When planning a new kitchen you want to achieve a design which functions exactly as needed, within a kitchen you love the look of. But whilst there is an abundance of choice and decisions to make, there are also some potential pitfalls along the way which could easily spoil your dream kitchen. The best recommendation we can offer for avoiding these is to be as open as possible with your kitchen designer and take on board their advice, but heed any warnngs too, even if not what you want to hear! If there is something you especially want and the designer doesn’t think it will work, isn’t in the best position or there is a better option, they should advise on this, but also explain why. Of course, ultimately we can’t force people to listen but helping customers understand why some things won’t work or aren’t a good idea goes a long way towards avoiding problems further down the line. So if just setting out on your kitchen journey, then below are 14 common kitchen design mistakes, and how you might avoid them:-
1) Don’t scrimp on quality
When choosing a kitchen you should ensure it is made from high quality materials and manufacture processes. If not you the risk of problems occurring is higher and your kitchen likely won’t last as long as it should. Consider how many times a door or drawer is opened and closed, or the weight your shelves endure and you’ll recognise the need for strong and durable cabinetry and hinges. Even if a quality kitchen initially costs more, it will be worth it for a lower maintenance, robust kitchen, which may well prove more financially sound in the long term. This also includes a longer warranty period, protecting you if you need to replace any parts of your kitchen further down the line. Kitchen qualities vary significantly between manufacturers so it is worth thoroughly researching different suppliers before committing to purchase.
2) Don’t underestimate your storage needs
Storage is a must within any kitchen, including storage of food, plates, pots, utensils, small kitchen appliances etc. Such an array of items and where to put them needs much consideration when planning a new kitchen. Similarly, how much storage space you need will vary depending on your personal circumstances, habits and lifestyle. For example if you are a keen cook you will likely have more goods to store than someone who rarely cooks and eats out a lot. Alternatively if you have a large family or entertain on a regular basis then again, your storage needs are likely to be greater than someone who doesn’t. You should also ensure storage that’s appropriate for your intended and required uses. An example of this is Larder cupboards, frequently proving more useful for keen cooks than standard cupboards because they are easy to access and contain clearly visible contents, something which is particularly useful if in a hurry. In summary, insufficient storage is inefficient and frustrating; it is a common kitchen design mistake and one of the biggest reasons why people come to us looking to redesign their kitchen.
3) Hide appliances that are not features
The fact of the matter is that some kitchen appliances and fixtures are simply not visually attractive features! For example, whilst highly practical, sinks and draining boards, especially when full of dirty dishes will draw the eye but aren’t nice to look at. Even the tidiest of people on occasion will leave a sink with dirty dishes but they don’t have to be in plain sight. U-shaped kitchens are a great example of where sinks can be located in subtle locations such as ‘round a corner’ or behind a wall cabinet, obscuring them from the eye-line as you look head on at your kitchen. Similarly, a seamless induction hob can be integrated into a kitchen island worksurface, creating a more elegant finish over the protruding burners of a gas hob. In so doing this maintains the clean look and lines of your kitchen.
But one of the most disappointing sights within a newly finished kitchen is a protruding washing machine or dishwasher, retained from a previous kitchen but too big to be covered by the new doors. We understand appliances can be costly but in comparison to what is being spent on the entirety of a new kitchen they are always worth replacing, rather than risk spoiling your new kitchen look (and Ebay is always handy for any appliances no longer required!) Similarly, hints of stainless steel, black and/or white, can introduce a beautiful kitchen compliment but they have to be balanced; too much and they will easily overwhelm a (think large stainless steel fridges) but not enough and the kitchen can feel a bit disjointed.
4) Avoid 150mm wine coolers!
In theory these are a great idea; they offer a narrow wine fridge, often in place of a filler panel, making great use of a small space. But in our experience they are much more trouble than they are worth and represent a big kitchen design mistake! Instead we always advise if you want a wine cooler then its better to choose a larger, more substantial model. Here’s why:-
- It’s not unreasonable to expect a bottle of champagne to fit in a wine cooler but they absolutely do not fit the 150mm wine coolers! This is something we advise on, it states it in all paperwork, yet clients are generally still disappointed to realise that champagne bottles won’t fit.
- The overall quality can vary between appliance brand, but in general it’s just not good!
- LWK Kitchens have found that generally 150mm wine coolers are not always correctly hinged so the door won’t open clear of the framework; this makes it hard to see the contents of your fridge as well as to insert and remove any drink bottles.
5) Ensure suitable heights for appliances, worktops and units
Particularly for small kitchens, whilst you want to include all your preferred appliances and fixtures it is important not to do so if at the detriment of fitting these within the best possible locations. For example, we always advise against upper height microwaves as removing hot food items at height can prove dangerous, especially when the specified height is unlikely to suit every family member or person who may be using it.
Similarly with worktops and ovens, they should be fitted at an appropriate height that eliminates the need for bending and straining, such as leaning over to chop vegetables, or lifting in and out of an oven. This is applies for all age and health statuses, including those with no back complaints; it is better to keep it that way!
6) Don’t forget to take out the rubbish!
