How to Choose the Perfect Paint Colors to Make Your Small Kitchen Look Bigger

Decorating and designing a small kitchen comes with its own unique set of challenges. With limited space to work with, every design decision you make will have an impact on how open, bright, and spacious your kitchen looks and feels.

One of the biggest ways to transform a small kitchen is through strategic use of color. The right paint colors can make a small kitchen look and feel so much larger than its actual square footage. Bright, airy colors reflect light, making the space appear more open. Soothing pastels add subtle pops of color without overwhelming the compact room. And high-gloss finishes bounce light around, creating the illusion of more space.

Why Paint Color Matters in a Small Kitchen

In a small, enclosed kitchen, dark paint colors can make the space feel gloomy and cramped. Dark shades absorb light rather than reflect it, closing in the room. If you’ve ever stepped into a small space painted entirely black or navy blue, you know that oppressive feeling.

Conversely, light paint colors open up a space by maximizing brightness. Whites, creams, light blues, sunny yellows, and pale greens reflect light exceptionally well, making a small kitchen feel airy and breathable. The science of color psychology shows that light colors also impact mood–they cultivate feelings of optimism and energy, perfect for an active kitchen.

So if you want your compact kitchen to feel larger, brighter, and more uplifting, strategic use of light paint colors is key.

paint colors for small kitchen

Tips for Choosing the Best Paint Colors

When selecting a color palette for your small kitchen, keep the following guidelines in mind:

Go for Light, Bright Shades

Stick to light colors like white, cream, soft yellow, pale blue, and light sage green. Avoid darker colors like black, brown, navy, and burgundy that absorb light. The lighter the shades, the more open and expansive your kitchen will look.

White is the gold standard for opening up a small space. It reflects the most light and instantly makes rooms feel larger. For kitchens, opt for a bright white with a subtle undertone like Sherwin Williams’ Alabaster.

Consider Soothing Pastels

While you want most surfaces to stay light, pastel colors offer a great way to add subtle pops of color without overwhelming a compact kitchen. Soft hues like mint green, lavender, butter yellow, robin’s egg blue, and coral pink keep rooms feeling bright and airy.

Use pastels sparingly on accent walls, backsplashes, or cabinets so they don’t close in the space. For example, mint green looks fresh on upper cabinets against white lowers and walls.

Use Dark Colors Sparingly

If you want to create a dramatic, moody look in your small kitchen, deep colors can make a bold statement. Matte black is a popular choice for cabinets, kitchen islands, or statement walls.

Just keep in mind that extensive dark colors can make a compact kitchen feel gloomy and closed-off. Reserve them for well-lit spaces, and use them sparingly on just one or two architectural elements.

Maintain a Consistent Color Scheme

No matter what colors you choose, stick to one cohesive, complementary palette throughout the kitchen. Sporadic bright colors in a disjointed scheme create visual clutter and make a small space feel choppy.

For example, pair sky blue lower cabinets with a white Quartz countertop and pale blue-gray walls. The continuous color scheme makes the compact kitchen feel tranquil rather than busy.

Brighten with Reflective Surfaces

Strategically placed high-gloss and mirrored surfaces make a small kitchen shine by reflecting light around the room. Opt for glossy glass tiles on the backsplash, chrome fixtures, glossy cabinets, and large mirrors.

Hang a statement mirror near a window to reflect beautiful natural light. Just avoid placing mirrors directly across from each other to prevent a dizzying effect.

Open Up the Space

Since walls, tall cabinetry, and peninsulas can cramp a compact kitchen, try removing upper cabinets to keep sight lines open. Replace them with narrow shelving that maintains a sense of airiness.

Keep countertops and floors as light as possible as well. Dark granite or wood floors close in a space, so opt for light Quartz or butcher block counters paired with blonde wood or vinly plank floors.

Use Color to Expand Different Areas

Once you settle on an overall color scheme, use strategically placed color to expand each area of the kitchen:

Ceilings and Moldings

Painting the ceiling, crown molding, and trim a crisp white instantly makes the entire kitchen look larger. It also draws the eye upwards, counteracting the enclosed feeling of low ceilings.


White or light gray cabinets have an airy, minimalist look that keeps compact kitchens feeling open. If you opt for colorful lowers, choose light uppers so the eye travels upwards.


Use lighter shades of color to make walls visually recede, expanding the feel of the space. Deep green walls can feel lush yet still open if you paint the ceiling white.


A vibrant mosaic, mirror, or glass tile backsplash adds depth while reflecting light back into the kitchen. Anchor it with neutral countertops and cabinets so it feels spacious rather than overwhelming.

Countertops and Floors

Dark surfaces close in a room, so opt for lighter countertops and floors. White Quartz counters pair nicely with blonde wood flooring. White cabinets, walls, and backsplashes keep the room ethereal.

Complementary Design Elements

While color has the most visual impact on opening up a compact kitchen, other design elements play pivotal supporting roles:

Proper Lighting

Well-placed lighting brightens up a small kitchen and makes it more functional. Be sure to incorporate task lighting under cabinets and above sinks and stoves. Natural light also expands a space, so opt for large windows, skylights, or French doors where possible.

Visual Tricks

Hang mirrors strategically to reflect light and the illusion of more counter and floor space. Swap out bulky upper cabinets for glass-door uppers to maintain a sense of openness while retaining storage.

Streamlined Appliances

Every inch counts in a small kitchen, so choose sleek, compact appliances that conserve precious space. Avoid bulky, commercial-sized appliances and features that overwhelm the room.

At the end of the day, paint color, lighting, and some clever visual tricks can help maximize the look and feel of a pint-sized kitchen. While you’re limited on actual square footage, the right palette makes the existing space shine.

Stick to light, airy paint colors that reflect light rather than absorb it. Crisp whites and soft pastels are optimal choices for walls, cabinets, ceilings and trimwork. Then infuse personality with pops of deeper accent colors through backsplashes, statement walls, or colorful cabinetry.

A thoughtful, cohesive color scheme, plenty of light, and strategic use of high-gloss and mirrored surfaces are the keys to opening up a small kitchen. With the perfect paint colors and a creative approach, you can enjoy a kitchen that belies its modest square footage.

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