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sushipup2

"nothing on the counters"

sushipup2
3 months ago

This comes up again and again when people post their designs for a remodel.


Folks, here's a word or two of wisdom to remember: All those glossy photos in magazines or real estate listing are staged. Yes, staged. No one lives that way in real life. It isn't practical and looks sterile.


So get that idea out of your head. If you get a standing paper towel holder, just move it when the House & Garden photographer arrives, then put it back where it's useful. Same for the bottle of olive oil with a pour spout that lives on the counter and you use every day, just stash it away for the pictures.


It's the HGTV effect... people think that's the way things should be. Truth is that it's just staging.

Comments (42)

  • darbuka
    3 months ago

    On point, and well said.

    sushipup2 thanked darbuka
  • sushipup2
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    On second thought, if you never use a kitchen, but are still pouring $100K into remodeling it, then do what you want. My comments are meant for the people who cook, even if it's just microwaving a Lean Cuisine.

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  • Sherry8aNorthAL
    3 months ago

    I have two pot racks. A utensil holder and a knife holder. Toaster oven, blender, Kitchen Aide mixer, knife block, etc. A scale, a food sealer. I would not want any one of them hid in a cabinet or drawer.

    sushipup2 thanked Sherry8aNorthAL
  • vinmarks
    3 months ago

    I have 2 paper towel holders, large knife block, 2 utensil crocks, a Vitamix, Kitchenaide mixer, Breville toaster oven, mortar and pestle, drip coffee maker, bean grinder, a Keurig, olive oil, salt and pepper, drying matts and hand soap out on my counters. When I see people's pics with nothing on their counters it feels like no one lives there.

    sushipup2 thanked vinmarks
  • roarah
    3 months ago

    I find very empty counters off setting and cold but even more than disliking the like the aesthetics of empty counters I hate the inconvenience they cause even more. For me, empty counters offer neither form nor function.

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  • blueskysunnyday
    3 months ago

    I find cluttered counters difficult to clean. I dislike picking every thing up to wipe under it. Clear counters make life easier to me.

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  • catspa_zone9sunset14
    3 months ago

    The toaster, the onions in an old hand-thrown pottery bowl, the garlic in an antique cast-iron mortar (my grandfather got it from an aged pharmacist who was going out of business), the coffee bean canisters and grinder, dark green olive oil bottle with a pour spout, butcher-block cutting board, two-tiered wire fruit basket holding lemons, pears, etc. -- this is all critically (and culturally) important kitchen equipment that no-way, no-how DOESN'T live on the counter. I did banish the knives to a holder tucked into a convenient top drawer on the island this time around. Other than that, what gets used on a daily basis stays on the counter. Other than the toaster, though, I don't like machines hanging out on the counter -- tend to take up too much real estate (and I would never make coffee using a machine).

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  • wsea
    3 months ago

    Sorry, but we cook everyday from scratch. cluttered counters are difficult for us to work with and keep clean. we have small kitchen and the only things on the counter are a fruit bowl, onion garlic bowl, salt cellar and sometimes dry rack. toaster, oils, paper towels even! all live in drawers, and Im sure people will gasp but we dont own a microwave, havent had one in probably 15 years.

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  • aziline
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    I don't understand the clean counters either. I have appliances and cooking items out, but I do have all spices and oils put away. Some people, probably due to the lack of storage, keeps items like that out and that's too cluttered for me.

    My SIL says she is in the "nothing on the counters" camp but she actually isn't. She keeps the toaster in a drawer but has the Flour-Sugar-Salt canisters and other decorative items out. So maybe it's actually "I want a photo shoot kitchen" camp? My kitchen is a kitchen. I don't understand putting energy making it look otherwise.

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  • lharpie
    3 months ago

    I have counters with stuff on them (ie above dw have drying rack and coffee, small counter with toasters/fruit bowl). However prep space and both sides of cooktop are clear. knives and spoons in drawer. oil on small open shelf next to hood. everything should have a place, not on the counter where i actually cook!

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  • bpath
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    I get the ”nothing on the counters” but not NOTHING on the counters. Especially paper towels. When you need a paper towel, you need it NOW. And not just for cooking. The cat barfed, you got a paper cut and it’s the closest absorbent thing, something leaked. The paper towel roll is out in the open. Happy to have it on a wall but my current kitchen doesn’t accommodate that.

    I wish I could have emptier counters but don’t have the storage. Some things, though, would probably still be out.

    Come to think of it, my mom, a love-to-cook woman, had nothing on her counters but the coffeemaker, toaster, and the small kitchen tv. But, she had designed her kitchen to accommodate all her storage needs. It was qute nice to work in because you always had plenty of space. The paper towels were on the wall.

