Please Save Us From These Tacky Kitchen Decor Mistakes

There are dozens of amazing kitchen designs ripe for the picking, but a giant ceramic chicken is not one of them. That’s an example of tacky kitchen decoration. Most people know a cringe-worthy kitchen when they see one–shelves of beer bottles, fake fruit bowls, cheesy wine slogans–and yet people still use that decor.

Some tacky kitchen designs are in-style, so no one questions how tasteless they really are. But we have. We’ve gathered the tackiest of all tacky kitchen decor, and we’re not afraid to call it like it is.

“What are the most tasteless of all dish collections?” you may ask. We have the answer lined up for you.

Obvious Room Labels

sign that says pantry above the pantry in a kitchen
Youtube/Mimi’s Mixed Bag
Youtube/Mimi’s Mixed Bag

Yes, we already know where the KITCHEN is. That SINK and PANTRY are obviously a sink and pantry. Unless you have a young child who is learning to read, you don’t need room labels. It’s insulting to anyone who has been in a kitchen before.

Of course, jar labels can help a guest know which container holds COFFEE and which one has SUGAR. But the contents inside jars aren’t obvious. A KITCHEN is very obvious.

Kitchen Desks

Pam McNulty, Tastemaker, here at her kitchen desk where she plans things like the menu for her upcoming Christmas party
DAVID BREWSTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images
DAVID BREWSTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images

You know that you’re living in an old house when the kitchen includes a desk. Who wants to work in a kitchen? On top of that, who would entrust the safety of their laptop or work documents in the area where food splatters everywhere? It’s just a bad idea all-around.

In a room with boiling pots, oven timers, and fryers, the cacophony will make any desk worker go mad in minutes. That’s why most kitchen desks end up neglected and covered with papers and sweaters.

Plastic Dishes

children pouring drinking water from a jug into a plastic beaker while eating lunch
GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images
GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re a poor college student or 20-something-year-old, you might use plastic kitchenware because it’s cheaper and you won’t be inviting anyone over. But if you can afford ceramic dishes, why settle for the plastic ones? They’re barely even useful.

Plastic dishes remind people of camping trips and broke college living. They’re a bundle of bad memories wrapped up in brittle, unnaturally-colored plates. Trust that you’ll feel ten times better about your life after throwing out the plastic dishware.

Coming up: why celebrating alcohol doesn’t have the charm that some people think it does.

The “Barnhouse” Theme

istressed furniture, birdhouses and other country items for the kitchen
Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

You know the barn theme: kitchens with ceramic roosters, barn doors, hanging steel lights, and a milk pitcher with flowers in it. If those decorations appear in a modern kitchen, it looks out-of-place, like someone tried to re-enact the sixteenth-century French countryside.

Barn-themed kitchens miss the mark because most aren’t actually in a barn or on a farm. Where are the live chickens? Nowhere. So why does the kitchen look like it should house a cow?

Fake Fruit Bowls

Joanna Gaines pushing a bowl of apples on the kitchen counter
Youtube/Joanna Gaines Fixer Upper
Youtube/Joanna Gaines Fixer Upper

You know what a kitchen is used for, right? Cooking real food. There is literally no point in owning a fake fruit bowl. Those shiny, plastic monstrosities scream “fake” and can be debunked from a mile away. And when they’re coated in dust, they look terrible.

Just buy real fruit. Everyone likes fruit, and people who use fruit bowls have all their stuff together. Fake fruit just says, “I’m too lazy to purchase real fruit for my own kitchen.”

A Displayed Alcohol Collection

An empty can of Foster's Lager  adorns the wall next to cans of other beers
TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images
TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

People who fill walls or shelves with beer bottles fall into one of three categories: a bartender, a frat member, or someone with a drinking problem. Unless your guest knows you well, they may assume that you are in the third category. Or worse, you might come off as someone who wishes they were still in college.

If you’re a bartender who likes to mix drinks for friends, a kitchen collection of cocktails may be convenient. But a display of beer for beer’s sake is just tacky.

