Don't Make These 6 Common Small Kitchen Mistakes, Say Designers

Updated 03/09/19
Amy Bartlam—Mistakes to Avoid Making in a Small Kitchen
AMY BARTLAM DESIGN: JDP INTERIORS

If you've ever watched a home makeover show—and let's be honest, there are plenty to choose from—the hosts are always adamant about the importance of a well-designed kitchen. For instance, there should be ample inches between the countertops and the center island, and it's a good idea to place a sink under a window. Don't forget that cabinetry should be as abundant as possible, and seating options are a must. Sound familiar? Well, these lessons are strict commandments as much as they are stylish details.

But even if you've spent countless hours watching these shows, it's still a challenge to face a kitchen remodel on your own. And that's especially true if your kitchen is small.

That's why we've turned to Ashley Goldman, the blogger behind The Gold Hive, and interior designer Jesse DeSanti and owner of Jette Creative, to provide the insights you need to think like a pro when you're flying solo. From learning how to visualize a space's potential to implementing a plan that maximizes square footage, their tips on the design mistakes to avoid in a small kitchen will ensure that you'll create a "before and after" transformation that's worthy of primetime TV.

Read on to get their advice, and see how it'll shape your mindset when renovating a small kitchen.

Ashley Goldman of The Gold Hive

Ashley Goldman—Mistakes to Avoid Making in a Small Kitchen
Ashley Goldman

Goldman has an easy frame of reference for designing a small kitchen: Consider function first. "It's fun to think about color, tile, and finishes in a kitchen remodel, but I always think of how the space should work before how it should look," she says. 

To put this advice into action, look at the available space in your kitchen and picture how you'll move about the room. "Smart storage, functional counter space, and access to key appliances are high priorities," she continues. "Once a layout that maximizes functionality is in place, finishes and color palettes can be incorporated to play off the floor plan and cabinetry. This applies to big kitchens and small kitchens, but the tinier the space, the smarter the functional design needs to be."

Mistakes to Avoid in a Small Kitchen

Not installing the upper cabinetry.
"A kitchen with no upper cabinetry feels airy when it's first installed, but when folks move in, it immediately feels busy when they add a magnetic spice rack to the walls, hang pots and pans from the ceiling, and stack baskets on the fridge," she says. 

Not decluttering.
"Storing a knife, an avocado slicer, and an apple corer will crowd the minimal storage," Goldman continues.

Not installing the upper cabinetry.
"A kitchen with no upper cabinetry feels airy when it's first installed, but when folks move in, it immediately feels busy when they add a magnetic spice rack to the walls, hang pots and pans from the ceiling, and stack baskets on the fridge," she says. 

How to Fix Those Mistakes

Consider concealed cabinets instead of open shelves or glass-front doors.
"Clutter can be hidden when storage is tight," she says. 

Install outlets inside of pantries.
"This allows small appliances to be plugged in and ready for use where they are out of sight and off valuable counters," Goldman adds. 

Don't forget about the corners of cabinets.
"Lazy Susans and pullout corner drawers make use of nooks and crannies," she notes. 

Corral similar items together.
"Place them in a tray on the counters to keep them contained and looking intentional," Goldman says. 

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Jesse DeSanti, owner of Jette Creative

Jesse DeSanti also has a quick mantra to remember as you layout your small kitchen: Use every single inch.

"As a rule, my team 'places' items the client has into the drawings so that we can make sure there's room for everything," she says. "Typically, we recommend fewer upper cabinetry to allow the space to feel larger, and then we build some full-height storage to make up for that loss. Open shelves are something we usually get some pushback on, but the amount of stuff you can put out is more then most people think."

Jette Creative—Mistakes to Avoid Making in a Small Kitchen
Amy Bartlam DESIGN: Jette Creative

Mistakes to Avoid in a Small Kitchen

"Heavy" looking upper cabinetry.
"This weighs down the space," she notes. 

Appliances that are too big for the room.
"All of the sudden it's too hard to move around," DeSanti says.

Creating too much detail.
"Adding a ton of brackets to open shelving, for instance, really creates a lot to look at in such a small space," she adds.

How to Fix Those Mistakes

Utilize simplicity.
"Remember that less is more," she says. "Turning toward simplicity as a benchmark for a kitchen is just a good tool overall."

Try to limit the amount of installed "stuff."
"A kitchen already has so much going on without extra design details," DeSanti says. "Use food, jars, plates, and bowls as your details instead."

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