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  • aem04
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    But what about the photos posted here where the OP says something like ”I am looking for improvements for my kitchen”, and the kitchen looks like a hurricane passed through depositing every cooking utensil, counter appliance, sippy cups, etc. found in a 10-mile radius on the counters? And the OP is utterly oblivious, doesn’t see it at all, or, says something like “we use all these and I think empty counters aren’t homey”. And if they read this OP, they would feel validated for their counter mess and say ”See?! you agree”.

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  • Sherry8aNorthAL
    3 months ago

    My counters are clean, but i want everything in reach without opening a cabinet or drawer. If I use it everytime I cook, I want it on the counter.

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  • BPMBA
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    Sounds like there are four levels of "stuff on counters" people: 1) literally nothing, 2) minimal/curated (that's me - a pretty olive oil dispenser, S/P shakers, coffee maker, fruit bowl), 3) I want my daily use stuff (including paper towels out and right there in case the cat or I make a mess) while cooking :-) and 4) the hurricane/cluttered - and we all know what that looks like from people posting photos, as @aem04 points out!

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  • mxk3 z5b_MI
    3 months ago

    ^^ I'd put myself in camp #2.

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  • theresa21
    3 months ago

    I keep a coffee maker, toaster, tea kettle, knife block, wooden cutting boards, paper towel holder, multiple bowls of fruit, and a potted plant on my countertops. In my sink is a sponge, washcloth and dish soap. At least one dishtowel hangs from my DW bar handle or the range handle. I never liked the idea an oil tray or utensil caddy on the countertop because those items will easily catch dust out in the open. My oils are stored on the lowest shelf of a diagonal corner cabinet with vinegar and spray oils. There is shelf liner in that cabinet for easy cleaning. Utensils are stored in the utensil drawer..

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  • vinmarks
    3 months ago

    I am in camp #3 I suppose. I have a large kitchen so there is plenty of counter space. I don't think my kitchen looks cluttered at least to me.


    I can see that those with smaller kitchens and less counter space would want less stuff out to have plenty of clear counter space to work.


    I could never see having to haul out my kitchenaide mixer from a cabinet each time we want to use it. And forget those mixer lifts. If you use any attachments such as the cheese graters, pasta maker or sausage maker you can not use the mixer on a lift with these. Even just making a cake or anything with flour it would be all over the floors. Easier to just wipe off a counter.


    I think there is a big difference between a cluttered mess and having some things out on the counter.




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  • theresa21
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    @vinmark I love your kitchen! The thing about some of your items is that you understand the concept of grouping collections. You have the copper collection on the shelving and the bottles above the Fridge. I agree about the Kitchenaide mixer lift and keeping the mixer out on the countertop--corners are a good place to park one.

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  • Toronto Veterinarian
    3 months ago

    It's house porn.

    " No one lives that way in real life. "

    Unfortunately, my father's second wife did. I hated visiting their home.

  • Laura
    3 months ago

    Camp 3 child of a camp 2. More than 3 makes me very uncomfortable, and when I see camp 1 I assume it’s a kitchen that gets minimal use.

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  • stiley
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    Good distinctions, BPMBA. I’m in camp 2. Pretty coffee maker, tray with oils/s&p next to the stove, and a bowl of fruit. But paper towels and appliances are all put away. Kitchen sink has a built-in soap dispenser and a tip-out tray for sponges. Nice open countertops and island are relaxing to me. We’re a family of four and cook every day, but everything has its place and gets put away. It just takes about 3 seconds to take that extra step but makes a big difference.

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  • bpath
    3 months ago

    Sigh, now II’m yearning even more for a kitchen remodel. I have grand plans for storage so I can have clearer countertops. Although right now, I could have clearer countertops if I would just put down my coffee and wash those last three (well-rinsed) Thanksgiving serving dishes stacked in the space between sink and stove.

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  • Sherry8aNorthAL
    3 months ago

    I cook everyday from scratch. And I am for the everything out. If I had to hide stuff, I would only have one pan and just rip open frozen food, or bring in take out. We do not eat that way. We eat from scratch, meat and three, Italian, Mexican, Cajun, etc. I am making a seafood platter today and I regulary cook a full Thaksgiving meal. The only kitchen smaller than mine would be a camper. Which I have cooked full meals in.

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  • PRO
    RCKsinks Inc.
    3 months ago

    Uncluttered but still functional .

