small kitchen ideas nz

Top 16 Design Ideas for Small Kitchen design NZ Guideline

This guide has been republished to include 7 additional small kitchen design ideas for New Zealand homeowners and to reflect the trends of 2022.

Let’s face it – no one wants to feel claustrophobic when cooking. This can become a problem especially in small apartment and homes where space can become a real problem. Due to lack of space, being in your kitchen can become a stressful experience. But this can be easily combated if the space is used efficiently. 

Planning is key when it comes to small kitchen design in NZ. The cost for basic things like labour and project management will still remain the same as you still have to bring trades in like installers, electricians, plumbers, tilers, painters etc. However, you will save on materials as there will be lesser cabinets, lesser tiles and other raw materials to work with.

Innovation is also important when thinking about planning a small space design ideas in NZ. Look for innovative ideas within the space for storage and work areas. An example would to make hidden storage cabinets that can be integrated into your living space. These closed cabinets will allow you to store appliances and at the same time will not make your space look bulky.

You can also custom build cabinets which can finish at the ceilings. Keep less used appliances on the top shelves and incorporate an aesthetically pleasing ladder in your decor which can be used to access appliances on the top shelves.

Kitchen things (our preferred supplier for appliances) has products from various top brands which primarily makes appliances especially catered for small spaces. These appliances can be dismantled and stored in a cabinet without taking any counter space.

1. Play around with your Colours 

Did you know that some colours have a tendency to make a space feel tiny and narrow while some are perfect for creating an illusion of added space? We recommend clients to use more neutral colours to make their space look larger. Use Dulux’s Mason Bay Quater WN27 or Epsom VW C100 as the main palette for your kitchen in order to open up your space. 

However, using neutral or shades of white does not mean that your kitchen has to look dull or boring. Choose a colourful or textured splashback to draw attention and create interest. The colour of your cabinets can also be a few shades darker to create some contrast. Use colourful knobs and tapware to add some colour in the space.

2. Lighting is important

Natural lighting is the best lighting you can have in your kitchen. You can maximise natural lighting by having large vertical windows to create a sense of height or add skylights to heighten the ceiling (and get extra space for more kitchen cabinets).  If this however is not possible then there are still ways of incorporating lighting into your kitchen design.

5  Small kitchens ideas

  • Lights that are close to your ceiling: Consider installing chandeliers or lights that are close to the ceiling. Avoid low hanging chandeliers as they will make your kitchen look cumbersome. Having close to ceiling lighting will also let you skip any wall lighting fixtures. These walls can be better used for shelving.
  • Recessed Lighting: Recessed lighting is a great option to light up an area without infringing into your kitchen space.
  • Pendant Lighting: Pendant lighting is a lone lighting fixture suspended by a chord or metal chain. This is a variation to a chandelier and is less space consuming. You can either use a series of pendant lights or just one depending on your space. Pendant lighting also creates a lot of drama and adds character to any kitchen space.
  • LED strip lights underneath cabinets: Install LED strip lights underneath your cabinets and cabinet handles save on space as well as enhance the mood of your kitchen. Most of these LED lights can be dimmed which can also act as a mood enhancer.
  • Flush mount Lighting: Most houses in Auckland feature flush mount lighting. They are great as there come in many styles and save a lot of space.


DSC07317-1000, Kitchen Renovation, Bathroom Renovation, House Renovation AucklandLED lighting below cabinets DSC07535-1024x682, Kitchen Renovation, Bathroom Renovation, House Renovation AucklandPendant Lighting DSC07532-1024x682, Kitchen Renovation, Bathroom Renovation, House Renovation AucklandPendant Lighting
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Above are examples of lighting that can be incorporated into your kitchen design

3. Choose your appliances wisely

Purchasing appliances for your kitchen is not an easy task – and its get more difficult if your kitchen space is tiny. However, one of the best kitchen design ideas NZ is to use smarter products that are emerging and are in the perfect form and function.

Choose  kitchen appliances and furniture that are specifically designed for tiny spaces. There are many options for kitchen appliances which are flexible, versatile and efficient regardless of your small space. Bosch and Kitchen Things specifically make appliances that are designed for small kitchens. For example think about appliances that can be dismantled and put into a drawer rather than ones that take up counter space. 

An example would be a hand held mixer or grinder that can be put back into a drawer rather than a bulky mixer and grinder. Also think of multi functional appliances which can do several tasks rather than just one specific task. These smart and innovative appliances often have several functions like being able to mix, grid, whisk etc.

4. Become a Shelving master

Renovating or designing a compact kitchen space nowadays requires planning and researching for appropriate solutions. A lot of interior designers will agree that the best kitchen design ideas need proper organisation – which is why shelves are important.

Floating Shelves

You can use floating shelves as an easy and inexpensive way to add much-needed extra storage for your kitchen. They can be great for spices, cups, tea and coffee pots while adding a personal touch to your kitchen design. If you are completely redoing your kitchen then incorporate floating shelves within your kitchen design to match other cabinets. These floating shelves can also be added in your dining area. You can buy colourful mugs, plates, and kitchen accessories to give your space some character as well as using it for storage. 

