7 Common Kitchen Design Mistakes


How many times have you noticed that people tend to congregate in the kitchen? No matter how comfortable you make the rest of the house, guests and family head for the bright lights and tasty aromas of the hardest working spot in your home. If you have children, they probably work on their school projects in the kitchen and tell you about their day while sitting at the kitchen counter or inspecting the contents of the fridge. It’s a truth of family life that seems to transcend cultural boundaries. The kitchen is the best part of a home, and preserving its warmth while updating its look, feel and function is one of the challenges of kitchen design.

The right kitchen design can add to the value of your home and make your time cooking more efficient and enjoyable. There are lots of reasons to upgrade your kitchen, but beyond the siren call of the glossy design magazines and those shiny appliances you’ve been eyeing at the local home improvement store, there are some lurking pitfalls and design gotchas that you should be aware of. In this post, we’ll take a look at 10 common kitchen design mistakes and offer some suggestions on how to avoid them. Your kitchen is a hub of activity, and with so much going on, it can be a challenge to create a space that will be all things to all people. The good news is that most of these problems are easy to avoid if you instruct the right designer and take the time to plan your ideal kitchen.

1. Making Room to Work

One of the biggest complaints about kitchen design is the lack of worktop space. You want your worktops to be decorative, but they have to be functional, too. When upgrading your kitchen, make sure that you have enough worktop space by evaluating how you use your space now and planning for your future needs. The amount of space you need will be specific to your circumstances and will vary with the size limitations of your room and budget.

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Understanding how traffic will flow through the kitchen is a useful tool in organising work-surface space so that it will be efficient and comfortable. Make a list of the types of activities you need specific worktop areas for, and evaluate how they may overlap when more than one person uses the kitchen.

2. The Golden Triangle

In interior design, the kitchen triangle links the three areas of greatest activity: the sink, oven and refrigerator. There should be unobstructed access to and from all three of these locations. Of the three, the sink will see the most action and should have easy access to the oven and refrigerator, as well as your workstations. Narrow aisles, inconvenient door swings and islands that cut off direct access to these key areas make kitchens less efficient and less convenient. When you’re in the design stages, a few extra steps may not seem like much, but after a few hundred trips around a jutting island corner, you’ll start to feel differently.

Once you’ve established a good flow, give some thought and attention to other areas in the room. There are secondary areas that need to be easily accessible to perform specific tasks, too. You’ll want the rubbish bin close to the exterior door for easy disposal, or at least have a clear path to the door from the bin. You’ll also want convenient access to a worktop where you can place groceries when coming in from out of doors. Another consideration is the communications area. If you have a desk, table or counter where you have a phone, writing material and possibly a computer or cookbooks, you’ll want to position it so that it has, if not completely unobstructed access, at least relatively easy access to the other worktops in the room.

Evaluate how food will be served and eaten using your new kitchen design. Will you have in-kitchen seating? If so, how many people will you need to accommodate? If you will be serving food from the kitchen to a dining room, you’ll also want an unobstructed path there from your prep station in order to move dishes in and out easily.


3. Room for Storage

Kitchens typically contain lots of stuff. Not only that, but items often concealed behind built-in kitchen cabinet doors can be oddly shaped and space hogs, such as a waste-disposal unit. Finding a home for your kitchen stuff that still keeps it easily accessible is a tricky proposition. Because built-ins are expensive and the overall size of the area you’re working with may be limited, one big design mistake is not including enough storage.

Kitchen storage is prime real estate, and whilst it’s sometimes tempting to try to stick to as low a budget as possible and just focus on the external look and feel of the kitchen, it’s not always wise to ignore the importance of quality storage space.

The work-a-day life of a kitchen includes lots of tools that contribute to preparing and serving meals. A big part of the enjoyment of your kitchen will be how accessible these items are. If you have to go out to the garage every time you want to use your wok, fryer or even serving dishes instead of having them available at your fingertips, you may start to feel cheated, especially after the newness of all those shiny, expensive surfaces has worn off.

