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Building a Kitchen for Life - Avoiding the Most Common Design Fails

Chelsea McGrathSeptember 13, 2018

Having a beautiful and comfortable kitchen can greatly improve your quality of life at home. However, the daily importance of a kitchen means that a remodel can cause huge disruption and expense. Careful planning and design of your renovation is critical, as minor niggles and gripes can’t often be solved easily or cheaply. Putting together a successful plan, whether independently or with the help of a professional, means learning from common mistakes made by others. Here are some design issues to consider before starting work on your dream kitchen.

Making the Best Use of Your Kitchen Space

Short of major structural work, there’s little you can do to alter the basic shape and size of your kitchen. However, you can ensure that you make the most of the space you have available by making sense of exactly how you plan to use your new kitchen. Whether you want a space to indulge your passion for cooking, a room for entertaining, or simply a functional area that’s easy to keep clean, you should ask yourself the basic questions before the planning process. For example, will you want to use precious space for labor-saving appliances or for a comfortable dining area for guests? Likewise, if a microwave will be used only for occasional defrosting duties, does it need to take up prime counter space better used for a state-of-the-art food mixer?

Focusing on your real priorities rather than standard choices will have a dramatic impact on how happy you are with your new kitchen.

Considering Workflow for Kitchen Layout

While a well-planned kitchen can make cooking a joy, the opposite is unfortunately true, and all too often basic design errors get in the way of the kitchen’s main function. Common examples include:

  • Placing the main work surface and the oven too far apart.
  • Putting the refrigerator deep into the kitchen rather than near the entrance.
  • Too few electrical outlets, or outlets placed inconveniently for both kitchen appliances and your tablet or phone.

The Island Conundrum

It seems that an island is almost obligatory for modern kitchens (see this post’s picture), but do you really need one? If space is short, you’ll run into issues such as cabinet doors not having the space to fully open, or the island cramping the cook’s mobility.

The same applies to breakfast bars or other small seating areas. While they’re nice to have, are they going to be regularly used, or will they simple take up valuable floor space and get in the way?

Smart Kitchen Storage Design

Insufficient storage space is one of the biggest annoyances people have about their kitchen, but the problem isn’t always solved by adding more cupboards. Even if space isn’t a pressing issue, poor design decisions can prove a long-lasting irritant.

For example, if two cabinets can’t both be opened without the doors clashing, this is a basic but easily avoided planning error. Likewise, drawers shouldn’t block refrigerator doors, and an open dishwasher shouldn’t restrict access to the crockery cupboard.

Improper consideration of space is a common design mishap – especially when trying to fit off-the-shelf units into an existing space. Considering these important storage questions when drawing up your plan will help you avoid daily nuisances.

Which Kinds of Storage?

The type of storage matters, too. Higher cabinets can be great for keeping rarely used items out of the way, but you also need plenty of easily accessible space that can be reached without steps or stooping.

Shelving can be far more space-efficient than large cabinets, but you probably won’t want every single item in your kitchen on permanent display. Also, keeping things tidy and dust-free becomes more and more time consuming as the number of open shelves increases. Use decorative shelving for your most attractive display pieces, but keep the rest of your more ordinary items behind closed doors.

It’s also vitally important to design storage space for your kitchen waste. No one wants a smelly standalone trashcan cluttering up their kitchen. Make sure to allocate storage space during the design stage.

Materials and Decor to Live With

Although designing a kitchen is a great chance to show off your personality, give some serious thought before choosing highly on-trend or unusual decor. Ultra-modern kitchens may look fantastic in a showroom or magazines, but can date quickly as fashions change.

If done right, a kitchen remodel can be one of the better return on investments for home improvements (although you still won’t recoup all your spend). If you’d like to spend minimally, another option is to add flair and creative touches to easily replaceable items rather than core kitchen components.

Lastly, never forget that a happy kitchen will see plenty of use. Gleaming stainless steel surfaces may look wonderfully contemporary when first installed, but they also tend to show every speck of dirt and dust. Unless you want to spend all your time cleaning, consider going for a more forgiving surface such as granite or stained wood. The same applies to flooring: white tiles may increase the sense of space, but will quickly look grubby unless you’re extremely conscientious about mopping.

Time to Remodel!

Remodeling or redesigning your kitchen is a great opportunity to inject some extra comfort and style into your daily life. It shouldn’t be considered just a creative activity. A kitchen remodel is one of the most important home improvement projects to get right from the start. Whether you’re tackling the project yourself or hiring a designer to help, use the planning process effectively to design out common problems. You’ll be happy you did.

Chelsea is a content strategist for HomeAdvisor. HomeAdvisor provides homeowners the tools and resources they need to complete their home improvement, maintenance and repair projects. HomeAdvisor’s free resources can help you plan your next project with average project cost guides, local pre-screened home professional directories and instant online booking tools.

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    Chelsea McGrath

    The Rocket Homes blog is here to bring you all you need to know about buying, selling and making the most of your home. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a homeowner, selling your current home or looking to keep your place in tip-top shape, our writers and freelancers bring their experience and expertise to meet you right where you are.