10 Kitchen Layout Blunders and How to Avoid Them

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If you’re planning your new kitchen, you need to check out Houzz’s experts’ views on the most common layout mistakes.

Choosing beautiful finishes and fixtures for your new kitchen is one thing, but get the layout wrong and it will never function as well as you want it to. We’ve asked three design experts to reveal the 10 most common layout errors that kitchen renovators make, and what you can do to avoid them. We’ve also accompanied the text with images showing successful layouts.

1. Not allowing enough circulation space

This can make a kitchen feel cramped and can restrict the number of people who can comfortably use the space at the same time. It causes even more issues when your kitchen doubles as a thoroughfare. A lack of space can also make it difficult to open appliances such as the fridge and dishwasher.

Solution: To provide adequate circulation, aim to have around 1,300 millimetres of space between kitchen benchtops. Allow a little more room if there is a thoroughfare leading through the kitchen. In a small kitchen 1,000 millimetres would be the minimum amount of space between benchtops, but aim for upwards of this number if you can.


Image courtesy Polytec www.polytec.com.au

2. Lack of planning around workflow

A good kitchen workflow is essential. If you don’t have one, your kitchen will be inefficient and you can end up running backwards and forwards between the different parts of your kitchen every time you cook, wash or prep.

Solution: In the planning stages, carefully consider how you use your kitchen. Increase functionality by including storage for spices and oils near your cooking zone and storing cutlery and crockery near the dishwasher.

You’ll find many smart solutions on the market, including wide drawers and tailored inserts that facilitate high-functioning storage.

3. Not pre-measuring appliances

Lack of pre-planning when it comes to appliances can lead to excessive protrusion from oversized fridges. This can affect the ability to open cabinets and other appliances in your kitchen, and reduce circulation space.

Not measuring smaller appliances such as microwaves, blenders and food processors can be an issue too. Without a proper ‘home’ within your layout, they can end up sitting out on the benchtop and creating clutter.

Solution: Select appliances well in advance and check dimensions and the way appliances open to ensure that your kitchen layout can accommodate them in concealed, tailored storage. The same applies to pots and pans that are best stored neatly away.

4. Putting lighting in the wrong place

If you don’t select appropriate light fittings above your benchtops, you will end up cooking, prepping and washing in the shadowy depths of your kitchen.

Another common lighting mistake is prioritising aesthetics over functionality. Pretty pendants are beautiful but if they don’t shine enough light over your work surfaces, they will not be practical.

Solution: Position lighting in front of you rather than just overhead or behind you to avoid working in shadows. Installing downlights and pendant lights on separate circuits makes it easy for you to control your lighting levels and atmosphere.

It’s also important to select globes that emit sufficient light so you can see what you’re doing when you’re chopping and cooking.


Image courtesy Polytec www.polytec.com.au

5. Not thinking about function

When planning your remodel, remember your kitchen’s busiest areas – the sink, stove, and fridge. Make sure you put these areas and appliances in practical locations that are relevant to one another, while allowing enough space for people to use and access them comfortably.

When choosing cabinetry, make sure the doors won’t block workflow when they’re open – the last thing you want is your fridge and cupboard doors banging into each other every time you open them!

Solution: Plan your kitchen layout as far in advance as possible. Choose your appliances before you start looking at cabinetry units. This will allow you to fit your units around your appliances rather than the other way around, giving you a seamless look that’s both smart and space-efficient.

Tip: Think about how many people live in your home and will be using the kitchen at one time. If it’s going to get crowded, you may have crammed too many elements into the kitchen layout and might want to consider scaling back.

6. Wasting space on a kitchen island

Kitchen islands are a great way to increase your prep and storage space, but will only work if you have the room. If your kitchen is small, an island can end up wasting what little space you have.

Placing an island in the wrong spot is another recipe for disaster. A poorly positioned island can obstruct the flow of traffic to and from the sink, refrigerator, stove and primary workstations, creating a bottleneck in your kitchen.

Solution: Only choose an island if your kitchen space can accomodate it – or specify a narrow one. You’ll want around one metre of space on either side of your island unit to allow for traffic flow.

Deciding how big or small your island unit should be will depend on what it needs to house and the proportions of your kitchen. I would recommend a minimum width of around 1,200 millimetres for a kitchen island. But if you don’t plan on installing a sink or a stovetop in it, you could go as narrow as 600 millimetres in width.

7. Not allowing enough space between the sink and stovetop

This is your main food preparation area, so while there are no set guidelines on exactly how much space you’ll need, you’ll want a decent expanse of bench space here.

Solution: When planning your kitchen, make sure the layout meets the practical day-to-day needs of the kitchen user.


Image courtesy Polytec www.polytec.com.au

8. Poorly positioned cupboard doors and drawers

These can end up blocking doorways and walkways when they’re opened.

Solution: Planning is key. Before you commit to a layout, think about how and where all the elements in your kitchen will open, including cupboards, drawers, the fridge and dishwasher, and how people will move through the space.

9. Not making enough use of vertical wall space

In a small kitchen, every bit of space counts and your walls offer valuable storage real estate.

Solution: Taking your cupboards right up to the ceiling will maximise your storage potential in a compact kitchen. If you don’t like the idea of rows of closed-door cupboards, you can always mix it up with open shelving.

Tip: If your wall cupboards are positioned over a cooktop, minimum clearance rules apply. The minimum requirements can vary for electric and gas cooktops, and range from 600 to 750 millimetres.

10. Assuming you need a brand-new layout

I’d never automatically dismiss the existing layout of a kitchen. It’s often planned that way for very practical reasons, such as placement of doors and windows, and the most logical traffic flow.

Solution: A tweak to the layout may be all that’s needed – such as making it open-plan or adding a breakfast bar or an island bench. This can save a lot of money, because you won’t have to move around existing electrical and plumbing outlets.

If you’re designing a kitchen layout from scratch, address the practical considerations first: How many people will be using the kitchen on a regular basis? Do you do a lot of entertaining? This will help you work out the kitchen’s size and function.

Then consider how the work triangle – the cooktop, sink and fridge – will best fit the layout you’ve chosen. Allow enough space between the three points of the triangle so you’re not walking metres between them every time you use your kitchen.

Article by Georgia Madden, Senior Writer, Houzz Australia