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13 Common Kitchen Design Mistakes to Avoid

Feb 22, 2024

13 Common Kitchen Design Mistakes to Avoid

Feb 22, 2024

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This post contains affiliate links. I earn a tiny commission, at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure here.

If you’re redesigning or updating your kitchen in 2024, check out this list of common kitchen design mistakes to avoid. Kitchen remodels are a huge investment of time and money, so there’s a lot of pressure to get it right.

You can take risks on some design aspects, but today I’m sharing 13 choices to avoid. Whether you agree or disagree with me, leave a comment and share your thoughts!

I’m going all in with big opinions here, so take this with a grain of salt. Some of these “design mistakes” are personal preference. Love a wicker pendant light? You do you. (Wait! Is that a “design mistake” or not?? Find out…)

Types of Common Kitchen Design Mistakes

Today’s article covers design decisions that fall under two umbrellas:

  • Overall planning and execution of your remodel
  • Specific design choices and details

Both big-picture and smaller design details contribute to your successful kitchen remodel. If you find the process overwhelming, hopefully, this roundup will help you navigate a path forward.

Let’s dive in! Here’s the worst mistake, at least, in my book:

Not Doing Your Homework

Kitchens are big business. No surprise there, right? So that means that they evolve with the times, design trends, and advances in technology.

Before you invest in a pricey remodel, make sure you know about the latest innovations in kitchen design so you can plan your preferences. You’ll be surprised at what’s new.

our last remodeled kitchen

Love the idea of an appliance garage? You’ll need to plan for extra electrical outlets inside a special cabinet.

How will you handle a corner cabinet with that dreaded dead zone in the back? Do you prefer a lazy Susan or would you like to try a newer pull-out shelf concept?

It’s worth a trip to IKEA, Home Depot, or Lowe’s to see what’s on display in their kitchen demo areas. Find out what’s new in cabinet design and hardware trends.

Here’s my hardware roundup to get you started: Top Cabinet Hardware Picks for 2024

You could go a step further and visit a specialty kitchen and bath store to chat with experts on the latest design innovations.

Following the Footprint

Keeping the same layout is not necessarily a mistake – just make sure to think it over.

Take a moment to consider whether your kitchen layout is the best design possible. Does it work for your needs? Could it be reconfigured for a better flow?

This is not always possible, especially in a smaller space.

In our first home, we remodeled the kitchen and kept the layout the same. There wasn’t really any room to shift things around, and the kitchen was most efficient in its original design.

In our second home, we added a third wall of cabinetry and shifted the fridge location. This allowed us to install a larger refrigerator and new cabinets for added storage. Here’s our DIY remodel.

before and after kitchen

Consider whether or not you’d like to try a modern update in your new kitchen. Could you fit a second sink for food prep? Be open to new possibilities.

Zero Personality

If you’re remodeling with your dream kitchen in mind, there’s little risk of making this mistake. You’ll choose finishes that make you happy and spice up your space.

However, if you’re remodeling to resell in a year or two, you might try to play it safe. That’s fine, as long as you don’t stay too safe… or the new kitchen might feel boring.

This one is well done, but it’s still an example of a very “safe” design:

common kitchen design mistakes

Take a peek at your local real estate listings. You can always spot a flipper house because it will have the blandest kitchen on the block. White shaker cabinets, white subway tile in a running bond pattern, and the cheapest floor tile Home Depot had on sale last month.

Instead, choose finishes with a bit more style than basic builder options. Is there a point to remodeling if your new kitchen just feels cheap? Your remodel will pay for itself when you catch a future buyer’s eye.

The kitchen below might feel busy to some, but it has interesting design features to consider:

  • mixed cabinetry
  • disguised range hood
  • subtle, textured backsplash
  • fun, bold patterned floor
  • waterfall countertop
  • microwave built into the cabinets
fun design
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All White Everything

On that note, all white kitchens have seen their day. Wood cabinets are back, baby!

I love a good white shaker cabinet, as you’ve seen in this kitchen remodel. But white on white on white? Blah.

If you’re finally climbing out of the dark-cherry-cabinet-granite-countertop days, you might be dreaming of a fresh white kitchen. I hear you.

Just look for some variation in your whites. Try a shimmery white backsplash with a subtle white quartz countertop. Add pretty cabinet hardware in either polished nickel or champagne bronze.

And if you’re ready to add some warmth and depth to your mostly-white kitchen remodel, consider natural or light wood cabinets like white oak.

