After casting their eyes — and keen judgement — on hundreds of kitchens, it’s only natural that real estate agents develop some clear opinions on what irks them about certain layouts. To get an insider’s sense of what to avoid, I polled four agents from markets around the country on what they don’t love to see. Whether you’re renovating, searching for new digs, or simply dreaming of a kitchen of Dakota Johnson-green-cabinet proportions, keep an eye out for these kitchen bloopers.
1. It’s taking up too much space.
After seeing give or take 400 kitchens in her 11 years of selling homes, New York-based broker Yesim Ak has one concise question: How big is the kitchen in relation to the rest of the home? “I come across a lot of little studios where 50 percent of the room is a kitchen, but you’re moving into a studio — not a kitchen with room for a bed,” Ak says.
While a spacious eat-in might woo you at first sight, Ak suggests making sure that the kitchen doesn’t take up more than a quarter of the total square footage. Worried Michelin-worthy plates can’t come out of a small cooking space? “I always remind myself that the best food comes out of the smallest kitchens,” says Emily Sachs Wong, a broker for @properties in Chicago. “In Paris, the woman who taught me French cooked the most ridiculous food out of a six-by-five-foot kitchen. That’s the size of most apartment bathrooms.”
2. It just doesn’t flow.
It might look nice during the initial walk-through, but if a kitchen doesn’t stand up to daily use, it’s a no-go. Open the cabinets and see how everything really fits together, says Dana Ambs, an Austin designer and Realtor with Compass: “Does the dishwasher door swing open in the same space as the oven door?”
Flow is just as important to keep in mind during kitchen renovations, warns Boston-area-based Coldwell Banker agent Ed Feijo. “Many people don’t turn to an expert to execute a kitchen that works. They want to add all the features and forget to keep a triangle design.”
The “kitchen work triangle,” as it’s called, is a design rule that prioritizes efficiency. The idea is that a kitchen’s sink, cooktop, and refrigerator are placed at each end of a triangle, making the space easy to use. So, don’t let the draw of new bells and whistles distract from the usability of the room.
Being en vogue may not sound like a bad thing, but trends have a way of passing and making design look, well, passé. The solution? Lean into your personal style. “What I find particularly bad are kitchens that are just copies of what’s trendy, readily available, and easy,” explains Ambs. “Kitchens don’t have to be generic! They can be colorful, textural, and include design features.”
4. It’s a dark dungeon.
Whether you love or loathe cooking, any time spent in your kitchen can be improved with a dose of Vitamin D. Always make note of where the sink is, says Sachs Wong. “When it faces a wall, it feels depressing to me.”
Not to mention, when things get a little smoky (couldn’t be me burning my toast), you’ll want to have a portal to the outdoors. Ambs recommends skylights to amp up the natural light — but steer away from light fixtures with clear glass shades, which tend to look more harsh and greasy than sleek and bright. “The best kitchen is light, airy, and has good energy,” Sachs Wong says.
5. It has no storage space to speak of.
Sure, having a kitchen in proportion to the rest of your place might mean it’s small, but you still need a place to stash your dishes, pantry items, and that air fryer you always mean to use. Ambs’ number one pet peeve? “Small kitchens designed without a pantry. Good design in a small kitchen is just as important if not more so than in a large kitchen.”
Ak recommends saving space with a mini or slightly smaller fridge and shifting your food shopping to revolve more around frequent trips than stocking up. For all of your cooking accoutrements and nonperishables, you’ll need at least some pantry space, along with a solid swath of counter space to whip up all of your air-fried creations.