While you’re still planning your kitchen wish list, take an inventory of your small appliances and other kitchen items. Make an assessment of what you really need and rate how accessible each item will have to be for you to be happy with the overall layout. This is probably a good time for you to do a little decluttering, too.


4. Island Design

The prospect of installing a kitchen island offers a tantalising promise of additional storage, prep and serving space in the kitchen, but choosing the wrong island or placing it in the wrong spot can be a disaster. Remember that the kitchen is a work area, and anything that gets in the way of working efficiently is going to be a problem. Islands that obstruct the flow of traffic to and from the sink, refrigerator, oven and primary workstations will create bottlenecks and big hassles. One solution is to add a sink or oven to the island and make it part of the functional kitchen triangle. Another is to position the island so that it has lots of space around it and doesn’t impede foot traffic.

For efficient flow, ideally we’d leave between 42 and 48 inches (106.68 cm and 121.92 cm) of open area around islands. Typically, for an island to be a useful addition, your kitchen should be at least 13 feet wide (3.96 meters), and the island should be a minimum of three feet by five feet (91.4 cm by 152.4 cm). The layout of your kitchen is important when considering an island. Single wall and L-shaped kitchens usually work well with islands. Where you’re planning a U-shaped setup, make sure that there is at least 10 feet of clearance between the legs of the U to house an island. For an island to be used as a breakfast bar, each seated diner should have 24 inches (60.96 cm) of space from side to side with a depth of 12 inches (30.48 cm); less than that, and people will be elbowing one another throughout the meal.

5. Light It Up

Rooms generally need three types of lighting: general lighting for overall illumination, task lighting, and accent lighting. As you evaluate the work

Good lighting can be accomplished with any combination of fluorescent ceiling or strip lighting, hanging lights, under the counter fixtures or tracklighting. The goal is to put enough light in play so that all the activities that regularly take place in your kitchen will have adequate illumination on demand. After all, the more light you have in the room, the better you can show off all of those amazing design elements you’ve added to the space.areas in your kitchen, start to focus on how you’ll provide each spot with the light it needs. Most kitchens have general lighting that’s provided by an overhead fixture together with natural light from a window or ambient light contributed by a fixture in an adjoining room. Where many kitchen design strategies fail is in not providing enough task lighting. Prep areas, the sink and the oven should all have dedicated task lighting. The locations for these fixtures should be identified before you begin work because they’ll require electrical service.

6. Air It Out

If you’ve ever walked into someone’s home and smelled last night’s curry lingering on the stale air, you’ll understand the importance of good ventilation. Inexpensive range hoods simply circulate dirty, stale air, trapping large particulates in simple onboard filters. A good ventilation system will help improve the quality of your indoor air and also help keep your kitchen cleaner by venting odors and airborne grease particles from the house that would otherwise land on your cabinets, countertops and appliances or travel to other rooms.

Good ventilation will also help to extend the life of your appliances. Kitchen appliances, like the oven, generate heat, and higher temperatures shorten the life of an appliance, particularly your refrigerator. Effective ventilation systems use fans to route air through ductwork and out of roof- or wall-mounted vents. The hot, dirty air is evacuated, leaving clean air behind. This can be an investment, but if you have a kitchen that opens to a living area or family room, it will make life easier, cleaner and more pleasant for everyone.


7. Toss the Waste

Dealing with waste in kitchen design has often been a matter of sticking a bin near an outside door or under the sink. These days, with the advent of recycling, there’s more to refuse than meets the eye. Planning for your waste management needs involves a four-pronged approach. You’ll almost certainly have a standard waste disposal, possibly a waste compactor and also an area in which to place kitchen scraps and packaging destined for the weekly rubbish pick-up. You’ll need space for recyclables, too. Newer segmented recycle bins designed for glass, plastic and aluminum recyclables take up more room than the old style kitchen rubbish bins of the 70s and 80s. Recycling isn’t going away, so whether it’s mandatory in your area or not, be prepared to manage your rubbish efficiently and incorporate it into your kitchen design plans.