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Full Kitchen renovation in Mangere Bridge – Floating shelves add a focal point as well as storage for the kitchen

Drawers and Pantry Shelves

Shelves within your drawers can make organisation and storage much easier. Think of incorporating shelving within the drawers to store cutlery. Another emerging trend has been to create storage pull out shelves within a pantry. This allows you to keep the pantry looking sleek and uncluttered. This kind of a storage pantry can also be built within your other living areas and does not have to be in the immediate vicinity of the kitchen.

5. Kitchen storage

Storage is of paramount importance in any kitchen, but particularly a small one. One obvious way to maximise storage space is to have wall units running above your base units, effectively doubling your kitchen storage potential.


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Storage solution for our clients in Auckland


5 ways to maximise storage in small kitchens

  • Open shelves till the ceiling: You could also look to have some open shelving, which, as well as being practical, will help give your kitchen a more open feel.
  • Magic corners: Magic corners are great for corner cabinets which are awkward and the space in the corners is often wasted. Magic corners feature pull out trolley like drawers which let you utilise that corner space.  We often work with products from Blum which are very innovative in storage solutions for small kitchens.
  • Islands that double as a storage solution: More storage the better for most people. Your breakfast island is another great place which can double as a storage space within your kitchen design. Breakfast islands can be custom built to have storage cabinets and drawers to further increase storage space.
  • Cabinets with storage shelves: As discussed above, building organisational shelves within the cabinets can make your darwers uncluttered as well as have a dedicated space for items. Pantry storage drawers are also becoming popular for organisation and saving space.
  • Hooks for Pots and Pans: A hanger for pots and pans or utensils can be another great way to store items that would otherwise take up space in your cupboard. A style tip would be to buy cubs and utensils which are colourful and vibrant.

6. Islands that double as storage and dining

Whether you have a small or large kitchen, islands have becoming a great addition to any kitchen design. This is because islands are very versatile and can be used as a counter top for preparation, as a dining solution and for storage.

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Kitchen renovation in Blockhouse Bay – This island provides plenty of storage cabinets as well as counter space


Our renovation showroom with a kitchen display – A case study in maximising storage including the island

We have recently opened a renovation showroom in Auckland due to popular demand by our clients. This is really to show the quality of our renovated kitchens as well as bathrooms. If you see below, you will see a great example of our modern kitchen design that showcases an island which has storage on both sides of the kitchen island.

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Our renovation showroom in Wairau Valley, Auckland. This is a great example of a modern and sleek kitchen which has storage on both sides of the kitchen island.

When you look at the kitchen island above, you will see a seamless design where it seems like there are no cabinets or drawers. In reality however, the part of the island that is facing the corridor has 2 double storage cabinets and a single storage cabinet. The part of the island that faces the kitchen has 2 pull out condiment cabinets, 2 double drawers with a hidden drawer inside. The hidden drawer is created so that from the outside it has a seamless look.




Read: Which layout is better for your Kitchen?

People often think that islands cannot be incorporated within a small kitchen design. This however is far from the truth. Small kitchens are often found in an open plan living setting. They could either consist of one wall with a couple of counter tops, cooking range and a dishwasher. If you are doing kitchen makeover then think about ‘breaking’ the kitchen from the living room by installing a small breakfast bar in the middle. You can eliminate the dining area all together and use the breakfast bar as a space where you can eat your meals and also use as a counter top.

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Kitchen renovation in Greenlane – The island doubles as a dining area, has a sink and counter space for prep and storage on the other side in form of cabinets

If you do have a small kitchen which is not in an open plan settling then consider breaking the wall between your living and kitchen to open up the area. You will be amazed how spacious your kitchen will feel when you make it into an open plan kitchen.

For further ideas for great storage solutions check out the following projects

7.Hideaway kitchens

Another emerging trend for best kitchen design ideas is a concept that has been quite popular over the past few years – the concept of hideaway kitchens.

Essentially, these are small kitchen spaces which are separated by a drawer – and ones which become “invisible” on demand. With a kitchen like this, you can easily hide your kitchen mess and transform a living room with kitchen to a full living room in a matter of seconds.

8. Small kitchen layouts

Small kitchen ideas are plenty but before anything begins you will have to think about the layout. Layout has a huge impact on how easy your kitchen is to cook in, and how pleasant it is be in. Whether you’re starting from scratch or adapting a current space, think about how you use your kitchen and what tasks you do most. Don’t just think about putting breakfast together and cooking dinner every night, but be more specific.

If you personal preference is an L shaped kitchen but if it makes your space look congested then opt for putting your kitchen counters on one side only. Instead, think about putting in a small breakfast inland that can provide counter space and double as a dining space. If your kitchen is closed off then consider breaking the wall that divides the kitchen from the rest of the living space. Open plan kitchens often make the space look larger and provides more of a cohesive living space.

9. Use Larger Tiles for your Kitchen floors

Contrary to popular belief, larger tiles actually make a space look larger. If you are using tiles for your kitchen floors then consider using 900 by 600 or 600 by 600 dimension tiles are they will make your floor look space look larger. This is owing to the fact that there will be lesser ‘breaks’ due to lesser number of grout lines. If you want to know more about large kitchen tiles and how they can give an illusion of space them read our Q&A article with Tile depot. 


