Functional and efficient kitchen design
Great kitchen design comes down to two factors: aesthetics and functionality. It’s not enough for a space to look beautiful, modern, bright, or inviting if that space simply doesn’t fulfil its intended function. In other words, we need to achieve a balance between how a kitchen looks and how it works. Sounds simple enough, right? And yet, when it comes to cleanliness and maintenance this balance is so often overlooked, with the functionality of kitchens continually undermined by inefficient designs. In the ideal kitchen most of your time is spent cooking and socialising, not scrubbing tiles and clearing out cupboards.
It’s about time we started designing kitchens with a view to making cleaning less daunting! A kitchen that is easier to clean will stay pristine for much longer, making it a more hygienic, functional, comfortable, attractive space on the whole. Nobody likes coming home to a stack of dishes and a stained countertop at the end of a long day, so a low-maintenance kitchen is also likely to improve your quality of life by eliminating the usual stress of mess. With these tips we hope to help you in putting a stop to hefty maintenance chores so you can start to truly enjoy your kitchen.
That is the question… and most people instinctively know which they prefer. But which is the best in terms of maintenance? Unfortunately, traditional furnishings and materials are notoriously quite hard to keep clean. Cabinets decorated with intricate moulding are likely to gather dust in their many recesses and gaps. Wood finishes (a necessary staple in classic kitchens) are more prone to scratches, burns and stains than most modern materials. You might like the weathered and rustic appearance of traditional designs, but the chances are you may not like the strenuous work involved in its upkeep!
Naturally, cleanliness and efficiency goes hand-in-hand with more minimalist and modern designs. Sleek and straight-lined designs with glossy finishes and smooth surfaces seldom require more than a once-over wipe down. Furthermore, in the absence of detailed ornamental features and hard-to-clean spots, you don’t have to put aside three hours to dust the place with a cotton bud.
In short, the simpler the designs, the simpler the cleaning. If you’re dead-set on a more traditional aesthetic but you would prefer a low-maintenance option, shaker style furniture is probably the best middle ground, striking a nice balance between easy-to-clean simplicity and wood-based traditionalism. Just be extra careful not to stain or scorch anything when your kitchen is decked out with wood – it could cause irreparable damage.
If you spend more time than necessary sealing and repairing your old wooden countertop or scrubbing grout lines on your ceramic flooring, it might be time for a change of material. The key is to look toward materials which are easier to clean and more likely to withstand long-term damage.
With their wipe-easy finishes and ability to withstand almost anything, worktops made of stone (whether it’s granite, marble, limestone or basalt) are among the easiest to clean and the most durable. Many people also prefer stainless steel surfaces because, well, you know… they’re stainless! Then of course there’s laminate, which is cheaper and just as easy to clean, albeit not as durable as more natural materials.
Tiled surfaces are generally more fiddly than seamless ones: lots of grout lines can lead to lots of repetitive scrubbing, so the bigger the tile the less grout there is to clean (though of course you can eliminate grout entirely by choosing a different surface). Also bear in mind as a general rule of thumb: scratches and imperfections are more likely to show on light and dark tones, so mid-tone coloured finishes are more visually durable in the long-term.
It sounds painfully obvious but having a dishwasher makes it so much easier to clean large amounts of dirty dishes, and it’s a no-brainer if yours is a family kitchen. Make sure it’s installed within easy reach of your storage cupboards so that dishes can be quickly transferred from one to the other with minimal effort. When deciding on a cooker, a flat-top stove with glass hobs is a great one-wipe solution for messy cooks – after all, those built-in griddles found on old cookers are nigh impossible to clean!
If you’re going without a dishwasher, a pull-down spray nozzle installed over a deep sink is the most effective setup when washing dishes by hand. Undermount sinks are the most logical choice for low-maintenance kitchens as they don’t have raised edges or seams, and grime and limescale is unable to gather overtime. Another benefit is being able to sweep debris and crumbs straight from the worktop into the sink rather than onto the floor. Don’t worry, we’ve all done it!
Having cabinets that are awkwardly placed and difficult to use can quickly lead to an excess of clutter spilling out onto your worktops. To ensure that everything in your kitchen has its own home, incorporate plenty of storage space into your designs. These solutions aren’t even particularly hard to come by, with fitted cabinetry and floor-to-ceiling units being a staple of modern kitchen designs. In addition, deep drawers make storing clunky pots and pans a lot more efficient, and it’s better to reach in and pick them out from above than surgically remove them from the dark corners of an overcrowded cupboard.
Gaps and nooks are a breeding ground for all manner of filth. Dirt gathers most on the floor, especially in those annoyingly hard-to-reach spots: between the tiles and boards, at the seams of toe kicks, along the edges behind appliances. But fear not, there are measures you can take at the design stage to make your floor easier to clean. Choose materials without crevices and textures, replace sharp right angles at the bottoms of cabinets with broom-friendly curves, or use more narrow grout lines between floor tiles.
When it comes to cabinets, as always, avoid complex mouldings and difficult designs. Cabinets which have no gaps between doors are much less likely to gather dust and grime, which suggests that slender made-to-fit cabinets might be the best bet for a quick once-over clean. You might also want to purchase bespoke cabinets with no gaps at the top or bottom, eliminating the possibility of dust altogether.
How can you make cleaning easier if you can’t manage your waste properly? Perhaps integrating hidden waste bins, composters and recycling centres into the cabinetry of your designs (the usual placement is under the sink) is the best way to tackle mess at the root.
Not only does it accord with the best practices of sustainability, but it’s also easier in a functional sense. It’s both space-saving and time-saving: no longer do you need two or three separate bins strewn across your kitchen floor, or that lengthy trip through to the garden whenever you need to recycle.
Let’s face it, it’s impossible to cook a proper fry-up without making a little mess – that’s why we have splashbacks. No matter how hard you try they will always get dirty, hence why they need to be durable and washable. A common choice is ceramic tile, often layered in the pattern of brickwork, which is fairly simple to clean if you don’t mind putting in some elbow grease with the grout lines (again, bigger is better in cleaning terms).
Glass and stainless steel splashbacks are grout-free and therefore easier to wipe down, but potentially less attractive than tiled options. Don’t make the mistake of prioritising form over function here: decorative wallpaper or paint finishes might seem like a good idea on the drawing board, but three weeks in they will be a completely different colour (and smell) than before.
Designing kitchens comes to us as second nature here at Burnhill Kitchens, so if you need some expert advice or fancy visiting our showroom in Tonbridge, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.