Slogans That Celebrate Wine

wine signs by Stacey Roeder
Twitter/@Argyle_Wines
Twitter/@Argyle_Wines

Wine decor mirrors the beer decor in that it signals a drinking problem. But on top of that, it comes off as try-hard, especially when it delineates the “sassy” or “quirky” personality of the kitchen owner.

You’ve likely seen these signs, mugs, and dishes everywhere: “Dinner is poured,” “Vacay and rosé,” “I speak fluent wine,” etc. It’s not as charming or cute as the people who buy these decorations think. It’s cheesy at best.

Keep reading, and you’ll notice the upward correlation between bright colors and tackiness.

Weirdly Bright Refrigerator Colors

a bright red refrigerator in a white kitchen cropped copy
Pinterest/San Marcos Dance Studio
Pinterest/San Marcos Dance Studio

Are you a character in Father Knows Best? No? Then you don’t need the “1950s aesthetic” by painting your refrigerator firetruck red or bright turquoise. For the “retro” style to work all of the walls and furniture need to follow the same color scheme. Selecting a bright color for only your fridge makes it look out-of-place.

Even if you are going for the retro look, neon colors hurt peoples’ eyes. You’ll have much better luck opting for a pastel palette, and even that can look off, if not done skillfully.

Noisily Patterned Cabinet Knobs

painted porcelain knobs on Etsy
Pinterest/Renee Padfield
Pinterest/Renee Padfield

The key to decorating a beautiful kitchen is coordinating colors and materials. Patterned knobs and handles do none of these things. Unless you find knobs that mirror your color scheme exactly, they’ll likely appear noisy and tacky.

The worst choice you could possibly make is assigning different-colored handles to every single cabinet. That’s not “chic” or “vintage,” but a bad design idea. Since knobs are such a small detail, keep them minute and tasteful.

Mason jars: still hip, or gaudy?

Chevron Tiles

Black and white chevron designed walls and floor kitchen
Pinterest/The Design Sheppard
Pinterest/The Design Sheppard

Chevron is the V-shaped pattern that’s often repeated as a zigzag. If you want your eyes to melt every time you walk into your kitchen, install chevron tiles. Not only is this design distracting, but also obscures all the important items like pots and towels.

Even worse than chevron tiles on the wall are chevron tiles on the floor. The entire design is dizzying to say least. Keep your kitchen pleasant to look at, and take away glaring chevron design from your home.

Mason Jar Decorations

mason jars holding cooking supplies in a kitchen
Pinterest/shanieka
Pinterest/shanieka

Over the past couple of years, mason jars have become the new trendy glasses in hipster cafes. If you aren’t bottling homemade sauce or jam, you probably own mason jars for the aesthetic. It isn’t as cool as it once was–unless you want to come off as a hipster, of course.

Sure, mason jars are handy tools for pressure-sealing dried herbs and sauces. But they’re not easy to drink out of. And decorating a room with mason jar lights and trinkets is the new “basic.”

Coming up: how too many plants results in a sloppy appearance.

Tuscan Kitchen Decor

Dining room of a farm in France
DeAgostini/Getty Images
DeAgostini/Getty Images

Even if you haven’t heard the term, you’ve likely seen Tuscan kitchens: wooden furniture, hanging pots and pans, chandeliers, and Italian tiles above the stove. In restaurants, this decor looks professional. In homes, this aesthetic looks like you’re trying to make it onto Food Network.

Tuscan kitchens work for professional chefs who actually need their pans and garlic cloves within arm’s reach. Average people aren’t Italian chefs, so they don’t need to act like they are.

Open Shelves

open shelf kitchen with plants
Pinterest/Erin Raylor
Pinterest/Erin Raylor

Open shelves tend to overlap with a Tuscan-style kitchen, but they deserve their own mention. Not only do they make your kitchen seem crowded and cluttered, but they’re also a hassle to clean. Imagine dusting around every single jar and pan that’s eight feet high.