    Reality Sink · More Info


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  • KW PNW Z8
    3 months ago

    Interesting post & replies. I’m usually in camp 2, especially after a serious kitchen cleaning. A small Keurig is the only appliance always on my counters. It seems to me that the attention to ’curated’ counters came about with the advent of open plan design homes. When the kitchen can be seen from the great room or even the front door, I think more emphasis is placed on making the kitchen look like a highly decorated space that fits with the overall impression of the community rooms in the home. The kitchens of my childhood were all closed off rooms or at least not wide open to the living areas.

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  • Susan W
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    This is a very big assertion to make: "No one lives that way in real life. It isn't practical and looks sterile."

    I cook most days, use the heck out of my kitchen, and have lots of "things" in use and out when I'm actually working.

    However, when I wake up every morning, the only things on my countertop are a pretty old tequila bottle that holds my dish soap, a paper towel holder, and an electric percolator (coffee pot.)

    My island/work table has either fresh flowers or nothing at all on it.

    My 8' table has a simple rectangular white dish in the center.

    I don't do this because I'm expecting a magazine in to take photos; I do this because it's how I like it. It gives me a feeling of calm.

    I assure you that people do live this way and get great pleasure from their neat and NOT sterile kitchen.

    To each his/her own...


    EDIT: Also, my kitchen is not part of an open floor plan. It is a totally self-contained, eat-in kitchen, so I'm not keeping it uncluttered so that it looks good from other parts of the house.

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  • stiley
    3 months ago

    @susanw totally agree. On the very rare day that I wake up to a kitchen with paperwork out or dishes in the sink, I can't enjoy my coffee until it's cleaned up. Yikes, I sound a little tightly wound! But clutter really does make my brain feel foggy. I think some people like being surrounded by their things and others enjoy a more open space. And to counter the comment about spending $100k and then not using the kitchen -- what about spending that amount and taking care in the finishes, only to clutter it with distracting thingamajigs. It goes both ways. But the great thing about design and having a home is that each person gets to choose how they live in it.

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  • aem04
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    @Susan W thank you! I am the same way. The OP sounded like I was some kind of unseen outlier, and I am glad to hear I am not. And the comment about a $100k kitchen and never cooks - I am an avid cook. I did not spend $100k on my kitchen. Why must someone who likes clear counters be pigeonholed like that? Why must people be put into strict categories of “clear counters must not cook”? For what purpose does that serve?

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  • Leslie P
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    Seems like counter management is definitely in the eye of the beholder; and certainly to each his/her own.

    Just having finished a kitchen refresh, and being one of those who posted a Level 4 'before' photo, I'm aiming for somewhere in the 2 range now. For me, it's not because Architectural Digest is stopping by for a photo shoot anytime soon, but because I can sense the difference in the level of calm I get from having some clean space, and being able to see and enjoy what we've accomplished.

    Completely clear counters wouldn't seem our speed, as some items are truly used every day that it makes sense to keep at the ready. So we're doing that, while bringing in some diligence to avoid falling into our previous bad habits of turning any horizontal space into a dumping ground:

    - coffee maker, bean grinder and toaster for the breakfast station;

    - paper towel holder, hand soap by the sink; dish soap and sponge in the sink;

    - salt and pepper mill, and olive oil by the range; (all other spices and oils go in the pantry, bring out for meals and place back; this was a waaay-too-cluttered corner area for us before)

    - a stand mixer (that I'd wanted to put out for years; now that the spices are in a good place, I actually have room for it)

    - butcher block cutting board, wire basket to hold bananas, onions and garlic;

    - tea kettle on the range, kitchen towel on the handle.

    Don't do much in the way of decorative-type items, save for the weather station and the frog on the windowsill. Purposefully mindful to not let stuff accumulate on the island and dinette table; that was our downfall last time.

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  • kculbers
    3 months ago

    I have a galley style kitchen. I do most of my meal prep on the counter next to my fridge, so I keep that counter clear of stuff. On my long solid counter that is 95 inches long, on the left end is my pink tin for my stuff, and on the right end is another pink tin for my husbands stuff. To the left of my range is my coffee station where I keep my drip coffee pot, mini Keurig, and 3 red containers for sugar, Truvia, and organic butter. I was stationed in England for several years (I am now a retired US Air Force Captain) and adopted the British habit of keeping butter on the counter. I try to keep the rest of the counter space clear, but fail misserably in that attempt.

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  • s y
    3 months ago

    I thought this was a very interesting discussion to read through and think about. I think some people find comfort having their belongings surround them, and other people take comfort in having open spaces. Whenever my SIL visits she makes a point to tell her children ( within my earshot) “Remember your aunt likes everything to be ‘just so’ so put your coat on the coat hook”. I would place myself on the rating scale as a 3 but my SIL obviously thinks I am a 1!

