THE KITCHEN IS CONSIDERED THE MOST IMPORTANT room in the house, so it is imperative that it be efficient. The August issue of Consumer Reports identifies the five worst goofs people make when designing kitchens and offers advice on how to fix them.

Consumer Reports does what others can't do: We buy hundreds of the latest products, test them in our independent labs, and then report which ones offer the best combination of performance, value, and reliability,” says Bob Markovich, home and yard editor for the magazine. “That means you can get a kitchen with both style and staying power.”

Because functionality is often sacrificed for style, people often make mistakes, the report says. The top five goofs: oversized islands, inadequate ventilation, poor lighting, ignoring garbage can storage, and inefficient overall cabinet storage. Consumer Reports says islands should have a depth of 48 inches or less and recommends at least 42 inches between the surrounding cabinets and the island. Moreover, cabinet space should be set aside for a garbage can, and kitchens should incorporate under-cabinet lighting because overhead fixtures can cast shadows on work areas.

The story also touches on materials selection, which is very important to a successful kitchen. Laminates and quartz countertop surfacing products get high aesthetic marks, but the report recommends mixing materials to save money. Most sink materials perform well, so go nuts, but the magazine also recommends selecting the biggest basin that will fit your cabinets—and your budget. Other recommendations include undermount sinks and wall-mount faucets (they keep the countertop clean), laminate floor (budget friendly and durable), and faucets with ceramic disk valves (long lasting and virtually maintenance free).

And what about appliances? “Our range, cooktop, wall oven, and refrigerator tests reveal that pro-style appliances aren't necessarily better performers,” the report says. “You're paying mostly for the look.”