A Tight Galley Kitchen Made Open + Spacious (Without Added Sq. Ft)

Today’s project reveal is a lesson in working with what you’ve got and, in turn, making it work for you. Let’s set the scene: Marin Country, CA homeowners desperately wanted to update their 190-square-foot galley kitchen on a $75k budget. The existing space was dark, cramped, and dated (think 90s Tuscan), but that’s where Cristina Lehman of C.LehmanHome came in. She led her clients through some incredibly strategic design decisions, making the most of every square foot. Not only is Cristina taking us inside the full reveal, but she’s also sharing her best tips to make a galley kitchen work, no matter the size or budget.

A Budget-Conscious Galley Kitchen Renovation


Location: San Anselmo, CA

Year Built: 1951

Architecture Style: Ranch

Project Timeline: 5 months

Project Budget: $75k

Scope of Work: Kitchen renovation + living and dining room furnishings

Galley kitchen renovation with breakfast nook, design by C.LehmanHome

Tell us more about this project and the scope of work involved.

The homeowners have lived in the Marin County home for the past 20+ years and finally decided to renovate the space now that their children are grown. The kitchen had a 90’s Tuscan feel, everything was very dated, and the space didn’t function well for the homeowners.

Their pain points were the lack of counter space, pantry space and overall storage. The kitchen also felt very dark and small, so they wanted to lighten things up and make the galley kitchen feel bigger. In addition to the kitchen renovation, we helped decorate the other adjoining spaces in the home—the living room and dining room.

Talk to us about the initial inspiration and the process of honing your vision?

This project was designed entirely virtually. We started by advising our clients to move appliances around to make the layout more aesthetically pleasing and, most importantly, more functional. We also added a wall to add more counter space and storage, which allowed us to create a pass-through bartop into the living room, further connecting the two spaces and adding more seating.

The client sent a few inspiration photos that we used to help inform the design and gave us her favorite colors but left it pretty open for us to come up with a design concept. We incorporated blue into the lower cabinets in the bar area and bench seating, which allowed us to add some mood while still keeping the space light and bright.

Galley kitchen renovation, design by C.LehmanHome

What were some of the major pain points, and how did you problem-solve with design?

The main challenges of this project were the gallery kitchen’s small footprint (190 square feet, to be exact), the budget ($75K), and the homeowner’s wish for additional workspace in the kitchen.

Solutions included using Home Depot cabinets and tile, adding a counter area with a bar and storage, and adding a proper pantry plus built-in breakfast nook. The client also had a contractor lined up with a very specific window of availability, so it made things a bit trickier to secure all materials quickly. When sourcing materials, we made it a point to pick items that were in stock or didn’t have very long lead times.



Takeaway tips from designer Cristina Lehman

  • Keep the primary kitchen cabinetry color light and bright
  • Utilize open shelving in place of upper cabinetry when possible
  • Select airy window treatments that let in the most natural light
  • Rearrange appliances for the most seamless (and functional) layout
  • Add a runner to visually elongate the space
  • Choose one continuous floor material to make the space feel bigger
  • When in doubt, remember white walls always open up a space


Design: C.LehmanHome

Photography: Madeline Harper

For more design-centric home tours, check out these posts:

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