8 kitchen design mistakes that are ruining your culinary setup

These common kitchen design mistakes offer food for thought if you're wondering why your cook space isn't serving you well...

A modern kitchen with khaki green cabinetry, island and brass colored overhead kitchen island pendant lighting decor
(Image credit: Herringbone Kitchens)

If you're looking to cook up a storm, avoid these kitchen design mistakes. After all, your kitchen isn't just a place to make or heat food. As we spend more time in our homes, it's a place to create gastronomical theater, shake up your hosting with a few handcrafted cocktails, and let guests pour from the living room to the dinner prep space.

While most spaces are designed with the family and purpose in mind, even your most well-thought-out kitchen ideas may be working against you. Not only that, they could even pose a health and safety risk to your loved ones too.

We're all for letting your creative juices flow, and adding a bit of spice to this room, but when these plans don't function, your vision could turn sour. However, there's no need to feel salty, these common kitchen design mistakes are made by many. Thankfully, the seasoned pros and industry experts share their recipe for success.

1. You've got lots of similar units that blur into one

A modern kitchen with textured kitchen cabinetry and glazed black border glass cupboards

(Image credit: Mereway Kitchens & Bathrooms)

Imagine: in a mission to maximize storage, you fill every wall with cabinets, high and low, in one color. For uniformity right? What you have just done, is essentially created a new wall, cabinet's depth from the perimeter. 

'A sure-fire way to make your kitchen feel smaller and claustrophobic is by having too many wall units; especially if you have a smaller kitchen.' says William Durrant, owner, Herringbone Kitchens.

'If you don’t have a larger space or taller ceilings, focus more on the bottom units and make sure to add a variety as too many cupboards can sometimes look busy. Mix up cupboards and drawers depending on your lifestyle and storage preference, it’ll make a world of a difference to the overall look of your kitchen.'

Rather than throw shade at uniform units, we thought it would be better to find a good example of subtle variation. This kitchen by Mereway features nature-inspired texture on the cupboards, and although there is matching glazed glass, being able to showcase your prized possessions gives it a glam, gallery-like feel. Add some warm strip lights from Amazon inside to highlight items of particular interest. 

2. Your kitchen is style over substance

We love spotting trends on Pinterest and Instagram. But while social media has become a democratic platform for design where we can all have our two cents on style, it can be tricky to navigate those gorgeous grid posts, stories, and reels without getting sensory overload and FOMO.

Incorporating too many kitchen trends can overwhelm your space, and be counterproductive to your cooking, cleaning, and prep needs. Be real about the size of your space and your own family's requirements. Most influential figures have idyllic setups, not to mention professional help, like a cleaner, nanny, or in-house chef. Every high-maintenance fixture, finish and surface is probably wiped down 20 times a day. Do you have time for that?

'One of the worst things you can do when designing a kitchen is focusing solely on what it will look like rather than taking into consideration your lifestyle and functionality of the space,' says Durrant.

'But you will come to resent it once you start to find problems in how you work in it. Consider things like workflow, is the sink a little too far away from your kitchen bin? Is there enough counter space and kitchen storage? Have I chosen a kitchen worktop material that will stain easily and does this suit my lifestyle? Is there enough ventilation?'

'Do you tend to splash about at the sink, is a wooden worktop realistic? These may seem more boring than choosing a kitchen color scheme and handles but are very important in the design process.'

'Don’t make big decisions based on fleeting kitchen trends and other people's opinions!' The best way to go about designing your kitchen is by following your gut feeling. If you don’t love it, it’s not for you!'

3. There's a skirting board over the kitchen sink

While skirting will play a role in protecting your kitchen walls from getting knocked and scuffed, you could do yourself some harm if you put this fixture in the wrong place. Especially if you prefer to hand wash crockery, or don't own a dishwasher...

'Something we advise against is skirting boards under the kitchen sink units. Simply because you will end up kicking them. Keep the skirting around kitchen pantry areas, freestanding units, and taller units.' says Durrant.

4. You're lacking ample light

A modern kitchen with low level pendant lighting, kitchen island, pink bar stools, and Terazzo kitchen floor decor

(Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

Getting the light right is so important in your cook space. If your kitchen also spills out into a dining area, or your guests enjoy sitting on your bar stools while watching you cook, bad lighting can ruin the ambiance. As well as positioning, consider the warmth of your lit areas, and how this will make your home feel. Low-level 'yellow' bulbs are an easy way to create an intimate atmosphere ideal for date night.

