Thanks to their role as gathering space and a source of meals, kitchens tend to be the unofficial drop spot for all things life. Think rogue mail, loose keys, discarded backpacks, stacks of schoolwork, you name it.
If all you see when you enter your kitchen are things that shouldn’t really be there, you might begin to wonder if all of those immaculately clean and well-designed versions on your social feeds are simply a figment of imagination. News flash: They aren’t! In fact, it’s totally possible for your space to be just as enviable.
Here are seven ways you can take your space from messy and drab to immaculate and well-styled.
Bust all that clutter
There’s nothing worse than trying to decorate around clutter, says Monique Valeris, senior home editor for Good Housekeeping. First, tackle any excess on the counters as you can, and employ space-saving ways to store the items you use on a regular basis. For instance, a hanging tiered fruit basket gets things up off counters and makes it easy to see exactly what fruit needs to be replenished every week, says Valeris.
You can also utilize the storage space under your sink more efficiently. Hang a tension rod typically reserved for blinds, then drape gloves and rags on it. You can even rest household cleaners on it by their nozzles. Other clever ideas: Add a lazy Susan to maximize space and consider attaching compact shelves to the insides of your cabinet doors.
Finally, make use of your wall space. Opt for a magnetic knife rack, or hang your everyday utensils, like spatulas and spoons, on a wall-mounted rod right where you can see them.
Clean like crazy
Once you’ve organized, do a thorough clean to create the perfect blank canvas for weaving in stylish accessories and personality: Dust light fixtures with a microfiber cloth, scrub grout lines with the right brush, wash windows (again, a microfiber cloth is your best friend here), wipe down appliances with the appropriate cleaner (even their knobs!), spritz countertops with a quality disinfectant like Weiman Disinfectant Granite & Stone Clean & Shine, and vacuum and mop floors.
Here’s one way to avoid having to double-back on any work: Start at the highest point — dusting lights and wiping counters, for example — and work your way down to the floors. This way, any dust and debris that falls won’t recontaminate any clean areas, doubling your effort.
Stash countertop appliances away
What’s one thing all of the most well-styled kitchens have in common? Plenty of negative space. Why? Limiting what you have on display clears the line of vision, making the decor you spent so much time selecting really pop.
“Think about the appliances that you use regularly, and commit to only keeping those handy,” says Valeris. “For small appliances, like a waffle maker, that might not be used frequently, place them on a higher shelf or a good spot in your pantry that doesn’t compete with those that are part of your everyday routine.”
Swap product packaging for prettier containers
Making your kitchen a special space is all about paying attention to the details, says Valeris.
Look around: If you have cooking essentials — salt, pepper, and olive oil — next to the stove and hygiene tools — soap, sanitizer, and lotion — on the ledge of the sink, consider upgrading from their plastic or glass containers to something more attractive.
Amber bottles are perfect for this, since they are readily available in all shapes and sizes, plus come in both pump and spritz options. There are even sleek, touchless dispensers available to add a dose of style to your space, says Valeris.
Try open shelving
Open shelving instantly ups your storage capacity and creates a homey feel, as the quick access to kitchen essentials, like drinking glasses, makes guests feel at ease — they don’t have to ask or rummage through your cabinets to find what they need.
But if you’re keeping items like dinnerware, mugs, and cutting boards on full display, it’s important to choose a color palette that feels timeless, says Valeris. Opt for white dishware, with a few pops of wooden accessories and stainless steel kitchen essentials.
Worried open shelving presents a dusting nightmare? Minimize the problem by only stashing frequently used items and just enough dishes to get through your regular rotation. And don’t forget to run a long-handled duster over the space a few times per month.
Add something soft underfoot
Though it may seem counterintuitive in a space so prone to spills and messes, a textured rug in a neutral or dark tone is a great way to add warmth to a kitchen, says Valeris. Since it’s a high-traffic space, choose a low-pile, flat weave design that won’t get in your way. And if you’re really concerned about stains, they even make washable versions that you can toss in the laundry as often as you need to.
Just be sure to take measurements before splurging on the textile of your choice. For rectangular mats in front of the sink, aim for about 2 feet by 3 feet; for runners, measure the length of your island or galley, then subtract a few inches; and for filling an open space — under the dining table, for instance — ensure it’s big enough to accommodate any chairs, even when they’re pulled out.
Bring the outdoors in
Whether a small herb garden on the windowsill or a potted pythos on open shelving, greenery is a great way to enliven your kitchen space, says Valeris.
So you don’t end up with a bunch of lifeless plants — a definite decor bummer — invest in low-maintenance indoor plants. You can think beyond the typical succulent or air plant, though: More unique options like Chinese money plants, peace lilies, bromeliad, and even phalaenopsis orchids are small potted plants that don’t take up much space, plus are tough enough to withstand (almost) any neglect.