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If your kitchen’s too tight for an eat-in area, try to squeeze in a gate-leg (or drop-leaf) table.Sohl/iStockphoto

I’m a believer that good things come in small packages, even kitchens. In fact, tiny kitchens have one big benefit: Their compact footprint requires less of the shiny stuff, from backsplash tiles to cabinet knobs. So, you can splurge on some special finishes without breaking your bottom line.

Place a rolling cart in the centre of the room for a work island that’s flexible and can be moved out of the way – and even restaged as a bar – when entertaining. If your kitchen’s too tight for an eat-in area, try to squeeze in a gate-leg (or drop-leaf) table. IKEA has a version of this space-saving classic that’s a steal and includes a few hidden drawers for storage. Or, add charm with a flea market version. The table hugs the wall when the surface is folded down, but prop it up, add two chairs and you’ve got an instant breakfast nook.

If wall space allows, and your sink isn’t under a window, hang a huge mirror above the sink. It will act as a backsplash and reflect light to create the illusion of extra square feet. Wait, you say. A mirror in the kitchen? Absolutely! Why shouldn’t a kitchen be decorated like the rest of the house? You can go ornate or ultra-simple with the mirror, just go big.

If the sink’s seen better days and the faucet’s nothing special, switch them both out for a refreshed look. If you’re a fan of modern country style, remove the cabinet doors beneath the sink and replace them with a fabric skirt in a favourite print. Of course, painting either just the upper or lower cabinets a different colour is a tried-and-true way to add DIY drama.

I could go on and on, but rather than ramble I’ll leave you with this lightning-round list to keep the inspiration flowing: Remove the doors on one set of uppers and use the shelves as open display; change the cabinet hardware; add a decorative lamp to the counter; invest in a stone counter; upgrade just one appliance; hang oversized pendants over the island if you have one; fill up a wall with a collection of plates, rustic cutting boards or woven baskets; add a colourful rug or runner.

Most of these tips apply whether you’re an owner or a renter, so get creative and give your petite kitchen a big personality.

Need some advice about interior design and decor? Send your questions to personaldesigner@globeandmail.com.

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