How to Design a Kitchen That’s Easy to Clean

The kitchen tends to be the room in our home that needs the most cleaning. The good news is that, with a little planning, you can have a design that makes cleaning a breeze and allows you to spend less time mopping and more time enjoying your space. Check out these expert tips from Eva Byrne of Houseology; Nicolle Whyte, designer at Harvey Jones; and Louise Delaney, design manager at Cameron Interiors.


Easy_Clean_Denver_Kitchen1.png

Buy Easy-Clean Appliances

It’s understandable to be dazzled by the performance or look of a smart new kitchen appliance, but Byrne suggests that you also consider potential purchases with a view to keeping them clean. “Choose a [range] that’s fuss-free and easy to wipe down without needing any exotic lotions or solutions,” she says. “Have a good look at details, such as the knobs on your oven, to make sure there are no hard-to-get-at nooks. Knobs that are too close together mean you can’t get a cloth between them, for example.”

Whyte agrees and suggests choosing an induction cooktop, “as it’s flat, easy and safe to clean.” Furthermore, Delaney says, induction cooktops save you from having to clean the grates and other parts found on gas cooktops.


Easy_Clean_Denver_Kitchen2.png

“We recommend choosing appliances with cleaning programs included,” Delaney says. “Let your appliance do the cleaning for you!” She suggests choosing ovens with pyrolytic cleaning functions (which heat the oven to high temperatures to burn off residue), steam ovens with automatic steam cleaning and drying programs, and coffee machines with automatic cleaning.


Easy_Clean_Denver_Kitchen3.png

Pick a Simple Backsplash

Tile is a popular choice for a kitchen backsplash, but if you don’t want to spend time scrubbing grout to keep it sparkling clean, there are other options.

If you’re set on tile, pick a large-format style to minimize the amount of grout you have to clean. If you choose a glass backsplash, you won’t have to deal with grout at all, Whyte points out.


Easy_Clean_Denver_Kitchen4.png

Favor Flat-Front Cabinets

“Selecting smooth furniture fronts prevents cooking residue forming on decorative grooves and ridges,” Delaney says. Watch out for cutout pulls, though, since they can harbor crumbs.


Easy_Clean_Denver_Kitchen45png.png

Choose Your Countertop Material Wisely

“Select materials such as Corian, quartz, steel or sintered stone [mineral and stone particles bound together with heat and pressure], which are nonporous, prevent stains and are easy to wipe clean,” Delaney says.

“Solid-surface [countertops], such as Corian, are probably the most hygienic,” Whyte says. “They have a seamless finish and therefore don’t have grooves to trap dirt. This is why you see them used in hospitals and fast-food chains.”


Easy_Clean_Denver_Kitchen6png.png

Position Bins Strategically

Where’s the best place in your kitchen for the trash and recycling bins? To ensure that cleaning up is as efficient as possible, they should be beneath the sink, Byrne says. The goal, she says, is to create “minimum distance between sink and bins, which means minimum opportunities for spills and mess.”


Easy_Clean_Denver_Kitchen7.png

Use Durable Paint

If you have painted walls in your kitchen, you’ll need to wipe them down more often than the walls in other rooms. Choosing a hardwearing paint finish will make this job easier.

“Use an oil-based eggshell [finish], as you can easily wipe this clean without damaging the paint,” Whyte says.

Avoid Open Shelves

Open shelves may look attractive when beautifully styled, but they can be a high-maintenance cleaning option if you have to move dishes, books and decorative objects just to run a duster over the surface.

For a fuss-free kitchen design, Byrne recommends avoiding open shelves “that gather dust and grime” and springing for wall cabinets instead. For this kitchen, she chose a run of sleek uppers, with just one small shelving unit at the right for displaying a few easy-to-dust items.


Easy_Clean_Denver_Kitchen8.png


Easy_Clean_Denver_Kitchen9.png

Use Drawer and Shelf Liners

Drawers can be a bit of a minefield to keep tidy, with crumbs and dust sifting down to settle at the bottom. To keep on top of this, Byrne suggests lining drawers and shelves “with wipeable liner material, cut to size, to prolong the life of your units.”

Whyte agrees and suggests choosing “a melamine finish on the inside of cabinets, as it doesn’t absorb spillages as oak or walnut would.”

5 Trade-Offs to Consider When Remodeling Your Kitchen

It would be great to have an unlimited budget for a kitchen renovation. But the fact is most of us do not. And that’s OK. Compromises of one form or another are part of the process, even for the rare homeowner who enjoys a bottomless budget and expansive square footage. 

