The Kitchen is the most complicated room in the home to design and if you make a mistake it can be very costly to fix.

Helping Designers avoid mistakes is important to me so I focus a lot of my VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN training around teaching designers the guidelines, clearances and functionality of this room.

This part of Kitchen Design is called the Science of Kitchen Design.

In my next few blogs I am going to walk you through a Kitchen layout that at a glance looks like a good design but is filled with mistakes.

Read on to learn how you can identify and ultimately avoid these common kitchen design errors.

If you prefer to view a video, here is a link to the course Common Errors in Kitchen Design at VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN. It will take your through all of the errors and suggest a better Design for this room.

The Floorplan

Kitchen floorplan with 10 functional design errors
Can you identify the errors in this kitchen design?

At first glance this kitchen might seem like a good design.

A homeowner looking at this plan would be delighted to see the following:

  • Two ovens
  • A large 36″ wide refrigerator
  • A big storage pantry
  • A wine refrigerator
  • A built-in coffee maker
  • A dining bar for 4
  • A huge center island
  • Lots of counterspace
  • Ample storage cabinets

However, this Kitchen Floorplan contains multiple errors and mistakes and each one of them I have witnessed in finished kitchens.

When these errors appear in your designs both you and the homeowner loose.

Mistakes can tarnish your reputation as a Kitchen Designer and it can hurt your ability to get referrals.

For the consumer it is a dysfunctional space that causes them grief daily.

To test your ability to identify kitchen design errors, why don’t you look at the floorplan and see how many of the mistakes you can identify before you continue.

Here’s a hint.

There are 10 Categories of Errors in this Layout

The errors are primarily functional but there are some aesthetic issues as well.

Here is a simple perspective that may help you out.

Black line perspective  of a kitchen that has 10 functional design errors.
Perspective of kitchen with functional design errors

So let’s look at the first 4 categories of errors.

#1 Inadequate Work Aisle Clearances

Not providing enough clearance at work aisles is a very common error.

There is a misconception that work aisles should only be 36″ wide but a work aisle for a one-cook kitchen should be a minimum of 42″ and a two-cook kitchen a minimum of 48″.

It also needs to be noted that these clearances need to be “clear” of any obstruction.

The first mistake this designer did in this plan was to show only 36″ wide work aisles.

The second mistake was not drawing in the countertop and measuring clearances from them.

The work aisle clearance now shrinks down to 33″.

Lastly, the range and the refrigerator depths were not drawn accurately on the plan making the area in front of these appliances 29 1/2″ and 26 1/2″ respectively.

Those clearances will cause a lot of grief for the cook in this kitchen.

In this case the 36″ wide refrigerator door will hit the island every time it is opened!

Refrigerator door hits island due to inadequate work aisle clearance

#2 Inefficient Work Triangle

There are a lot of opinions on the validity of the work triangle in Kitchen Design, but I still feel that a basic meal is prepared using ingredients from the refrigerator, that are then transferred to the sink to be cleaned and prepped, and then moved to the cooktop/range area to be cooked.

Because of this I teach the work triangle theory and believe one should be include somewhere in every kitchen design.

In this layout the work triangle is disfunctional.

It cuts through the island forcing the cook to take extra steps to walk around it.

The corners of the island form an obstacle that will probably cause a lot of hip-banging in this kitchen when rushing to get the weeknight dinner on the table.

It would be very frustrating working in this kitchen with this inefficient work triangle.

#3 Poor Traffic Flow

Main traffic flow from mudroom to rest of home cuts through work triangle
Main traffic path from mudroom through kitchen

In many households the family entrance is the mudroom, which in this layout leads directly into the kitchen.

There are a few issues with the traffic flow from the mudroom into the kitchen.

The first is the door between the mudroom and the kitchen.

It is a specified as a 30″ door which in reality provides a clear opening of only 27 1/2″.

This would not allow a person using a mobility device to enter the room.

All openings should be a minimum of 32″ and preferably 34″ or 36″ wide.

Secondly the main traffic flow is cutting through the work triangle with the refrigerator door blocking people from moving easily through the space.

There is also a very dangerous traffic flow error in this kitchen layout.

The wall oven door opens into the entrance from the mudroom.

A preoccupied person could easily walk into a hot open oven door in this design with direr consequences!

#4 Insufficient Counter Landing Space

Kitchen floorplan has insufficient counter landing areas
Countertop landing space for wall oven and sink area do not meet functional kitchen design guidelines

There are two areas in this kitchen design where there has not been enough counter landing space planned.

These are at the wall oven and the sink.

There are kitchen guidelines for counter landing areas that have been extensively researched to ensure functional design solutions.

Using these guidelines will produce much more functional layouts and should be implemented in your designs.

For more information on Kitchen Design guidelines check out A Beginners Guide to Kitchen Design.

Again the placement of the wall oven is an issue in this layout. There is nowhere to drop off a hot item coming out of the oven.

The 36″ wide pantry blocks potential landing counter to the left of the oven and the refrigerator blocks landing counter behind it.

The island is 3 to 4 steps away and too far for a safe landing counter.

There needs to be at least 15″ of countertop landing area near the oven for a safe design.

The sink area also has insufficient landing space.

Even though there is ample counterspace to the right of the sink, there is not enough to the left.

There should be at least 18″ of landing space on one side of the main sink and 24″ on the other side.

You can see that the 12″ space planned to the left of this sink would not accommodate a dish drainer and the potential for items being knocked off this end would be high.

Looking at this layout did you identify these first 4 errors? How many more have you found?

In our next installment I will cover the last 6 categories of errors in this kitchen layout.

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If you can’t wait to find out what the next 6 errors are you can pop over to VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN and view Common Errors in Kitchen Design for FREE.

I’d love to hear your comments on this topic. Please post them below.

Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.

Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

1 Comment on “Identifying Common Errors in Kitchen Design: Part 1

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