Or go all in with walnut cabinets…

common kitchen design mistakes

Too Much Open Shelving

Open shelving is a common kitchen design mistake. Oooh, I said it.

Yes, it’s very pretty in magazine kitchens. Whether you opt for multiple open shelves climbing the wall or one long marble shelf with glass dishes on display, open shelving looks great in photos.

common kitchen design mistakes

It’s just not practical in real kitchens. Think of the dust and extra cleaning. Or your favorite (yet dated) dishware stacked in tall towers. Or your 3-year-old’s prized plastic Disney cups rolling off the edge.

How about your partner’s resistance to learning the aesthetically pleasing new way to stack everything after unloading the dishwasher?

Will you still have enough storage after nixing all the upper cabinets for this minimalist look?

Shall I go on?

Let’s cut our losses on open shelving and take a second look at upper cabinets.

Trendy vs. Spendy

When you buckle in and get serious about a kitchen redesign, it’s tempting to pick the trendiest design element in that moment. In 2024, that might be sculptural lighting or extra thick (or thin) countertops. But are these trends best for your kitchen remodel?

Here’s where trendy vs. spendy comes into play.

Trendy + spendy might become your biggest regret if you’re not committed to the idea for the next 10-15 years. Trendy + not spendy is a better bet for the short term, if you’ll only enjoy it for a minute.

If the trendy element is a smaller part of the kitchen budget and can be easily replaced when you tire of it – DO IT. Why not?

Cabinet hardware is one great place to try on trends.

Top Cabinet Hardware Picks for 2024

Although not cheap, these Cafe appliances from GE are unique and pretty. Plus, it’s easier to swap out an appliance than a backsplash or tile floor when the trend fades.

cafe collection appliance

Lighting is easy to change, so if you desperately want that Serena & Lily coastal design vibe, grab rattan pendants (but maybe buy the less spendy version from Amazon).

However, if you want a gorgeous, on-trend, luxury gas stove, perhaps let that concept percolate for a few weeks before swiping your credit card.

If you love a trendy design, make sure you’re going to love it for the next 15 years before you blow the budget on that one element.

Cutting Corners

On the flip side, don’t cut corners when you plan your kitchen remodel. This doesn’t mean splurges are necessary, but make the best design choices your budget will allow.

If that means you need to save up for six more months before you start the project, you’ll appreciate it in the long run. Kitchens are a huge investment, but a few careful upgrades will make such a difference in your enjoyment of your new kitchen.

Get the soft-close doors and drawers (or add the hardware). You’ll appreciate the extra hour of sleep on Saturday morning when your partner quietly unloads the dishes at 6 am.

Spring for that cabinet of drawers instead of shelves for your pots and pans. We all need this. Trust me, you’ll love it.

common kitchen design mistakes

Save up for the higher-quality quartz countertop of your dreams and skip the inferior product that chips at the edges.

Pick the pretty, real zellige tiles rather than the zellige-inspired peel-and-stick sheet, if that’s your central design feature. Your heart will breathe a dreamy sigh each time you enter the room.

When it comes to saving vs. splurging, there are two critical areas where I focus my dollars: lighting and countertops. Don’t cut corners on either of these elements; I’ll explain why they matter next.

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Cheap Countertop

Save your pennies for a good countertop + installation. Because the countertop is generally tricky to DIY, you’ll likely want to hire a good contractor to install it. Even when we DIY 90% of our kitchen remodels, we hire out the countertop and installation.

This is the kitchen in our first house. We did almost everything you see below ourselves – except the countertop (Silestone, grey expo).

our first kitchen remodel

Here’s another factor. Don’t buy a cheap product if you’re looking at natural stone or manufactured counters such as quartz. Cheaper products are not as durable; they will chip and stain more easily than higher-quality products.

Because quartz is still the top trend, you’ll find cheaper, newer lines on the market than the original premier brands. Watch out, because not all quartz is created equally. Don’t scrimp on this.

If you dream of a waterfall countertop, I’ll double down on this advice since it’s a focal point.

common kitchen design mistakes

I’ve purchased and lived with Silestone and PentalQuartz in previous homes. PentalQuartz was pretty good but chipped once around my sink where I wasn’t careful. Silestone held up perfectly, per its reputation.

These are considered the three best brands, in no particular order.

  1. Caesarstone
  2. Silestone
  3. Cambria

Lesson learned: you get what you pay for.

Generic Lighting

Another common kitchen design mistake is generic, cheap lighting. Oh, I understand the allure of affordable lighting because it sure gets expensive!