When you use an open-shelf kitchen, you don’t have as much flexibility decorating, because your kitchen items are your decorations. You’d have to own a set of quality china to get away with open shelves, and even that can appear tacky.

Crowding Your Kitchen With Plants

a bunch of plants on kitchen shelves
Pinterest/Katarina .
Pinterest/Katarina .

Yes, houseplants look beautiful. But your kitchen isn’t a garden; it’s a kitchen. Shoving ferns and succulents all over the room will inevitably coat them in grime, and potentially set the plants ablaze if you hang them over your stove. Plus, you don’t want to cross-contaminate all your food, do you?

Too many plants give off the “flower child” vibe of someone who’s trying to look more connected with the earth than they actually are. Even herbalists dedicate their garden to growing food, not their kitchen.

Shabby chic? More like just shabby.

Lace Tablecloths

ivory lace tablecloth on a black table
Twitter/@southernladyest
Twitter/@southernladyest

In the past, lace was considered a status symbol because it was made by hand. Nowadays, lace is cheaply made and bought at a low price. These tablecloths don’t have the same “Victorian charm” that they did in the early twentieth century.

Lace is also incredibly fragile, meaning that it won’t last long on a well-used kitchen table. And layering white-on-white with lace will remind people of church altars. Opt for a nice, sturdy, elegantly-patterned tablecloth instead.

Distressed Kitchen Furniture

distressed blue table with a tin watering can with fake flowers in it
Pinterest/Rose Petals and Pearls
Pinterest/Rose Petals and Pearls

Distressed furniture is purposefully worn down so that it looks like an antique piece. If you distress one or two pieces, you can make your home look more shabby chic. But imagine walking through a modern home and then suddenly entering an “antique” kitchen. It’s jarring, right?

Distressed cabinets and drawers don’t complement modern kitchens with tile or marble. When you push the “antique” look on a modern setting, people will notice. Either shabby-chic-up all of your home or none of it.

Sometimes, modern design doesn’t make your kitchen better.

Stainless Steel Industrial Stoves

Stainless steel kitchen in London, England
View Pictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
View Pictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

On the opposite end of vintage tackiness, we have modern tackiness. The “overly modern” look often encapsulates stainless steel stoves, counters, microwaves, or other appliances. While professional kitchens use stainless steel for cleanliness, family homes don’t need it.

The problem with stainless steel is that too much of it makes your house look like a scene from I, Robot. You don’t want your guests to think that you’re trying to time travel, do you?

All-White Kitchens

all white modern farm kitchen
Pinterest/Decoholic
Pinterest/Decoholic

All-white kitchens are not only an eyesore but also a hassle to keep clean. Kitchens are messy places; there’s no avoiding red sauce splatters and crumbs all over the counter. The white backdrop will highlight these tiny messes, which requires people to clean their kitchen 24/7.

That’s also the reason why hospitals are painted white: it makes sanitation easier. Do you want your kitchen to feel like a hospital room or a home? Probably the latter. Leave the white for a laboratory.

Overlapping Several Colors

John Yates in the kitchen of his new home in Old Orchard Beach
John Ewing/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
John Ewing/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Most kitchens are mainly grey, black, or cream–basic colors that are gentle on the eyes. But those devoted to a 1950s chic look may overlay bright colors like red, yellow, blue, and white. The color scheme may work in a burger diner, but not in a home.

Processing too many colors at once is a recipe for migraines. If your kitchen requires a seizure warning, you need to tone it down for everybody’s sake.

Neglecting The Rest Of The Home

A bed inside a room in the pic du midi observatory, France
Fred Marie/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images
Fred Marie/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

If your kitchen is pimped out while the rest of your home appears plain, you have faulty interior design. It looks like you never finished decorating your house. And a tacky kitchen with little decor elsewhere? That’s even worse.

At that point, you might as well spread out the tackiness. Place the ceramic duck in the bathroom. Hang the “Live Love Laugh” sign in your living room. At least spread-out tastelessness is better than single-room tastelessness.