Kitchen design mistakes to avoid – and what to do instead

kitchen design mistakes

Kitchen design and planning should be fun. After all, it’s about exercising your creativity and bringing your dream vision to life. But there are many mistakes you need to avoid making when planning the design and flow of your kitchen.  

The talented designers at Herringbone Kitchens have helpfully made a list of kitchen design mistakes and how to avoid them, and here at These Three Rooms we’ve added to it. So here are our top no nos when it comes to kitchen design, and our tips on what to do instead…

a pink kitchen design
Amersham kitchen from Herringbone Kitchens. Prices start from £30,000.

Tips from Herringbone Kitchens

Avoid using too many units and not enough variation

Herringbone Kitchens say it’s tempting to cram your kitchen design with as many units as you can, but this is a design mistake. While it’s true that you can never have enough kitchen storage, too many wall units can make the space feel small and claustrophobic. If your kitchen is small or you have a low ceiling, focus more on the bottom units and add a variety: mix cupboards and drawers.

This will make a big difference to the overall look of your kitchen, making it look less busy.

navy blue and taupe cabinetry
The cabinetry in this kitchen is almost totally restricted to base units. Barham kitchen, Herringbone Kitchens.
Never prioritise form over function

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when designing your new kitchen is to focus solely on looks. Instead, think about your lifestyle and how the space needs to work. Of course, you want your kitchen to be as beautiful as possible, but you’ll regret focusing on this when you start to find problems in its functionality.

Consider things like workflow – is the sink a little too far away from the bin? Is there enough counter space and storage? Have you chosen a material that will stain easily, and does this suit your lifestyle? Is there enough ventilation? Do you tend to splash about at the sink – and if so, is a wooden worktop realistic? These considerations may seem more boring than choosing colours and handles, but they’re essential.  

a navy blue kitchen design
Ensure your kitchen has plenty of counter space. Broadstairs kitchen, Herringbone Kitchens.

More kitchen design advice from Herringbone Kitchens

Avoid being sparing when it comes to lighting or using all spotlights 

Enough lighting is essential when it comes to kitchen design, and variation is key. Too many spotlights may make the space a little too bright. However, solely under-unit light strips or lamps won’t provide you with enough light to cook safely. Try a few different lighting choices to keep things varied, and ensure it’s suitable for different times of day and moods. For tips on getting kitchen lighting right the first time, check out our feature here.

off white cabinetry
Pendant lights, wall lights and spotlights provide light for all occasions in this Clapham design from Herringbone Kitchens.

It’s your kitchen, remember, and you’re the one who is going to have to cook, entertain and work in it. So don’t feel you need to consider the tastes or opinions of anyone who isn’t going to be living in your house. And by all means take inspiration from the latest kitchen trends, but don’t implement any design decisions you don’t absolutely love. You’ll most likely have to live with this kitchen for years, so you need to enjoy it.

a dark green kitchen design
Make sure you choose a kitchen design you absolutely love. New Malden design by Herringbone Kitchens.
And lastly, avoid leaving a bare space over the island 

Kitchen islands and peninsulas usually work best with something hanging over them. You could go for a selection of pendant lights (three is the magic number), some hanging shelves – or, if your island has a hob on it, an extractor fan.

a navy blue island surrounded by light pink cabinetry and walls
Three pendant lights over the island is a design trick that always looks good. Sevenoaks design, Herringbone Kitchens.

Tips from These Three Rooms

Don’t order the wrong-sized cabinetry or appliances

It’s easy to order the wrong-sized appliances for your cabinetry, or vice versa. Don’t assume your appliances will automatically fit and look perfect with your cabinetry – ensure you measure everything out and check that it all fits before you order it. If you can, view a CAD drawing (computer-aided drawing) beforehand – a 3D model of your kitchen. This will help you visualise exactly how your kitchen design will look before committing to it.

kitchen design by Aura
This kitchen has the right-sized cabinetry. Edgerton Dust grey Shaker-style kitchen, from £13,000, Aura Kitchens.
Don’t forget to include heating

It’s normal to think of the kitchen as a warm space. After all, it’s the room with the oven and the hob, right? So it gets hot when you’re cooking. However, what if you’re only making a salad? Or what if you’re using the kitchen to work from home? Then it can get properly chilly if you’ve forgotten a means of heating it (and no, turning the oven on isn’t the answer!)

Be sure to incorporate a radiator into your design (or a panel heater or storage heater if necessary). You can use this handy tool from Heater Shop to calculate the size you need in order to heat the room to 21°C.

beautiful Shaker-style cabinetry
Modern Shaker kitchen featuring stunning island, from £4220, Wren Kitchens.
Don’t have a bin out on display

When you look at the above pictures of the gorgeous kitchens above, what do you not see? Yup: a great whacking unglamorous rubbish bin in the corner! Bins are not ornaments and they don’t look impressive. So the best kitchens have integrated bins – or, at the very least, have them hidden away in base cupboards.

So, when you’re designing your kitchen, you’ll want to designate three base cupboards for waste: one for general waste, one for recycling and one for food waste. Some designs may integrate all three into two or even one cupboard, but they’ll never have the waste bins out on display.

grey Chobham cabinetry
Can you see a bin in this kitchen design? No. No, you can’t. Chobham kitchen by Brayer Design.
Don’t neglect to include a power supply

Sure, all your in-built appliances will be connected to power – but what about freestanding appliances? We’re talking about your toaster, kettle, blender and coffee machine (and, if you’re me, your milk frother, potato masher and a billion other gadgets). You’ll also want to charge your phone in the kitchen from time to time. And what about plugging in a radio or smart home speaker?

You get the picture: you’re going to need plenty of plug sockets. Don’t forget them. A handy tip is also to label all the ‘free’ sockets and/or label those dedicated to appliances. You don’t want to unplug your fridge-freezer by accident in order to charge your iPad!

Poggenpohl kitchen design
We reckon this kitchen has plenty of power sockets. Preloved Poggenpohl kitchen sold via Used Kitchen Exchange.
Avoid deciding everything on your own

Okay, I know we said to stick to your own taste and not be influenced by trends or other people if their aesthetics don’t appeal. However, we’re talking about functionality here. So unless you’re a kitchen designer yourself, it’s best not to design your own kitchen with zero outside input. If this feature has taught you things (and we hope it has), imagine what else you could learn from people with kitchen design know-how. They’ll be able to spot the flaws in your planning and suggest great ideas that you haven’t thought of.

They’ll point out useful errors like ‘How are you going to open that door with the washing machine in the way?’ or ‘You’ve chosen solid wood flooring but that’ll warp on contact with water.’ So be sure to show your plans to as many experts as possible before committing to a design. This is very different from making aesthetic decisions – of course, don’t choose handleless cabinetry when your heart’s set on Shaker, or vice-versa.

Show your design to as many experts as possible if you want it to function optimally. Kitchen from £10,000, Olive & Barr.

Want to read more? Check out our feature on kitchen planning ideas.

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