between wall and trim finish."

Yeo recommends choosing color pairings that are monochromatic (within one color family); analogous (neighboring shades that provide "depth and interest"); or complementary (high-contrast tones on opposite sides of the color wheel). "Consider where you want to draw attention," she says. "The kitchen island, cabinets, or built-in features are great places to add bold colors."

The Best Paint Colors for a Small Kitchen

Regardless of your existing space's layout, access to natural light, or features, here are four colors that consistently work in small kitchens.

Understated Pink 

pink small kitchen

ume illus / GETTY IMAGES

An inviting, pink-toned neutral can create a cozy atmosphere for rainy-day lunches and lingering breakfasts in a tighter space. "Nostalgic pinks, such as Setting Plaster, on your kitchen units, combined with a soft, empathetic white like School House White on your walls, will bring a delicate warmth to any kitchen and will work in all lighting conditions," says O'Donnell.

Cheerful Yellow

yellow small kitchen


Dynamic, energetic shades of yellow are classic kitchen paint options, adding a dose of sunshine to your daily routine—plus, they make a tight room feel more expansive. "Carnaby Yellow is spicy turmeric yellow inspired by the Indian ochre yellows beloved by the cool cats of the swinging '60s," says Sloan. "This rich, earthy yellow pairs beautifully with a reflective white, helps bounce sunshine around the room, and will give a burst of vitamin C in the mornings. Alternatively, use Chalk Paint in Tilton, which is less ochre, more egg-yolk yellow."

Yeo's top yellow is Golden Straw, "a warm yellow with notes of cream and peaches," she says. "This easygoing hue will bring some bright sunshine into a small kitchen. It's welcoming and happy, making it a great backdrop color for a casual family get-together."

Fresh Green

green small kitchen

brizmaker / GETTY IMAGES

Bring the outdoors into your tiny kitchen with rustic, natural, or spring-inspired green shades. "A green kitchen is a classic choice for walls, cabinetry, trim, or all three," says O'Donnell. "Green has that noble ability to calm and relax, making our shoulders drop and feel good within a space. Choose a soft green on the walls for lightness and then make a bolder statement on your cabinetry with a deep, forest-tinged green."

Sloan points to Coolabah Green, a "silvery sage" she developed based on the eucalyptus trees surrounding her childhood home in Australia. "This is a long-established shade that's seeing a resurgence in popularity," she says. "I find this shade has great calming and strengthening qualities. This is a color which will clear your mind and calm you, but in a way that's reinvigorating rather than stultifying."

Timeless Blue

blue small kitchen

FollowTheFlow / GETTY IMAGES

Blue is nearly everyone's favorite color, making it as popular a choice for your kitchen as for any other room in your home. "Light-reflecting blues tend to make small rooms look bigger; blue is recessive, and the white within the blue pigment will bounce light around," says Sloan. "This is why a pastel blue is always such a popular choice in kitchens. Duck Egg Blue, beloved of aristocrats such as Marie Antoinette and Regency designers, has innate rustic charm thanks to its association with freshly laid eggs and pastoral life."

Yeo also recommends light, cool blue shades, like Ocean Air to make a small kitchen look bigger, while O'Donnell points out that even a classic deep blue can provide an impactful color moment. "Blue is a color family we rarely fall out of love with, and for good reason," he says. "The breadth of choice offers countless options, from light and fresh to seductively dark. While painting in a dark blue won't necessarily make your kitchen feel bigger, a smart navy on the walls and units will create less distraction by limiting contrast, which has the effect of unifying the space as a whole."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles