The Worst Mistakes In Kitchen Design

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I belong to a couple of Facebook business pages where my fellow interior design professionals share challenges, ideas and questions. They’re very helpful and I get to “meet” so many fantastic industry pros, such as Cheryl Kees Clendenon. Cheryl owns In Detail Interiors, a successful retail home decor store and interior design firm in Pensacola, Florida. She wrote a terrific blog post not long ago about kitchen design mistakes that I completely agreed with. I asked Cheryl if I could share her post with my readers and she graciously agreed.

Quick note - I wonder if the tired old stereotype about interior designers being snooty and catty with each other is still believed? It’s always been my experience that interior designers are actually incredibly supportive of each other and always willing to help and share their experiences.

Back to Cheryl’s post. Read on - this could save you a lot of time, money and heartache!

A few of my ‘just say no’ kitchen design mistakes- I rarely see these mentioned so going to just put it out there!

Multiple angled islands interesting or obstacle course?

Kitchen design mistake #1

Ok so just the other day I received a lovely advertising package for a new condo high rise with the most horrible flattened hexagon shaped island- for a cool 3million plus. I died. Maybe it’s just a show kitchen. I cannot bear to even post the plan because so much of it is beautiful- but the flat hex island is no bueno. I know sometimes it’s necessary to cut a corner here and there and we have done it too- but it’s a thing to avoid when you can do so- and always with a light hand. Think curvier than chamfered when possible and remember just how many laps you will do around an island like this and your hip bones will thank you too!


High-low cabinets – not for the attention deficit folks!

Kitchen design mistake #2

Just today I heard a few people commenting on this and was a bit surprised that so many thought this was an ok idea.  There is no good reason I can see to do this at least in the typical manner of a straight run going higher to just vary it for no real reason. Sure, mid level cabinets full height can be cool and done well by good designers but the idea below is a big NO in my book. This came about from big box retailers trying to make their non custom cabinetry look custom. They are not fooling anyone.


Raised Dishwashers

Kitchen design mistake #3

Raised dishwashers- I get the concept and why someone might think this is a good idea to save your back-but I’ve yet to see a layout that works.  The reason for this is simply because not only does it look weird as hell, it’s also a major encumbrance right next to your sink! Who needs a 6 inch raised ledge right there? If the reason for the rise is due to an ADA situation, we will make it work- but this “idea” died a while back and was even hard to find a photo to illustrate it!


 Tile creep- yes there can be too much of a good thing!

Kitchen design mistake #4

Oh lordy this one I see a lot and is an absolute no way in hell. Going above the hood with NO kill point is bad news. Tile transitions are a huge issue for us in any application and is one of the easy things to overlook for a diy-er or a novice designer. Heck, it took me many years to hone these skills but just recently in Destin, we had cabinets taken out and redone because the plan was not followed and the tile ran short of the edge of the countertop. This is serious business for my team.


Do not sacrifice the knees at the counter or bar!

Kitchen design mistake #5

This is another commonly made mistake by developers of “bigasshighrises” – and for the life of me I cannot understand it. If you do not have room for a few more inches- then redesign the space. Call me ya’ll- I can fix any layout- but sadly developers rarely get expert advice and it is so ridiculous for the price being paid for these units. Living on the coast- I see way too much poor design in high rises- why? Maybe they simply do not care or they are not paying top dollar for the Architectural design- who knows? The kitchen below is cute enough- but why even put stools there when you cannot sit? Regardless of your kitchen layout be kind to yourself and family- allow room for your legs!


No ventilation- zomg. This is a big deal!

Kitchen design mistake #6

Ventilation is key to removing toxins and grease from your kitchen. It is not healthy to have a non ventilated kitchen. Period. Unless your idea of cooking is calling for take out! The best ventilation is an updraft with an internal, inline or remote blower. Be careful on the coast as remote blowers can have a lot of rust quickly and if that flapper gets stuck and your home is cold and the air outside is hot- well, lets just say you may think you have a faucet running from your hood! Condensation can be a big deal. Been there done that!

No picture because well- how can I show toxins and grease?

Tile transitions- it matters!

Kitchen design mistake #7

This is a huge element of design in my opinion and am again shocked at how many beautiful kitchens are ruined by a lack of communication between designer ( or contractor/homeowner if no designer) and the various trades who execute a kitchen- and there must be communication or the project is doomed from the start. Often the contractor is too busy to pay attention to these sorts of problems and they can ruin a beautiful project. These examples below are from just typical remodels showing tile transitions and terminations gone very very wrong- but even on a budget, there is no reason why these mistakes must be made!

*Note from Anne - I recently did a blog post and a video on this one - right here!


Think of aging in place and also safety when working in the kitchen! No hinged microwaves under the counter!

