Renovating your kitchen can be a frightening process—especially when you total up the costs. A major kitchen remodel is one of the most expensive projects a homeowner can undertake. So there’s plenty of pressure to get it right.

Luckily, most common kitchen design mistakes can be easily fixed. But it’s far, far easier (and cheaper) to plan correctly from the start! Before you take a sledgehammer to your kitchen walls, make sure you’ve considered these often forgotten issues.

1. Sufficient lighting

While we obsess over which lamps and sconces will add the right ambiance in our living rooms, we often forget about properly lighting the kitchen. Which doesn’t quite make sense.

A kitchen is where the bulk of the household work gets done—and this is a place where working in the dark isn’t a great idea. (Plus, don’t you want great lighting to show off your delicious creations on Instagram?)

“Your kitchen needs three levels of light: counter, ceiling, and focal point lighting,” says Leslie Markman-Stern, an interior designer in Chicago.

Why the lighting overload? You need to make sure all your tasks are illuminated, from counter lighting when prepping a meal (knives are sharp, people!) to focal lights pointed at your stove.

2. Trash can placement

Here’s a kitchen nightmare that keeps designers up at night: You’ve spent thousands of dollars transforming your outdated, impractical kitchen into a sleek, beautiful machine—complete with new cabinets, new fixtures, and a brand-new gas stove.

However, you forgot completely about where to put the trash, so your overflowing garbage sticks out and ruins the vibe of your otherwise immaculate space.

A trashy question you must consider before drawing up your plans: “Will it go inside a cabinet, or will your trash can be freestanding in the kitchen?” asks designer Liz Toombs.

Why does it matter? Well, tucking your garbage can into your cabinetry is much easier when it’s planned before installation; otherwise, you’ll have to retrofit an existing space.

And while there’s nothing wrong, per se, with a visible trash can, you’ll need to make sure to build room for the bin into your kitchen plan.

3. A proper kitchen work triangle

Photo by Houzz  
The kitchen work triangle is a design element that’s crucial to making most kitchens, well, work. And unfortunately, it’s often overlooked during renovations—especially by DIYers.

The concept is simple: Make sure nothing blocks movement between the range, the sink and the refrigerator. If you don’t, you risk many a mishap. (Think: Your hip slamming into the poorly planned kitchen island every time you travel from the stove to the sink.)

“[The kitchen work triangle] ensures that your kitchen layout is both functional and aesthetically pleasing,” says Wes Gardner, a senior architect product specialist at Vectorworks, a building information modeling company based in Columbia, MD.

Not sure how to integrate this efficiency-focused design into your kitchen? Find out more here.

4. Accessibility

Making your kitchen accessible isn’t just about making sure you can reach your dishes—it’s about reaching your dishes and making sure nothing falls off the shelf and onto your head in the process.

“Homeowners [forget] that reaching will cause accidents,” Markman-Stern says.

When organizing your cabinets or arranging appliances, consider how high you can stretch and how much the item weighs.

5. Backsplash

So much of smart kitchen design comes down to careful, mathematical planning: How much space does the refrigerator need? How much room should we leave between the stove and the island?

With all that tedium, you’d think homeowners would be eager to tackle the fun stuff—like choosing the backsplash.

“Believe it or not, people can get so focused on the cabinets, countertops, appliances, and flooring that they forget to plan for a backsplash,” Toombs says. “Of course, you can always add it in after the project is complete, but it’s nice to select a cohesive tile design and color when you are picking out the rest of your materials.”

6. Landing space

Your kitchen needs landing space—aka the countertop surrounding your appliances. The National Kitchen & Bath Association recommends 12 to 15 inches of landing space around your range and 18 to 24 inches around your sink. These numbers aren’t arbitrary; this is a safety issue.

“Not enough landing space can cause accidents to happen and cause dangerous scenarios when taking hot pots off ranges, food out of refrigerators, and hot casseroles out of ovens,” Markman-Stern says. Where else are you going to put those piping hot pans, the floor?

Some building codes even outline specific landing-space guidelines. When your local building code doesn’t specify, consider following the NKBA’s recommendations to ensure that your kitchen is both safe and spacious.

7. Practical cabinetry

Glass-front cabinet doors may look gorgeous, but think about what you plan to store inside before you install them. A vintage collection of patterned Pyrex casserole dishes? Or do you only have a mismatched assortment of dollar-store plates and cups?

“Glass doors work well when you want to show off a conversation piece, but it makes the room look messy if you are using the cabinets for everyday storage,” Toombs says.

8. Room for a kitchen table

Many homeowners these days are swapping out their dining spaces for an oversized island. But before you renovate, ask yourself which setup truly works best for you.

“Is it practical for your family to eat on barstools for everyday meals? If so, great!” Toombs says. “If not, be sure to make room for a kitchen table and chairs.”

9. Pet necessities

If you share your life with a furry friend or two, consider accommodating them in your kitchen design by accounting for the placement of their food and water bowls, along with food storage.

Storage can be integrated into your cabinet design, or you might want to add a stand-alone unit (like this cabinet pantry). Either way, thinking ahead when designing your kitchen prevents shoehorning in an ugly or unwieldy solution later.