I finished my kitchen renovation last year – these are the things I love, and the things I wish I'd thought more about

2022 was the year I finally completed the reno on my small kitchen. When it comes to the fine details, these are the things I'm glad I did, and the areas I definitely overlooked

a small kitchen renovation
(Image credit: Hugh Metcalf)

You know how the saying goes: hindsight is 20:20. Just consider your kitchen renovation – you can consider and re-consider every little detail, but until you come to use your completed kitchen, it's hard to imagine every eventuality. 

In early 2022, I finished the renovation of my small kitchen and having used it for most of the year, I'm through the honeymoon phase. I now have a better understanding of just how it works best, and where there was potential room for improvement. 

Having worked with a kitchen designer, the storage and materials are pretty much faultless – I've found that the devil is, really, in the details. These are those details I'm really glad I chose for my space, and the ones that probably needed a little re-thinking, in hopes you can learn lessons for your own renovation. 

hugh metcalf
Hugh Metcalf

Hugh is Livingetc.com's deputy editor and an experienced homes journalist. This year, he completed his small kitchen renovation. Take a tour, as he imparts the lessons he learned along the way. 

Love: fast-charging outlets 

a corner of a small kitchen

(Image credit: Hugh Metcalf)

In our small kitchen, we spent time searching for the perfect outlets, finished in an antique bronze that almost appears black. While some designers choose to hide power outlets, we were happy for them to be a statement. However, a last-minute decision was whether to include a USB or USC socket in the outlets – not something we'd really thought about before. 

It only cost a little more, so we opted to include USB outlets, which our electrician promptly installed. At the moment, they're the only outlets of this type we have in the house. 

What we didn't know when we chose them is that these types of outlets actually charge your phone 40% faster than standard plug-in outlets. We usually wouldn't necessarily choose to charge our phones in the kitchen, but now that we have them, there's no going back.

USB wall charger outlet, Amazon
Editor's pick

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Installing new outlets? Why not pick a style with built-in type A or type C USB charging that will ensure your phone charges quicker than a standard outlet. 

Regret: Door clearance 

a small kitchen pantry

(Image credit: Hugh Metcalf)

In my kitchen, I opted against wall-hung units. I find them a little top-heavy and prefer to have open shelving over these cabinets. However, to ensure we had enough small kitchen storage, I had to compromise a little. Instead of traditional wall-hung cabinets, we picked a small countertop pantry cabinet. 

It's half the depth of a traditional unit, but twice as tall. Perfect, right? However, after using the kitchen, I now realize there's a drawback. If you want to use the countertop in front of the pantry, you can't then open it without clearing the work surface. 

A better solution for this cabinet would be a bi folding or split pocket door. 

Love: Recessed, trimless spotlights 

a small kitchen with concealed extractor

(Image credit: Hugh Metcalf)

When specifying the ceiling lights, we sought out recessed downlights that are plastered over for a sleeker look. When I presented them to my contractor, they warned me about how recessed downlights can create a narrower beam of light. This means that they may be better suited for targeted task lighting, rather than ambient lighting

However, we pushed ahead, and we managed to ensure the right number of kitchen lights and the right layout to get a great spread of light across the space. 

Trimless spotlights, Amazon
Get the look

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Whether you choose to recess spotlights or not, this type of spotlight is designed in a way that can be plastered or skimmed over, making them flush with your ceiling for a stylish, minimal look. 

Regret: Lighting temperature 

a wall light above a shelf

(Image credit: Hugh Metcalf)

Lighting temperature is a tricky one to get right in the kitchen. When it comes to cool light vs warm light, cool light is better for the task lighting you'd need for, say, food prep. With that in mind, I opted for a hidden range hood with built-in LEDs to illuminate the range with a cool white light. In reality, it's the only light temperature that extractor hoods really come with. 

However, I also don't really enjoy mixing light temperatures in a single space, and the warm light of the wall lights and recessed downlights. That also means I don't really like putting the range hood light on, leaving a gap of kitchen lighting over the range that makes this space a little darker. 

Love: Bi-fold window 

a bi fold window in a kitchen

(Image credit: Hugh Metcalf)

The best decision we made for our kitchen? Replacing the kitchen window we had with a bi-folding one. Yes, it was more expensive than a standard window, but in summer, it opens up the kitchen to our courtyard garden and creates a way to pass out drinks and food to the outdoor space. 

There are not many instances where I think this type of window couldn't enhance a space. However, there's one drawback - if you want to get just a little airflow in, you have to open the whole window, rather than just opening a single window a crack. Something worth considering. 

Hugh Metcalf
Editor of Livingetc.com

Hugh is the  Editor of Livingetc.com. From working on a number of home, design and property publications and websites, including Grand Designs, ICON and specialist kitchen and bathroom magazines, Hugh has developed a passion for modern architecture, impactful interiors and green homes. Whether moonlighting as an interior decorator for private clients or renovating the Victorian terrace in Essex where he lives (DIYing as much of the work as possible), you’ll find that Hugh has an overarching fondness for luxurious minimalism, abstract shapes and all things beige. He’s just finished a kitchen and garden renovation, and has eyes set on a bathroom makeover for 2024.