Create Space with Light Colors
“The three main design components that determine how spacious a room feels are color, lighting, and the contents of the room,” says Dave Lincon, Director of Product Management and Business Development at Sears Home Services. The easiest quick fix, particularly if you're not ready to cut back on your cookware collection or install additional lighting, is repainting. Walls that are dark and bold can make a kitchen feel crowded (or cozy), while, conversely, lighter hues offer an airy feel. Create a sense of openness with antique whites, off-whites, creams, light yellows, or pale shades of gray.
Avoid Strong Visual Contrast
Once you pick a light color, commit to it. To liven things up, some homeowners make the mistake of incorporating an accent wall—one strong, bold-hued wall in an otherwise light-toned kitchen. "In a large kitchen, that can work,” says Lincon. “But in a small kitchen, strong visual contrast creates a feeling of segmentation and restriction." A better way to add a little optical oomph into an otherwise monotone kitchen is to play with the extras. “Keep all the walls light and bright,” advises Joe Maykut, the Project Manager for Sears Home Services' Kitchen, Bath, Countertop, and Cabinet division. “Then, introduce color into your kitchen in small, nonpermanent ways—through colorful window treatments, tea towels, or accessories like canister sets.”
Add Accent Lighting
“The human eye is naturally drawn to the highest contrasting point in a room,” Lincon explains, “and in a kitchen, that’s usually the top of the cabinets.” When shadows create a strong visual line between the cabinets and the ceiling, the kitchen can feel as cramped as it would with a high-contrast accent wall. You can erase or soften those shadows by installing uplighting above the cabinets. It casts a gentle illumination that eases the visual contrast created by shadows and as a result makes the whole room feel more open. Lighting installed beneath upper cabinets and directed onto the countertop works in a similar way: “The light will fill in the shadows under the cabinet and reduce the contrast, giving the impression of a larger kitchen,” Lincon says.
To best address a kitchen's unique set of shadows, Sears Home Services representatives visit customers in their own homes to help them select the most suitable types of lighting.
Heighten Spaciousness with Cabinets
Considering new cabinets? Opt for taller-than-standard upper cabinets, which "raise your eye level and make the ceiling feel higher,” Maykut says. If you need more inducement, let's not forget that taller cabinets mean more storage, something that's often at a premium in compact kitchens.
To make the decision as easy as possible, Sears Home Services allows homeowners to compare a host of cabinet door styles and veneer samples right in the space. Key points to remember: Keep the color of the cabinets light (like the walls) and avoid intricate door designs, which can be too busy for a small kitchen. Flat-front door styles tend to best complement a kitchen's clean lines. Keep cabinet hardware simple as well: Opt for concealed hinges, low-profile bar pulls, or recessed grooves in cabinet doors rather than large, ornate knobs and pulls.
Find a Place for Everything
When they're left out on the countertop, cookbooks, spices, and small appliances eat up valuable work space and draw attention to a kitchen's insufficient size. If you're thinking about new cabinets, consider the host of customizable solutions offered by Sears Home Services. Aside from taller upper cabinets, options like concealed storage racks and pull-out or swing-out shelves maximize storage space behind tidily closed doors. Remember: The less cluttered the kitchen, the larger it will feel.
Opt for Glass-Front Cabinet Doors
Replacing solid cabinet doors with glass-front doors can add visual depth, tricking the eye into thinking the kitchen is more spacious than it really is. Your gaze is drawn into the cabinet rather than stopped at the door, which creates the illusion of space. If you're considering glass panes, go with white or light woodwork to maximize their effect. “Glass-front doors offer a feeling of space when installed on light-colored cabinets, but they’re not very effective on dark cabinets,” Lincon says.
Glass-front doors don't necessarily have to show off your jumble of mugs or every mismatched plate that you own. Sears Home Services customers who don't want their cabinets' contents on display have the option to choose opaque glass, which helps conceal what's inside. Even opaque glass, however, reflects light, which brightens the kitchen overall.
Choose Reflective Materials
Shiny surfaces can bounce light and ultimately make any kitchen feel larger. “It has a lot to do with the way shiny surfaces pick up and reflect the hues of the walls and cabinets,” Lincon says. For example, if you have antique white cabinets, the sheen of stainless steel appliances will reflect some of this off-white hue and amplify the space-enhancing effects of your choice in cabinet color.
“Another great way to add reflectivity to your kitchen is to install a glass tile backsplash,” Lincon says. Paired with undercabinet lighting and a new reflective countertop like polished quartz, it “creates a wonderfully open transition between the countertop and the upper cabinets,” he explains.
Open Up Floor Space
A small kitchen table—or at least one with leaves that can be folded down between meals—will give you more floor space to maneuver in the kitchen. The same goes for other space-devouring items, such as a freestanding kitchen island or china cabinet. By choosing downsized models, you will increase space for foot traffic and meal prep. These items are much easier to downsize than, for instance, your kitchen appliances, Maykut says. Major appliances (stoves, refrigerators, and dishwashers) come in standard sizes, and smaller, apartment-size models don’t always fit well in cabinet configurations and may not be suitable for the needs of a large family.
Let In Natural Light
The view from a kitchen window should make the outdoors—be it a deck where you entertain or a large, lush backyard—seem like an extension of the kitchen. Swap out heavy draperies and blinds for sheer curtains or simply a valance, and leave the rest of the window uncovered. The additional natural light will not only visually expand the space, but will also help instill that coveted airiness.
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