Clear the Decks!

Now that I have my patio furniture project completed, I am moving on to some quicker spring cleaning/design projects in the home. The first project I have in mind is countertops, clearing them bare — particularly in the kitchen and bath.

Good design is not only beautiful but functional as well. Open up any picture in a magazine of a showcase home and what will strike you about the kitchens and bathrooms is that the counters are completely bare! Take these examples:

Kitchen Equipment Co. Kitchen by Kitchen Equipment Co. X. (c. 1920 - 1950) Photo by Theodor Horydczak. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Modern Kitchen from this_could_be_my_house. From the Flickr Creative Commons.
Baker estate. Bathroom in Baker house. (c. 1920 - 1950) Photo by Theodor Horydczak. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
8200 Wolf Pen Master Bathroom. Photo by Kairos Photography. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

Why are we so obsessed with minimalist countertops? There is something about flat, open space that appeals to all of us. Clean countertops give us subliminal messages about opportunity. “Hey, gather up the kids and make some cookies, there’s plenty of room here!” “Go ahead, try out that new makeup routine!” “There’s plenty of space to think here. Spread out that project!” Clear countertops are also a great visual trick to make us think the room is large enough (or has enough storage) that there is no need to put anything on the countertop.

There is also a functional aspect to minimalist countertops as well. It is far easier and faster to clean a countertop with nothing on it! Lifting and moving objects to clean underneath takes a surprising amount of time. Also, if the countertop is messy, chances are you have spatters on the objects that were on the counter as well, so you spend time cleaning those items too.

Is it possible for us mere mortals to live like the fictional, completely elegant people in these designs? I challenge you to find out. For the next several days, try clearing as much off of your countertops as you can. Take things out of the kitchen and bathroom that don’t belong there and store or dispose of them. Remove duplicates, broken items and things that just don’t seem to get used. Remove at least one item that you are convinced always has to stay out on the countertop and store it somewhere else.  With what’s left, think creatively about how you might get down to a completely clear (or almost completely clear) countertop.

For inspiration, I have provided some examples below of creative storage options for the most common countertop items.

In the Kitchen

Paper Towel Roll

Wall-Mounted Perfect Tear Chrome Paper Towel Holder. At
Real Simple suggests you get your paper towel holder off the counter by using a wall or cabinet-mounted dispenser.

Kitchen Bath Ideas has one design where the paper towel roll hides in the kitchen island

In our home, we solved the paper towel roll “problem” by not using paper towels. We have a bunch of rags we store in a kitchen drawer that we wash and reuse. Dirty rags go in a basket near the trash.

Dish Soap/Sponges/Dish Washing Utensils

Oxo Steel Soap Squirting Palm Brush. From

Oxo Good Grips Suction Sink Basket. At
The suggests you replace the bottle of dish washing soap with a soap-dispensing dish wand.

Some people like to use suction-cup holders to mount the sponge in the sink, like this one.

In our kitchen, the false drawer cabinet fronts beneath the sink are very small tilt-out drawers for holding sponges and dishwashing tools. GetSheila tells you how you can adapt your own cabinetry to use this trick.


3 Tier Hanging Copper Baskets. At
The suggests you get your fruit bowl off the counter and into a stylish and retro hanging basket.  Keep it freshly stocked to encourage you to eat more and to add a little style and color to your kitchen.

Dish Drainer

Progressive International Collapsible Over the Sink Dish Drainer.  At
Collapsible Over the Sink Dish Drainer. At
We started using the top rack of the dishwasher as our dish drainer and eliminated the need for a dish drainer on the countertop. We also have almost no items in our kitchen that must be hand washed (thank goodness!).

If you do a lot of hand-washing, what are your options? Perhaps a sink-mounted, collapsible drainboard?

Knife Block

Magnetic Kitchen Knife Holder At

Wüsthof Under-Cabinet-Swinger Knife Storage Block. At
A knife block is certainly convenient and keeps your knives ready to use when you need them. If you aren’t doing a lot of cooking, however, the knife block is probably just in your way.

If you are lucky, you might have a special cabinet drawer for knife storage that you could transfer the knives too.

Real Simple suggests you mount your knives to the wall with a metal magnetic strip. (Not sure about this tip with small children in the home. The knife block is already tempting enough.)

If you are a woodworker, eHow has instructions for building an under-cabinet knife block or you can buy one ready-made. The under-cabinet knife block might be a good childproofing idea as well.

Kitchen Bath Ideas also proposes a side-mounting knife block for your kitchen island

Apparently, I am being too verbose and have hit the size limit for WordPress! I will finish up my countertop clearing suggestions in the next post.