Not the most glamorous aspect of kitchen design yet how you will dispose of your rubbish is really important and neglecting this is a common kitchen design mistake. Everybody accumulates and has to dispose of rubbish on a regular basis, and particularly if you have a family home the volume can quickly grow – so you need an easy and reliable means for disposing of it. Ensure enough rubbish space, somewhere that will limit odour and in an appropriate location. You should also allow a clear path from bin to exterior, although problems can easily be overlooked here too; For example, in my kitchen there are no internal bins and no space for them, so I have two large pedal bins just outside my kitchen above my hallway bannister…. But I find I am constantly cleaning the stair carpet beneath where dirt and grease occasionally splashes. It is a poor set-up and I am fairly sure I will soon be needing a new carpet! Plan your rubbish disposal carefully and in line with your home’s layout to avoid this, as smelly voluminous rubbish will quickly spoil your kitchen’s look and become a constant point of aggravation.
7) Make a small kitchen work for you.
Don’t think that bigger is always better as small kitchens, whilst for obvious reasons can be more challenging, can also make for some of the most beautiful and practical kitchen spaces. You just have to be realistic but also creative about the options available to you, and plan your kitchen accordingly. For example:-
- Kitchen islands, including movable islands can work for small spaces. But if your space is still too small then a peninsula will usually work as an alternative and is just as useful.
- Dark colours can work for small kitchens but need careful introduction.
- Cabinets should be brought up to the ceiling, rather than fall short and this provides more storage space, as well as eliminating the need for difficult dusting! If full height units might seem claustrophobic then glass front doors can bring back the feeling of space.
- Making the best use of available space is important for a small kitchen space but so too is ensuring the space is not overfilled. Balancing function, storage and aesthetics is really important and will prevent any feeling of confinement or claustrophobia.
8) Ensure sufficient and appropriate lighting options
Beyond achieving the kind of look and ambience you want, kitchen lighting is highly functional, as well as decorative. Achieving the right kitchen lighting is crucial for your kitchen enjoyment, ease of use, and also for protecting your eyesight. Your kitchen should include task lighting, ambient lighting and decorative/accent lighting. The combination will bring your kitchen setting together but all should be carefully planned to achieve the look you want as well as a functional, practical kitchen space.
9) Establish a working kitchen flow
The best kitchen layouts are those that allow fluid movement between different areas, facilitating kitchen use. The working kitchen triangle used to be a popular option for this but more so now is creating separate kitchen zones for different activities, whether preparing food, washing up or for eating at. Neglect to do this and you may experience the frustration of trying to prepare food in a location someone is eating at, or removing food from a hot oven only to find there is no nearby surface to rest it on. Worst case is you could spin around and burn someone in the process of trying to set food down. A poorly laid out kitchen can prove an annoyance for all concerned whereas an efficient working layout will be beneficial for all users. How many people live in your house, lifestyle, habits and social interests can all prove influential in designing the layout and working flow for your kitchen so be sure to share such information with your kitchen designer.
10) Plan your counter space
Not having enough worktop space is a common kitchen design mistake and one of the biggest complaints from homeowners about their kitchens. Defining separate work zones and a working traffic flow helps establish the right amount of worktop space within your kitchen, particularly as this accounts for your individual needs and uses. Worktops whilst decorative, should be useful, comfortable and efficient, so during planning you should evaluate all the ways in which you think you will use your worktops, including if more than one person needs use at the same time. Specifically, there should be plenty of worktop space adjacent to and behind an oven for you to easily turn and set hot and/or heavy food items down. The amount of worktop space you require depends on you but whilst important to include enough, on the contrary you can also include too much, and poorly planned this easily becomes redundant and wasted space.
11) Don’t overdo your design
When designing any new kitchen clients want it to look good and often intend to make a real ‘statement’ within their home. However it is important not to ‘overdesign’ or you can easily spoil the look. Particularly in choosing a décor and accessories, you should ensure finishing touches that will compliment your kitchen’s colour and style rather than clash and compete for attention with it. If there is too much going on the eyes struggles to process what they are seeing. Just remember that less is (usually) more, although if you want to include an attention-grabbing element within your kitchen then this is usually highly effective; whether a stand-out island, splashback or lighting feature, be sure it holds aesthetic appeal and draws the eye as intended.
12) Ensure good working extraction
Extraction removes grease, steam and cooking odours from your kitchen making for a cleaner, more hygienic and enjoyable setting so it is important to choose an effective model, as well as one that looks attractive. Particularly if you have an open plan kitchen arrangement it is also worth checking the noise levels of any intended model as quieter models will be less of a disturbance to you.
13) Choose your kitchen island size with care
An oversized kitchen island won’t look right and can also lose efficiency. It should always be in proportion with the room size, with sufficient space for passageway all the way around. The island should never obstruct the work traffic flow, and also ensure there are no poorly placed or protruding corners that you might catch yourself on every time you pass by.
14) Don’t neglect your future kitchen needs
Consider how your kitchen needs may change over time; it could be you are at a stage where your age might catch up with you. If this is the case raised dishwashers, an easy-to-use spray tap, induction hob with no burn-risk, or a le mans corner unit which prevents over-reaching are all good options. Alternatively you could decide to have children so need to consider their safety as well as how their needs may change as they grow older. You may also wish to sell your home in the future; if this is on the cards it might mean opting for more generic kitchen choices rather than highly personalised ones that are less likely to appeal to the masses. The benefit of this is that when it comes to selling, your kitchen is more likely to add value to your home, rather than detract from it.
Take steps to avoid common kitchen design mistakes
Kitchen design mistakes are easily avoidable if you work with a reputable and experienced kitchen designer who can help you at every stage of your design. Just remember to be realistic about what will (and won’t) work as well as whats affordable for you, and be sure to take on board any advice from your designer.