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9.0) Kitchen Design Mistakes Posts

Common kitchen design mistakes and funny posts and videos about design errors.

Safety is a huge part of your kitchen design

An edited version of this article appeared in the May 2011 issue of the national publication of Kitchen & Bath design news.

One of the greatest challenges for a kitchen designer is to create a design that the customer appreciates aesthetically and simultaneously provides them with a functionally well designed kitchen.  It’s equally difficult to just not make any mistakes.  And sadly, that’s something very few kitchen designers can actually accomplish.

When customers show me designs done elsewhere, I can usually rattle off 10 blatant errors before I even closely examine the floor plan.  Even more alarming, many designs actually have the potential to kill.  And, these same fatal designs have even won awards.

In the last few years, I honestly have yet to pick up a kitchen trade magazine without a featured kitchen on either its front or back cover having major mistakes.   Often they possess one of the possibly fatal design flaws listed below.  Here is my list of the 8 deadly kitchen designs that I see over and over again.

  1. Wall cabinet, spice pull out or an appliance garage too close to the cooktop or range
    Kitchens with hearths or grottos are the biggest culprits with the Professional high BTU burners being mere inches from the sides of the wood cabinetry creating a fire hazard.                                                                                                                                                                       .
  2. Range too close to the window
    Most building codes require a range to be a minimum of 12 inches away from a window for a number of reasons.  A fire on the stove can jump to curtains on the windows.  Or a breeze from an open window can blow out the flame on a gas burner and allow gas to accumulate possibly unnoticed prior to a potential explosion.  I have seen many, many, examples of designs with the range actually underneath the window.                                                                                                                                                                                                      .   
  3. Range or cooktop on the end of the run
    Handles of pots and pans can be left extending out in space to be flipped onto homeowners or their children.  This is usually seen all the more disastrously in high traffic areas and next to doorways where people are entering the room unprepared for the foolish design flaw.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             .  
  4. The deadly cousin or number 2 and 3.  A range next to the exterior kitchen door for all the reasons listed in 2 and in 3.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        .
  5. Wall cabinets extending out over where there is no countertop or by themselves without protective bases below them
    Usually this tends to be customer driven.  Out of the need to create storage space literally everywhere in their kitchen, cabinets get put in places where someone leaning or bending over unsuspectingly can stand up and fracture their skull.  I actually know of a contractor that fractured his skull this way and is now blind.                                                                                                                                     .
  6. This one is a little of a stretch.  But today many children and adults have respiratory issues such as asthma, severe allergies, or emphysema.  Placing cabinets with moldings approaching but not reaching the ceiling can create a space that is impossible to clean and yet accumulates over time inches of dust, dead skin, and dust mites.  This could cause potentially fatal health reactions to those sensitive.  I have seen where this is done intentionally to create a “shadow line” on the ceiling.  Once you get 3 or less inches from the ceiling, you must go all the way.                                       .
  7. Probably one of the biggest issues on the kitchen design horizon.  Today’s powerful hoods coupled with tightly sealed energy efficient homes create negative pressure inside the home when the windows are closed in the winter and the exhaust fan is on.  Without a heat/air exchanger or a heating system designed against negative pressure the exhaust fan will pull carbon monoxide back down the water heater exhaust, the furnace chimney, or more dramatically pull the smoke right out the customers fireplace into their home.  Nearly all designers and appliance salespeople never even consider this and only in the most expensive and usually colder climate neighborhoods like Jackson Hole Wyoming are there any building codes regarding this.**Just a note:  12 months after this was published Pennsylvania became one of the first States to regulate this very issue. Presently all 50 states require replacement air systems for all hoods over 400 CFM.                                                                                                                        .
  8. This one is almost no longer an issue but still exists.  Customers must have GFCI outlets within 4 feet of their sink but if they have an electric range with spiral coil heating elements and the kitchen designer places the range too close to the stainless steel sink, the 110 volt outlet issue will be benign in comparison to the 220 volt range, sink, and water shocker.                                       .

Kitchen design is a profession I love for many reasons including the creativity involved, the people you meet, and the sense of accomplishment when you do a good job.  But, the biggest reason I love designing kitchens is that it is an incredible challenge.

To answer any questions regarding the significance of today’s date (originally posted March 15th 2011):

“Beware the ides of March”

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Hoping you don’t have any of these issues,

Paul McAlary


But got a better kitchen design deal from Main Line

Recently, one of our customers told me a story about how they nearly bought a kitchen at Lowes. After working with a designer who took their direction regarding the design and type of cabinetry they wanted and getting a quote from Lowes on their kitchen installation, they were nearly ready to order. The Lowes designer told them that if they ordered that day they would receive a 20% discount!

Lowe’s Home Improvement

Fortunately our customer was very sales savvy and knew that any company that offers you a 20% discount to sign their contract today will still honor the same offer a week or two later if “push comes to shove”. Just asking for the sale this way made him and his wife uncomfortable  so they decided to do a little more investigating.