'Lighting is so important when it comes to any space and variation is key! Too many or all spotlights may be a little too bright and solely under unit light strips or lamps won’t provide you with enough light to cook safely in,' says Durrant.

A few different kitchen lighting ideas keep things interesting and are suitable for different times of day and moods!  

5. Your island has nothing hanging over it

A small kitchen with island decorated with brown paint decor and lighting overhead

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

We're not sure about you, but the freestanding cabinet in the center of the space is where the party happens! So add interest and drama with a tangible focal point. In a smaller scheme, this will draw the eye upwards, and to the middle of the room so you'll be less fixated on the corners of the room.

'When it comes to ideas for kitchen islands and peninsulas, they generally work best with something hanging over them,' says Durrant.

When it comes to kitchen island lighting ideas, you could go for a selection of pendant lights (three always look best) or if you have lower ceilings, maybe an overhead kitchen shelf design to display cookbooks, plants, and styling pieces.'

6. You don't have enough drawers

A modern country kitchen with pink drawers and overhead beams

(Image credit: Fisher & Paykel (Photo credit: Susanna Hawkins))

There's nothing worse than trying to open or close a cupboard, only for your stuff to topple out and attempt to attack you! And not having enough space is one of our top kitchen remodel mistakes that drives us up the wall!

So if you're getting stressed over a kitchen cabinet design that isn't fit for purpose, or playing pot and pan Jenga, Lindsey Davis, our acting editor, has some kitchen storage ideas up her sleeve.

She says: 'Drawers are in many ways more versatile than cupboards and now you can get super strong ones for your cookware. It's worth including one more bank than you think you need. I actually wish I had swapped one more cupboard of mine for drawers.'

However, if you're short of space or can't remodel your kitchen because you rent, or have budget constraints, our advice on organizing your kitchen may help to reduce the clutter.

'If you do think you lack drawer space, I recommend adding storage bins to cupboards to group like items. I have a basket of spices, and another holding condiments so I can get the whole lot onto the worktop while I cook, then put them away at the end,' Davis explains.

7. You've picked too many ornate finishes

Got everything but and the kitchen sink in your scheme? This is a space where less, really is more. Things like overly fussy architraves and kitchen doors are hard to clean, and in an area where oil splatters and orange splatters are near-inevitable, you don't want to spend hours removing stains.

Ditto, going OTT on your ideas for kitchen tile mortar might look nice (at first), but trust us, you'll be spending more time cleaning grout than fine-tuning your signature dishes.

8. Your floor is a slip hazard

A modern kitchen with pastel pink peninsula, dark pink wall decor and luxury vinyl tile flooring

(Image credit: Carpetright)

There's no need to cry over spilled milk (or cooking oil)... unless of course if this loose liquid has caused you to have an accident in the kitchen. But while many of us see sharp knives, hot hobs, and ovens as the main risks in the space, your choice of kitchen flooring may be the real threat.  

Before selecting a type of kitchen flooring, first, take the time to consider the space you are looking to update to avoid mistakes. This will help determine suitability and style.' says David Snazel, buyer of hard flooring at Carpetright.

'There are three main things to consider: safety, durability, and ease of cleaning. Kitchens usually see a lot of traffic, so it’s best to opt for high-quality, durable flooring that is low maintenance and will stand the test of time. Vinyl flooring and laminate are a durable and cost-effective solution for kitchens; each with its own specific features and benefits.'

What should you not do when designing a kitchen?

'It is important to not overlook the flow of your kitchen layout and kitchen storage, especially if you love to entertain,' says Ben Burbidge, MD, Kitchen Makers.

'When you’re considering the size of your island, look to maximize the internal and worktop space but don’t be tempted to make the overall dimensions too big as it could dominate or restrict movement around the kitchen,'

'When planning a kitchen, homeowners can often prioritize aesthetic over practicality, however, innovative storage solutions mean it is no longer necessary to compromise space for style,'

'Clutter-free kitchens that are easy to clean are essential for homeowners who love to entertain. Consider disguising appliances, small electricals, and prep areas to create a streamlined finish without impacting the style and hide away messy stations until guests have departed.'  

Christina Chrysostomou
Acting head ecommerce editor

Hi, I'm the acting head ecommerce editor at Real Homes. Prior to working for the Future plc family, I've worked on a number of consumer events including the Ideal Home Show, Grand Designs Live, and Good Homes Magazine. With a first class degree from Keele University, and a plethora of experience in digital marketing, editorial, and social media, I have an eye for what should be in your shopping basket. I'm the in-house appliances expert and have gone through the internal customer advisor accreditation process.