However, lighting is an opportunity to give your kitchen some personality along with a glow up.

As I mentioned, countertops and lighting are two great places to focus your remodeling budget on better design. Not only are lights the functional backbone of your kitchen, they visually perk up your space and impact the style of the room.

common kitchen design mistakes lighting

Not Enough Lighting

With the rise of pretty pendant lights for decor purposes, overhead lights are getting overlooked. One of the worst design decisions you could make is a dimly lit kitchen.

Here’s an example of a kitchen that is so cute – but the lighting is so very inadequate. From this angle, you can see all three light fixtures in the eat-in kitchen.

They definitely didn’t choose generic lighting, but look closely at the three fixtures…

common kitchen design mistakes lighting

Single bulbs!

The French doors help enormously, but what will this space feel like at night when each fixture only has a single bulb? They really should have chosen a 4-bulb overhead ceiling light.

I mention this mistake because decorative pendants often only have a single bulb. Even a row of pendants is likely not enough light for your entire kitchen, so treat them as decor rather than the primary light source.

If recessed can lighting is not your preference, there are other overhead light options. Be sure to layer multiple light sources in your space.

Kitchens need overhead lights, task lights, and if possible, a pretty pendant or flush mount light for flair. Start with the functional lights and then add task and decor lighting to your design plan. Under cabinet lighting can play a role, too.

under cabinet lighting

Islands (in the Stream)

Islands have become synonymous with kitchen remodeling. I even know a semi-pro home baker who has two islands in her kitchen, which is a luxurious use of space. I think multiple islands start to feel like an IKEA showroom, but it’s practical for some cooks.

If you don’t have an island and dream of one, consider the practical implications of your design.

Some smaller kitchens have that tempting, extra-bit of floor space that makes an island seem possible. However, you’ll need to do the math.

The rule of thumb is a 36″ walking pathway through a kitchen and a 42″ width for work areas, at the minimum. Check to see if you’ll maintain those spaces before adding an island to the mix.

common kitchen design mistakes

Plus, consider how your appliances open into the space, like a dishwasher or sliding drawers for trash cans. Will you still be able to squeeze by them?

Islands that are too small end up feeling dinky and impractical and too large become an obstacle to navigate. I’ve read that some homeowners regret installing cooktops on an island and prefer to save them for prep space or counter-height bar seating. How will you use yours?

All this is to say, plan islands carefully.

Giant Range Hoods

Unless you’re going for the industrial kitchen aesthetic, giant stainless range hoods are not the wave of the future. While functional and necessary, a range hood looks better when it melds into your kitchen design.

Just take a spin around Pinterest and gather images of range hoods. While necessary for health and function in our kitchens, new range hoods can be sleek and less obtrusive than the huge, hulking metal objects of years past.

There’s even a new range hood option that is much closer to the ceiling. I’m looking for a photo to share and hope to try one of these designs in our next kitchen remodel.

Imagine how clean this visual would be with a low-profile hood:

common kitchen design mistakes

Letting Your Contractor Call the Shots

The last common kitchen design mistake is about trusting your gut and not letting your contractor call the shots. Here’s what I mean.

Once you’ve poured your time and energy into a kitchen redesign and remodeling project, you’ll have a lot invested. You might already feel burned out.

Whether you’re working with one general contractor or independent contractors (cabinets, countertops, tile…), you’ll have to manage various personalities and agendas. Those people aren’t paying the final bill or living in your home – so stand your ground and make the best choices for your kitchen remodel.

Sometimes contractors have extra materials they want to unload rather than use what you’ve already planned.

Sometimes they have another client on the schedule and want to wrap up your project and move on.

Perhaps you’re waiting for them to return to finish that one last thing… or clean up a mess left behind… or fix a problem.

Money is your best negotiating tool. Don’t pay 100% until the job is completed to your satisfaction and everything has been cleaned up.

The best way to prepare for inevitable contractor conflict is to plan well and communicate up front and in writing. I’ve written about this before and I have much to say on this topic. Check out these posts:

Insider Tips to Hire a Contractor You’ll Love
How to Plan a Home Reno and Stay Sane
How to Save Money on a DIY Kitchen Remodel

meal ideas during remodel

That’s a wrap for today. Do you agree with these design choices that I’ve labeled as mistakes? Did I miss anything? Let me know, below.

Good luck planning your next kitchen remodel!


Hi! I’m Erin, a Colorado-based home improvement blogger and lover of all things DIY. I aim to inspire creative folks to tackle home improvement with confidence and style. READ MORE

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