What NOT to do in your kitchen remodel: 5 planning mistakes

Cheryl Kees Clendenon Design Disasters, In Detail Says, kitchen design, kitchen design tips 21 Comments

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Everyone is always talking about tips on how to remodel your kitchen. But no one seems to address some of the planning mistakes that I see every day. This is not a comprehensive list as I could go on for a few posts about things I consider design mistakes as well.  Here are a few planning boo boos that you do not want to happen to you!


Appliances. Buy what you need for your lifestyle. Do not keep up with the Jones’s. I throw the appliances under the bus in a tight budget. So many people get wrapped up in fancy names and appliances. And hey, I love a good cooktop and oven. But when push comes to shove, most of us do not need NOR use 6 burners. Probably 4 is fine. Especially if you get to have nice cabinetry or tile instead! Just assess the needs of your family and decide accordingly. You probably do not need everything you want…..but also do not do what the homeowners did below…buy an expensive refrig and the cheapest range that you can find.


Poor lighting

One of the biggest mistakes I see consistently. Not just poor lighting layout during planning and design but also poor selections. it is almost as if people run out of steam by the time this decision gets made….and run to the Big Box retailer and grab whatever is on the sale table. Do not do it. Lighting selections should be narrowed down at the time you start construction because the style should be already set. Choose lighting carefully because it is not expensive to buy good looking fixtures. And for a good layout, find yourself a designer who understands how to light a kitchen…a kitchen designer would be a good start!

This has many things wrong. But the box florescent lights could have been better and some decorative lighting should have been added

#3 Flooring

I see soooo many people cheap out on this important design element. I do not start thinking of design details until I get a good grasp on the floor. It is the foundation of the design. It needs to be right. But what I see, is people saying…hey I have to do a cheap floor….there is so much of it. Oh yeah. And just think when later you want to rip it out because is wrong size, color or is dated. And, trust me…there ARE excellent choices BESIDES brown glue down oak and beige travertine. Yep.

The black and white tile usually works best in a cottage design or retro. This is way too large to pull this look off and even if smaller in scale, the floor clashes with the brick.

#4 Cheap Cabinetry

This is my BIGGEST peeve. And sadly I can pull up any city’s MLS and find homes over a million bucks that showcase the uglies and cheapest cabinetry I have ever seen. YES it is worth it. And NO your builder probably did not put in enough money for it. You need to be the one, if you do not have a professional working with you, to research what you want and get an estimate. I advise clients to get us involved early on…not just for the kitchen and baths but the entire house. You will be amazed how much money a  good designer can save you over the long haul. If you choose not to hire a designer, then it is incumbent upon you to educate yourself about good cabinetry. And this is true at any level of budget. From custom to stock. YOU should be telling your builder what you want. Woe be you if you let him or her decide for you. And not because they do not want the best for you….but they have enough to do worrying about the super structure. I guarantee you they are not going to put the time and energy into working out details for your kitchen and the cabinetry involved. Do yourself a favor and hire a designer to help you or educate yourself enough to make wise decisions. And do NOT underestimate the value of quality cabinetry. It will make all the difference in the final product.

This home is over 800,000 and was built 4 yrs ago. The cabinetry is cheap but what really gets me is the expensive built in refrig..obviously NOT built in...and then the el cheapo range with a back on it and the above range microwave....and they could not afford crown molding? This is malpractice on someone's part!


Plan your tile layouts for the backsplash.  This is one of the most important things you can do to ensure you get a good job. Again, if you are not working with someone, you need to talk to tile installer or your builder to get all the details straight BEFORE the tile person begins. Transitions, cuts, where the plugs will go in relation to the design in the backsplash, where the uppers and lowers end…will you need bar liners to finish off ends…there are many details and these are details that you really should not trust to an installer alone. Ever. This tile below looks like a DIY job..but who knows?

Oh my! This is super bad planning. Not to mention super ugly tile in the first place.

Let me know what you think about these planning mistakes. Next post will be about the 5 worst design mistakes!


