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10 Ways to Make Your Kitchen Feel Bigger

For many, a huge kitchen is the stuff daydreams are made of. If only I had an 8-foot kitchen island with a second sink, you sigh dreamily. Food would definitely taste better if you made it in a spacious kitchen with a 10-foot ceiling and sun streaming in enormous windows, right?

But physically increasing your kitchen’s square footage isn’t always an option. Thankfully, as a kitchen and bath designer, I have learned a few tricks along the way to enlarge the look and feel of your kitchen without knocking out any walls.

I can’t guarantee you won’t bump elbows with your significant other anymore, but keep reading and I’ll see what I can do to give you a little more breathing room.

1. Lighten up.

As I wrote back in January in “9 Ways to Make a Small Room Look Bigger,” dark colors almost always make rooms feel smaller. Switch up that maroon or navy for a creamy white, soft warm gray or light gray-blue.  I always recommend using at least a satin finish because it is easier to clean and reflects plenty of light.

white paint to make kitchen feel larger

(Source: 66US)

2. Try different tile.

Put your backsplash to work reflecting light, not just water. Light-colored tile, metallics, or glass tiles can almost serve as mini-mirrors and help increase the light in the room.

reflective tile backsplash to shine and bounce light

(Source: Homebunch)

reflective tile backsplash kitchen

(Source: HGTV)

3. Change your kitchen cabinets.

Deep mahogany is classy for sure, but painting your cabinets off-white can trick the eye into thinking your kitchen is roomier (or match cabinet color with wall paint color so the eye glides smoothly over them). Glass doors instead of wood will open up the space as well. Or remove the cabinet doors altogether for a more open look.

exposed shelving in kitchen

(Source: Pinterest)

4. Maximize your lighting.

If a chandelier or pendant light is too low or large, it can obscure views out the window or of your fellow diners. Make sure your kitchen light is appropriately sized for your kitchen. And if you have dark drapes, by all means, switch them out for lighter, more sheer ones or skip them altogether. (In that case, window film can provide privacy without sacrificing natural light.) Undercabinet lighting can brighten up preparation spaces as well.

5. Get food out of sight.

Storage can be at a premium in tiny kitchens, but a little creativity can maximize your space and get all those spices, oils, and produce off of your counter. Changing cabinet doors to pull-out drawers can give you access to dramatically more space and help you tuck more tupperware out of the way.

Or store your sundries on a thin rolling shelf that hides between your fridge and sink. Magnetized spice holders can get your spices off the counter and onto the fridge, clearing up room for cooking.

pull-out kitchen storage for small kitchen

(Source: Classy Clutter)

creative storage in small kitchen

(Source: One Lucky Pickle)

6. Go for slim furniture.

Look for open table legs, translucent materials, and armless chairs. They reveal more of your space as you scan the room.

see through furniture in tiny kitchen

(Source: BHG)

7. Be strategic with your floor.

High-contrast colors will make your kitchen look smaller, so ditch the bright kitchen rug for one that’s a closer shade to your wood or tile. Try not to break up the visual flow of the floor; long lines and large tiles are better than small grids. (This is true in bathrooms, too — check out my post on making small bathrooms look bigger.)

8. Think upwards.

Vertical space is your secret weapon. Get things off the floors and counters with high shelving, a magnetic knife strip instead of a block on the counter, and pegboards for pots and pans.

small kitchens need vertical storage solutions

(Source: Nest Design Studio)

exposed vertical shelving in kitchen

(Source: Barn Light Electric Company)

9. Downsize your appliances.

Swapping a family-size coffeemaker for a modest french press is one way to save big on space. If your appliances are old and bulky, take the opportunity to upgrade to a sleek, small, European model instead. Or embrace the liberating feeling that comes with decluttering and get rid of an unused kitchen gadget altogether.

european-style appliances for small kitchen

(Source: Tumblr)

10. Make it movable.

Get a cutting board you can place over your sink during meal prep, or create a pull-out cutting board. Consider a rolling cart for your mixing bowls and cookie sheets that can be whisked out of the way.

small kitchen storage with hidden cutting board

(Source: Tumblr)

One last bonus tip: Make your kitchen your own. Little photos and pretty drawer pulls can personalize your cooking space and make you happy to be there, even if it isn’t as palatial as you’d like.

