Kitchen Remodel: Dream or Nightmare? (25 Tips + Mistakes)

For many families, the kitchen is the core space around which life revolves.

When remodeling your kitchen – either for a new home or refreshing a dated kitchen – you want to avoid costly mistakes and set the project on the correct footing, so its completion matches your dream.

kitchen remodeling tips

Why Kitchen Remodeling Matters

The kitchen is the heart of your family, nourishing body and soul.

The kitchen is the place where you have those deep conversations about life and happiness.

At any house party, the most interesting people make their way to the kitchen.

Given the importance your kitchen plays in your daily life, it is essential to have a place that sparkles and makes you feel happy rather than one that makes you shudder in distaste.

For most people, the kitchen remodel is their top priority on moving into a new home because it has a massive impact on the quality of your daily life.

So how do you make sure you have a dream kitchen remodel at the best price?

25 Tips for Kitchen Remodeling

Most kitchen remodeling tips make sense when you read them, but the stress and anxiety of organizing for a week or more means the best kitchen design tips slip from your mind.

So please take a deep breath, take some time to consider what you need to achieve, and follow these best practices for kitchen design while avoiding common mistakes in kitchen remodeling.

#1 The Most Obvious First: Set a Budget

When you start looking at appliances, countertops, fancy handles, and luxury tiles, your spending can increase rapidly.

One of the best tips for kitchen remodeling on a budget is to set up a mood board and a shopping list.

Then, while putting together your dream kitchen, don’t worry about the price of your chosen appliances, units, and finishes; just pile up the shopping list.

Now you can tackle each item in turn and find something you like with all the features you will use for the lowest available price. You can also get creative and choose alternative materials to create unique kitchen fittings.

At the end of this process, you have a complete materials list and know where to get your items from when you need them.

#2 Work with Your Architecture

Your dream kitchen may be a cozy farmhouse with a window seat, bookcases, and a huge cooking range.

But if your apartment has minimal space for a galley-style kitchen, then you need a different approach.

Your kitchen must match the style of house you have as well as how you want to decorate.

Plus, a kitchen is a functional area, and you have appliances and storage needs to accommodate.

#3 Work with What You Have

Rewiring and replumbing are part of the most expensive and disruptive parts of a kitchen model.

Consider if you can work with the plumbing and outlets you currently have or with minor tweaks.

Other points to watch are kitchen cabinets – do you need to scrap them, or is replacing the doors and drawer fronts all that is necessary?

If you are going to replace like with like, it worth checking out the adaption option.

Money-saving tips for kitchen remodeling include refurbishing what you already have: for example, if your sink is in the best position and in good condition, consider replacing the faucets to update the style rather than buying a new sink.

You can change tile colors with paint, varnish, and stencils. Not every kitchen remodel needs to be a complete gut and start again project.

#4 Remember the Golden Triangle

When you move around your kitchen, you want to access the parts you use most frequently (sink, hob, fridge) in the least number of steps.

Unfortunately, every time you cross the kitchen floor, you risk creating a mess and prolonging the time you take to achieve any task.

During the planning stage, consider how you and your family will use the kitchen; where is your food preparation area in relation to your cooking space?

#5 Separate Hot and Cold

Your fridge and freezer keep things cold, where your hob and oven make things hot. Yes, modern appliances are well insulated but work with nature rather than against it.

So, try and keep your cold appliances away from your hot devices.

In other words, don’t put your freezer and oven next to each other – however tempting it is to take the pizza from the freezer to the oven in one handy move.

Smaller kitchens offer challenges in providing the necessary separation as well as space for your appliances.

One of the best tips for small kitchen remodeling is to position your appliances first and fill in the spaces between them with creative storage and countertop solutions.

For example, a pullout countersurface may meet your needs for food preparation in a cramped kitchen.

#6 Water In & Water Out

Your sink, washing machine, and dishwasher all need access to mains water and drainage.

Positioning these appliances to have ready access to external walls and drainage pipes minimizes the plumbing runs under your floors or behind your cabinets and storage.

Paying attention to these potential sources of leaks is vital to reduce issues with pipes freezing and thawing inside your kitchen.

Plus, if you have a plumbing issue in the future, your contractor won’t destroy your kitchen to get to the leak.

#7 Refurbish Instead of Replacing Kitchen Cabinets

If you have solid wood kitchen cabinets, then you can sand and refinish in any style.