But how, exactly, do you decide between two compelling options with different pros and cons? The most critical tool to have on hand to help you make tough choices is a clear picture of your remodel goals. To get clarity on what matters most to you, read about some key trade-offs you and your kitchen designer will consider during your project.


Kitchen_Cabinet_Tradeoffs_1.jpg

How Will You Use Your Kitchen? 

When planning a kitchen remodel, you want to be very clear on how you want to use your new kitchen. Here is one example: I want to have people over more often. I want to feel relaxed when I entertain. In order to feel relaxed, I need to make sure that no one is in my way while I cook. I also want my kitchen to stay neat during the cooking process and be laid out so that cleaning up will be efficient.

Clear goals can help homeowners make decisions and, as the budget nears its limit, ultimately choose the options that will best support their goals. What matters most to you in a kitchen?


Kitchen_Cabinet_Tradeoffs_2.jpg

1. Daily Use vs. Special Events
This area of consideration has to do with how many people your kitchen will serve. From refrigerator storage to seats at the dining table, the number of people you want to accommodate will affect your design choices. You’ll want to consider not only how many people live in the home now, but — if this is your forever home — how many will live in it 10 years from now. Also, how often do you entertain and for how many people? 

I had a client who was retired and cooked only for herself and her husband most days. She entertained just four times a year, on holidays. At first, I was a bit baffled by her choice of a 36-inch range, double ovens and a 48-inch-wide refrigerator. But for her, these choices made sense. 

As the matriarch of a large family, on those four holidays she cooked for 25 to 30 people and had at least two or three people helping her in the kitchen. It was important to her that we designed a flexible space that worked just as well when cooking for two as for 30. 

That approach is a good one: Whenever possible, I recommend that clients design with their maximum capacity needs in mind.


Kitchen_Cabinet_Tradeoffs_3.jpg

2. Cost vs. Value
As you may have discovered if you’re considering a remodel (or in the midst of one), everything from cabinets to sinks to appliances comes at a variety of price points. How do you decide when it’s worth it to splurge for a high-quality item and when it’s best to save your dollars? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Will the investment improve your everyday life?

  • Will the product solve a pet peeve?

  • Will the addition of this element make your house feel like a home?

  • Will the purchase increase the value of your home?

In each of these cases, you may decide that the cost of a feature for your new kitchen is worth it because of the value it brings. For example, a better dishwasher might eliminate the need to prerinse dishes. 

Perhaps you hate scrubbing dishes, can afford an upgrade and would cherish any minute of spare time away from the sink. Or perhaps you feel quite the opposite: You don’t mind scrubbing dishes at all, and this investment wouldn’t be worth the pennies spent. 

Framing your choices as cost vs. value — in terms of your experience in your kitchen, and possibly the resale value of your home — can help you get clarity on what’s worth the extra money.


Kitchen_Cabinet_Tradeoffs_4.jpg

One helpful way to prioritize your desires is to analyze the frequency and duration of a given task. Tasks you do frequently or spend more time on should get more weight as you consider what is worth investing in. 

For example, most people use the burners to cook 80 percent of the time, the oven 20 percent of the time. If this applies to you, I recommend prioritizing the cooktop as opposed to the wall oven, both in terms of placement in your kitchen and quality of product. You wouldn’t want to give up a great burner feature to get a fancier oven. 

On the other hand, if you are a frequent baker but rarely use the stovetop, you may prefer to invest in wall ovens rather than spend your budget on a fancy range. For you, it would be better to make sure that reaching into the oven is more ergonomic — done while standing upright, rather than bending over.


Kitchen_Cabinet_Tradeoffs_5.jpg

3. Function vs. Aesthetics
Ideally a kitchen redesign brings both beauty and function, but when we are dealing with limited funds, trade-offs between functionality and aesthetics may be necessary. By function, I mean not only the kinds of bells and whistles you get with high-end appliances, but also the kitchen’s layout and the choice of whether to have one sink or two. 

Aesthetics, of course, are the expensive but gorgeous finishes and customized detailing that bring a high-end look to a kitchen. Quite often, a budget may force you to make choices on what matters most to you — the functionality or the look. 

This area of trade-off is deeply personal and has a lot to do with your lifestyle. When weighing aesthetics vs. function, you’ll want to consider everything I mentioned before: how many people you cook for daily, how often you entertain, the kind of entertaining you do (backyard barbecues vs. sit-down dinners), the style of cooking you prefer and how many people work in the kitchen at one time. 

