Don’t Fall Into These Traps: 10 Common Kitchen Design Mistakes To Avoid - Modern Homes

by Tina Riley
5 years ago

Planning and designing a new kitchen should be an exciting and enjoyable process. It’s certainly something we love to get involved with, having had so many years’ experience. There are some proven ways to make sure you get the kitchen you’ll love, as well as a kitchen that serves you well.

We find it’s a case of matching both your design aspirations and how you want the kitchen to look, along with the way your kitchen needs to work on a practical level for you and your home. Design and aesthetics are just as important as how your kitchen works and how it fits into your life.

The biggest tip we’ll give you is to be as open as you can with your designer and explain exactly what your kitchen needs to do for you and how you use your current kitchen. What frustrates you about your current space and how would you like to improve it? We’re pretty good at spotting any compromises that you’re making right now with your current kitchen and then working out how to avoid that compromise with your new one… whilst making sure it looks stunning, too!

There are some traps to avoid, and over the years we’ve seen people fall foul of these with other companies. So, if you’re just setting out on your brand-new kitchen journey then read on to avoid these 10 common mistakes…

1. Don’t scrimp on quality

Flicking through a glossy lifestyle magazine over Christmas I came across a lovely picture of a kitchen. Spread across the two pages, it was clearly a showroom kitchen, one that has never been cooked or lived in. It was immaculate, stunning. But hey, I love this business, so I’m bound to get excited.

We’ll start with the obvious one. A kitchen will most likely be with you for around 15-20 years so it’s going to see its fair share of action. If you scrimp on the quality of the kitchen at the start, then don’t be surprised when it fails to continue to work like new forever.

Drawers, cabinets, hinges, and other areas of your kitchen will get thousands of hours of use. No matter how well you think you’ll look after it, simply using the doors and drawers and loading the shelves will over time wear them out. Go cheap and you risk them failing early on and seeing them need more maintenance as a result.

It’ll cost you more in the long run to save upfront!

It’s also worth considering that a good kitchen cabinet will be colour co-ordinated to your chosen doors eliminating the need for expensive and unsightly cladding panels.

2. Don’t underestimate your storage needs

I consider those elements pretty essential in a kitchen – so why are they not included in the price?

Storage is a must within any kitchen and one area we see that usually needs improving from your last kitchen. It’s really easy to underestimate how much storage you need, especially if you’re removing shelves or changing the layout with your new kitchen.

Don’t simply replace the kitchen cupboards you have. Be open with your designer about how you use your kitchen and how you’d like to use your kitchen. Build yourself an itinerary of the items you need to store and put away, including the items you currently don’t store away. Clutter and occasional items on work tops makes your new kitchen look messy and disorganised so go all out on the storage and get the space you’ve always needed and wanted.

3. Get the right height!

This is a subtle but highly-effective decision from the beginning. We often see kitchens where the cupboards are too high to reach the contents, or the surfaces are too low, leading to bad backs whilst chopping the veg. We’ve also seen dangerously high ovens or microwaves, leaving piping hot food above head height  – something you really should avoid.

Height is particularly important for small kitchens and whilst you might to want to include all your preferred appliances and fixtures, it’s important not to do it at the detriment of fitting these within the best possible locations.

Worktops and ovens should be fitted at an appropriate height and this applies for all age and health statuses, including those with no back complaints. It’s better to keep it that way!

4. Don’t forget to take out the rubbish!

We know this might not be at the top of your kitchen dream board but the bin is one of the most used areas of a kitchen. You need to think about where it should go, what you need it to do, and… that it might pong a bit!

Getting the right amount of space for your bin means that you’re not emptying it every day. Thinking about how to organise your recycling could mean you decide to get extra bins or compartments. Just don’t make your bin so big that your rubbish stays long enough to add horrid odours to your kitchen.

The location of your bin is also important as when you’re cooking you’ll have waste food and packaging that you want to get rid of quickly. Having the bin or food waste area in a compartment near the chopping area is very handy.

5. Make a small kitchen work for you

Planning small kitchens requires a lot of care to ensure that your colours, lighting, storage, and layout all work well together. But don’t think that bigger is always better. Small kitchens, whilst they are more challenging to design, can also make for some of the most beautiful and practical kitchen spaces out there.