Pay someone to do a professional job rather than opting for the DIY approach, and you will get designer kitchen cabinets at a fraction of the price.

You don’t need to leave the kitchen cabinets in the same position. Instead, you can rearrange for a different layout if they are modular and the new space fits.

Kitchen cabinets are expensive, so kitchen remodeling on a budget means benefiting from previous investments by remodeling the kitchen cabinets instead of buying new ones (unless they suffer from major physical defects or termite attacks).

#8 Theme Your Major Appliances

Sticking with the same brand and color for all your kitchen appliances gives you that harmonious professional designer kitchen look.

One brand’s beige or granite grey will not be identical to another.

The slight difference may not bother you, or you may be unable to avoid noticing and wincing every time you come into the kitchen.

Plus, you will get irritated by guests wandering into the kitchen and remarking on the color difference.

Remember to always select the appliance and hardware as part of the overall kitchen color scheme and style.

#9 Invest in Quality Handle Fittings

Don’t be tempted to skimp on the quality of the little details.

Higher quality fittings “sell” the rest of the kitchen design – like luxury paper sells a relatively inexpensive gift.

Keep an eye on trends and choose the best handles and other small fittings to bring your kitchen design together.

Compared with the cost of everything else in your kitchen, investing a little more in quality fittings won’t break the budget and will give you a more professional finish and a luxury feel.

Unfortunately, one of the worst mistakes in kitchen design is skimping on the small touches.

#10 Let There Be Light

Low light levels may be romantic for dining, but they do nothing for your fingers while dicing and chopping in the kitchen.

Consider adding bright spots under kitchen cabinets to illuminate your food preparation areas.

Working in the dark is not the best idea when handling sharp knives or hot pots.

#11 A Kitchen with a View

Not all kitchens have windows, but if one is available in your kitchen, make the most of it and leave it accessible.

If your kitchen steams up while cooking (or gets a little smokey), you will want to open the window for ventilation.

When planning your kitchen remodel, make sure you can easily open the window for optimal ventilation without mountaineering over the units.

Plus, think about curtains and other window finishes – fabric and gas cooking flames don’t mix.

Finally, think about the window’s potential as part of your kitchen design.

For example, fresh herbs need light and air to thrive – a specialist interior window box at your kitchen window can give you an indoor herb garden, even in a high-rise apartment.

#12 Room to Move

Your walkways between banks of cabinets and islands need to be a minimum of 36 inches, but more is better – particularly if you need two or more people to occupy the kitchen.

It is tempting to cram as much as you can into your available square footage but to borrow from Zen – the empty space is what makes your kitchen a joy to use.

#13 Avoid Collisions and Accidents

When your kids come into a kitchen, what are they going to do?

Like most growing kids, they will head straight for the fridge and anything immediately edible.

Think about the traffic in your kitchen and make people flow around your kitchen as smoothly as possible with limited opportunity for bumps and knocks.

#14 How Accessible is Your Oven?

Increasingly the oven is one of the more frequently used appliances in a modern kitchen. However, if you expect children to operate the oven, it needs to be positioned for easy and safe access.

Consider if your microwave sits on a countertop or has dedicated cabinet space as part of the fitted kitchen.

One of the best tips for small kitchen remodeling is integrating your appliances into cabinets to free countertops.

#15 Design Out the Dead Zones

Corner spaces and the back of deep cupboards can be inaccessible or places you forget about in your kitchen.

Think about how to access those hard-to-reach spaces with carousels and intelligent shelving options.

Using innovative fittings inside your cabinets gives you more useable storage space for your kitchen essentials.

#16 Avoid Conflicting Moving Parts

Have you ever been in a kitchen where you need to negotiate closing an appliance door before you can open an adjacent cupboard?

Part of a successful kitchen design is avoiding conflicting doors and access points.

Typically, you will always need to close one drawer before accessing another in the same column, but some planning will minimize these conflicting swings.

#17 Room to Work

You need enough workspace to allow you to prepare your ingredients and create your culinary masterpieces.

Generally, you want some free worktop space next to your hob for food you want to add to your pans. Plus, you need food preparation areas and space to pile dirty dishes before washing.

#18 You Gotta Clean

Kitchens are messy places with grease splatters and other food marks.

Part of a successful kitchen remodel is making it easy to clean in the areas where you get the most issues.

It is your choice to opt for tiled areas or other materials but think about how you will keep your kitchen clean as part of the remodel.

Time spent planning will save you plenty of hours of labor later.

#19 Make Room for Waste

The kitchen is probably the room that generates most waste – empty food containers, packaging material, leftover dinners, and kitchen peelings.

Unfortunately, this waste does not magically vanish, and most people need to sort their waste into recyclables, compostable and general waste.

Although you may aim to take your trash outside every day, practical living means it will spend some time in your kitchen.

That means planning for convenient and practical waste storage and disposal as part of your kitchen remodel. Otherwise, you end up with waste cans as an ad hoc and untidy effort to cope.

#20 Check Your Crystal Ball

When you remodel your kitchen, you expect to enjoy the results for many years. However, at some stage, you may need to sell up and move.

At that point, your kitchen is either a selling point or a blemish.

Unfortunately, no one has an accurate crystal ball, but it is worth considering how attractive your kitchen model is to a future buyer of your property.

Light, neutral colors sell better than more interesting kitchen designs.

Part of the reason is that a neutral backdrop allows anyone to refresh and tweak the kitchen design to suit their tastes.

It is an advantage for you as well, you will not remodel your kitchen every year, but you can change the accessories to create a different look.

#21 Suit Yourself

A kitchen designer may show you a high-end professional kitchen with space for all the gadgets and racks of gleaning utensils.

But is that what you need?

If you are a professional chef in your spare time (or work from home), that may be the ideal solution.

But perhaps your culinary style is different, and you’d rather have room to enjoy tea, toast, and a morning crossword in a sunny kitchen space.

Your kitchen remodel needs to suit you and your family’s needs for a functioning kitchen that fits your lifestyle.

For you, that may mean more working surfaces or all cooking devices at eye level – consider your needs for function before style.

#22 Dedicated Knife Storage

Knives are sharp and deadly weapons in the hand of a skilled professional and a potential accident in the hands of a child.

Therefore, it makes sense to create dedicated knife storage because this keeps your knives sharper for longer and keeps them in one safe space.

#23 Create Hang Out Space

People congregate where the food and drinks are, and that usually means in the kitchen.

So, when looking at your kitchen remodel, think about accommodating the friend that wants to chat while you brew tea or cook a meal.

Where can they sit or stand without getting in the way?

Bar stools and kitchen islands are one solution, as are handy step stools that provide dual-purpose seating and access to high spaces for the vertically challenged.

#24 Make Room for a Notice Board

Many people use the fridge door as a handy notice board, confident that it is the one place where your other family members will go when coming home.

A kitchen notice board – whiteboard, pinboard, blackboard, or magnetic is an invaluable family resource.

The notice board is where you compile your shopping list, note appointments, save vouchers, hang your keys, and decorate with photos that make you smile.

If you live alone, your kitchen notice board is like a large-scale journal page, which means you start your day with a memo of what you need and a reminder to use up that half bag of spinach tonight when you get home.

#25 Prioritize

Your kitchen remodel faces physical constraints, and you need to focus on getting the most critical elements right.

Most things in life involve a compromise and a kitchen remodel is the same.

If you rank what you need in order of importance, you will get most of what makes your kitchen remodel function for you.

But don’t sacrifice the touches that matter to your happiness; if your grandmother’s kitchen clock makes you smile and remember her every time you look at it, then prioritize a prime spot in your new kitchen to display it.

Classic Mistakes to Avoid in Your Kitchen Remodel

If this is your first kitchen remodel, you may want to learn from the classic mistakes in kitchen design rather than learning through a bad experience.

#1 Overspending

A kitchen remodel adds value to your home – but there is a law of diminishing returns.

It does not matter how much you spend on your new kitchen; your house price will only appreciate by a limited amount depending on your market.

Before budgeting for your kitchen remodel, have a chat with a local real estate agent and determine what impact it will have on your potential resale price.

It does not have to be an involved interview and house survey – one quick question by email will give you an approximate figure.

You may have money to burn, in which case order the platinum and diamond cabinet handles, but most want a return on their investment.

So the amount you spend balances how much you want to pay for your pleasure and how much you will get back on resale.

#2 Style Over Function

Kitchens are functional spaces, and superficial appearances may hide a kitchen that is a nightmare to use.

Unfortunately, common mistakes in kitchen remodeling involve too much attention fitting in the units and neglecting the realities of kitchen life.