A friend had recommended Main Line Kitchen Design and Matt Super from MS Contracting to them so they decided to get quotes for their cabinetry and their installation from us as well. They contacted the contractor first for an estimate.  Matt gave them a ball park and recommended contacting one of our designers to review their design before he would get into too much detail. Just Matt’s “ballpark” was significantly less than their quote from Lowes –even with the 20% discount included.

I was the Main Line Kitchen Design designer who came to their home and, after looking over their plans, was unimpressed to say the least. Their Lowes kitchen plan was very similar to the kitchen they were looking to remodel and used the available space very poorly. But this shouldn’t be surprising since the Lowes designer was just doing as he was directed and, more than likely, wasn’t bringing any design expertise to their kitchen. The customers were slightly skeptical of the initial design I came up with for their space, it didn’t have a few of the components that they thought that they wanted. However, the design I recommended was more spacious. It also offered better functionality and  more cabinetry and countertops. It only took a few days examining the new design for them to warm up to the changes. And they were saving money and getting more — Main Line Kitchen Design’s price for the increased cabinetry was also about 15% less than the sale priced cabinetry from Lowes!

Our customer’s kitchen is now complete. Since it’s been done, they’ve told me that a day doesn’t go by when they don’t appreciate how the design by Main Line Kitchen Design has enhanced both working and socializing in their new kitchen. They also can’t believe that they came so close to spending $10,000 more for a kitchen and installation that in retrospect was so inferior.

Buying a kitchen and doing a kitchen renovation should be a thoughtful and well reasoned process. Trying to pressure customers into making decisions quickly and to order on the spot doesn’t have the best interest of the customer at heart. Lowes Home Improvement and The Home Depot aren’t alone in pressuring customers to make these big decisions, and any dealer that does is unprofessional in my opinion. And, if they can offer 20% discounts then it stands to reason that they are over charging at the outset.

Wishing all our customers a pressure free and wonderful New Year’s.

…and as Julia Child who would have been 103 years old this summer said with such enthusiasm…

Bon Appetit!




How Dangerous Can Mistakes In Kitchen Design Be?

Below are three clips from Murder by Kitchen Design! A speech I gave to the Pennsylvania NARI chapters at the Fretz Wolf and Subzero showroom in Philadelphia. The talk discussed the 8 most common ways kitchen designers endanger their customers. It was meant to be informative and humorous although I believe some people in the audience were offended having made the dangerous mistakes themselves. The first clip below is the “frightening” introduction:

As noted in the second clip many architectural firms and other kitchen design companies actually have some of these dangerous mistakes displayed on their web sites showcasing their incompetence.

The third clip below is the conclusion of the talk. It highlights the TV show with the worst kitchen of all time and answers the two most common questions I get asked about bad kitchen designs.

Another question I get asked is why we chose Julia Child cookbooks to give to our customers when their kitchens are complete.  The reason is simple:

Julia Child influenced American cooking more than any other chef past or present. She was knowledgeable and passionate about cooking. I believe it was sharing her passion that was so infectious. At Main Line Kitchen Design we try to share our passion about kitchen design with our customers. That why it’s Julia’s cook books we we send out and why my blogs usually end with…..

Bon Appetit!


Check Out These Construction Blunders

The Knotthink family has several members who are in design or building. Guy Knotthink, the family patriarch, is now retired but his son Will Knotthink is a general contractor and Will’s sister May Knotthink is an interior designer.  Will’s other sister Ivana Knotthink is an architect.  I’ve selected several photo’s of actual projects from the family’s portfolio.


Some of the Knotthink family’s most distinctive work is evidenced in bathrooms:

july         blog


Kitchens are common project’s as well:



 But the most dramatic work of all of comes from architect Ivana Knotthink’s portfolio:



Here’s one of Ivana’s projects as seen from Google Earth:








Although the Knotthink family has traced their ancestry back over 500 years it still remains only speculation that this famous building was constructed by a Knotthink ancestor:


At Main Line Kitchen Design we make sure your kitchen project has all the planning required to make it a success.  Have a wonderful summer …… and of course as Julia said…..  “Bon Appetit!”

Paul, Ray, Mary, Tom and Julie

Main Line Kitchen Design


Our A-Class Kitchen Designers Break-Down Famous TV Kitchens with Problems




Why are most kitchens so terribly designed?  And why do architects, interior designers, contractors, and even some kitchen designers place so little value on good and even safe kitchen design?  One of the reasons may be that we are bombarded with bad kitchen designs from almost every TV show and movie we watch.  Seeing these problem designs thousands of times  legitimizes bad kitchen design and makes it more acceptable.


