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9 Common Kitchen Design Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

From Nightmare to Dream Kitchen

When designing your new home, deciding among kitchen layouts usually gets the most attention. Thats because, despite the number of living and sitting rooms you have available for people to congregate in, the kitchen is usually the warmest and has the brightest lights and the yummiest smells. 

When laying out and designing your kitchen for the most efficient use of space, there are important aspects you need to pay attention to. If you don’t, you could end up with mistakes you’ll regret. Avoid these common blunders for your dream kitchen design.

Luxury kichen in house plan #202-1002

Pay attention to the details of good kitchen design, and you could end up with a kitchen like this one, which covers all the bases. The second sink in the island ensures good work flow for food prep among the refrigerator, sink , and cooktop. Other aspects like ventilation, lighting, roomy spacing, and practical considerations such as outlet placing are addressed to make the kitchen a standout (Plan #202-1002).


1. Breaking the Work Triangle

Youve heard of the Bermuda Triangle, well in the kitchen, if the rule of the triangle is not respected, you might wish things would start to disappear. 

The Rule of the Work Triangle is the idea that everything needed for food prep and clean-up be within the same footpath. Because the three items that get the most traffic in the kitchen are the refrigerator, stove, and sink, the ideal path makes up a triangle. 

Make the kitchen triangle too large (and inconvenient), and you may start devising ways to avoid cooking in your new kitchen. Make the triangle too small, though, and you run the risk of crossing paths with others in the kitchen and tripping over items. Avoid both scenarios by playing with the ratio.

Some people opt to put an island with a sink in it directly across from the oven/cooktop and refrigerator, especially in small kitchen floor plans. That significantly shortens the distance you have to walk for prep work and makes cooking a breeze. 

Kitchen in house plan #153-1786 showing example of work triangle

An example of a space with a well designed work triangle, this kitchen in a 4-bedroom, 3-bath transitional Craftsman style home places the sink, cooktop, and refrigerator in close proximity for a good work flow for the cook of the house (Plan #153-1786).


2. Skimping on Proper Ventilation

Speaking of breezes, another common mistake is not having the proper ventilation to air out your kitchen. While the proper ventilation does prevent brunch guests from smelling last nights lamb stew, it also prolongs the life of your kitchen appliances. 

Heat wears out your cooking appliances, especially cooktops. By having a venting system that takes the hot air up out of the kitchen and pushes it outside, you are prolonging the life of your appliances. Beyond that, smoke and steam spread grease and grime to other areas of the kitchen. When you vent them out, theres less clean-up required for you later. 

You’re probably tempted to spend the bulk of your money on the eye-catching aspects of your home. A good range hood can be as beautiful as it is functional. To be the most functional, the range hood should be at least as large as the cooking top. If the cooktop is on an island, the hood needs to extend past it at least six inches. 

Some mounted microwaves have a vent underneath that works – though often just barely – but to enjoy the full benefits of a vent, youll want a dedicated range vent hood. 

The vent hood in this kitchen from house plan #161-1067 not only make a statement but effectively vents the kitchen

When choosing ventilation equipment for your kitchen, go for something that will effectively ventilate your kitchen but also makes a design statment like this vent hood in the kitchen of a 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath luxury home (Plan #161-1067). While the owners could probably have gone with a venting microwave over the cooktop, the large hood makes a much better statement, dont you think?


3. Not Planning Enough Space

Kitchen appliances are often bulky. Make sure you make note of this in your kitchen design phase and plan accordingly. 

Some kitchens have a butlers pantry specifically for their appliances. If you have the budget for that – and it makes sense for your kitchen needs – put it in the plans!

If youre looking for something a little less extravagant, then make use of the cabinets and countertops you are in the process of designing. Ask your designer to make sure the corners of the room are incorporated in the cabinetry. Some cabinets eliminate the corner altogether, which means you miss out on valuable cabinet real estate. 

Also make use of the bottom cabinets by putting in some shelves, utilizing special types of drawer storage for pots and pans, and adding cabinet door storage for spices. 

After using your bulky appliances, stow them in your cabinets (or pantry) rather than on your countertops. This will not only provide an open feel but also give you more workspace to prepare your culinary masterpieces. 

Kitchen with island in house plan #176-1012

This well-planned kitchen in a 1412-sq-ft. Country style home showcases a clean design without a lot of clutter. Ample space for stowing small appliances and the like was designed into the space so the owners can keep the counters and island clear (Plan #176-1012).


4. Insufficient Lighting

A nice overhead light is nice, but evening can cast some pretty dark shadows across your workspace. Make sure the sink, stove, and main prep areas have the proper lighting in place to set you up for success.

Typically, kitchens have three types of lighting: the main (or ambient) lights, task lighting, and accent lighting. Here we’re talking about task lighting. Identify where you will spend time preparing meals (and there may be more than one spot, say, near the sink and near the cooktop); then make sure they are well lighted. Although good task lighting is imperative for day-to-day meal prep, speak to your home design expert to make sure you have all of the lighting (ambient, task, accent) you need in your space and in the right place. 