You need to sort out the functional details before the style because otherwise, you will hate using your kitchen.

This is a shame as it is one of the most critical places in your home.

Plus, it is an expensive mistake because you will end up remodeling.

#3 Cramming Too Much In

More storage is always welcome – right?

The temptation is to cover every wall with as many cabinets as you can, but that is a mistake.

A kitchen is a space where you and your family will regularly spend time.

No one wants to spend time in a “storage locker,” and you will want to enjoy some open shelving for decorative touches, space for art, and room for small appliances.

You need storage, but you also need room to breathe.

#4 Insufficient Power Outlets

Most devices run on electricity, and you need plenty of useable power outlets.

For example, you don’t want to unplug your freezer to run your blender.

In addition, some of your appliances will permanently occupy a power outlet, and you need some that are free to power smaller devices as required.

As well as the number of power outlets, consider the position associated with countertops and appliance positions that are best for useability.

#5 Unusable and Hard to Reach Storage

Shelves that mean you need a ladder to access them are not practical for daily use.

Not all storage space is equally valuable and when you plan your cupboards and shelving, think about how useful they are to someone working in the kitchen.

Plus, no one wants to unpack and repack a cupboard every time they want to get a pan to cook with – it is not enough to build storage space; you need to be able to access it without effort.

#6 Skimping on the Ventilation

Cooking generates steam and odors – both need to exit the kitchen to avoid excessive condensation and difficulty breathing for the cook.

Whatever system you choose, you need to consider noise, efficiency, and air purification.

Ideally, you want to expel air outside and draw in the fresh air – cheap systems are noisy, power-hungry, and vent the air back into your kitchen without removing moisture or impurities.

#7 Overestimating Your Skills

Many people assume that they can carry out design and DIY tasks beyond their capabilities to cut costs.

Paying a professional to design and fit your kitchen may seem an area to economize, but often it can cost more money, time, and energy if you opt for the DIY route.

Plus, you do not get the finish quality.

Be realistic about your skill levels and buy in the level of professional skills you need – either hiring an architect or interior designer may be more appropriate for the extent of work.

Otherwise, a kitchen contractor will fit and finish your kitchen in considerably less time and with a quality finish. Plus, you get a warranty covering the quality of their work.

#8 Insufficient Workspace

Kitchen work needs space to pile dirty dishes, dry clean ones, prepare ingredients, put food to cool, make drinks, and many other small tasks that require working space.

The worst kitchen remodeling mistake is underestimating the amount of working space you need in your kitchen.

#9 Not Sweating the Small Stuff

It is the little things that turn your kitchen from a dream to a nightmare.

For example, where do you put the dish soap, and is there space to hang your oven gloves next to the oven?

Likewise, practical considerations like dealing with your waste, cleaning your surfaces, and how easy it is to move around can turn a lively kitchen into an impractical mess.

For example, if there is no space for your kitchen trash can, will you take every piece of rubbish outside or have a can in the middle of the kitchen?

Before kitchen remodeling, look at how you use your current kitchen, what annoys you, and what could be better – the little details matter.

#10 Stuck in the Past – Don’t Get Dated, Baby!

Fashion trends come and go, but you can’t change your kitchen as often as your clothing choices.

As a result, your trendy kitchen may not translate so well and leave your home looking stuck in a time warp in a few years.

On the other hand, classic kitchen designs like a classic jacket wear longer and still impress.

Avoid following a fad and design your kitchen remodel to still be in style in five or ten years – or make it straightforward to refresh.

#11 Change for Change’s Sake

You may think it best to strip everything out and redesign your kitchen from the ground up – but is it necessary?

Kitchen remodeling is time-consuming and expensive, and ignoring what you have in favor of what you want means you miss the opportunity to improve and renovate.

Fix what is wrong with your current kitchen and retain anything (like kitchen cabinets) that works.

Then, a facelift may radically change your dingy kitchen into the kitchen of your dreams for a fraction of the cost.

Conclusion: Kitchen Remodeling Tips and Advice

The best kitchen remodeling tips and advice do not change because the way people use kitchens is consistent.

The best approach to avoiding mistakes in kitchen design is to ask the person who most uses the kitchen what causes them the most challenges and irritations.

Then, plan out the irritating points, add in the bonus features, and gain a kitchen that works for you and your family.