10 Mistakes People Make When Renovating Their Kitchens, According to Designers

A grey and white kitchen

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Renovating your home can be an absolute blast—or it can be a total disaster. The difference depends on how you prepare yourself, what your overall process is, and what common mistakes you intentionally avoid. From paint color to cabinets, the ‘triangle’ between your main appliances, to the overall ambiance of the space, there are many aspects to consider when tearing apart and rebuilding your kitchen.

But, if you take the time to do it right from the start, you’ll avoid unnecessary issues and actually enjoy the experience.

From interior designers to construction experts, here are the ten mistakes people make when renovating their kitchens (and how to avoid them).

Choosing Non-Quality Materials

Heard of the phrase ‘go big or go home’? Well, in kitchen renovating that really rings true. If you’re not going to go all out (within reason, of course) then, arguably, you shouldn’t be renovating. At least that’s how some designers feel when it comes to materials and prioritizing quality first.

Nina Magon, founder of Nina Magon Studio, says, “When it comes to kitchen materials, marble can create issues because it easily stains, chips, and etches. If you cook or entertain often, it’s best to stay away from marble as red wine, in particular, can quickly stain it,” she says. “Instead, invest in quality materials that will withstand wear over time.”

Painting Your Own Cabinets

While there’s nothing wrong with painting cabinetry, some experts say that you have to be smart and go in with a plan. Painting for the sake of appearances may only last you so long, and if you’re completely gutting and redoing your kitchen, the last thing you want is to have to repaint everything in a year.

“Painting used furniture is one thing. Painting thousands of dollars of cabinetry all to watch it peel and deteriorate in under a year—[that’s a] whole other story,” says Devin Shaffer, Lead Interior Designer at Decorilla Online Interior Design. “When the budget is tight, it's totally fine to explore paint and stain for cabinets, as replacing cabinetry is the costliest part of a kitchen remodel. [However], I discourage DIY work on cabinets and advise clients to always seek out an expert."

As Shaffer explains, you can paint your cabinetry and find workarounds (especially if you’re hoping to keep the cost low), but you don’t want to compromise on quality. The best way to ensure you’re not going to make a bigger mess for yourself down the line? Invest in some expert help.

Not Considering Storage

Kitchens are all about functionality, especially because everything from meal prep and cooking to actually enjoying the cooking process happens in this space. However, people don’t always think about what this means in terms of storage.

“A [big] mistake people make when renovating their kitchens is that they do not factor storage into the design or how much space they will actually need,” says Karen Gutierrez, Interior Designer at Mackenzie Collier Interiors. “This is why it is important to be aware of your daily routine so you can ensure the design is both functional while still keeping your aesthetic.”

Neglecting Space

One of the biggest mistakes people make when renovating their kitchen is not thinking about space. You can have all the newest and trendiest appliances, cabinetry, and features, but if you can’t maneuver around your kitchen to use these areas, it’s pointless.

"A common but painful mistake people make when renovating their kitchen is not considering how much clearance space their cabinets and appliances need when they have been opened,” says Ezra Laniado of Landmark Construction Crew. “An example of this are refrigerator doors striking the island countertop in front of it because not enough walkway space was given.”

Measure your appliances to ensure they fit perfectly into their desired spaces. Take into account door opening and which way different doors, appliances, cabinets, shelves, etc., will open to be sure you have enough room. And, of course, consider the most highly trafficked areas and consider the mobility you (and others) will need when cooking, grabbing drinks, and socializing.

Not Prioritizing the ‘Triangle’

In a kitchen, the triangle is the 3-point connection between your main appliances: sink, stove, and refrigerator. Because these are the three most important areas, you want your design to balance between them so that ease and efficiency are the priority.

“When planning a kitchen remodel or design, it's imperative that you follow the ‘kitchen work triangle rule’ as it guarantees a fully functional layout,” says Shaffer. “The sink, stove, and refrigerator are the three points of the triangle and if you were to create a timelapse of a day in your kitchen, you'd find yourself yo-yo-ing from all three points constantly. By breaking the rules of the distances in the triangle, you'll soon find yourself frustrated, even fatigued, by all the leg work.”