Kitchen in house plan 163-1055 with well designed lighting

Plenty of thought went into the lighting scheme for this kitchen design in a 5-bedroom, 4.5-bath transitional Ranch home with Craftsman influences. The under-cabinet lighting and pendant lights are great for task lighting. The recessed ceiling lights do double duty as ambient lighting and task lighting over the island, and the lights in the cabinets are good examples of accent lighting, as are the under-cabinet lights where they dont illuminate work spaces (Plan #163-1055).


5. Taking the Island Too Far

Kitchen layouts with island not only provide that extra space everyone is dying to have in their kitchen, theyre a great accent feature. 

Many people make the mistake installing an island in a too-small space, or making the island much bigger than it needs to be. Both of these issues block the flow of traffic – think of banging into the corner of the island every time youre in a hurry. Ouch! You should have a minimum 42 to 48 inches of open space around your island.

The trick to keeping your island obsession on a leash is to measure. You should have no less than a three-foot clearing zone around the island. You want enough space to freely move around the island and allow others to do the same. 

floor plan showing minimum spacing around the island in kitchen of house plan #202-1015

Modern kitchen with island in house plan #202-1015

Top: Although the kitchen island in this floor plan of a Modern style luxury home with 4 bedrooms and 3.5 baths has ample space around it, the drawing indicates that there must be a minimum of 3 ft. clear space on all sides of the island. Bottom: This photo of the finished kitchen shows there are no issues with spacing around the island (Plan #202-1015).


6. Skimping On Outlets

An often overlooked aspect of kitchen design is the number of outlets available and the placement of the outlets.

If you have several kitchen appliances that you need to use at different places – such as an immersion blender at the stove, a mixer on the counter, and a crockpot on yet another counter – youll want the outlets to support that.

Make sure to strategically place your outlets according to where youll need them most, as in the kitchen design example below. Skimp on outlets, and you may find out in the middle of prepping a large meal that youve run out of room. 


Kitchen with good outlet placement from house plan #141-1239

A prime example of excellent outlet placement and phenomenal ventilation, this kitchen in an 1800-sq.-ft., 3-bedroom, 2-bath Craftsman Ranch home is designed with the chef (and his or her appliances!) in mind (Plan #141-1239).


7. Getting Ahead of Yourself

Its exciting to start planning your kitchen. You place cabinets here and there, and add the right types of storage where you think youll like it best. Before you know it, you have a beautiful dream kitchen. 

The problem? You didnt measure your appliances and plan out the door placements on your cabinets.

Few things are worse in a kitchen than finding out later that you cant open the silverware drawer and the oven at the same time. Similarly frustrating is discovering that you have to close one drawer or cabinet to open another. 

Escape this mistake by planning out your appliances and having them on hand before you build your kitchen. Additionally, write down the measurements of the drawers and cabinet doors completely open to make sure none conflict. 

Floor plan of transitional Craftsman style house plan #142-1173

Well designed kitchen in transitional Craftsman house plan #142-1173

Top: This floor plan of a 4-bedroom, 2.5-bath transitional Craftsman style home shows a well-planned kitchen. There is plenty of storage in wall and base cabinets – and especially in the large walk-in pantry. There is lots of counter space along the wall and on the island. And there is plenty of room to maneuver around the island and throughout the kitchen. Bottom: You can see that designers made sure there is ample clear space around the island. The refrigerator (foreground left) has yet to arrive (Plan #142-1173).


8. Changing Your Mind Mid-Build

Want to add more money to an already expensive undertaking? Change your mind about something in the middle of the project. Consumer Reports found that changing your mind mid-kitchen installation or renovation adds on average $1,500 to the bill.

Beyond the price, adding changes in the middle of the project extends your timeline – which is bad news if youre already on a tight deadline. 

Save yourself the time and headache by planning out everything in advance and making sure you love it before the work crew starts building it. 


9. Not Using a Professional

All of these mistakes can be avoided if you use a professional to help you design your kitchen layout. A professional designer will be able to tell you what to look out for and will help you adjust measurements accordingly. 

For building, make sure you use professionals during the demo (for a remodel) and building phase of the kitchen as well. Using a qualified contractor will cut down on the number of things that go wrong and ensure you have the kitchen you love faster.

Butler's pantry in kitchen of house plan #198-1011

Use a professional designer, and he or she is likely to impress the importance of storage on you. A good way to get extra storage and work space in a kitchen is to incorporate a butlers pantry in the kitchen design if you have the room to spare. This pantry behind the kitchen proper in a 3-bedroom, 3-bath, 2-half-bath luxury transitional Craftsman style home has ample storage for glassware, dinnerware, flatware, pots and pans, small appliances – and extra work space at the counters – to keep the main kitchen uncluttered (Plan #198-1015).


As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed! Pay attention to these errors others have made before you, and youre likely to be happy with the kitchen you end up with for years to come.


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