Being an interior designer in Arizona affords me the unfortunate luxury of seeing far too many poorly designed kitchens. You can chalk it up to several things... the lack of regulations in the design industry here, homeowners attempting to design their own spaces without the proper education, watching too much HGTV or homeowers going to the 1 week then certified kitchen designers at Home Depot and Lowes. Regardless of the reason, I am constantly being called in to fix mistakes made on kitchens that would be avoidable by hiring a kitchen specialist, such as myself.
Not all interior designers have an understanding of how to compose a kitchen, as that is a specialized skill, separately taught. It's kind of like being a doctor versus being a specialist that requires a special approval from your HMO. You might be looking at the kitchen picture above and thinking, "what's wrong with that one?" The 5'3" wife thought it was beautiful until she realized she couldn't reach the wall cabinets, which are set far too high on the wall. There's a rule for how far from the floor and countertop that these cabinets should sit. Of course, there are variations, but this would not be one, as it makes no sense. The other mistake she quickly noticed was that her white grout, which was "SEALED TO PREVENT STAINS" was still white and soon after became pink from tomato sauce and beige from grease and brown from gravy.
Mistake #1 Unless it's design worthy, try to match your grout as close to your tile color as possible. White or very light grout is never good for a kitchen where one actually cooks! Yes, sealants can help protect your grout from deep, dark staining, but it does not make it stain-proof and needs to be redone often, depending on usage. If your tile has multiple or moddled colors, go with the darkest, yet most prevalent color throughout.
Mistake #2 Not removing your 4" baksplash before adding another in a remodel
I'm sorry, but I'm a huge fan of, if you're gonna do it, do it right! This looks as though you were either too cheap to have the wimpy 4" splash ripped off or your new splash is a definite, lazy afterthought. Fact: ripping off the old little splash can slightly damage your wall. If the person tearing it off does it with some care and professionalism, it will not much matter. They should use a good, sharp knife to splice down the caulking and then pull it off the wall. The area where you've removed the old splash is only going to be covered with new splash anyway, so the damage will not show. At the most, a skim coat to the wall will be needed if your contractor is a barbarian, and if he is, that's not all you'll have issues with!
Mistake #3 DO NOT GET A NATURAL SPLIT-FACED OR RAW/ JAGGED NATURAL STONE BACKSPLASH IF YOU ACTUALLY COOK
I put this one in all caps because it must be the biggest offender I see throughout the United States. This jaggedly cut, raw, natural stone is sexy and so easy to find. This, combined with the lovely marble countertop you see here in this picture, are the last and largest mistakes I see in kitchens everywhere. Why is this a mistake? Natural stone is open and exposed. It has pores just like your skin and those pores absorb stains and odors and dirt. I have used natural stone in the homes of wealthy clients who have professional chefs or dietitians deliver their prepared meals in Tupperware containers with dates on labels. In the home of the woman who does not cook, a kitchen is more of a showpiece than a functional space. Because of this, using trendy materials such as delicate natural stones will not matter, as they'll be free from damage. But, when you use your kitchen on a weekly basis and cook with sauces and oils that can spill and spit onto your bright white or light tan backsplash, with it's gritty texture that you cannot scrub to remove the stain, you have now thrown money away! It's not only a poor choice, but one that any skilled professional should help you to avoid. Even when sealed, you truly cannot clean the surface and that is what most women want to be able to do in their kitchen... clean! OK... not really, but you should have the option!!! :-)
Mistake #4 Do not use marble countertops in a work space
I can use the same picture above for this lesson. Same situation applies here. Last year I replaced two marble countertops for clients. One was a once gorgeous carrara white counter in an all white kitchen that a kitchen "designer" suggested Sylvia should get. Sylviatruly wanted an all white kitchen, which continues to be all the rage in home design. However, her designer should have understood enough about marble to know that the stone is very delicate, soft and extremely porous. It sucks in stains and is easily marred. Sylvia, a 3rd generation Italian from Napoli loves to make all of her grandma's old recipes and, by the time I saw her 4 month old countertop, the vinegar from trying to clean it, the olive oil stains from the jar constantly resting in two different areas, the sauce spots and wine ring (from the happy drinking while she cooked), it was totally ruined. The better choice would have been to use a quartz material to achieve this look. She should have been educated on why, but no doubt the designer did not know herself. She merely suggested what she thought looked good and not what best functioned in that space.
Kitchen design is not as easy as one might think. There are rules beyond the obsolete appliance triangle that can help you avoid issues and save money by preventing redoing your recent remodel ALL OVER AGAIN! Hire a designer who also works on kitchen remodels themselves. Many designers sub their kitchen designing out to cabinet companies because they lack the training. Avoid Lowes, Home Depot and Ikea, where training is a quick course in the basics. With the right help you can avoid these issues and create an amazing kitchen you'll love coming home to.