Blue & Cream Gloss Kitchen, Aberdare, South Wales: modern Kitchen by Hitchings & Thomas Ltd

Common kitchen design problems

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
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When it comes to planning a kitchen, a lot of designers have to deal with the same batch of complaints from clients moaning about all the things that’s wrong with their kitchens or features that frustrate them. However, a lot of these recurring problems (and the resulting complaints) are because those kitchens were not designed with the owners’ needs in mind – which is also often the case with inherited kitchens. 

Hiring a good designer means you’ll get asked a bunch of questions, like how you live in your home, how your lifestyle affects your cooking schedule, etc. Thus, before you reach out to a professional kitchen planner to help you conjure up your dream cooking space, get a head start on having your answers ready by having a look at the most common design problems faced by others.

1. Inadequate storage

Bespoke Minimalist Kitchen By Luxmoore & Co: minimalistic Kitchen by Luxmoore & Co

Poor kitchen planning leads to problems, and in the majority of cases, this includes insufficient storage spaces in your kitchen – which can result in clutter, mess and frustration. 

However, even in very small kitchens, it is still possible to add some base- and wall cabinets; sometimes it just takes some careful and creative planning beforehand. 

There are also lots of clever storage options to consider (like secret drawers or hidden spice racks), and many kitchen storage options are specifically designed for the provision of smaller items, such as gadgets, hand-held appliances and utensils.

2. A layout that’s just bad

A kitchen with a bad layout will not be enjoyed by the owner, thus resulting in the room becoming a less-than-joyful space in terms of usage. 

Remember that your kitchen needs to cater to your individual needs. But for that to happen, your designer must enquire about your lifestyle, habits and kitchen requirements, as well as how many people live in your house, who likes to cook and what your preferred cooking style is. 

All of this information is most vital in the planning of the perfect layout.

3. Insufficient worktop space

Kitchen and Lighting: modern Kitchen by CATO creative

Those worktop surfaces are needed for just about every activity you will carry out in the kitchen – so, can you see how important it is to have enough? 

During planning, it’s vital to think about all the ways in which you currently use, or intend to use, your worktop surfaces. For example, you might want space for more than one person to cook at once, or maybe a seating area for your partner to sit and chat to you while you cook, or even to include a comfy (yet safe) space for the kids to do their homework.

4. A decent traffic flow

Orford | A classic country kitchen with coastal inspiration: classic Kitchen by Davonport

As suggested, you might want to include enough worktop surfaces in case more than one cook will be operating in that kitchen. However, you also need to consider how to achieve this so that other users (i.e. family members and guests) don’t get in the way while trying to reach the fridge, oven or sink. 

This might mean setting up two separate and spaced out ‘prep zones’, or ensuring there’s only one kitchen entry point, allowing you to easily see who’s coming or going. You can also ensure frequently used appliances (like the fridge) are on the periphery of your kitchen, so other household members can still access them without having to fully enter the kitchen.

5. Badly spaced units and appliances

It’s equally important for units and appliances to be both well-positioned for easy use, and well-spaced. For example, there should be adequate space (typically a minimum of 900 mm) between opposing units and appliances, so doors and drawers can open without obstructing each other.

For maximum ease of use, and where possible, unit- and appliance doors should also be handed to the left or right according to the surrounding kitchen space.

6. Poor ventilation and extraction

Don’t want those cooking smells to linger on your clothes or furniture? Then opt for appropriate extraction features, like a ceiling extractor. 

Choose the best-quality model you can afford, and ensure you pick the right size of ducting to fit your chosen extractor model. This should make for quieter, more effective extraction that’s also more energy-efficient and less likely to break and need repair in the future. 

It’s also important to consider how much noise your potential extractor will make, especially if that kitchen is in an open-plan layout where noise will carry quite easily.

7. Letting rubbish get out of hand

Pull out waste bins: modern Kitchen by Urban Myth

Just because a bin is present does not mean it’s a done and dusted deal in terms of rubbish. Most often, that bin is too small and fills up quickly, meaning constant emptying. Or another common problem is there’s no provision made for separating and storing recyclables. 

This sort of problem usually comes about because the kitchen designer hasn’t understood the client’s requirements, such as how many people in the household will be cooking, and whether recycling is important to them. 

Fitting a bin with larger capacity, a bin with separate provisions, and/or the inclusion of a kitchen waste disposal unit are all effective solutions to consider.

8. Lacking task lighting

Task lighting is quite crucial, as it focuses direct light onto specific sites (such as the worktop, stove and sink area). Worktops used for food preparation are often positioned directly under wall units, so without additional lighting, these cabinets can easily cast shadows and darken the surface, making cutting, slicing and other food preparation more challenging – even dangerous.

The solution? Include spotlights recessed into the underside of wall cabinets, or cabinet lighting to let you easily see the full contents of your cupboards. 

You might even consider making a focal point of your task lighting, such as fitting stylish pendants over an island, allowing them to perform the function of both lighting and visual décor.

9. Poorly planned sockets and switches

The Scandinavian Kitchen: scandinavian Kitchen by Papilio

In a lot of cases, you realise that those switches and sockets aren’t where you need them only after your kitchen has been finished. It is true that we all use our kitchens differently, which is why your designer needs to know your unique requirements and lifestyle when positioning these electrical points. 

Of course, there are some restrictions governed by regulations and safety, such as the fact that you must have a clearance of 150 mm between socket and worktop, etc. However, your designer should be able to advise you on these recommendations during the planning stages.

10. Costly trend-led designs

Trends come and go – remember that when planning your kitchen. That is not to say that you shouldn’t opt for your favourite style or quirky feature, but do consider adding these in the form of accessories and furnishings (which are easier and far less costly to change at a later date) rather than fixed furniture, fittings and worktops. 

Yes, we all want an impressive look for our kitchen, but most of us also want a space that can stand the test of time. Thus, always look ahead and consider whether you’ll still be happy with your design in 5 – 10 years from now. 

Even when space is limited, there are still ways in which to enjoy a fully functional kitchen – take a look at: Where should I put my fridge in a small kitchen?

What kitchen design problems have you experienced?
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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