5 Things People With Low Maintenance Kitchens Never Have — Avoid Them for Easy to Care for Spaces

You may be aiming for a low-maintenance cooking space that's easy to work in but have you chosen the right materials for it? Designers explain the choices that will make your kitchen hard work

An all white kitchen with lots of small plants
(Image credit: ANNA STATHAKI)

Designing a practical, low maintenance and aesthetically pleasing kitchen isn't as easy as it may seem. One wrong choice and you could seriously compromise your kitchen's flow, function, and even longevity. Those looking for a space that is easy to clean, maintain and is durable need to pick the right elements for such a space.

Thankfully, help is at hand. Designers point out materials and elements that you may think would look great but are actually the most tedious to maintain. And suggest alternatives too. Take a look at these modern kitchen ideas and start designing.

1. Mirrored backsplash

A backsplash in mirror

(Image credit: Future)

A kitchen backsplash is an important consideration to make as this element can really bring a kitchen together. You want a material that looks good but is easy to wipe, and doesn't break easily.

'A popular choice for kitchen backsplash over the years has been antique mirrored tile,' says Maria Vassiliou of Maria Zoe Designs. 'As beautiful as it may be, the mirror can be a grease magnet and cleaning could be more of a headache than actually cooking.'

Instead, consider ceramic tiles for the backsplash as these are easy to maintain, durable, versatile, and often inexpensive. They are available in a large assortment of shapes, colors, and sizes, making them easy to fit in with a kitchen of any style and size. The material is inherently bacteria and stain-resistant and is a breeze to clean. While these can be cleaned with a simple cloth, if you want to do a bit of extra wiping, consider a neutral cleaner made specifically for tile and grout or a mildly alkaline detergent.

2. Impractical fabrics

A kitchen with purple curtains

(Image credit: James Merrell)

'Fabrics in a kitchen can be problematic primarily from a maintenance standpoint,' says Julia Mack, founder of Julia Mack Design. 'Food stains, oil in particular, can ruin natural fabrics like cotton and cotton blends. If you are selecting curtain fabrics for your kitchen or other textiles including tablecloths and placemats, stick with fabrics that have a tight weave and non-absorbent quality, as they will ensure a bit of time to blot up a potential stain and prevent permanent damage.'

If your kitchen is a busy space and is used abundantly by the family, consider kitchen window treatments such as wood, bamboo, or straw blinds. Woven shades are more inexpensive, do not get wet or dirty easily, and can be easily wiped with a damp cloth. These last a long time and allow you to regulate light.

3. Polished floor tiles

A kitchen with terrazzo tiles

(Image credit: Mary Wadsworth)

'Tile is wonderful for kitchen flooring, but oftentimes we see a few mistakes,' says Maria. 'A polished tile can be extremely dangerous when wet and if you’re carrying a pot full of boiling water it could be a recipe for disaster. Also, many grout lines or thick grout lines are excellent crevices for dirt and spillages.'

A great, low-maintenance kitchen floor tile option are large format floor tiles, or luxury vinyl tiles that are cost-friendly and can mimic the look of natural wood and stone. Similarly, engineered wood has unparalleled durability, and is waterproof and scratch-resistant. In high-traffic kitchens, porcelain and ceramic tiles demand less care and can be vacuumed easily without the fear of scratches.

4. Light marble or concrete countertop

A kitchen with a concrete counter

(Image credit: ANNA STATHAKI)

When it comes to kitchen countertops, while looks are important as this is a large, visible surface, you want to make sure it is able to take the everyday burden of this space.

'Think about who is frequently using the kitchen and select a countertop material that works accordingly,' says Julia. 'One non-practical choice is a light color marble because it is susceptible to stains, chips and scratches. Another non-practical choice is concrete which allows liquid to pass through creating a discoloration and permanent stain on your countertop.'

A quartz countertop is usually affordable and is very low-maintenance, nonporous, and does not easily etch. It does not require any ongoing maintenance. Price-wise, it is comparable to granite and synthetic solid surface countertops. Quartz aside, laminates too are great as these can mimic the look of stone or wood. These never need sealing or refinishing, and due to their low cost can be easily replaced as well.

5. Stainless steel cabinets

A kitchen with steel cabinets

(Image credit: James Merrell)

While stainless steel might be a rot and warp-resistant material, its main drawback is that it can dent or scratch easily. Over time, dents and scratches start showing more, making this kitchen cabinet material less easy to keep looking new. If you do like the idea of a stainless steel kitchen, you'll need to learn to embrace the imperfections.

What should you choose instead? 'Solid wood can give a warm feeling to the space,' says Sabrina MacLean, founder of Hino Studio. 'It’s one of the first options every time we are working on kitchen space. A versatile and durable material, wood is hard-wearing and long-lasting. And, it looks good.'

Wood kitchen cabinets are not only available in several shades but also grain (based on the tree it is sourced from), adding an interesting character to the room. These are sturdy and beautiful and only require a soft wipe from a damp cloth. And if you want to give these a fresh look over the years, unlike laminates, these can be refinished and painted to suit new trends.

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Design Editor

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is the Design Editor at Livingetc. She is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.