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Clean Up Your Kitchen Visually with These 5 Life Hacks

Like we’ve gone over before, actually saving space in your kitchen through efficient storage isn’t the same thing as making it look that way. You can strip the room down to its bare essentials for a minimalist design, but most people like having stuff and actually using it. Instead, you can balance the colors, lighting, and structures in your kitchen to make your space seem bigger and less cluttered… without having to part with your entire novelty mug collection.

Pick Simpler, Cohesive Colors

An image of a small prep station with a traditional cottage feel, decorated with a tea set displayed on open shelves above a small sink
You can have a visually refreshing kitchen and still use your favorite colors in your decor (by Martha O’Hara Interiors)

You may think of a visually “clean” kitchen as all white. While that may appeal to some, others find it devoid of personality. Instead, a simplified color palette can go a long way. Pick a neutral tone, a single stronger color, and a standard appliance color (if it isn’t the same as your neutral tone). Subtle patterns also work well as long as they’re also consistent and aren’t more than half the total kitchen. Try to avoid conflicting patterns when picking out dishware; the more you have to mix and match, the more busy the whole space feels.

Maintain an Even Line of Sight

Tiffany Grey Velvet Counter Stool In Grey, cdf-BS20 by Contemporary Design Furniture

Less obvious is keeping an even line of sight throughout the kitchen. Think of a bookshelf organized by size; it’s more pleasing to look at than one where each book varies wildly from its neighbors. To achieve this you can do several things like having all your cabinets be the same size and distance from the floor. For a dining table or kitchen island with chairs, make sure the chair backs aren’t significantly taller than the table top so that they blend in at a quick glance.

Keep the Kitchen Lights On

An image of a brightly lit white kitchen, with several different types of visible lighting fixtures
Shadowy countertops and dark corners can make your kitchen feel smaller than it really is, so turn on the lights (by Alison Designs)

I can’t emphasize enough how important mindful lighting is to the look of a room. While dim sconces heavy lampshades are great for setting the mood, they create dark corners and make the kitchen feel more enclosed. In comparison, bright pendants and under-cabinet strips make the same space feel more open and big. This can be difficult to do with a single overhead, meaning layered lighting is your friend. You can even add a dimmer switch with some extra wiring if you decide you want the best of both worlds.

Open Up Your Kitchen Cabinets

An image of a gray kitchen with industrial style wood and metal open shelves to either side of the range hood
Make your cabinets feel less clunky by trading some out with open shelves (by Advance Design Studio, Ltd.)

While enclosed cabinets are traditional to kitchens and make everything feel secure, they are essentially bulky wooden boxes you’ve nailed to your walls. A way to visually offset this is through open shelving, which lets you see the back of your walls. Suddenly, all of the space that isn’t directly holding your dishware is clear and able to let light in. If you have a nice backsplash or store a lot of clear bowls, glasses, and jars, you can highlight your walls’ style further. But before you go ripping out all of your old cabinets, open storage also means you can store less without the shelves looking cluttered and overburdened. Be honest about how neat you’ll keep open shelves to help choose the right cabinet style for your space.

Use Your Hidden Storage Better

An image of a kitchen pantry with the doors opened, revealing may movable shelves inside
There’s always crowded and busy spots in the kitchen, but good storage means you have less of them (by The Aldrich Group, LLC)

All these eye tricks are well and good, but you still have to store your ingredients somewhere. Compensate for a cleaner-looking kitchen by making your existing storage spaces work harder. Extra shelves can be installed on your pantry doors to add more storage. Cabinets can be divided to better fit ingredients of a similar size and shape; some products like canned goods are meant to be stacked on top of each other for space. Plus, organizers make it easier to find everything you’re looking for, making your kitchen design very practical on top of stylish.

There’s no perfect way to fully clean up your kitchen’s look and still keep all of your junk off the counters. But by changing some stylistic elements with smaller renovations and thoughtful coordination, any kitchen can be made to feel more fresh and inviting.