Customized design details for small dessert shop

Wondering how you can make the modest square footage of your small shop or restaurant work for you? Far from limiting what you can do, a small space can actually make you think creatively and end up working to your advantage. Yes, a small space can be a challenge, but it’s not a reason to compromise on style or functionality. Leaving a lasting impression on customers has less to do with square footage, and more to do with how you use it. So how can you make a big impact in a limited space? Below, we put together a few key tips and techniques to maximize space in small restaurants or shops.

Small cafe design with well-defined functional areas

The 20 Boba Tea shop, La Jolla, California, by Mindful Design Consulting

Prioritize Space Planning

First, you need to acknowledge the problem. You may have had other dreams for your space, but they may just not work for you. Instead, make effective space planning your number one priority. Start by analyzing your floor plan and identifying the primary functional areas, such as seating or display areas, service counters and storage. By delineating these zones, you create a sense of purpose and organization, ensuring that each area serves its intended function without encroaching on others. 

Consider the flow of movement and ensure there is ample space for customers and staff to navigate comfortably. Ensure that pathways are clear and unobstructed, and avoid placing furniture or display units in a way that creates bottlenecks or hinders natural movement. A well-planned layout that facilitates smooth navigation enhances the perceived spaciousness of your interior.

Optimize the use of vertical space by incorporating shelving, wall-mounted displays and storage solutions to free up floor space. Embrace a minimalist approach to design, and prioritize decluttering regularly. Keep surfaces clean and uncluttered, maintaining a sense of visual calmness. Hide away items that are not immediately needed, ensuring that only essential elements are on display. Minimalism promotes a sense of airiness and simplicity, making your space feel more expansive.

Example of how to maximize space in small restaurants by using light colors and built-in display shelves

Sift Dessert Bar by Mindful Design Consulting

Use Creative Storage Solutions

Storage is often a challenge in small commercial interiors. To maximize space in small restaurants or shops, invest in creative storage solutions that blend seamlessly with the overall design. Use floating shelves, under-counter storage or built-in cabinets to keep supplies, inventory and equipment organized and out of sight. 

Find underutilized areas and transform them into valuable storage zones. Look for gaps beneath staircases, unused corners or spaces above doorways that can be equipped with custom-made shelving or built-in cabinets. These often-neglected areas can provide additional storage without encroaching on your primary working space. Use modular storage solutions like cabinets, drawers or shelving units that can be easily rearranged or expanded as your requirements evolve. 

Don’t overlook the potential of your walls when it comes to storage solutions. Install wall-mounted racks, pegboards or hooks to hang items such as tools, equipment or merchandise. Magnetic boards or corkboards can serve as effective storage solutions for documents, notes or small items. 

Leafly Boba Tea Interior

Leafly Boba Bar, Huntsville, Alabama, by Mindful Design Consulting

Embrace Functional Furniture

Selecting the right furniture is crucial when working with a limited space. Choose furniture pieces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also serve multiple purposes. For example, choose tables with built-in storage, collapsible or stackable chairs, or benches with hidden storage compartments. Flexible furniture such as folding tables allows you to adapt the space according to different needs, such as rearranging seating for events or accommodating larger groups.

To maximize space in small restaurants or shops, consider wall-mounted desks and counters. These functional furniture pieces provide work surfaces while keeping the floor area clear and open. Wall-mounted options can be easily folded or collapsed when not in use, creating additional space for other activities or allowing the area to serve multiple purposes.

Mobile furniture, such as rolling carts or portable islands, provides flexibility by allowing you to move items or create temporary workstations as needed. Nesting tables or chairs can be conveniently stacked or nested together when not in use, minimizing their footprint.

Incorporating transparent or lightweight furniture can create an illusion of openness and airiness. Choose transparent materials like glass or acrylic for tabletops, chairs or shelves. Transparent elements allow light to pass through, creating a sense of continuity and expansiveness. Additionally, bring in lightweight furniture designs that visually occupy less space, making the area feel less crowded and more open.

Mirrors and lighting as key techniques to maximize space in small restaurants or shops

YOBA dessert shop by Mindful Design Consulting

Create Visual Depth with Lighting and Mirrors

Proper lighting can make a small space appear larger and more appealing. First, invite as much natural light as possible into your space. Unobstructed windows, skylights or glass doors allow the influx of sunlight, creating a sense of openness and extending the boundaries of your commercial space. To amplify this effect, ensure that window treatments are minimal or sheer, for maximum light penetration. 

Combining ambient, task and accent lighting creates depth and dimension, tricking the eye into perceiving more volume. By illuminating the entire area uniformly with soft, overhead ambient lighting, you minimize shadows and eliminate harsh contrasts. Task lighting, such as track lights or pendant lamps, can be directed towards specific areas of interest, drawing attention to them and giving the impression of functional divisions. Accent lighting, like wall sconces or recessed lights, can emphasize architectural details or focal points, adding further depth and visual interest.

Directing attention upward is a clever way to visually expand a commercial space. Highlight the vertical elements of your space, such as columns, pillars or tall shelves. Wall-mounted uplights or vertical strip lights can draw the eye upward, making the ceiling appear higher and the space grander. Combining vertical lighting with accentuating paint or wallpaper patterns can further enhance this illusion of height.

Finally, strategically installing mirrors to reflect light and create the illusion of more space helps maximize space in small restaurants or shops. Place mirrors opposite windows or in corners for maximum impact. Moreover, mirrored surfaces, such as glass tabletops or mirrored tiles, can amplify the effect, making the space feel more open.

Leafly Boba Tea Interior

Leafly Boba Bar, Huntsville, Alabama, by Mindful Design Consulting

Strategic use of color and visual elements can significantly impact the perception of space and help maximize space in small restaurants or shops. Opt for lighter color palettes, such as whites, pastels or neutrals, to reflect natural or artificial light sources more efficiently and to create an airy and spacious feel. Consider using these shades for walls, floors and large furniture pieces – the heavyweight elements of your interior.

A monochromatic color scheme throughout the space can contribute to a cohesive and seamless appearance, making the boundaries less discernible. Introduce pops of vibrant colors through accents or focal points to add visual interest without overwhelming the space. Incorporate vertical lines or patterns to draw the eye upwards, giving the illusion of height and openness.

Vertical elements that make small dessert shop appear larger

10-22 Cafe and Gelateria, Oceanside, California, by Mindful Design Consulting

Showcase Vertical Displays

When floor space is limited, make use of vertical displays to showcase your products or menu items. Install shelves, hanging racks or wall-mounted displays to make optimal use of vertical real estate. Floor-to-ceiling wall displays offer ample storage but also draw the eye upward, creating the illusion of increased height. Such structures free up valuable floor space, making the area feel more open and inviting.

Design elements such as floating shelves and big-impact wall graphics that make small dessert shop look larger

Olala Crepes dessert store, San Diego, California, by Mindful Design Consulting

Pay Attention to Details

In small commercial spaces, every detail matters. Ensure that your signage, branding and visual elements align with your overall design concept. Consider the placement of artwork, signage or decorative elements to enhance the flow and ambiance of the space. Pay attention to small touches such as unique lighting fixtures, textured wall coverings or curated displays that add personality and create a memorable experience for customers.

If you are thinking to open a new business or are in the process of rebranding and remodeling your existing business, contact us to get a free consultation from Mindful Design Consulting. Click HERE to price your project design.

Also, take a look at the “Branding By Interior” e-book, the only book written on this subject at this time. It brings insight into how you can turn your business into a market-dominating competitor by using human cognitive responses.

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