Tiny kitchens and bathrooms can leave homeowners sighing with envy over photos in magazines of large spaces filled with light and acres of tile. Thoughts of renovation may occur, but before knocking out a wall, give some thought to these simple and inexpensive ideas that can make a small space feel larger.

Whether you are getting ready to sell or settling in, here are a few ideas to get you started.


Marie Kondo and all that aside, this is the first big step to making your space feel larger. (It is also, according to Kelly Hartshorn of Staging Spaces, the big first step when getting your home ready to show and sell.) There are a few ways to tackle this, but the ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of stuff in the space. Here are a couple of easy methods to try in your kitchen or bathroom.

Five Box Method

Get three boxes. Label one “Put Away,” the second “Give Away/Sell,” and a third, “Storage.” The fourth and fifth boxes are your trash and recycle bins. Take all of these boxes into the kitchen or bathroom and get to work.

In the bathroom, out-of-date items can simply go in the trash, although prescription and other medications should be taken to specific drop-off locations. Frayed or stained towels can be recycled as rags or pet towels. Unused, never-opened cosmetics or toiletries? Consider donating to a domestic violence or homeless shelter. A dusty bouquet on a top shelf? Out.

In the kitchen, take a hard look at that ice-cream maker you haven’t used since receiving it as a birthday present six years and prepare to let it go.  The same is true of the other assorted gadgets that seemed so handy but never actually used. If you find that you are only shifting them around in order to find your favorite wooden spoon or paring knife, then it is time to send them off to find their forever home. Containers without matching lids? Out. Outdated spices? Out. Focus on the things you use regularly and ditch the rest.

Box and Boot

Anyone who has ever moved to a new house and finds a few forgotten boxes hidden in the back of a closet years later already knows a little something about this method. While it is a bit more extreme than the Five Boxes, it definitely works. Put those items you don’t use regularly in the box, label and date it, and put it away in the garage or basement. If you don’t come hunting for it in the next year, chances are good it’s clutter and can go.


Now that the clutter is gone, give the space a thorough cleaning. A clean and tidy space looks brighter and bigger, and you will also get a better feeling for what you might like to do next. Ask yourself these questions:

        How does traffic flow through this space? Are there cramped spots where doors can’t open all the way? What happens if one person is working in the kitchen and another wants a drink of water?

        Is there enough storage or counter space? Where is it lacking and what would I do with it if I had it?

        How much time do we spend in these places and when? Would we like to spend more time here, i.e. eating in the kitchen versus a more formal dining room?

        How is the light? Are there dark patches or corners? Is it possible to bring in more natural light?

        Are there places where moisture is a problem or more ventilation is needed?


Brighter and lighter spaces look bigger and trying to take advantage of that in a small bathroom or kitchen can make a world of difference. Try painting the wall and ceilings the same light color to make the rooms feel double in size. Multiple colors make a room feel segmented and smaller. Similarly, light-colored flooring adds to the impression of a large, bright space. Use sheer window coverings to maximize natural light and install additional lights – flush mount or ceiling fixtures – to increase the amount of light available.

In the bathroom, consider a frameless shower stall with clear glass. Frosted and framed glass segments the room and instantly makes it feel smaller. Similarly, in a kitchen, consider leaving doors off of cupboards for an open, expansive feel.


For bathrooms and kitchens alike install pocket or sliding doors to avoid accommodating one that swings open or folds into the room. Attach holders to the back of cabinet doors for cleaning supplies or spices and hooks for measuring cups and spoons.

In the bathroom, try a pedestal sink. It will open up the space, and it is easy to find little shelves to hold daily use items near the sink or get a medicine cabinet that sits flush with the wall. Most people like bathroom storage that has a door, but if a door is tricky, consider a curtain or containers with lids that look nice but still keep some things private.

Aim for furniture, such as rolling islands, that add counter and storage space. Consider covers for your stove and sink that quickly convert these locations into work or display space. (They also make a handy way to hide dirty dishes when company comes over or just before a showing, too!)

Lift and Tuck

In a small space, the trick is to draw the eye up and give an impression of elbow room. Place curtain and shower rods as close to the ceiling as possible to give an impression of vertical height. Take a cue from Julia Child and make good use of the vertical space available with a peg board for kitchen items used on a regular basis. Once the drawers are decluttered, consider using them for things like spices, pasta, or other dry goods that don’t necessarily need to go on a shelf or countertop.

Whether you are settling in to your new home or getting ready to sell your house, there are plenty of easy ways to make small spaces feel large and take advantage of the space you do have. Have more ideas? Let us know!

All Photos by wee bird