Tips For Updating a Cramped Kitchen Before You List Your Home

by Holly WellesOctober 4, 2018

If you watch any house hunting television shows, you know that people always want large, updated kitchens where family and friends can gather and create memories. It sounds ideal, but what if you’re listing a home with a relatively small, cramped kitchen area? If your kitchen feels tiny and underwhelming, there are always some things you can do to make your kitchen seem roomier and more attractive to potential buyers. Here are 10 tips.

1. Add an Eat-In Area

Eighty-two percent of people state they want an eat-in kitchen in the home they purchase. The cost to install space for an eat-in kitchen runs anywhere from $1000 to $10,000, depending on repair work and how easy it is to expand. A non-supporting wall is easily removed to add space, but if you run into an issue where you have to upgrade supports or move electrical work or heating vents, the cost rises dramatically.

A less expensive option might include adding stools to an existing island or a small, narrow table against a wall.

2. Purchase Smaller Appliances

If your kitchen is already cramped, the last thing you need is oversized appliances that make the space seem even smaller. Instead, opt for a slightly smaller-than-normal refrigerator and oven. Even the footprint of your cabinets makes a difference in the area you have to move around. You can go taller but less deep to create an illusion of more space while still providing enough storage for the average family.

3. Upgrade to Natural Materials

Many homeowners want natural materials in their kitchens, such as granite. Natural granite blends with either modern or traditional decor and is neutral enough to add elegance without being overly dramatic. Not only do they have a sought-after aesthetic quality, but they are also naturally heat-resistant and sanitary.

If you have the time and renovation funds, selecting natural hardwood floors is also a surefire way to up your home’s resale value and create a more appealing kitchen. More cost-effective natural solutions include engineered hardwood or at least some attractive laminate — these can create the desired natural look with the added bonus of affordability and durability.

4. Use Lighter Colors

A DIY paint job is one of the easiest ways to inexpensively open up a cramped kitchen. As any design novice can tell you, using a lighter color paint on the walls makes a room appear larger. Choose a creamy white or light taupe, for example.

Dark colors make a smaller space seem even tighter, and this certainly includes your flooring and cabinets. White cabinets are a classic kitchen design, with the added bonus of being appealing to a wide demographic of potential buyers.

5. Paint Cabinets

There is a type of oak cabinet that is known as builder’s grade cabinets. The color doesn’t go with anything else, and these cabinets scream dated and old. However, replacing cabinets is an expensive endeavor. Fortunately, you can reface or paint your cabinets quite easily. You can either do this yourself or hire a professional. Getting a perfect paint job can be quite a process, so if you’re short on time, you’re better off hiring someone to complete the task. You’ll still spend a fraction of the money you’d spend replacing your cabinets.

6. Get Rid of the Island

Even though an island is a nice feature, if your kitchen is already cramped, doing away with the island opens up the space and makes your kitchen seem larger. You may lose some prep space, but you might be better off in the market if your kitchen appears roomier to the eye.

7. Install New Hardware

Another quick update in your kitchen is installing new hardware for your cabinets. The standard knobs that come with a home are usually boring and plain, but you can add a splash of excitement by switching them out for more modern ones. New hardware offers an instant upgrade without much cost to the home buyer. Just make sure that it matches the other elements in your home. If your door hinges are silver, stay away from brass knobs and vice versa. You want everything to flow and match in your home.

8. Open up the Cabinets

Modernize the look of the space by cutting the front out of some of your cabinets and replacing it with glass or frosted glass. Not only does glass upgrade an uninteresting kitchen, but it gives you a place to show off Grandma’s china or your favorite pieces from your own collection.

9. Add a Backsplash

One of the biggest statements in your kitchen is the backsplash. It can pull all the other elements together and draw the eye so that it’s the first thing people notice upon entering the space. In a small, cramped space, stick with simple patterns and lighter tiles. One idea is to add some metal tiles that sparkle and draw the eye but also reflect light. White subway tiles also look good in a small space but choose the size of the tiles accordingly.

10. Shed Some Light

Light makes any room seem less crowded. Take window treatments off windows and allow the natural light to stream in. If you can afford to install more windows and have a wall where you can, do so. If you can’t add natural light, install more light fixtures to brighten up the space a bit.

Update Your Cramped Kitchen

There are many ways to make your kitchen seem less cramped. In addition to the tips above, simply de-cluttering and getting rid of unnecessary countertop clutter makes a space seem well organized and functional. With a little planning, your small kitchen can feel larger than you ever imagined possible.

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About The Author
Holly Welles
Holly Welles covers real estate and home improvement tips for the uninitiated homeowner. She believes in the value of making the most of any space, which is why she also runs The Estate Update. Catch her on Twitter @HollyAWelles or email her at