The kitchen might be the heart of the home, but it can also unwittingly be the cause of your household stress. No, we’re not talking about when you burn Monday night’s dinner, or come home to a pile of dirty dishes in the sink.
Instead, we mean that your kitchen design choices could actually be the things making your blood pressure rise. So scan your kitchen for these six problems—and fix ’em now, before the stress boils over. You have enough to clean up already.
1. You don’t have enough organizing tools
If the only drawer add-on you’ve installed is a silverware divider, get thee to a home improvement store, pronto!
“Many homeowners focus on the style or finish of the outside of the cabinets, but it’s even more important to design their interiors,” says Leigh Spicher, national director of design studios with home builder Ashton Woods.
“Deciding exactly where items will go and what accessories or inserts should be installed in the cabinets is often a source of endless discussion,” adds designer Erin Davis.
Of course, the organizational options abound, depending on how you use your kitchen: For instance, Ikea has a bunch of drawer organizers to transform your junk drawer and organize your spices. You might initially be stressed to wade through all the choices, but you’ll thank yourself later—when your kitchen is feeling Zen.
2. You haven’t ‘mapped’ your kitchen for efficiency
Of course, good organization won’t help you if you have no idea how you actually use your kitchen.
“I suggest to my clients that they ‘map’ their current kitchen items,” says designer Carole Marcotte. Pull out all of your various kitchen accessories—from your dishes and cookware to your cutting boards and nonperishable goods—and think carefully about how often they’re used. Then get out pen and paper and literally map out where in your kitchen they should be.
Do you season ingredients on the kitchen island, or while they’re sizzling on the stove? That’s where your spice rack should be. Are you a canned bean fiend? Keep them within easy reach. If not, relegate your canned goods to the pantry or a high-up shelf.
Once you’ve analyzed which kitchen items get the most use, and which come out only when whipping up Thanksgiving feasts, your daily routine will be less stressful.
3. Your prep space is too private
The open kitchen trend rages on because this space fosters community when we’re cooking. But even in this unobstructed area it’s still possible to isolate yourself. When the primary prep surface faces away from the living space, that’s seriously bad news for your psyche.
“When you have to peek around a corner or walk into a completely different room to be included in a conversation with guests, or see what your children are getting into in the living room, you’ll be stressed feeling like you’re not giving your guests the attention they deserve or children the watchful eye they need,” Spicher says.
4. Your kitchen is dark
A little mood lighting is always nice when you’re cooking a romantic dinner or having friends over for Taco Tuesday. But don’t shut off all the lights—a dark kitchen can stress you out more than you realize.
“I can’t think of anything more stressful or depressing than working in an ill-lit kitchen,” Marcotte says.
In fact, an ideal kitchen needs a number of different kinds of lights. First, focus on overhead lighting—when chopping or measuring, the entire space should be bright. Then layer in task lighting, which not only adds extra brightness, but also aids in your hunt for a midnight snack.
Then you can add your mood lighting to give parties that extra oomph. Consider adding a dimmer to your overhead lighting, or even installing special lights over the island. But pay attention to the hue.
“In our research, we found that the light most optimal for relaxation is lower overhead light with warmer tones,” says Molly Kay, who researches design trends for furnishing retailer Arhaus.com. “Red and amber lighting in the evening is a great option, as it’s been known to improve mental health and relaxation.”
5. Your kitchen is too trendy
It’s a no-brainer that an outdated kitchen is going to bum you out. But beware of going too far in the other direction—say, for instance, painting your cabinets in of-the-moment lime green. You might love it now, but it could soon be a stressful reminder that you need to update again.
“Homeowners are most frustrated over dated or ugly styles,” says Linda Fennessy, who works with kitchen design service Kitchen Magic. “It comes down to something you can be proud of that is in fashion.”
“Areas like backsplashes and cabinet hardware are smarter places, financially, to play with trends without needing to redesign your whole kitchen in five years when the trend is over,” she says.
6. You have a shallow sink
All hail a good kitchen sink that makes your life easier. But a bad kitchen sink? It can ruin your whole day.
“Shallow sinks splash water everywhere and aren’t deep enough to wash pots and pans under the faucet,” says interior designer Gregory Augustine.
And if you’re not on the ball with cleanup (like most people), these shallow models will show off your lack of diligence. That’s stressful—and embarrassing.
“Go with a large and deep single bowl; that way you can stack dishes out of view when entertaining,” Augustine says.
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