Smaller kitchens present their own distinct set of challenges. Storage, always an issue to begin with, becomes more crucial than ever. Making the space work for cooking and entertaining can prove tricky. And allowing natural light into a small kitchen tends to be difficult, especially in apartments and row houses.

So how do smart architects, like those featured in the accompanying slideshow, handle these situations? They create built-in storage wherever they can—under staircases and countertops, inside islands and overlooked nooks, atop slim refrigerators and drawer dishwashers. They design in flexibility: Islands serve as dining tables and prep surfaces, movable items let owners change things around to accommodate different situations, and kitchens moonlight as home offices and laundry rooms.

Opening up the kitchen to other spaces brings in light, and reflective or translucent surfaces help keep it there. High ceilings and pared-down materials palettes, two time-honored ways of making a small room feel larger, work particularly well in a kitchen. And thoughtful ceiling or floor treatments, as well as minor level changes, can effectively separate the kitchen from a living or dining area without cutting it off from those spaces.

See our featured projects for outstanding examples of these small-kitchen strategies.