Skip to content

9 Design Mistakes You May Be Making in the Kitchen

Bright and sunny kitchen.

Molly Machmer-Wessels

While kitchens come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, there are still some universal decorating dos and don’ts that apply to any and all cooking spaces.

We spoke with designers to get their input on décor decisions that should be avoided in the kitchen, whether you’re constructing a space from scratch or are simply addressing the finishing touches.

01 of 09


White kitchen with accessories.

Design: Amy Sklar; Photo: Amy Bartlam

“Kitchens need not be overly styled or cluttered to have life. The finishes should speak for themselves. Try to avoid the pitfall of adding in too many accessories on your counter, but for the pieces you must have, make sure they are beautiful. A silver champagne bucket can hold wooden spoons, a simple lazy-Susan can make organizing spices a little easier, and a pretty tray to corral your coffee supplies will be just enough.” —Maggie Griffin, founder and principal designer at Maggie Griffin Design

02 of 09

Opting for Impractical Choices

Kitchen with blue cabinets.

Design: Amy Sklar; Photo: Amy Bartlam

"A big work island is fantastic, but make sure the flow and layout is right. If you have to trek around the island to get back and forth from the fridge to the sink, for example, you'll get tired of it fast. Also, if you have young kids, a range in your island might be a bad idea as far as safety and mess are concerned. Open flames and grease splatters are not only dangerous, but cooking on your island can be a big mess.” —Noel Gatts, founder, Beam + Bloom Interiors 

“Homeowners sometimes don’t realize that cabinet companies should be generating shop drawings before they fabricate the cabinets. This is your opportunity to fine-tune your cabinet layout and to make sure the space will function for how you live and how you want to use your kitchen. Think through the type of storage you need ahead of time: do you need tray storage, or an appliance garage? How about a charging drawer to put away all of the electronics while you enjoy family time? Would you prefer your knives be in a drawer instead of a knife block on the counter? Work through the details ahead of time to save you from frustration later in the project.” —Jennifer Wundrow, founder of Jennifer Wundrow Interior Design 

Work through the details ahead of time to save you from frustration later in the project.

“If you are remodeling, take a solid inventory of the items you use regularly, and plan exactly where those things should go. For example, utensils should be located near the stove or range, as should the pullouts for pots and pans, and vertical storage for sheet pans. There is nothing more annoying than trekking all over the kitchen for the stuff you need, especially mid-recipe.” —Amy Sklar, owner and lead designer at Amy Sklar Design 

“People often see ideas in magazines, TV shows, and the like thinking it's a great idea, but unless it’s something you will actually use or do, skip it and focus on your routines and behaviors in the kitchen. If you like to prep by the sink, make room for yourself. Little choices like this add up to create a highly functional kitchen, not just a pretty space.” —Molly Machmer-Wessels, co-founder of Woodland Design Company  

“It is important to choose materials that will last in terms of both durability and aesthetics. What your neighbor has may not be right for you. You have to weigh the pros and cons of each material and learn which material is best for your individual use. For example, porcelain can be an incredibly durable surface: you can place a boiling hot pan directly on the slab and the material will be fine. That said, the built-up edges can chip, which doesn’t work as well for an active family.” —Jennifer Wundrow

03 of 09

Making Quick Decisions

White kitchen with marble countertops.

Molly Machmer-Wessels

“Enlist an expert, I can't stress this enough. This is a one and done space. No one plans to renovate their kitchen multiple times. It’s a really important project, and expert eyes can make all the difference. Designers look at things like space planning and scale with a keen eye that can be tricky for a homeowner.” —Molly Machmer-Wessels

"A kitchen renovation is for the long-haul. Avoid trendy choices and instead go for quality, traditional choices that will be timeless.” —Ashley Gilbreath, founder of Ashley Gilbreath Interior Design  

04 of 09

Choosing Blah Backsplashes

A kitchen with gray cabinets and a boldly tiled backsplash

Reena Sotropa

“Make sure whatever product that you pick for a backsplash is durable and pretty. The kitchen is the workhouse of the home, and it’s got to be easy to clean and sanitize as well as a pleasure to look at.” —Noel Gatts

05 of 09

Holding Back on Hardware

White kitchen

House of Chais

“Don’t minimize the impact of hardware and lighting. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on high-end upgrades to make a statement. You can really get creative and express yourself through lighting, cabinet knobs, and drawer pulls, and you have the financial freedom to replace these things a few years down the line if you enjoy design fluidity and change.” —Noel Gatts 

“Don't underestimate the importance of lighting. I find people feel a little hesitant to spend the big bucks in the lighting department. This can be a big ticket category, but the function and form will totally pay off. Lighting quantity, placement, and fixture selections are all really important details.” —Molly Machmer-Wessels 

You don’t have to spend a ton of money on high-end upgrades to make a statement.

“The cabinet hardware does not need to match the kitchen faucet finish. In fact, it can create greater interest if it’s different. When a woman wears jewelry, she mixes her metals, and this gives a more collected look. The same goes for your home. Don’t feel like you have to keep everything in the same family.” —Jennifer Wundrow

06 of 09

Not Considering Outlet Placement

White and wood kitchen

Reena Sotropa

“Get outlets out of the backsplash. I stress, use pop up outlets in the countertop. Avoid the visual interruption of an outlet at the backsplash at all costs.” —Ashley Gilbreath

07 of 09

Displaying Too Much

Kitchen with gold hardware.

Design: Amy Sklar; Photo: Amy Bartlam

“Don’t go overboard on open shelving, unless you're amazing at curating and dusting. A little open shelving goes a long way and should be for your most often used items, like everyday plates, bowls, and cups—pretty and matching please, if possible.” —Amy Sklar

08 of 09

Picking So-So Appliances

Open concept kitchen with blue pendant lights.

Design: Amy Sklar; Photo: Amy Bartlam

“Panel front appliances help make a space look equally pretty and functional. A stainless appliance is a distraction from the other pretty parts of a kitchen. Hide the appliances when you can. In terms of refrigerators, get away from the ice and water machine in the door. It’s another visual distraction that isn’t necessary.” —Ashley Gilbreath

09 of 09

Forgoing Useful Storage

open kitchens

Erin Wiliamson Design

Storage solutions are on everyone’s mind when renovating a kitchen. We plan out all the specifics of where everything will live, from small appliances to cereal boxes. One thing people get really excited about are cabinet inserts. Sometimes, they make good sense, and other times they can literally just eat up prime real estate in a cabinet.” —Molly Machmer-Wessels 

“Don’t overstuff your pantry to the point that you cannot clearly see its contents. I speak from experience—hello three jars of curry powder and two-year-old peanut butter.” —Amy Sklar