Further Kitchen Design ideas for Small kitchens by our designers

10. Replace kitchen cabinets with drawers  

Normal cupboards do not effectively store your appliances and utensils. They are also inconvenient as things stored at the back of the cupboard are often hard to reach. Instead, try and install drawers that can be pulled out. When you install a drawer that pulls out, you can easily see all the contents and be able to organise your kitchen a lot better.


Read: Guide on designing Classic, Traditional, Contemporary, Modern, Cottage and Industrial Kitchens in Auckland


11. Be Mindful of the texture of your cabinets, and Add Mirrors

Having a small kitchen often means that you must choose materials that will not make your kitchen look smaller than it is. Shiny and smooth surfaces will reflect the light within your kitchen which will make your kitchen look larger. Most small kitchens do work well in a modern style due to its minimalistic look but if that is not the look you want then just remember not to make your materials too ornate and dark as they will make your kitchen appear smaller.

If you like modern and contemporary styles, then you can also use glass as a splashback which will create an illusion of space. If you are not going for a modern and contemporary style, then think about adding a mirror on the wall which is suited to the style that you are designing your kitchen after. An example is a framed large horizontal mirror with a simple white frame for a classic kitchen

Choose a no-handle set up for your drawers and cabinets if you are designing your kitchen in a modern or contemporary style. If you are going for a traditional, country, classic or cottage style kitchen then choose small matte knobs instead of bulky handles.


12. Rolling Kitchen Carts and Tall dining table

There is often a lack of counterspace in small kitchens. Think of creative ways to add counterspace for your small kitchen which work well for your layout. One way is to get a rolling kitchen cart that you can use as an additional counter for prep and store things. When not in use you can either remove it from your kitchen space or fold it up and store it away. Another way is to have tall dining table which you can also use as a prep counter while standing. Add some bar stools to the dining table to elevate the design of your space.


13. Think about your Wall Patters and Feature walls as a design element

It is not very easy to add design elements in a small kitchen as the cabinets are streamlines and there is not a lot of room to add decorations. You can however add character to your tiny kitchen by adding a feature wall. Avoid putting paintings or decorative items on the walls as this can make your small kitchen feel closed in. You can however draw attention to the wall by installing bright coloured tiles or painting your wall in a contrasting colour to the rest of your kitchen. You can also add tiles which are textured to add an additional dimension to your kitchen.


14. Bring in Nature into your small bathroom

Incorporating natural elements within your kitchen design can add the much-needed warmth to your kitchen. Larger kitchens have the freedom a mix of materials like wood, and stone but with small kitchens it is often hard to have too many wooden elements without making it look closed in. Hence think about living plants that can be added to the corners of your cabinets.

You can also add plant creepers that start from the top and fall on parts of your cabinets. If you do want to add wood, then you can add tiles to your feature wall that look and feel like wood. Woodgrain tiles are often found in kitchens these days as they have the texture and look of wood but are easy to clean with a mop. If you are using woodgrain tiles on the walls then opt for a lighter colour instead of a dark colour.

Read: 15 Top Kitchen design trends and 10 trends to avoid in 2021

15. Paint your Kitchen cupboards the same colour as your walls

Matching the colour of your cabinets with the walls allows you to create a kitchen which feels airy and spacious. To spruce up the design of a neutral kitchen you can add a coloured feature wall, contrasting lighting fixtures and cupboard handles.

16. Install a Large Sink

Installing a large sink in a small kitchen can be very handy especially if you do not have a dishwasher. A large sink allows you to conveniently wash dishes as well as put the unwashed dishes out of sight while cooking and not clutter your counter space.

Featured Kitchen Renovations for small spaces (Small kitchen ideas) 

Urban Luxury Kitchen renovation in Parnell

This townhouse was centrally located in Parnell but the kitchen was tiny and lacked counter space. We completely changed the layout of this kitchen by first moving it from the left side of the area to the right. We then added cabinets in the dining area as an extended storage space. This cabinet featured shelves with internal lights which could be opened when required. To see Before and After pictures and project specifications see more

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Compact Kitchen in Greenlane

Joanna and Steve wanted to renovate this house to make it more modern as this was an older house. Their kitchen was closed off and so we broke down a wall to make it an open plan living space. There was a constraint in space and hence we created a breakfast bar that could add further storage, provide more counter space, and double as a breakfast bar see more


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Further Resources for your house interior design

  1. For kitchens with great storage solutions read the following project specs
  1. Ideas for Kitchen renovations in our kitchen renovation gallery for kitchens we have renovated in Auckland
  2. Featured projects and Client stories to see specifications on some of the projects.
  3. Real client stories from Auckland

Need more information?

Take advantage of our FREE Complete Home Renovation Guide (48 pages), whether you’re already renovating or in the process of deciding to renovate, it’s not an easy process, this guide which includes a free 100+ point check list – will help you avoid costly mistakes.

Download Free Renovation Guide (PDF)


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