In Praise of the Clean Kitchen

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Hidden storage drawers help keep the counter free of clutter. Image courtesy Deborah Scannell Photography

Keeping key spaces in and around your home neat and organized is no easy task – just take a peek inside a typical child's bedroom, storage closet or garage for proof.

But the area most folks likely desire tidiness in is the kitchen. Per the findings of a recent Houzz survey of homeowners, 75 percent of respondents said decluttering their countertops was their top priority in the kitchen, followed by putting things away (66 percent). Concealing cleaning supplies placed in the middle of the list at 37 percent.

All of which points to a simple fact nowadays: disorderly kitchens are driving homeowners crazy, says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist with Houzz in Palo Alto, Calif.

“Two in five homeowners are starting new kitchen projects because they can no longer stand their current kitchens,” she says. “They are also emphasizing storage during kitchen upgrades to support their needs for decluttered kitchen surfaces and putting things away.”

Gregg Cantor, president/CEO of Murray Lampert Design, Build, Remodel in San Diego, says the Houzz poll results don’t come as a surprise.

“They mirror the desires of many of the kitchen projects we embark on with our clients. While decluttering has never really gone out of style, the growing popularity of minimalist designs with ample cabinet space has created a desire among homeowners to favor cleanliness and functionality over flair,” Cantor says.

Maureen Hodor, co-owner/certified kitchen designer with St. Simons Island, Ga.-headquartered Kitchens by Design, notes that orderly kitchens are in greater demand today for another important reason.

“We’re seeing more ‘open concept’ floorplans, where the kitchen is open to other living spaces. Homeowners want a clutter-free kitchen because it can be more easily viewed from other rooms,” Hodor says.

Achieving a more organized kitchen usually requires remodeling to realize greater spatial efficiency and orderliness.

“Have a discussion with a design professional about how you live and work in your kitchen. If you enjoy a morning coffee and breakfast routine daily, for example, a morning coffee bar might be something you incorporate in the design,” Hodor says.

A redesign that accommodates a work triangle “is an effective way to create a workflow that allows you to easily access the most used spaces of the kitchen – the fridge, sink and stove,” says Brad Little, president of Case Design/Remodeling of Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C. “Also, utilizing unused spaces in the kitchen for hidden storage areas can decrease clutter.”

Sitchinava agrees that hidden and built-in storage is highly valued by homeowners; among those who are upgrading cabinets, pullout waste/recycling bins and cookie sheet organizers are the most popular (67 and 55 percent of survey respondents opted for these, respectively), as well as small appliance drawers (24 percent) and wine/bar storage (20 percent), “which help give a home to items otherwise left out on the counters,” she says.

For an even cleaner look, Cantor recommends prioritizing concealed functionalities in a kitchen renovation.
“Consider adding things like a backsplash that doubles as a sliding cabinet, vertical pull-out pantry drawers, pop-up counter features for coffee makers and blenders, and pocket or sliding doors to hide larger appliances and open cabinets,” Cantor says.

A kitchen island can solve a lot of these problems, too; nearly two in five homeowners are adding kitchen islands for additional storage and countertop space, the Houzz survey reveals.

If you aren’t ready for a major kitchen redo, you can try other options.

“Pare down what you have by discarding things like unneeded storage containers, excess utensils and unused small appliances,” Hodor says.

In addition, “maximize the organizational powers of your kitchen drawers and cabinets with either custom, built-in or generic dividers, which can help you sort and separate items,” Cantor advises.

And if you’re short on space, “consider a rolling kitchen cart,” Little suggests. “The lower shelves provide storage and the top gives extra prep space.”

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