For example, a client who doesn’t do a lot of cooking and is more concerned with the kitchen’s look than its function might really want a beautiful built-in fridge with custom panels but be willing to use a less expensive range or counter material to have that pricey, beautiful fridge. 

On the other hand, I have had several clients (including the owners of the kitchen in this photo) who chose a free-standing fridge and put their budget into the plumbing and construction work required to add a second sink. To me, this is a significant functional improvement and, for those who enjoy cooking and entertaining, worth scaling back on some of the aesthetic details. 

There are many ways you can cut back on aesthetics to create room in your budget for what’s important to you functionally. You might consider a simpler, less expensive door style on the cabinets, or a ceramic backsplash tile instead of glass, or quartz counters instead of granite.

I even had one client use a very inexpensive laminate counter so that she could put more money into the remodel work necessary to get the layout just right. Since she was in her forever home, she replaced the laminate with a beautiful stone two years later when finances allowed.


Kitchen_Cabinet_Tradeoffs_6.jpg

4. Speed vs. Patience
Any home improvement project takes time — that’s just part of the process. And once the kitchen is demolished and construction is underway, any delay can be difficult, particularly if you are living in the home and dealing with the mess. When you are in that situation, the risk is that you will be tempted to say yes to anything just to get the project done and your home back to normal. 

This happened with one of my clients, who decided to use a second-choice backsplash because it was in stock, whereas her first choice had a month lead time. On the other hand, a different client had trouble finding a backsplash tile she liked, so she finished her kitchen and skipped the backsplash altogether. Three months later, she found the perfect tile and brought the tile installer back. I am sure you can guess which homeowner was more happy with her kitchen remodel.

When making a large financial investment that you are going to live with a long time, I recommend that you go slowly, taking the time to find the right people to help and weighing your decisions carefully. 

That being said, speed can be a necessary evil. Perhaps you are remodeling for a special event, such as a backyard wedding. Or maybe you are planning to sell the house and just want a quick face-lift to get the most out of your investment. 

As a guide when weighing the need for speed vs. the need to exercise your patience muscles, I recommend you consider how long you plan to live in your home. If you’re going to sell within five years, keep in mind that everything doesn’t have to be perfect — you simply want to be sure you will get your investment back when you sell. However, if you plan to live in the home for 10 years or more, it’s worth slowing down and investing in your quality of life. Take the time to find the right solution, not the quick one.


Kitchen_Cabinet_Tradeoffs_7.jpg

5. The Ideal Me vs. the Real Me
This one isn’t so much a trade-off as a reality check. It’s worth mentioning that some clients have fantasies that a remodel can change their habits — or even their personalities. But my observation has been that if you are already a messy cook, the chances of a new kitchen transforming you into a clean-as-you-go type are pretty slim. 

Rather than plan a kitchen for the person you wish you were, focus on solutions that take your true habits into account. For example, a messy cook who is embarrassed when guests are around might want to add a separate cleanup sink where he can hide dirty dishes while making a meal. 

Or, if clutter is a constant problem, a homeowner might want to create a hidden drop zone for papers, cellphones, pens and other detritus that kitchen counters tend to attract.  

4 Incredibly Functional Compact Kitchen Islands

Article by: Mitchell Parker 

1. Little Black Box

Designer: Frankie Castro of Square Footage 
Location: Ajax, Ontario
Size: 160 square feet (15 square meters); 16 by 10 feet

Homeowners’ request. Bring a 120-year-old kitchen into the 21st century while honoring original details like the cove ceiling, wood flooring, chandelier and molding details. 

Island. 2 by 4 feet, painted black, with a wood top and stainless steel shelves. “It married all the features in this kitchen together,” says designer Frankie Castro, who gained ideas and inspiration by browsing photos on Houzz along with her clients. 


4_Functional_Compact_Kitchens_2.JPG

Other special features. Backsplash of white and gray hexagonal mosaic tile. Reclaimed-wood open shelves. Black base cabinets. Quartz countertops. 

Designer secret. “The trick is to keep the vintage feeling and details,” Castro says. “In this kitchen we only went up to the molding line, which featured the cove ceiling prominently. We also kept with the plaster walls and were very careful when cutting or replacing the walls.”