Kitchen design mistake #8

Microwave drawers are great- they pull out. We have used them many times. But putting a microwave with a door hinging from the side is not wise under a countertop- if no else to place- call me. I can help reconfigure the kitchen to make it work. It just is too much bending to lift out or even look inside-and not ergonomic at all. I can see doing this in an ADA kitchen if dedicated to that person. But that is it. And before anyone says oh but you are not worried about bending with dishwashers- there are also dish drawers for those who have a need to limit bending- one on each side of sink right under counter will work great!


Happy Remodeling!

Live passionately, Cheryl

Thanks for sharing this post Cheryl!



How To Create An Easy Gallery Wall

Oh, I had fun with this one! Be sure to keep reading - the first two examples are very simple, but then I started using a different piece of software that kicked my examples up about 100 notches! If you would rather watch a video of this post, just scroll down to the end and you’ll see that your wish is my command.

But let’s start at the beginning. During my two hour design consultations, I’m often asked about where to hang the art that lucky people have collected over the years. This is one of those topics where a fresh set of eyes can really make a difference. I’ve got lots of ideas about how to place art and make it feel brand spanking new.

I often create a quick layout plan on digital graph paper with the measurements taken during the consult. A plan isn’t much good unless it’s pretty close to scale. Here are 2 layouts I created for a recent client:

Map out where your artwork will hang on graph paper before installing the hooks!

She had a collection of antique floral watercolors. 3 were the same size, 2 were just a little bit larger and one was larger still. The wall was 11’-6,” so I spaced them out equally, but let the largest piece have a bit more space at the end of the wall.

Try a couple of arrangements before hanging up your art.

I gave her a second option, which I liked better because I’m not big on lining everyone up in formation. I like “movement” to the arrangement, and this option gave her that.

Here’s where it gets even better.

There’s an app called Homestyler that I decided to give a whirl. While teaching myself how to use it, I focussed on showing a couple of ways to hang art on large walls.

See what you think:

Art on the floor, waiting to be hung up on the wall!

This is a digital room and I’m pretending that the art sitting on the floor is your collection. It’s bits and pieces of varying styles and you’re thinking that it’s going to look like a hot mess if you hang it all together.

Here’s a nice arrangement of art on the wall.

It’s not a hot mess at all, is it? Isn’t this app fantastic?!! Much easier to visualize than looking at shapes on graph paper. “I can’t visualize” is the most common thing clients say to interior designers, so this is a handy tool! I can even take a picture of YOUR wall and virtually hang the art up!

In this room, what I did to make all the art play together well was to put the black and white pieces together, use the large colorful piece as a focal point, placed the 3 smallest pieces in a row to visually “end” the first grouping and then let the large piece on the very end, which is a very different genre than the rest, lead your eyes to the large windows. Hmmm, if that doesn’t make sense to you, it’s okay. When I’m placing art, I’m thinking like this and it may not translate to the spoken word easily. Doesn’t matter, as long as the placement is pleasing in the end.

Here’s another gallery wall in the making:

This condo needs to be warmed up with posters, pictures and paintings!

This is an easy, cozy room with big windows looking out at a nice view. I put an accent wall in the back there and “painted” all the other walls a very soft purple/gray. To me, a touch of color warms up a room.

Now lets’ put art on the wall:

How to hang art for best effect. This looks great!

Ta-da! In this make-believe scenario, the homeowner has a collection of Americana posters, but also a partner who doesn’t want the whole room to feature that theme. I installed the Americana pieces on both sides of the door opening and used the wall before the table lamp as one section. The wall space on the other side of the table lamp features a beautiful photograph of a lake and mountain landscape. That landscape relates because it’s an example of the beauty of America (purple mountains majesty, get it?).

Then, as you turn the corner to the window wall, I placed a series of smallish mirror that matched by shape, but not by color and finish. AND when entering the space from the front door, those mirrors will reflect the wallpapered accent wall, creating more interest and texture.

I’m having SO much fun with this!

Here’s one more digital room for you:

Contemporary rooms with high ceilings need art on the walls to warm things up.

Rooms like this one are gorgeous, but sometimes feel cold. Remember, this post isn’t about how to furnish a room—I’m just placing art. So instead of putting bookshelves or furniture in those recessed spots flanking the fireplace, I’m going to hang art. But you’ll see how the art warms things up!

This shows a contemporary space with a wonderful arrangement of artwork.

Yes, I added one piece of furniture - the console table behind the sofa. I couldn’t help it. Let’s focus on the art. Right now a big trend is big art. That Gustav Klimt on the left is the star of the room, right? A large piece of art doesn’t need lots of little pieces filling up the rest of the wall. In those recessed areas flanking the fireplace, I hung a collection of black and white photographs on the right side. On the left side I put a tall vase on the floor, balanced by a vertical piece of art over it. Doesn’t it look wonderful? I’m loving the zen vibe of that wispy tree over on the right, but you could easily replace it with more art.