Comments 21

  1. This is excellent advice. I copied it to my permanent file on kitchen design. God willing, I will finally remodel our kitchen this year. It’s the first time I’ve ever done a kitchen, so I am both excited about the prospect and crapping myself! For a long time I had a very firm grasp on what I wanted to do with the kitchen, but now I’m beginning to waffle back and forth. This blog and the one you wrote earlier on kitchen lighting both help a lot.

    By the bye, you are completely right on the cabinetry. I obviously have a dog in that fight, but well-made cabinetry—or poorly made cabinetry for that matter—are immediately apparent when one enters a kitchen. At least for those who know.

    Yesterday I went to a very small, very drab, very depressing home show for various remodelers. There were some five or six local cabinetmakers, only one of which was any damned good. The rest had the shabbiest drawer boxes I believe I have ever seen, excepting only those in my own kitchen! No, even mine are better, because they are at least solid wood. The ones I saw in the home show were made of Melamine and NAILED TOGETHER AT THE CORNERS!

    The sad thing about it is that lots of people really do not understand the difference and will shell out perfectly good money for total garbage. To me the things for a kitchen remodeling are like a woodworker’s tools. Any woodworker will tell you that he really does not know which tools he paid too much for, but he knows absolutely which ones he did not pay enough for. That junk comes back to haunt you, both in outfitting a workshop and in remodeling a kitchen.

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      Thanks Corey! I totally agree….very important 6th point! You must really be realistic…I have a builder right now who budgeted 30K for a home that is over 5000 sq ft. Ridiculous. He did not have good plans to bid from but really? Cannot get that from Lowes….but guess who has to be the shot of cold water? Me!

  2. I am glad to see someone put this out there.
    It is very frustrating as a designer to see people make the worst decisions possible. I had a potential client in Vail, last year give me an installed budget of 14k for a kitchen, two baths, basement office, oh, and did I mention installed.
    You are so right when it comes to these bad choices. I have seen them over and over.
    Perhaps for your next list you can mention people that put high end granite on RTA cabinets!
    Good job in pointing some of these out to people.

  3. Thomas Riffe, CKD:

    I am glad to see someone put this out there.
    It is very frustrating as a designer to see people make the worst decisions possible. I had a potential client with a 2M dollar house in Vail, last year give me an installed budget of 14k for a kitchen, two baths, basement office, oh, and did I mention installed.
    You are so right when it comes to these bad choices. I have seen them over and over.
    Perhaps for your next list you can mention people that put high end granite on RTA cabinets!
    Good job in pointing some of these out to people.

  4. Excellent Homeowner Tips!!! Thx for sharing. It is so amazing that many do not understand the importance of realistic budgets. You get what you pay for.
    We often tell clients that if you skimp on quality in the beginning it will show in the end.

    Glad to see others like you sharing the same advice.

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  5. I totally agree with your assertion that cheap cabinetry is a bad idea. Growing up, my family has moved to house-after-house with just such a thing in our kitchen. I, like you, am not a big fan because I feel like the cabinets really are the heart of a kitchen’s appearance.

  6. You shared some very important considerations.These are all great ideas! A coat of paint instead of replacing entire cabinets is really beneficial and financially so smart!

  7. Wow! Great transformation. I always wanted to remodel my kitchen, I think this is the right time, thank you for the heads up! I know remodeling is risky because there were times that the builders’ output do not meet your expectation and you already spent money for that. For lighting, I want to switch to LED because someone told me that this bulb produce enough amount of light and saves energy also.

  8. It’s true that lighting can be a very important thing to consider in a kitchen remodel, as the article explains. It’s something that can be easily overlooked, but absolutely shouldn’t be. The lighting in a kitchen can make an enormous difference in how the rest of the remodel looks.

  9. Hi,
    I am with you on the lighting. Kitchen is a work space and definitely needs proper lighting in order to be functional. However over doing the lights, as I feel, kills the mood. Finding the balance might be difficult but extremely important for a successful kitchen renovation project.

  10. Thanks for the tip to not splurge on appliances but invest more in cabinets and tiles instead for a kitchen remodel. If I were to have it remodeled, I would ask an expert to help design a kitchen that would reflect the holiday spirit. This will help make its design cohesive with the rest of the house decorations while being able to cook a great Christmas dinner in it as well.

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