How do you make your kitchen seem bigger? What’d I miss? Let me know in the comments.

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We were recently featured on Houzz with 8 Ways to Bring Summer Fun Indoors!

Houzz Interior Design Tips: Making Your First Ideabook

Last month I wrote about how you can use Pinterest to develop an interior design style. I hope your boards have been helpful in guiding collaboration with an interior designer. This month, I want to talk about how you can use Houzz to refine your design process. This post will help you turn your inspirational Pinterest images into a manageable interior design project.

Like Pinterest, the goal is to get a clear sense of what you like. Houzz interior design lets us be more granular with budget, room size, room style and other design factors. The website allows to be more specific and realistic than you were on Pinterest.

Feel free to use the platforms in tandem – as we’ll advise here – or separately, depending on your affinity for one site or the other. It’s up to you.

The important is making the collaboration process easier for you and your design and remodeling professional. And to have fun.

Here’s how to get started.

Say you’ve found this image on Pinterest:

pinterest image unrealistic bathroom

First of all, it’s a fabulous bathroom. You have great taste.

Unfortunately, you notice, it’s unlikely that you’d be able to apply this design in your home. It doesn’t look like it would work with the shape of your master bathroom. What can you do? Do you move forward anyway, paying thousands of extra dollars to bend your bathtub to your will?

I suggest breaking your inspiration image into components, like you did when you created Boards on Pinterest. You can then take these components and search for them on Houzz. Using the Houzz search tools you can narrow down your choices even further to get results relevant to your specific needs.

So, if I were to break this image into different components, I might list:

  • Black and white tile with contrasting grout
  • Exposed brick tub
  • Glass partial divider

That’s when it’s time to log into Houzz and see what you can find.

A search for “exposed brick tub” in Houzz returns the following results:

houzz results

You’ll notice on the left that you can sort by room, style, location, budget and size. Being as true to your project specifications with help you when you bring in an interior designer.

Let’s say out of the results for “exposed brick tub” and “exposed stone tub” you like these three images.

Image One: A chic industrial shower with a claw foot tub and exposed brick accent wall.

Image Two: Tub lined with stone. Moss rock dry stacked on back wall.

Image Three: Stock trough tub in a bathroom with hardwood floors and exposed brick back wall.

What do you do now?

Next, you’ll want to add your images to an Ideabook. Ideabooks are like Pinterest Boards. Creating and adding to them is just as intuitive once you know where to look. This tutorial on Houzz takes you through the steps of creating your first Ideabook. It’s called Inside Houzz: How to Create and Use Ideabooks.

You may choose to create several Ideabooks for the same room. It can be helpful for an interior designer to look at a single Ideabook on layout, another on colors, etc.

Pinterest and Houzz are similar in a lot of ways. However, some people find the learning curve on Houzz to be steeper than Pinterest or other social media platforms. In many ways, it’s less intuitive. There’s a lot more going on. This makes it a powerful tool, but also a little intimidating.

Don’t be afraid to dig into Houzz’s wide array of tools.

In addition to boasting a massive collection of interior design images, Houzz also offers a user base of 2 million+ professionals who are eager to answer your questions. If you find something you like but aren’t sure what it’s called, where to find it, or how much it costs to install, just ask.

My personal favorite area of Houzz are its long form Ideabook articles. There’s an excellent collection of Ideabooks called Working with Pros. These posts discuss the ins-and-outs about working with interior designers, architects, builders, decorators and other professionals. It can be helpful to read posts about the type of professional you’ll be hiring before you begin a project. They’ll appreciate how knowledgeable you are about their profession, and you’ll be able to fluently talk shop, avoiding misunderstandings. Both of these things lead to an easier, more productive project for all involved.

