The Kitchen Design Decisions That Drive Our Readers Crazy

The Kitchen Design Decisions That Drive Our Readers Crazy

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Cambria Bold
Jun 9, 2015
This kitchen violates not one but FOUR reader rules. Can you guess what they are?*
(Image credit: Misha Gravenor for Dwell)

In my many years covering kitchen design and organization for The Kitchn, I've incited my fair share of reader outrage at some of the kitchen designs we've showcased on the site. From white subway tile — you love it or you hate it, and if you hate it, you really hate it — to rugs in the kitchen (cozy or a hazard?), some features just really rile readers up, but none quite as much as the following five.

So, dear reader, steady your fingers over your keyboard and prepare to type in a wild rage, because I'm about to show you the five kitchen features that drive many of you crazy ... and also why you're probably overreacting. (Yeah, I said it.) Ready, set, go!

1. Open kitchen shelving.

Your chief complaint: The dust! The grease! The grime! Ugh, everything must get so dirty. And it always looks messy and cluttered. Anyone who has open shelving clearly isn't a real cook, because if they were, they wouldn't be able to put up with all the maintenance. You hate it, you say, and would take your closed kitchen cabinets any day of the week — and Sundays, too.

Why it's not always as bad as you think: Aw, poor open shelving. You're really hard on the ol' girl. The truth is, open kitchen shelving can look great and be totally functional if you stick to a unified color palette, for example, or only display the nicest things. Also, professional chefs prefer open shelves for easy, quick access to ingredients and supplies while cooking. Open shelves force you to stay neat, organized, and on top of your cleaning, which is a whole lot better than setting and forgetting things behind closed doors.

As far as the extra cleaning, you probably use all those dishes and pans fairly often anyway, which means nothing's just sitting there gathering dust!

2. Spices stored out in the open.

Your chief complaint: Don't you know that spices degrade when they're exposed to heat and light? You should never store them near the stove, or over the stove, or on the stove. You should never store them in clear containers on a rack on your backsplash, or on the side of your fridge, or on the wall. Spices must be stored in dark bottles in a dark drawer or cabinet. If you can't do this, then you are not allowed to use spices, ever, and are hereby banned to the Land of Bland.

Why it's not always as bad as you think: First of all, you're not wrong: Spices can deteriorate if they're exposed over long periods to too much light or heat, and ideally should be stored in dark amber glass containers in a drawer or cupboard.

But honestly, sometimes you just need to store spices where you have room for them, and if that's on a magnetic rack behind your stove or on that one bit of wall space next to the fridge, so be it! You're not going to irrevocably ruin every spice grain by exposing it to a little bit of light and heat, especially if you use up and replenish those spices frequently.

(Image credit: The Selby)

3. Heavy appliances on high shelves.

Your chief complaint: Someone is asking for a concussion when they store large, heavy appliances on high shelves. Are they Superman that they can just fly up there and use their super strength to grab that KitchenAid mixer and bring it back to earth? No? Well, then who wants to keep a ladder around all the time?

Why it's not always as bad as you think: I'd argue that in some cases it's actually safer and more convenient to keep cumbersome equipment tucked up and away on a high shelf. If it's something you have to lug up and down every day, then no, it's definitely not a good idea. But if you use that piece infrequently, isn't it better to store it somewhere it won't need to be repositioned or relocated? As long as the shelf is super sturdy, and you have a solid step stool, go for it. It's better than keeping it on the countertop, only to have to move it to the floor when you need the prep space. (Hello, stubbed toe.)

4. Anything behind the stove.

Your chief complaint: Allow me to repeat myself: The dust! The grease! The grime! Ugh, everything must get so dirty. Anyone who keeps anything behind the stove isn't a real cook, because if they were, they wouldn't be able to put up with all the maintenance. You hate it, you say, and would take your empty stove backsplash any day of the week — and Sundays, too.

Why it's not always as bad as you think: The area behind or above the stove is a convenient place to store things, from utensils to pans or artwork, and an often essential storage spot for tiny kitchens. Are you opening yourself up to grease splatters by storing things there? Yes. Are you a total slob who can't be bothered to ever wipe down your stuff? Of course not. Like open shelving, chances are good that the items stored behind the stove are in high rotation, be it tools or pots, so they're probably getting used and cleaned on a regular basis.

5. Wine above the fridge.

Your chief complaint: No, no, no. You cannot store wine above the fridge, because the heat from the electric coils will ruin your wine. It's a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad decision. This wine deserves someone infinitely better than you as a caretaker.

Why it's not always as bad as you think: Now, now. There's no need to be quite so finicky! You're probably not using that area above the fridge to age bottles for 15 years. The more likely scenario is that you're using it as a temporary storage for the few bottles you picked up this week that you plan to have completely consumed by next Friday. So it's okay, everybody! No wine was harmed in the making of this photo.

Are you convinced, or do these decisions still drive you crazy? Feel free to sound off below!

*The four kitchen violations in the top photo are: 1) open shelving, 2) a heavy Dutch oven stored on the top shelf, 3) spices stored out in the open and 4) behind the stove. Add in a bottle or two of wine next to the gas flame, and we'd have a mutiny.

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