Seven Kitchen Design Mistakes Everyone Makes

Designer Scott Dresner (who has 7,000 projects under his belt) shares his don’ts.

Photo: Courtesy of Dresner Design

Scott Dresner has been building and designing kitchens and bathrooms, big and small, since the 1980s (about 7,000 projects by his estimation), so he knows a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t.

I caught up with him as he was installing a 700-pound butcher-block countertop in a luxury Gold Coast penthouse, and he shared some kitchen-design “Don’ts!” (The photo shown here is of another Gold Coast kitchen he recently designed).

1. Don’t put appliances next to each other.

“Shapes and sizes of appliances vary. Sometimes stainless steel is a different color when using multiple brands. So keep functions—ovens and cook-top; sink, dishwasher and garbage; refrigeration and counter space—together, but leave visual distance between the appliances.”

2. Don’t order your cabinets before your appliances.

“In order to know exactly what sizes of cabinets you need, you must know what appliances they are going to surround. Appliances and their location dictate the size and amount of cabinetry you can accommodate in your kitchen. Have a plan and stick to it.”

3. Don’t let a microwave ruin your design.

“Create an appliance closet where you can store your microwave, coffee maker, and toaster. It can be small—a 26-inch wide pantry is fine. But have it be something you can close the door on and clean up later, so your kitchen always looks neat.”

4. Don’t use a bunch of different-sized cabinets.

“Some American designers put a 12-inch cabinet next to a 30-inch cabinet when there are no other 12-inch cabinets in the run. Europeans design cabinets to be the same proportion and this looks best.”

5. Don’t assume a craft cabinetmaker is better.

“I have been on both sides of the aisle—building my own cabinets for customers and ordering them through larger companies—and I recommend going with a cabinet company that has a name brand, national presence and warranty [note from editor: Dresner works primarily with Indianapolis-based Greenfield Cabinetry]. Costs are not necessarily always going to be less with a small shop, and independent cabinetmakers come and go with the fluctuations of the economy. Big companies spend big money on research and development and have done the quantities to work out the bugs.”

6. Don’t order counters until the vendor takes measurements.

“Caulk in the cracks isn’t going to look as good as having your countertop line up perfectly against your wall, so make sure a stone slab countertop is cut to a template that fits your space exactly. That means someone has to come over, measure, and create that template.”

7. Don’t hesitate to ask to see a designer’s work in person.

“I often do house tours. There is nothing wrong with asking to see a place in-person for reference. Photographs don’t always tell the full story.”

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