Renovating a kitchen is a major undertaking because this space should ideally achieve a perfect balance of form and function. While storage and layout are practical elements, aesthetics are highly personal. But, the function of finishes such as flooring, countertops, hardware, and cabinetry is just as important. With so many decisions, it is easy to make the wrong choice. The consequences of these mistakes can be minor like a refrigerator door that hits the wall or far worse, a kitchen so poorly designed it negatively impacts the value of the home.
I spoke with some of the top interior designers and other related experts to learn what the biggest kitchen design mistakes are. From subtle errors like choosing a visually uninteresting backsplash to the glaringly obvious like cheap cabinetry, these tips are game-changing to anyone who is in the process of renovating.
The Wrong Balance Of Colors And Patterns
One mistake interior designer Liz Caan always notices are kitchens that lack the right balance of color, material, and texture. “I think the biggest impact in a space like a kitchen comes from using colors and materials very thoughtfully in understated doses. It’s important that materials and colors speak to each other,” she says.
To create a sophisticated look, the designer suggests playing with color by using different shades of the same tone.
Rebekah Higgs aka DIY Mom recommends avoiding all wood or white finishes “Mix in some warm golds or soft colors as neutrals to add a little pop of color, which adds interest to your space.”
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Improperly Sized And Placed Kitchen Backsplashes
“I see undersized stove backsplashes that are supposed to be a focal point, but they are too small,” says Caan.
“A stove backsplash is a great way to bring additional texture and pattern to your kitchen. I also see tile that oddly stops on walls where cabinets and countertops end.”
Not Preparing Ahead Of Time
A kitchen renovation is a major undertaking and it’s essential to prepare properly before you begin. This includes hiring qualified and experienced professionals. “It’s very challenging for a homeowner to fully comprehend the work and planning that goes into a full kitchen renovation, and I strongly advise using an experienced and qualified designer to help them with the process,” says Christopher Peacock, founder, and CEO of cabinetry brand Christopher Peacock.
He suggests clients take as much time as possible researching the project and selecting the products they wish to use before they decide to spend money. “In other words, don’t start a project without thinking through the details. I see this happening often and it ends up being designed in the moment, which costs time and money and delays,” he says.
Along the same lines, agent Julie Gans of Compass says trying to save money by scrimping on quality may end up being more costly in the long run. “Using cheap labor and/or cheap materials ultimately is not a good idea. They result in poor kitchens that need to be replaced sooner than later.” It’s also something that buyers notice and will likely be reflected in their offers.
Not Spending Money Where It Counts
Every project has a budget, so spending money the right way is crucial. But all too often, Peacock sees clients allocating too much cash to decorative as opposed to functional items.
“Whilst these things are of course important, good cabinetry, hardware, and appliances are the workhorse items that get used every day. There are no shortcuts, so if you have a limited budget, as most people do, spend the money on the items that need to stand the test of time,” he says.
Improperly Measuring For Appliances
Measuring properly is essential for any renovation project, particularly the kitchen, according to Steve Fine, Senior Product and Channel Marketing Manager, Hisense USA. “One of the most common mistakes when it comes to appliances is forgetting to measure the distance from the appliance to an island or cabinets,” he says.
“After installation, there’s a sudden realization that the refrigerator, stove, or dishwasher door can’t fully open and is banging into cabinetry. When looking for appliances or redesigning a kitchen, be sure to account for the door swing distance along with the height, depth, and width.”
Another frequent oversight is considering the width of doors and entryways of the home. “Ordering a new appliance only to find out it won’t fit through a door threshold, hallway, or stairway is a frustrating experience,” explains Fine.
Overly Personalized Design Choices
Thinking about buying burnt orange subway tiles and terrazzo flooring? You might want to re-think that idea. If you’re renovating your kitchen to sell a home in the near future, it’s important to go with a clean and neutral look, explains Broker Tania Isacoff Friedland of Warburg Realty. “Overly personalized design choices can detract value from your home as a prospective buyer may want to change when it comes time to sell and they, in turn, will detract the cost from their offer price. So don’t fall into the trap of using an eccentric backsplash.”
Friedland suggests opting for simple choices like black or white marble, neutral-colored synthetic stone, or white porcelain tile.
Choosing Open Shelving
Interior designer and founder of Domus Venus, Aurore Martial believes installing open shelving can be a big mistake. “In my view in a kitchen, there are loads of things that are not really pleasing to look at. So unless you have a fabulous collection to display, keep the rest in cupboards.”
Clutter doesn’t make for a beautiful kitchen. So when renovating, it’s best to have as much storage as possible to keep all kitchenware and appliances out of sight. “My ideal kitchen is one where there is no clutter on the worktops and island,” says Martial. “Storage is key so the more the better.”
Lack of Integration
Designing a fully integrated kitchen is another way to reduce clutter. “Forget a kettle, get a boiling water tap, try to integrate the coffee machine, and microwave. Maybe even put your toaster and kitchen Aid in a tall unit, ready to use, with plugs; and think of having a strainer cabinet above the sink to keep it neat even after dinner,” explains Martial.
Choosing The Wrong Flooring
Those with open kitchens may want to install tile flooring, as opposed to wood flooring, but that disrupts the flow of the rest of the home. This is because some people believe they can’t install hardwoods in the kitchen, but that’s simply untrue. “I’m a lover of wood, even in the kitchen, but it’s key to have the right protection to avoid ruining it. A good varnish will keep it stain-free and as good as tiles,” says Martial.
Even those with more modest budgets can achieve this look with vinyl, according to Higgs. “Don’t break up the flooring by transitioning materials between your living and kitchen areas. Do seamless flooring throughout to open up the space visually. I use engineered hardwood which is much more durable and Spitcher and Company vinyl flooring covers because they’re great for high traffic areas where you might see water or traction damage.”
Installing The Wrong Size Cabinetry
Short cabinetry isn’t merely impractical, it’s an eyesore. “When designing a place, everything has to look like it was done intentionally and thought out. It hurts my eyes to see kitchen cabinets stopping ten or fifteen centimeters to the ceiling. It looks like the kitchen company didn’t have the right measurements, rather than a conscious choice,” Martial explains. “If you can’t go to the ceiling, adding a filler is always a good option and will look neater; even in angles or when you have an uneven ceiling.”
Martial notes that using cheaper alternatives to marble or other stone such as laminate countertops are a bad idea. “Sometimes leave you with a line in the middle if you go for a long worktop or island, which doesn’t look good if you use a marble effect for instance,” she says.
Martial suggests Corian and Dekton as alternatives. “Or get a beautiful marble effect using countertop resin (Leggari and Stone Coat do fabulous ones in the US, check the Dirty Pour technique) it’s a very affordable way to have a striking countertop looking like an exotic marble.”
Mixing Metals The Wrong Way
Brass, gold-tone, and black hardware have come to prominence in recent years, but it’s best to choose just one finish and stick with it. “How many times do I see someone who says they love brass, so they go for brass handles, but keep the sink strainer, tap, and appliances in chrome? If you want to go for brass or copper, go for full black over and microwave (not even a line of chrome), and try to be consistent with metals,” says Martial.