9 Little Kitchen Details Everyone Forgets in Their Reno, According to Pros
Designing a kitchen is complicated. There are so many fun design details to figure out: the backsplash! The cabinet color! The counters! Plus, you have to choose appliances and fixtures. So it’s easy to overlook a couple important details, especially if you’re doing it yourself.
But the key to making a DIY kitchen reno look like it was done by a pro is to keep an eye on those details that are easy to miss. Here, savvy interior designers share their insights on the details that you should remember to consider so you can make sure you end up with the kitchen of your dreams.
The invisible “bones,” including plumbing, wiring, and air ducts
“The kitchen is the heart of the home, but as sweet as that sounds, the kitchen is the most complicated space in the house,” says Sandra Diaz-Velasco of Eolo Designs in Miami. “To me the electrical system, the air conditioning system, the lighting system, the plumbing system: those are the bones that make the pretty picture function.”
For example, she says most homeowners don’t know that each appliance should have its own dedicated electrical circuit to operate properly. Otherwise, you risk overloading the kitchen’s circuitry. Each appliance has its own power needs, so you want to know what those are before you choose your refrigerator, hood and range, the real power hog in the kitchen.
Because kitchens require a knowledge of every building trade, it’s not a bad idea to have an experienced general contractor or a kitchen designer friend look over your plans.
Proper counter height clearance
When you hear the phrase kitchen counter, your thoughts probably immediately go to the stone for the countertop. But the distance between the counter and the cabinets is a really crucial detail, says Kelly Finley of Joy Street Design in Oakland. “There are many stories of the Vitamix not being able to be stored on the counter because the height of the cabinet is too low,” says Finley.
To prevent any future headaches, Finley says to plan out your countertop appliances, and measure the heights to ensure that they’ll fit underneath your upper cabinets or open shelving. A clean wall sans upper cabinets, which mimics the clean British kitchen aesthetic, is another way to go.
An easy-to-use compost bin
Did you know food waste in landfills is the number one way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? People know composting is important and they want to do it, but having a collection bin on the countertop is a turnoff, says Sarah Robertson of Studio Dearborn in Westchester County, New York. “If you want to change people’s behaviors, you have to make it easy for them to do so,” she says.
Robertson includes a custom pull-out waste cabinet that has designated spaces for compostable food scraps, recycling and garbage. “Providing a space for compost makes it so much easier to save food scraps,” she says.
A convenient tech-charging station
Even though most people are never very far from their mobile phones or tablets, they don’t always remember to create a place to charge them in the kitchen, says Susannah Watts of Swatts & Co Design Studio in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It might seem like the home office is a better place for this, but with all the time you spend in the kitchen, Watts says you’ll want a charging spot there too.
When planning your kitchen, choose a drawer where you can install a concealed charging station to keep things neat, or hide an outlet inside a cabinet, Watts says. Charging stations are also handy on the island near the counter-height seating.
Enough seating for everyone
Waterfall counters are stunning, but Michelle Nussbaumer says sometimes homeowners can get so excited about the dramatic stone, and they forget that they need more seating. The waterfall is certainly high-impact, but it doesn’t allow anyone to sit at that end of the counter.
Make sure to add a counter that has room for a bar stool or two for maximum functionality. Or consider extending the body of the island by 12 to 14 inches to accommodate more seats.
Places to put small appliances
The counter of any kitchen is a magnet for clutter. Los Angeles-based designer Faith Blakeney believes the antidote to that problem is designating a place for all of those small appliances like the coffee maker, coffee grinder, and blender—and don’t forget the air fryer and instant pot—that can take over a counter. “You can design a really cool kitchen and have a bunch of appliances on the counter that really ruin the look and feel,” says Blakeney.
So, before designing your dream kitchen, take stock of which small appliances you truly use every day. Consider adding an appliance garage to keep them out of sight but still convenient. And be honest with yourself about whether you really need your juicer to live on the counter top, or if you can tuck it away underneath.
Adequate lighting for any time of day
Even if your kitchen is blessed with a bank of windows providing abundant natural light, you’ll still need task specific lighting in key areas, says Nussbaumer. Pendant lights are pretty, but they don’t help when you’re trying to chop kale in the corner.
Make sure to include three types of lighting in your kitchen plans: overhead, ambient (like from pendants), and task lighting under counters, she says. And to make all that lighting even more functional, Nussbaumer likes it on a dimmer. “When I’m cooking I like the light on high, but when you’re eating I don’t want it to look like you’re dining in a grocery store,” she says.
A place to hold cookbooks
People don’t need to refer to cookbooks as often as they used to, what with all the recipes we can access on phones or tablets. But Laura Martin Bovard of LMB Interiors says that cookbooks add so much to the feel of a kitchen. “There are so many beautiful cookbooks and that’s the one thing we use for styling,” Martin Bovard says. “It makes a kitchen look really homey and warm with layers.” But the key is to add some color without creating clutter.
Choose a few really beautiful favorite cookbooks and stack those on your open shelves, prop them on a chair rail or tuck a few in the corner of the counter. Martin Bovard recently designed a kitchen where they included low shelving perfect for books on the end of the counter.
Making sure it all fits together
Sometimes kitchen design choices that seem like aesthetic ones end up being more meaningful. And it can be hard for homeowners who aren’t in the building trade to figure out the consequences of their choices, says Claire Staszak of Centered by Design in Chicago. “One client wanted a beadboard backsplash detail, but wood getting wet all the time behind the sink is not a great idea,” says the Chicago designer. So they added some stone countertop to protect it, but that meant they had to move the faucet opening closer to the sink.
Keep in mind that everything needs to work both separately and together, Staszack says; she even wrote a book about it. “It’s all a domino effect, so it’s important to think of how each decision, even just a backsplash, plays into the larger picture,” she says. Paying for a consultation from a kitchen designer or even a specifier is a smart way to avoid unforeseen issues if you’re doing a major overhaul.