Wall paint: Distant Gray, Benjamin Moore

2. Slim Style

Designer: Becky Corringham of Wysteria Design
Location: Stratham, New Hampshire
Size: 220 square feet (20 square meters); 11 by 20 feet

Homeowners’ request. Remove and replace existing dark cherry cabinets, black countertops and a black painted island. The owners found designer Becky Corringham through Houzz’s directory, and they used the site to collaborate on an ideabook of inspirational photos, through which they also bought products like the floating maple shelves and chandelier

Island. 5 feet, 2 inches by 1½ feet with a maple wood base painted blue (Denim by Sherwin-Williams) and a solid butcher-block top. “The homeowners use their island for storing large items like their crockpot, blender, coffee grinder and indoor grill,” Corringham says. “The drawers of the island are used for small miscellaneous utilitarian items, such as pens, paper, scissors and tools.”

“In the design phase of this project we thought about adding a peninsula instead of an island, because the space in that area is very narrow. The width of the kitchen is about 9½ feet, and the traffic flows past the island leading into the first-floor half bath and laundry room, so we didn’t want to impede the walk space too much. We really liked the idea of keeping the custom bench seating, so that is what ultimately determined the need for an island over a peninsula.”

Other special features. Quartz perimeter countertops and backsplash with a Calacatta marble look. Light blue ceiling (Honest Blue by Sherwin-Williams).

3. Sweet Station

Designer: Rachel Eve Logue of Rachel Eve Design
Location: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Size: 140 square feet (13 square meters); 14 by 10 feet

Homeowners’ request. Update a basic, traditional kitchen to reflect a more midcentury modern style within the existing footprint. 

Island. 2 by 4 feet with a rift-cut oak veneer base and 2-inch-thick white quartz countertop. “We made the countertop on the island thicker than the perimeter to give the island more emphasis so it didn’t look so puny,” designer Rachel Eve Logue says. The island has two small top drawers and two deep bottom drawers — plenty of space to store utensils for baking, which the homeowners love to do. 

A 2-by-2-½-foot island existed in the same space before, but because the floor tile didn’t go underneath it, and because the homeowners didn’t want to hassle with replacing the flooring, they decided to keep an island in that spot and increase its size. 

Other special features. Aqua hexagonal tile backsplash and aqua floating shelves. Peninsula with white quartz waterfall-edge detail. Paneled refrigerator and tall pantry. The homeowners had originally thought they wanted all-white cabinets, but when Logue looked through their Houzz ideabook of inspiration photos they had gathered, she noticed that they had saved a lot of kitchens with dark base cabinets and white upper cabinets. She suggested they go that route and include white countertops, to lighten the kitchen but still have that dark wood, midcentury modern vibe. 

Designer secret. The previous backsplash was composed of glass blocks that matched the transom above the range. The glass let in light, but the view to the neighbors’ hedge wasn’t something the owners wanted to hang on to. To get a stylish backsplash, Logue drywalled directly over the glass blocks (they are still visible from the exterior) and covered the drywall with the statement tile. “If we had left the blocks, we just wouldn’t have gotten the same impact in this kitchen,” she says. 


4_Functional_Compact_Kitchens_7.JPG

4. Neat and Narrow

Designer: Cliff Deetjen of Peregrine Design Build
Location: Richmond, Vermont
Size: 250 square feet (23 square meters)

Homeowners’ request. A more light-filled kitchen with new custom cabinets and a better connection to the surrounding areas. 

Island. About 2 by 5 feet with a hard maple countertop and painted gray base (Smoke Gray by Benjamin Moore), a color choice that designer Cliff Deetjen says is smart for an active family. “The clients were intent on repurposing their rolling butcher-block island,” Deetjen says. “We convinced them that it was worth the investment to have a custom island built. Not only was it aesthetically appealing, it also offered them additional storage and an efficient place to organize their day. Cookbooks and favorite recipes are stored on the lower shelves. Pots and pans are tucked away on the stove side, and the surface functions as a place to put anything that needs to be grabbed on the way out.”

Other special features. 3-by-9-inch glass tile backsplash. Jet Mist granite countertops. Custom wine fridge. Hidden phone and computer charger in drawer. 

Designer secret. “We were excited to use mixed finishes in this project,” Deetjen says. “The island butcher-block counter plays off of the wood in the open shelving and wood counter at the eat-in dining area. Industrial touches are complemented by the warm cherry floors, and even the client’s rustic pottery collection is at home on the dark granite counters.”

Cabinet paint: White Wisp, Benjamin Moore; project photos: Susan Teare