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  • vinmarks
    3 months ago

    There is a difference between having kitchen things out on the counter and having papers laying about and dirty dishes in the sink. I have things out on my counter but you will not find dirty dishes left in my sink nor mail laying around. We have a very organized household. Everything has its place everything in its place. The stuff on the counters is in its place.

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  • stiley
    3 months ago

    You're right about that. No one is calling you messy for having canisters or whatever out. It's just not everyone's cup of tea. These pictures look tidy but it's still too much stuff for some.





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  • Lynn Lou
    3 months ago

    Interesting discussion! I guess I am 2 with a little 3. I don't like a lot of clutter on the counters. But I can't imagine empty counters. I was happy to get rid of our toaster/convection oven that used to take up a ton of room in our previous kitchen. The pics that @stiley posted look really cute, but my first thought would be cleaning around all of that stuff on the counters. We are just about done with our renovation and happy to have less clutter than before the reno. I have the typical coffee pot and coffee canister, coffee fixings, toaster, paper towel holder (I do not understand how people don't have PTs out on their counter?!), oil/salt/pepper, knife block, spoon rest and cooking tools. Not shown is our live edge wood fruit bowl on the island. The extras I have are a cute little dog statue that holds our pets daily meds and a separate dish brush area for our pets (they are raw fed...our main dish brush is hidden on the inside of our sink). I did originally consider putting our knives and cooking tools in a drawer and not having them on the counter. I don't think I would have minded the extra step of opening a drawer to grab whatever knife or tool I needed. But I don't think I would have liked the emptiness around the range compared to the other areas.





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  • D Ahn
    3 months ago

    I get OP's point, but too much stuff and you can't find anything. I dream of tidy counters if you can easily get to everything you need. To expand on the old "a place for everything" adage, I suggest "A place for everything right where you use it, and everything in its place." IOW organizers for cleaning supplies at/near the washup sink, knives/cutting board organizers at the prep station, spice and utensil organizers where you cook.


    I've also discovered a corollary to the above adage: never put things down, put things away. Never make a mess, never clean a mess. We recently downsized, and it's frustrating when you don't have a place for everything, as my corollary is then impossible to achieve!

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  • kl23
    3 months ago

    I'm a 2 but my dear hubby is between a 3 and 4. He actually gets irritated if I put away his favorite knife. 😢

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  • RedRyder
    3 months ago

    Having more counter space makes the same person look neater. I’ve had 4 kitchens and the current one has the most storage (a huge pantry!) and lots of drawers and counter space. I look neater here but I’m the same cook, leaving out the same stuff I had in the other three kitchens.

    I need “clean surfaces” when I cook, and I don’t need to move as many items now. But I’d rather have things “put away” unless both of us deem they are “countertop worthy”. I rate myself a #3.

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  • anna_682
    3 months ago

    My counters are uncluttered. I cannot stand "stuff" everywhere. I have a couple of plants and that is it. The rest of my house is uncluttered too. It is just the way I roll. Nothing wrong with it.

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  • blueskysunnyday
    3 months ago

    It is so interesting how different people are! I’d say the rest of my house is a 2.5, but my kitchen is maybe a 1.5. Out, I have a hands-free hand soap dispenser by the sink on the island and a towel elephant (ala towel pig for old-timers) by the clean-up sink. Otherwise, I have a potted plant, carved wood trivet and beautiful cutting boards (trivet and boards made by my hubby). Besides the hand-soap dispenser I think the things that are out are pretty and they make me happy. It truly never occurred to me that folks would have small appliances and other non-decorative items on their counters by choice and not because of a lack of storage space! In our renovation, I could not wait to have a space to put the coffee maker and toaster behind closed doors. Still very easy to use!

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  • RoyHobbs
    3 months ago
    last modified: 3 months ago

    Spouse and I are recovering 3's, now 2's. It's actually quite an enjoyable transition to go to a 2.

    @BPMBA's categories are brilliant. Similar to the Hurricane Wind scales ("Cat4!") - pun intended. This Kitchens Forum needs to memorialize them somehow and refer to them going forward, especially for the 4's that we see. Call them "the BPMBA Counter Mess Scale"? Or something. Anyone want to come up with a title for them?

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  • k8cd
    3 months ago

    I want to be (and once was) a 2, but lack of storage and increased cooking utensils and ingredients have turned the kitchen into more of a 3. Hubby is a 4. Here’s hoping it gets back to a 2- it’s so much nicer to cook in.

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