To brighten up your small kitchen maybe you could make the windows larger, add skylights, change the lighting options, or even look at using half walls or pony walls if appropriate.

You just need to be realistic when planning and designing but also creative when considering the options available to you. 

For example:

Kitchen islands

Islands can work in small spaces. A good space between all sides on an island is in the region of between 900mm and 1000mm. But if your space is still too small then a peninsula will usually work as an alternative and can be just as useful.


Dark colours can work for small kitchens but need careful introduction. Grey is a neutral that’s very popular at the moment. Navy blue is also on trend this year. Dark colours can look modern and sophisticated and not cramped at all when managed carefully. Using a glass splashback can radiate light back into the room, and you could choose lighter countertops and walls to keep things balanced.


Cabinets should be brought up to the ceiling to provides more storage space, as well as eliminating the need for difficult dusting! If full height units might seem claustrophobic, then glass fronted doors can bring back the feeling of space.

6. Get sufficient and appropriate lighting

When it comes to lighting in your kitchen, you should look at two areas:

Decorative and functional.

The practical side of things looks at getting lighting fitted that give you the best illumination for cooking as well as cleaning. The decorative side focuses on the mood and ambience of your space. You’ll most likely need two areas of lighting here with strong and bright spotlights on the ceiling merged with soft and mood-setting under cabinet lights or even kick plate illumination.

Think about how you’ll ‘work’ in the kitchen and then how you’ll entertain or relax in it too. The kitchen is the hub of the home so you’ll need both types of lighting for both types of usage. Can you use dimmer switches? If so you can turn them up fully while prepping your meal then turn them down for a more peaceful ambience while you eat.

If you don’t fancy spotlights why not consider pendant feature lights over the centre island in the kitchen? These can be traditional or modern, and look great in groups of three. Or how about a really stunning centrepiece light such as a chandelier or bold statement light to make a great talking point?

7. Establish a working kitchen flow

‘Flow’ in the way your kitchen moves and feels when you’re in it. Creating a kitchen that flows means it’s easy to grab a cup, throw in a tea bag, boil the kettle, and get out some milk. How does it feel to create a simple meal with all your ingredients nearby? Again, this depends on your lifestyle and how you use the kitchen. Maybe all you need is plates and cutlery and a takeaway menu – we’re all different!

The best kitchen layouts are those that allow fluid movement between different areas and one way to do this used to be the ‘kitchen triangle’ but now we’re seeing more people creating separate kitchen zones for different activities for preparing food, washing up, or for eating.

A poorly laid out kitchen will annoy you so this has to be carefully considered. Be open with your designer about your use and get the layout and ‘flow’ you deserve.

8. Plan your counter space

Worktop space is really important so aim to get it just right for you and your kitchen. Your worktop will have different areas from eating to preparing and serving food as well as housing appliances like the kettle and the toaster, assuming you don’t want to put them away after each use.

There are some really important things to consider with your worktop:

  • There should be plenty of worktop space adjacent to your oven for plating up your food.
  • You should also have enough space behind an oven for you to easily turn and set hot and/or heavy food items down.
  • Will you eat at your worktop or a table? How many people will use it? How often will you have guests over?
  • Which items will you have out constantly? Some people use a juicer or blender every day and some might get it out once in a blue moon.

The amount of worktop space you require depends a lot on you and how you use your kitchen and once again your designer should ask the right questions to work this out with you.

9. Ensure good working extraction

Getting rid of cooking smells means your new kitchen will stay looking and smelling fresh for many years to come. Removing the odours and grease from your cooking is essential to your success and this is especially true if you’re planning on an open plan kitchen where you’ll cook, wine and dine, as well as sit and rest.

Plan for the extraction at the start and incorporate it into your design so that it works seamlessly with your design and ‘flow’. You can even incorporate lighting into your cooker hood, too.

10. Don’t neglect your future kitchen needs

Getting rid of cooking smells means your new kitchen will stay looking and smelling fresh for many years to come. Removing the odours and grease from your cooking is essential to your success and this is especially true if you’re planning on an open plan kitchen where you’ll cook, wine and dine, as well as sit and rest.

Plan for the extraction at the start and incorporate it into your design so that it works seamlessly with your design and ‘flow’. You can even incorporate lighting into your cooker hood, too.

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 what’s affordable for you. And be sure to take on board any advice from your designer.