A House To Clean. How To Design a Home That's Easy To Maintain.Mar 08, 2023
You built a brand new, beautiful house and now you have to keep it that way. What does it mean to design a home that is easy to clean and/or maintain? It means you can spend time living in your home, not scrubbing grout or wondering how you are going to get those spiderwebs way up there.
Ask anyone who has lived in their home for a while, at least 6 months but 5 years or more is better, they will have some stories to tell, cleaning products to recommend, design details to avoid and materials that didn’t hold up to the hype or wear and tear of daily use. I am talking white grout, black floors, high maintenance materials and other choices we make that make our lives harder. Do you really want to spend all your spare time cleaning? Or cringing everytime you look at a material that’s failing? NO! Your home should support and enhance the dream life you are trying to live, not be another weight on your chain.
* The advice I am going to give below is not the only way to design a home. There are countless ways to approach interior design and your space, this is one strategy. It’s for the person who’s main priority is a home that is easy to clean and maintain. It’s not for everyone. Take what works for you and leave the rest. That’s totally ok and the point of my coaching style. Design a home that speaks to you and your lifestyle. We are all different and our spaces should reflect that.
FIRST AND FOREMOST, SIMPLIFY. Starting with your material list. This may seem boring on the outside but it’s peaceful on the inside. It’s way less decisions to make, colors to coordinate with and easily feels like the same thought throughout the home. You are going to accessorize your home when it’s all done - have fun and be trendy with things that are easier to change. Think furniture, curtains, mirrors and decorations. In this method, you are creating a blank canvas that is ready to be personalized and there is nothing wrong with that.
A simplified color palette looks something like:
One or two flooring materials throughout the house.
One wood tone for everything - cabinets, doors, trim, etc.
One paint color everywhere.
One countertop repeated throughout.
One metal finish throughout - faucets, handles, light fixtures, etc.
If your mind jumps straight to ‘that sounds too builder grade boring’ it doesn’t have to be. Make each material choice beautiful. A rich wood floor throughout an entire home can be fantastic in itself and also sets the stage for your furniture to shine. Spice it up with some tile in the bathroom, that’s enough. Believe me, there will be enough decisions to make and details to keep straight. Keep it simple where you can.
MORE REASONS TO SIMPLIFY:
- One flooring material throughout typically means less waste, less stop and starts for your installation crew and less transitions overall. Especially important if you plan to ‘age in place’ or have a disability. Transitions = Tripping hazard.
- Painting one color throughout will generally cost less and you’ll have less waste. Every time you have to stop and start a new color you add cleanup time and a new gallon of paint. I am tired of having several half full gallons of paint that I have to store, only to touch up with the wrong color or that go bad by the time I need them.
- One countertop selection, especially if you are using granite or quartz. Often you have to buy the whole slab, whether you use it all or not or there is a minimum order. Get the most for your money and use that whole slab! There might be enough for a bathroom vanity or powder room. If not, think cutting boards, window sills, side tables or shower shelves. The previous owners of my house put the sink cutouts from the quartz countertop under the garbage cans outside. That’s an expensive garbage stand but waste not, want not and my garbage cans are sturdy AF. Use what you have and set yourself up for success!
- Every material has its own unique way of being cleaned and maintained - vacuum, mops and other tools that need to be stored, different cleaning products, with soap, just water or spot clean only. It’s a lot to store and keep track of. Keeping it simple, starting with your material choices means one cleaning method repeated throughout the house.
INTERIOR DESIGN TIPS TO CONSIDER NOW, FOR EASIER LONG TERM HOME MAINTENANCE:
COUNTERTOP: Make it as continuous as possible. One large expanse is easier to wipe down than a bunch of nooks and crannies and seams tend to grab dirt.
FAUCET: Go for wall mounted or single hole installs whenever possible. The less areas for water to pool and/or have to wipe around the better.
BACKSPLASH: Use large, wipeable surfaces in high splatter areas like the sink and behind the stove. Often I will put a vertical version of the countertop behind the stove for this reason. You might use stainless steel in a more industrial setting.
GROUT: Know that grout will darken with time and will show stains. Specify the smallest grout width your installer is comfortable with, pick a medium color that will age well and stop trying to keep it white!
LIGHTING: Choose fixtures with open bottoms or are easy to remove. No one wants to look at the dead bugs and dust floating around in your island pendant.
LIGHT BULBS: Check what sort of lightbulb is needed for your fixture, if they are easy to get and what the process is for replacing them. Light bulbs are a world of their own and can become complicated quickly. Back in my intern days, I had to compile a spreadsheet of all the light fixtures in the homes we designed, the bulbs they required and where to get them - it was usually a few pages long. That does not lend to a home that is easy to maintain!
FLOORING: A smooth surface on your flooring material will always show dust and scratches, especially in a dark color. Choose a floor that has some color variation and has a texture to the top.
There are a lot of ways to make your life easier, you do need to think about the way you live your life and then execute a design for it. I highlight the word execute because it’s one thing to want something, it’s another to make it happen. I don’t say this because I doubt your commitment to yourself and your design. I say this to warn you that people will question your every decision, even if it’s a brilliant one, several times throughout the design and construction process. This is my number one piece of advice I give my clients and anyone who will listen to me:
If you make a decision that you are happy with, that’s based on the way you want to live your life and that doesn’t impact the structure or integrity of your construction project - you get what you want! If anyone questions you, ask them if they have experience in the area you are working on and/or fully understand the life you are trying to create?
For example, if you want your kitchen cabinets laid out in a specific way because that is the way you like to cook or organize and your cabinet designer argues with you, dig deeper. Do they cook like you? Do they perform the same roles as you? Do they understand the lifestyle you are creating? Is the argument based in legitimately trying to help you create the best kitchen for you or is it to adhere to some current trend or personal preference?
We all have personal preferences, even in the professional world. You as the client, do not need to adhere to what I think looks better. We are here to help you create your space, exactly how you want it, while still being structurally sound. Or at least, we should be. Find yourself the right team, the people who understand your vision and that you trust to support your home improvement process.
If I am speaking to you and you need a new team member, I am here for you. Find out more in the ‘Work with Me’ section. This is your space, your design and your life. You get what you want.
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