Ok, stepping out of the digital world now because I want to leave you with one more very easy tip that everyone can do. When the art you want to hang is feeling sort of small and lonely on the wall—or it just needs a little something, do this:

This is a fun, easy way to highlight art, using a old frame found in an antique store.

I’ve shown you this before, right here. Find a bigger frame somewhere —antique store, flea market, Goodwill, the attic, etc.. Use it as-is or jazz it up like I did with some leftover purple paint. It becomes the frame for the smaller art and will make you happy every single time you walk by it.

Here’s another version of this idea:

Frame a very small piece of art with a faux wreath and keep it up all year long.

This sweet painted needlework, created by Elena Caron is about 4.5” in diameter. The faux wreath also isn’t very big, but it really gives that sweet lady a little more importance on the wall. I put this up during the Christmas holidays (she was a wonderful gift), but I can assure you that this will stay up all year long.

And of course I made a video for this blog post too! I promised myself that I’d keep making videos until they get better or I throw my hands up in surrender. They may not be better yet, but I’m not giving up!

I hope this was helpful!



P.S. Do you follow me on Instagram? It’s fun to post photos of easy, DIY projects there and it’s not quite the black hole that so much of social media can be.

Inspiring Holiday Decorating And A Festive Dinner!

I went on the Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour yesterday. It highlights SUCH inspiring holiday decorating, done by homeowners of charming homes in one of Raleigh’s oldest neighborhoods.

Today we’re stuck in snow and ice (always exciting in North Carolina), so it’s extra nice to look at yesterday’s pictures.

Fortune smiled on us, not only with the weather, but also that the Governor’s Mansion was open to the public on the same day. I’ve never been, so it was an extra treat.

Christmas decor, Governor’s Mansion, Raleigh, NC

Above is an amazing console and mirror, all dolled up for the holidays in the Governor’s Mansion. The portrait you see reflected in the mirror is of Governor Jim Hunt. He was a wonderful governor during some exciting times in our state (1977-1985 and 1993-2001) and is still one of our best advocates.

Govenor’s Mansion in Raleigh, NC, Dining Room

The Dining Room is sparkalicioius. I wish the docent’s picture came out a little better and that I had gotten her name. She was sparkaliscious, too!


Another view of the Dining Room, so you can see the mantel, piled with simple glass balls. A little whimsey in a seriously decadent room!


This must be a parlor in the mansion. Classic southern elegance!

Let’s head to the “regular” homes in the hood:


Every home belongs to a person or family who is into detail in a big way and they’re beyond generous to welcome so many people on the Tour.


This master bedroom reminded me of New England. The vibe is slightly colonial—or Shaker, don’t you think? Those shutters!


This house was decorated in a very modern style. I love a clean, modern style and this mantel inspires me to give white walls a try soon!


The child of New England that I am will never cease to be amazed at the presence of flowers blooming in December! These camellias are the same color as the ones in my garden. And isn’t that fountain just fabulous? With all the snow we had last night, I bet he looks very different today!


This is Lisa—I wrote about her Kitchen update right here. We went to this same house tour last year. It’s different homes every year. Lisa is the kind of person who can put a smile on the face of a grinch (or THE Grinch)!


Lisa takes spectacular photos, like this one. This garden was a sweet surprise. Looks at all the birdhouses! And you’re not seeing the half of it. Imagine having this kind of space in the midst of a city!

Oh, look at the photo again—this time at my scarf. Can you see the little lights I wove into it? Here’s a better photo to see them:


It’s not a better picture of me, but it really shows up those lights! I used one of those strings of fairy lights that use a battery pack. I love fairy lights. So I wove a string through my scarf to add a festive touch. The battery pack is tucked inside my bra. TMI? Sorry!

I might try lighting up my boots next time. Then I could tuck the battery pack into the boot (my legs are thin, there’s always a little room in my boots).

The design trick I noticed at every house in Oakwood was to make every display, every mantel garland, every wreath VERY full. Lots of layers. It’s a luxurious look. We saw some spectacular tree toppers that were more like floral arrangements. Very dramatic.

In my own house though, I like simple and spare. Here’s the top of my china cabinet:


After I got home from the tour, it was time to head out for dinner with my boys (Hub and Grandboy).

We went to Gonza Tacos & Tequila, which has the MOST festive decor that is just as inspiring as the decorations on the Christmas tour. I always think those star lanterns hanging from the ceiling belong on the ceiling of my screen porch! And the Dia De Los Muertos spirits preside over all the happy families in the restaurant.

It was a day full of sparkle and texture!