The 9 Deadly Sins of Bad Kitchens, According to the Pros

published Jun 17, 2023
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(Image credit: Minette Hand)

There are two things that drive me absolutely crazy about my kitchen: I basically have to crawl into the corner cabinet to fish my slow cooker from its depths and one of my utensil drawers does not open unless I open the oven first.

These are very clear indicators of a poor kitchen design. And, as we get ready to renovate our very dated kitchen, you better believe I’m keeping notes. To avoid making the same mistakes the previous owner did, I asked architects, contractors, interior designers, and other industry experts for the biggest kitchen design faux pas you can make.

1. Forgetting the flow

“A well-functioning kitchen centers around the position of three critical elements: the refrigerator, stove, and sink. It’s critical to get these right.” says Kayla Hein, creative director of Modern Castle. “In order for your kitchen to flow naturally, if you draw a triangle on the floor between these items, no leg of the triangle should be less than four feet away or more than nine feet away.”

2. Not considering logistics

It’s easy to get caught up in the design elements, but careful planning and thought are essential, says New York City-based contractor Michael Hershkowitz, REDOnyc. Mistakes without planning include a lack of drawers for pots and utensils and a lack of outlets where you need them for such things as coffee makers and juice machines. The garbage is another often forgotten item when planning is lacking, says designer Anne DeCocco. If you don’t account for a garbage can, it ends up exposed or far away from the sink. This not only looks unsightly, but also adds to the mess of food prep and clean-up after meals.

3. Splurging on the wrong things

“With any kitchen remodel, you should always consider the overall picture when deciding where to spend the money,” says Hein. “Three places that are generally good options of where to spend the money include: the cabinets, the countertops, and the appliances. These elements have high impact on the overall space and can drastically change the look of the kitchen.”

4. Skimping on counter space

A kitchen without adequate counter space presents daily challenges. Where are you going to put your dirty dishes or dry your clean ones? Where are you going to set the bowl of pancake batter while you’re making breakfast? “You should leave at least 24 inches on either side of your stovetop and sink,” says designer Rebecca Rowland.

5. Using the wrong materials

“Magazine photos showing beautiful kitchens are very inspiring, but they’re also often impractical for a busy family,” says Cristina Miguelez, content manager for Though white marble counters look fabulous in photos, they are easily stained and etched. Similarly, slate floors produce a lot of dust, which can settle into food. “Many people simply aren’t aware of the work that goes into maintaining some of these materials, and find that they’re damaged or discolored in just a few years.”

6. Going too trendy

Of course, you want a design that is current with the times, but proceed with caution, says Hein. “Kitchen renovations are one of the most costly renovations you can do and, in many cases, can make or break the sale of a home.” When selecting major finishes for your kitchen (tile, countertops, and cabinets, in particular), opt for more conservative options that appeal to a wider range of future buyers, especially if you plan to sell in the near future. Consider bringing in more trendy elements with accessories, wall paint, or a fun piece of furniture, like bar stools or coffee bar cabinet.

7. Not updating the lighting

Lighting is an important part of any kitchen design, but it’s an easy area to overlook, says Hein. “Adding additional lighting can help a kitchen to feel bigger and easier to work in. If you have dated fixtures or a yellow hue to your kitchen, consider making a change. Home improvement stores sell easy conversion kits that allow you to easily convert existing lighting to recessed can lighting or drop pendants, like over an island or bar.”

8. Not adding a walk-in pantry

In today’s modern kitchens, walk-in pantries are almost expected, says Hein. If you have the space and it won’t disrupt the flow or eliminate cabinet space, add one. Walk-in pantries provide much-needed storage for food and small accessories. If you don’t have room for a walk-in pantry, be sure to designate sufficient cabinet space, whether with floor-to-ceiling cabinets or cabinets with pull-out drawers.

9. Cramming too much in

Too many people add islands to their kitchen, believing it will increase productivity, says Miguelez. “Unfortunately, they also restrict any room to move, especially if you have a smaller kitchen or you entertain frequently.”

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The 9 Deadly Sins of Bad Kitchens, According to the Pros