Whether you decide to use Pinterest, Houzz, or just your personal design intuition to guide an interior design project, you deserve the best in service and results. The process should be one of exciting self-exploration that leads to beautiful results in your home. The tips from these blog posts can help guide you from point A to point B.

Do you prefer to use Houzz or Pinterest to curate an interior design look? Let us know in the comments.

Pinterest Interior Design: Using the Online Tool to Develop Your Style

The best interior design projects are ones that lead you to a greater understanding of your personal style and how to achieve it.

It’s similar to other creative processes. A great personal stylist will not only teach you what shapes and colors look best on you, they’ll also take the time to get to know what makes you unique and how to infuse your personality into everything you put on your body.

Clothing is a public projection of who we are. When we venture outside in a particular outfit, we’re sending a message to the public. Our homes are more private spaces. We have a chance to send more personal, intimate messages about who we are and how we choose to spend our time.

Granting such intimate creative control to a stranger can be intimidating.

By first taking the time to understand your personal style and get specific about what you want, you can help yourself and the designer working with you create a home that’s beautiful and well-organized – a seamless expression of self.

The internet makes it easy to access millions of unique images for any given interior design style. Two tools that some of my clients use to organize these images and get a better sense of their personal style are Houzz and Pinterest.

This post will show you how to use Pinterest to curate a creative ‘brief’ – including fixtures, colors, materials, and furniture you like – to help guide your interior designer. In a future post, I’ll provide instructions on replicating this explorative process using Houzz. This process is only two steps (with an optional third step), and will take you between 2 – 3 hours.

The most important part of this process is that it’s supposed to be fun. Grab a glass of wine, put on some of your favorite upbeat music, and log in to Pinterest.

pinterest interior design work station web

Step 1: Look Around

You’re loosened up – wine in hand, Beyonce crooning in your headphones. You have Pinterest open. Now what?

You’re on a hunt for images that look like home. You’re scouting for photos that make your heart beat a little faster. That plant! Those pendant lights! That sink!

Now is not the time to think about budget, size constraints, or other logistics. You can work with the designer to figure those things out later. For this process, tuck your inner critic away and dream big.

A few things to think about…

If you’ve never signed into Pinterest, this video tutorial about getting around the website may help you get started.

If you have an existing Pinterest interior design board, you can work from those or create a new board or set of boards specifically for your interior design project. At this point, you want to be collecting as many images as you can. Having a large set of images will be helpful in future steps. There are two great places to look for pins that are similar to images you’ve already pinned: the Also on These Boards and Related Pins sections.

To access these sections, first click into a pin that you like, and scroll down. You’ll see the Also on These Boards section first, and the Related Pins section after that.

getting around pinerest

Time: 1 hour – 1 hour and 30 minutes

Step 2: Get Organized

Once you’ve spent an hour or two collecting all of your favorite images into a single board, you’ll want to organize them. Turn your critical thinking skills back on and take a look over the images you’ve collected. How might you group them?

You may notice that a specific pattern or color palette emerges. Make these into their own boards. Maybe a type of furniture – like a love seat – appears in many of your images. Group these into their own board as well.

Other ways to group images include:

  • By mood or style (cozy, dramatic, minimal, stark)
  • By material (copper, wood, lucite)
  • By a unique feature (skylight, tall ceiling, textured wall paper, light fixture)
  • By texture (smooth, matte, patterned, fur, antiqued leather)
  • By fixture (mason jar pendant lights, chrome faucet handles)

Look through your set of images, pick a few groups that you think capture the components of the room that make the interiors so lovely to you, and start making boards. Repin the images from your large group of photos into these smaller, curated boards.

Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour

using pinterest interior design

Step 3: Find More of What You Love (Optional)

When you see the patterns in your aesthetic and have organized them into boards, you can refine your Pinterest search to look for more of what you love.

This is especially helpful for boards that are a little sparse. Giving your interior designer lots of options will help them find something that will suit your space and budget. Don’t be afraid to go a bit overboard. It’s their job to help you pare down your vision into the best thing for your space.