Rushing the Process

Renovating a kitchen should be a slow and methodical process. Gutierrez says, “Rushing decisions when it comes to anything from flooring color to cabinet style can often lead to regret and unhappiness when the final project is completed."

“Homeowners need to remember that materials can look very different in a showroom than they do in your actual space as lighting, color, etc. can impact how the product looks in one space compared to another.”

She recommends taking your time, of course, but also bringing samples home to see how different colors come together (or don’t) in the lighting of the space you’re remodeling.

Not Connecting the Kitchen to Other Spaces

When renovating, it’s important to consider how other spaces work together or offset your kitchen to create a bit of seamlessness throughout your home. While this doesn’t mean that every room in your house needs to match, there should be some element of flow that makes sense.

“[A] mistake I see homeowners making when painting their kitchens is not taking into consideration the colors used throughout the rest of the home,” says Kathy Stracke, Owner and Color Consultant for Five Star Painting. “Although certainly a more functional and practical space, it's important that the kitchen be seen (and treated) as an extension of the other rooms.”

She asks the homeowner to consider where and how people enter the kitchen—and is this transition seamless?

“The best way to [create a strong transition] is to carry the color palette into each space,” she says. “The kitchen needs to compliment the style happening in the rest of the home. Instead of creating an entirely different space, create a kitchen that incorporates some of the colors used in the other spaces so there is a good flow from room to room, and the colors in each space complement one another.”

Changing Your Mind

While everyone can have their indecisive moments, experts recommend not even starting the renovation process until you are completely certain about your preferences, desired materials, and appliances in order to save yourself time, money, and headaches.

“The number one mistake we hear about is changing your mind about appliances after you've planned your cabinets,” says Elyse Moody, Head of Content at Designer Appliances. “This can be a really pricey mistake… [and] right now, not ordering appliances early enough is a big problem, [too]. Availability is pretty dire, thanks to the past two years and supply chain issues. Right now it can take six months or more to get some fridges and dishwashers!”

Moral of this story: order confidently and early!

Forgetting About Electric and Lighting

There’s a distinct difference between a beautiful kitchen and a usable kitchen.

And, unfortunately, in the rush to renovate and create something amazing, sometimes homeowners forget about lighting and electricity, leaving the space too dark to be fully usable, without outlets needed to run different appliances, or worse, with improper (or downright unsafe!) ventilation.

Experts say this is often a product of focusing too much on the work areas (sink, dishwasher, countertops, etc.) that other areas get forgotten. Or DIYing your renovation without consulting an expert for some of the electric and safety concerns.

“I’ve often seen people focus so much on the larger parts of a kitchen remodeling project that they forget about the details,” says Yasmine El Sanyoura, Home Designer at Opendoor. “Elements like lighting, switches, and outlets add to the overall aesthetic and functionality of the space, and shouldn’t be forgotten. Clever electrical placement, like outlets under your cabinets, in the kitchen island, and in your pantry, will make your space functional for years to come.”

Playing It Too Safe

When it comes to renovating your kitchen there are, of course, areas where you want to tread lightly and carefully (TLDR: don’t skimp on anything related to health, usability, or logic, of course). 

However, one of the mistakes designers often see with kitchen remodels is an overall hesitancy to change things or fear around trying something new.

While it’s important to remember that trends won’t last forever, there is something freeing about embracing a contemporary idea, bold accent, out-of-the-box design, or something that’s uniquely personal.

Kate Lester of Kate Lester Interiors shares what she feels the biggest renovation mistake is: “Being Boring! White kitchens are safe," she says, "but if you like color, then embrace it! I love a dusty green or blue kitchen! I think it immediately creates [a] ‘wow’ factor and deep hues give a classic feel that never feels overly trendy.”

There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun. The kitchen is one of the busiest spaces in your home, after all.