John Mastera, Architect, AIA
An Architect’s Advice on 6 Remodeling Ideas for an Easy-Clean Home
Updated: May 18, 2022
Life is messy isn’t it? There are endless dishes, laundry, litter, and debris that cover your home on a daily basis and every busy homeowner dreams of a way to make their easier to keep clean, especially with young kids in the house. Then there is the threat of viruses and germs.
This is a consistent theme in our consultations with clients, and so I thought I’d go over just a few simple ideas for your home’s design to make life less messy.
1. Aim To Make Your Living Space Efficient
Larger homes are great, you just need to design purposeful space. If you don’t need the whole space, don’t clutter it with furniture & random “things”. Use art such as sculpture to create a simple display with one piece - easy to clean around. Also keep in mind that some of the best architecture is actually quite small. (Think Philip Johnson’s Glass House.) A smaller home with wide vistas of the surrounding landscape can bring the outside “in” as if it was part of the house. So make that yard part of your Living Room, with glass. It’s not only easy to care for, it’s good for your mind and soul. A smaller home is easier to take care of, and you’re less likely to be overwhelmed with your cleaning chores.
Focus family traffic - plan for a well designed Mudroom for organization, storage and transitioning from the outside public life to the quiet home life. Shake it all off in the Mudroom. These are small spaces that need repetitive cleaning and then the others can wait. Cleaning is cyclical, periodic, and separating areas into groups based on how often they need sprucing up can help in the process.
2. Storage, Storage and More Storage
Things can't be put away if there's nowhere to put them, so always lookout for sneaky storage opportunities like bench seating with built-in storage or niches for shelving. Storage areas can be displayed, as if in a retail store, or out of sight and mind. Design both into your home.
Install a few more cupboards or closets to keep things tidy. Try to put your storage within easy reach, adjacent to the use. For example, you might store your blankets in an ottoman rather than in a closet in the hallway. You’re more likely to put it away if the storage container is nearby.
3. Cleaning Begins From The Ground Up
Floors take a beating! They are dirty, take the worst abuse, are scratched, muddied, fallen upon and messed with. When it comes to floors, think your decision through carefully. Do you use wood flooring, concrete, tiles, or carpeting? The location of the space determines the requirements for the floor.
Your floors near exterior doors and along the circulation paths of the architecture are going to want to be very durable. Use material such as stone, tile or stressed (unfinished) wood. Carpet and finished wood floors are fantastic in the less traveled spaces and are easier to keep clean in those areas rather than high trafficked areas. Also, consider tiles, luxury vinyl or laminate tiles, or stained concrete. These can all be great floors when designed properly. For northern climates, heat the floors
4. Walls Can Do More Than Just Paint
When designing homes, walls are often not factored into your design. Their cleaning and upkeep are never considered. But this is most crucial, especially the wear and tear that walls go through over the years.
One thing you can consider is painting walls with high gloss paint. Although it isn’t as attractive as matte, but if you have pets or kids, the high gloss is much easier to clean because you’re less likely to take the paint off the walls when scrubbing a stain. The sacrifice in trendy is only temporary until your kids are old enough to keep the walls clean.
5. Your Laundry Needs to be Easy
Laundry often ends up in inconvenient locations—namely the basement, off the kitchen, or in the mudroom. As much as you love to hide your laundry room where it will not be seen, it is better to have it where it is most convenient. The further you keep it away from your access, the more it gets difficult to use and you’ll end up finding convenient spots in between to dump soiled clothes. And in a well designed home, it won’t need to be in view.
Moving it upstairs, near a bathroom or bedroom makes a lot more sense and it will be easier for your family to not only put dirty clothes in the laundry room, but also put them away when they’re clean. if that is not possible, consider installing a chute that goes to the basement from the main level, the upper level, or both.
6. Install New Countertops
Is the kitchen looking a little drab? Make a couple straightforward and simple changes. After many years of use countertop materials often look cheap and dirty. They form divots over time, and they’re harder to clean. New countertops made from granite or another stone will be easier to keep clean, and they’ll look cleaner. The same is true for the hardware on your cabinets. An easy “refresh” is to simply change the pulls on the cabinets to new and attractive hardware. Use the same holes as the existing hardware and you will be quite surprised at how “high end” the cabinets now look.