Time: 30 minutes

Let us know if you’ve used this process or something similar to prepare for working with an interior designer. We’d love to hear your experience in the comments.

Making Small Bathrooms Look Bigger

As a bathroom designer, I strive to give my clients the feeling that they have large spacious bathrooms even if they actually don’t.

Even with small square footage, a bathroom can feel bright and open. You can have that sense of rejuvenation and finally breathe a sigh of relief. Aaaah…

If your tiny bathroom is giving you more of an AAAARGH! feeling, this post is definitely for you.

(For those of you who have the perfect bathroom, but are hurting for space in other rooms of the house, you can skip this post and go read 9 Ways to Make a Small Room Look Bigger.)

A skilled designer looks at a small bathroom and sees infinite possibilities for making it look larger. If you’re not a designer, knowing where to start can be overwhelming.

I’ve listed 22 ways to make your small bathroom look better below. Of course, everyone’s bathroom (and tastes) are different. That’s why I suggest you pick 2 suggestions from each category (Floor, Walls, Ceiling, Details). Just implementing 4 – 8 of these 22 tips can make a huge difference in your small bathroom.

I’ve also included a little gift for you to help organize your project. Scroll to the bottom for this free download.

Before you start, there are 2 things you will need to think about before you begin.

First, size up the spot. How small is your bathroom really? Take measurements of the square footage, the shower size, the ceiling height. Also note how much space your current fixtures, cabinets, etc. are taking up.

Second, understand how you’ll be using your bathroom. The way you decorate your guest bathroom will be different than the way you decorate your master bathroom. Getting clear on these lifestyle decisions before you move forward is really important.

  • How much time do people spend in this bathroom? Is it an in-and-out spot or the place where long, contemplative bubble baths happen regularly?
  • Who is using this bathroom? Is it primarily for you and your partner? For guests? This will impact how decorative or simple it is, as well as how much storage you’ll need.

Are you clear on those? Ok! Onto the checklist…


Tip #1: Mind your tile lines. The eye naturally follows lines. This is why vertical stripes make us look thinner. Use this to your advantage by arranging tiles in lines perpendicular to the longest lines in your bathroom. For example, if your bathroom is narrow from side to side, have your lines move from you to the back wall rather than from side to side. This will increase the visual width where you need it.

Tip #2: Mind your grout. I always recommend using grout that is the same color as your tiles, whether they are large or small. The exception would be to use a light grey or white grout with multicolored glass or stone mosaics. The neutral grout compliments and punctuates multiple colors nicely. Also, using large format tiles in a small space actually make it appear larger because there are less grout joints, therefore reducing the lines that appear across the floor.

Tip #3: Keep tiling consistent throughout the space. Tile the shower floor and the threshold (curb) in the same color as the bathroom floor. Or if you are using a pre-fabricated pan, choose a color closest to the floor. I use Swanstone pans a lot because they are affordable and come in a variety of colors. Avoid using a different color tile for the shower floor because it will break up the space, making the room look smaller.

consistent tiling in a small bathroom

(Image Source: 4 Home Interior)

Tip #4: Don’t compartmentalize. As hinted in the tip above, open spaces look considerably larger than ‘broken’ ones. Try to avoid distinguishing different sections of your bathroom with different tiling or other partitions. Also, I highly recommend that you add interest and texture by using the same color or color family, but different shapes and sizes.


Tip #5: Install towel racks or hooks. Using wall space to store towels will help you preserve scarce cabinet, shelf, and counter space. For very small bathrooms, hooks on the back of the door or a towel bar on your glass shower door are great space saving solutions.

Tip #6: Install a medicine cabinet. Similarly to installing towel racks, medicine cabinets help you utilize wall space for little odds and ends that would otherwise make the bathroom seem cluttered. If you can recess these into the wall, even better.

Tip #7: Build recessed cubbies or larger shelves. Small recessed cubbies can look particularly elegant when done right. Built-in cubbies and shelves adjacent to the sink are a great option when counter space isn’t available.