Below are some of the most famous TV kitchens and why they are poor designs.  And what’s wrong with the I love Lucy Lucy kitchen seen above?  There is a window over the range with curtains, a fire hazard, and no countertop on either side of the range which is also dangerous.















The Brady Bunch home needs to have at least 9 inches of countertop in back of the cooktop to be considered safe.  Shame on Mike Brady he was an architect!
















The Huxtables on The Cosby Show have the same problem as well as no countertop on the side of the cooktop. With the cooktop burners right next to the phone and the refrigerator it is a good thing Cliff Huxtable was a doctor.
















Both Paul and Jamie on Mad About You, and Francis and Claire Underwood on House of Cards have ranges without countertops on either side making them unsafe, especially right next to a doorway. The Secret Service is overlooking one possible danger to their charge.
















The Partridge Family has no countertop on the right side of their cooktop.  Again the wall phone is right next to the flames.  If the Partridges catch on fire they won’t be able to “get happy” as their theme song implores.

















Seinfeld and How I Met Your Mother have the same problems mentioned above.  And Friends which followed Seinfeld on TV Thursday nights had Monica and Rachel with no hood and wood only a few inches over their powerful professional range.





The low hanging cabinets left of the refrigerator in Dexter’s kitchen below are dangerous to anyone over 6 feet 4 inches.  But should we really be surprised that a mass murderer has a dangerous kitchen?




I guess  all these TV characters should just be happy they didn’t have the ugliest TV kitchen of all time.



That would be poor Alice Kramden’s kitchen on The Honeymooners.

Does your favorite TV show’s kitchen have any of the problems we saw above?   Chances are better than not that it does.


Hoping your real life kitchen is safe.  And as Julia said…..

Bon Appetit!


Main Line Kitchen Design Takes Customer Safety & Satisfaction Seriously

This forth of July week had fireworks in the sky and some on the web as well when many kitchen designers disagreed vehemently with each other on a LinkedIn debate.   The question that got everyone up in arms?


Would you allow or have you EVER allowed a customer to make a HUGE mistake?

As a kitchen professional  I found it disheartening that not all designers could even agree that selling a dangerous kitchen was unethical.  One designer stated:

“if someone comes in ONLY to buy cabinets.  I don’t interrogate them, I sell them exactly what they asked for.  If they kill themselves with them, that’s their problem.”

What I found the most distressing of all was that some CKD’s and even a MCKD (Master Certified Kitchen Designer) felt that cabinets not fitting or placed at mistaken heights was  not their responsibility. One said: “Bad design pays the same commission as good design.  If a client is hell-bent on buying a bad design, they might as well buy it from you, as long as the bad design does not include safety concerns.”


One designer told a near tragic story that ended as follows:

“Within six months, the whole house was lost due to a fire that began on the top of the indoor gas grill. The occupants were not home and there were no injuries. This story may be an extreme example of what can happen when advice is ignored but it may explain the differences between somebody that will or will not order a kitchen with out weighing the possible consequences.”


Dangerous kitchen breaking building code.

As a kitchen designer, it is our job to help our customers create a kitchen that they will enjoy for many years.  That job includes gaining an understanding of what they like and how much they have to spend in order to help them get the best kitchen available within their budget.


I strongly believe that our job also includes protecting potential customers sometimes even from themselves.  Certainly if a design is dangerous Main Line Kitchen Design will not sell that design.   We also will not sell a kitchen with known design errors, such as cabinets not fitting.


I believe all professionals should be held to the same ethical code they use in medicine: “first do no harm.” And I want my doctor, my lawyer, my accountant, and my auto mechanic all to care more about protecting me then they care about making a buck. 


It was after I posted this comment in the design forum that the sparks started flying and Fourth of July was off to a bang in the small world of kitchens.


Hoping your kitchen designer has your best interests and safety at heart!   And of course as Julia said……


Bon Appetite,


Let Main Line Kitchen Design Help You Avoid Kitchen Design Mistakes

Below is a list of the 10 worst ways to go about designing your new kitchen.  The list was compiled from a LinkedIn dialog among professional kitchen designers.  Thanks to all the kitchen designers that contributed their expertise and years of experience to come up with these top answers.  Some of the anecdotes they told were hilarious, but that’s another blog all together.  Hope you gain some insight from our list…and of course …….Bon Appetit!   -Paul

1) Design your kitchen yourself and then price out that unprofessional design many places.

2) Pay an architect to design your kitchen.

3) Purchase the appliances you are getting first and design around them.

4) Keep your existing floor plan exactly as it is now.

5) Hire the cheapest contractor.

6) Get your permits then layout the cabinets.

7) Don’t use fillers or flat stock  in your design to allow for the ceiling and walls being out of square or out of level.

8) Make plans dependent on your kitchen being completed in an unrealistic time frame.

9) Rely on kitchen cabinetry information from Consumer Reports.

10) Design and buy your kitchen from IKEA

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