It doesn’t matter if you’re making a multi-course masterpiece or a simple bowl of pasta, a home-cooked meal tastes even better when it’s made in a well-appointed kitchen. And we all know that even the most practical corners of our spaces deserve to look their best.
That said, designing a kitchen that is both practical and aesthetically pleasing isn’t as easy as it may seem. One false move and you could seriously compromise your kitchen’s flow or function. (Or, even worse, your kitchen could fall out of fashion sooner than you can say, “al dente.”) Don’t worry, help is on the way. We asked a handful of Southern-based designers about the most common kitchen mistakes—and how to keep them from happening in the first place. Trust us, these solutions will turn your setup into a Michelin-worthy masterpiece.
Mistake #1: Forcing an Island
Just because a spacious island is an undeniable “wow” factor doesn’t mean it belongs in every kitchen. “The reality is that in many homes, the footprint of the kitchen just isn’t big enough to accommodate an island,” explains Kim Armstrong. “And, even if you are able to fit a small island, sometimes it just doesn’t make sense from a circulation standpoint.”
Instead, the Texas-based designer recommends finding an alternative that works with your layout. “What I have done to give clients the best of two worlds—maximizing flow and storage, while still providing kitchen counter seating—is to create a peninsula,” she shares. “A peninsula can free up the center of a small kitchen where all the activity is taking place and allows guests to pull up a seat and still be a part of the interaction.”
Cynthia Lynn Photography
Mistake #2: Cluttering Your Counters
Any home chef can tell you that behind every lip-smacking meal is an array of blenders, food processors, and pressure cookers to get the job done. The problem? They can take up some precious real estate. “In my opinion, not including small appliance garages in kitchens no matter the size is a mistake,” says designer Mark Lavender, who splits his time in Tennessee and Illinois. “Nothing looks more cluttered on a countertop than a line of small appliances covering every inch of counter space.” The fix? Find somewhere to stow all your appliances when idle. “Create attractive garages with electrical outlets that allow you to use the small appliance in place and close the door when you are done.”
Mistake #3: Going With a White Grout
As the saying goes, nothing lasts forever—and, yes, that includes your grout’s once-pristine condition. “This is common with the bright white kitchen trend, but if you plan to actually cook in your kitchen, it will prove to be a nightmare, even if it’s a ‘power’ grout or other cleanable grout product,” says Jessica Davis, owner and principal of JL Design in Nashville. In a perfect world, a kitchen’s backsplash would feature a medium or dark grout; however, you can always fix your current setup with a little bit of specialty paint.
Susan Currie Design
Mistake #4: Working With Ultra-Deep Cabinets
For Susan Currie, founder of her own eponymous firm in Atlanta and New Orleans, one of the biggest mistakes a dweller can make is having cabinets that are simply too deep. While ample storage is the gift that keeps on giving, it’s likely that those appliances in the very back will collect dust. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make the most of those deep cabinets.
“Add roll out trays to your base cabinets so you can fully extend your storage for viewing,” Currie shares. “This makes it so easy to find items that might get hidden in the back of the cabinet.”
Another idea? A kidney-shaped pullout or Lazy Susan. “Whether they spin or pull out, it makes pulling out that stock pot a breeze,” she adds.
Mark Williams Design
Mistake #5: Limiting Your Shine
Why settle for one type of metal when you can enjoy a few? “Stainless-steel appliances all too often set the overall tone of today’s kitchens, but it is perfectly fine and more visually interesting to mix metals, if it is done with intention,” say Mark Williams and Niki Papadopoulos, the duo behind an Atlanta-based firm called Mark Williams Design. “The key is to repeat additional metal finishes in more than one place and cabinet hardware is a perfect place to start mixing it up”
In this space, the Williams and Papadopoulos used a combination of stainless and brass hardware to reinforce the finishes on the range and vent hood—and sprinkled in a pinch of pewter.
Mistake #6: Avoiding the Details
When it comes to your kitchen, the devil lies in the details. Though designing a kitchen of any size is packed with a bunch of tedious decisions, Bandd Design’s Sara Barney says it’s important to have a solid foundation.
“Everyone gets excited about the larger trends and ideas, but the kitchen is a hub for outlets due to various needs and tasks,” the Austin-based designer shares. “Make sure you’re thinking about the functionality, how you will use each area and narrowing down the basics.”
Surprisingly, one of the biggest breaches is outlet placement—especially if you utilize a lot of different appliances. Before you finalize your floor plan, think about how you intend to use your kitchen as well as what you’ll need to make your time cooking and cleaning more enjoyable.”
Mistake #7: Lackluster Lighting
Never underestimate the power of great lighting, an aspect Megan Molten doesn’t always see in kitchens.
“You need both task lighting and ambient lighting so you can see when you cook and illuminate when you entertain,” the Charleston-based designer explains. “Always put your overhead lighting on dimmers so you can create soft overhead light at night.”
Of course, there’s more to great lighting than optionality. Molten shares it’s also important to nail the proportions.
“You need to take into consideration your island size: divide it into fourths to determine your pendant placement,” she adds. “As for height, you’ll want around 36 inches from the bottom of the pendant to the top of the island for an eight-foot ceiling.”
Sarah Stacey Design
Mistake #8: Designing Your Kitchen for Someone Else
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder—and your kitchen’s design is no exception. “I cannot tell you how many clients have started the initial consultation by saying, ‘We should probably just do a white kitchen because that would be good for resale,'” shares Atlanta-based designer Kristin Kong. “You need to do what makes you happy especially if you spend a lot of time cooking.”
Since kitchens are one of the top remodeling projects, there’s no need to think of anyone else when spiffing up your culinary space. “Everything is a trend, so even in 10 years everything will look dated—even the white kitchens,” shares Texas-based designer Sarah Stacey. “You might as well go for that green cabinet color that you love so much!”