Tip #8: Try a high drama statement wall. To create visual intrigue, choose a wall in your bathroom to make a statement. You can use tile, an accent paint color, wallpaper or even hang your favorite collection for a personal touch. Just be sure the color scheme and style fits in with the bathroom overall.

Tip #9: Use large mirrors. In small rooms, big mirrors are best. If you can, get a mirror that goes to the ceiling installed behind your sink. This helps the ceilings look higher while expanding the square footage. Installing sconces in the vanity mirror instead of in the wall on either side of the mirror will bounce light around the room, doubling the amount of available light.

bathroom with large mirrors

(Image Source: Pinterest)

Tip #10: Incorporate vertical stripes into the tiling or wallpaper. This tip is especially important for bathrooms with low or sloping ceilings. Vertical striped walls helps ceilings look higher, making the room seem more expansive.

Tip #11: Match your walls to your tiles. Rooms in a uniform color appear larger. As much as you are able, be consistent in the colors you chose to cover large portions of the bathroom.

Tip #12: Splurge for glass tiles. If your bathroom is dingy, glass elements like mirrors and tiles can help pick up light. If you have the opportunity to use glass tiles – either in decorative clusters or as part of a statement wall – do it. It will make the room sparkle.


Tip #13: Get light into the bath. Installing a recessed can light above your shower/tub will help it feel less closed off from the rest of the bathroom and may help you wake up quicker if you shower in the morning.

Tip #14: Install a skylight. If your bathroom is on the top floor of your home, consider installing a skylight over the sink or bath. The extra light will help the room feel more open. If a skylight isn’t an option, install windows where you can to benefit from natural light. Windows with frosted glass give you the privacy you need while still letting in natural light.

Tip #15: Paint the ceiling the color of the walls. Are you noticing a trend here? Painting the ceiling a different color, especially a dark color, will make it look low. Painting it white will stop your eye right at the ceiling line, also making the bathroom feel small. When the eye can travel effortlessly, your space will expand visually.


Tip #16: Prioritize storage. Clutter will make your room smaller because it takes up space both physically and visually. For this reason, an organized bathroom looks best. If you want to make your bathroom look larger, implementing all of the points in this section will also be helpful.

prioritize storage small bathroom

(Image source: WeHome.us)

Tip #17: Use a combination of open shelves and closed doors. Closed cabinets are a necessity in the bathroom, especially bathrooms that guests frequently visit. No one wants to keep their toiletries out in the open.

But too many closed cabinets can overwhelm a space, making it look smaller. To combat this, choose cabinets with a combination of open shelves and closed doors. Keep doored cabinets closer to the floor with open shelves higher up.

Tip #18: Choose narrow shelving units. If you’ve ever wanted to try those cute ladder shelves, this is the place for it. Narrow shelves are a good way to build in extra storage space without taking up much room.

Bonus Tips

(If you’re committed to making your bathroom look larger, you can’t afford to miss these.)

Tip #19: Use glass for your shelves. There is definite visual intrigue with glass because it is see-through and reflective at the same time. Glass shelves make otherwise bulky units look airy, contributing to the openness of your bathroom.

Tip #20: Install a corner unit. If your small bathroom happens to have an awkward shape, installing a corner unit like a toilet or sink with a corner cabinet above can help you get the most out of your available space.

Tip #21: Don’t swing, slide. Doors that swing inward cut into floor space. Install a pocket door at the entrance to your bathroom and you will be amazed at how much visual space you will gain. Sliding doors are also great to install on hard to reach cabinets adjacent to toilets and tubs.

pocket door small bathroom

(Image Source: Acanthus & Acorn)

Tip #22: Lose your shower curtain. Replace your shower curtain with a clear glass door. Taking the glass almost all the way to the ceiling also helps make the ceiling look higher.

Are you ready to tackle your small bathroom project? Download this free PDF, The Small Bathroom Audit & Project Checklist, for a small bathroom checklist and space for organizing your project notes.

Have you remodeled your bathroom to make it look larger? What were the results? Let us know in the comments.

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0112 Southwest Hamilton Street Portland, OR 97239 | (503) 726-2222