20 Designers on Their Secrets to Clutter-Free Kitchen Countertops

A modern kitchen with open shelves

Design: Blue Copper Design; Photography: Movement Photo Project

It doesn’t take much to crowd a countertop—a few small appliances, a knife block, a utensil holder overflowing with spatulas and wooden spoons. But the truth is, a less cluttered countertop will not only make your kitchen look more stylish, it’ll make cleaning easier and give you extra space for meal prep. Ahead, designers offer up their favorite counter streamlining tips along with the one beautiful item (cutting boards seem to be trending!) they always keep out on display.  

Add a Few Trays

Favorite decluttering tip: It may seem counterintuitive, in that you're adding something to your countertop, but a beautiful tray is a great way to keep clutter contained (think: loose salt cellars) while adding to your décor. 

Always on my counter: A beautiful glass vase with fresh cut flowers is always a must in my kitchen.

— Amy Lefrink, Principal Designer, Interior Impressions, Woodbury, Minnesota

Use a Roll-Up Dish Rack

Favorite decluttering tip: A roll-up dish drying rack that sits over a portion of your sink won’t take up counter space, plus it can be easily stashed away in a cabinet when not in use.  

Always on my counter: A vintage cutting board in lieu of a bowl to hold fruit—it keeps fruit fresh longer and creates a curated display.

— Catherine Fowlkes, Principal, Fowlkes Studio, Washington, DC

Keep Only Big Items on Display

Favorite decluttering tip: I leave bigger items out on display—copper pots, a wood cutting board, a marble mortar and pestle—which creates space in my cabinets and drawers for all of the smaller things that can make a kitchen feel cluttered, like cleaning brushes and utensils. 

Always on my counter: A Le Creuset Dutch oven is extremely functional and comes in the prettiest hues—the new olive color is on my spring wishlist.

—Sarah Lederman, Principal, Sarah Lederman Interiors, New York City, New York 

Avoid Decorating Your Countertops

Favorite decluttering tip: Less is more—resist the urge to decorate your countertops. There’s no need for extra knickknacks in this highly functional space. Fake flowers, cookbook stands, spice jars—they simply create a visual busyness and take up space you could be using for meal prep. 

Always on my counter: The one thing I consistently keep on my counters is a beautiful fruit bowl filled with apples, pears, lemons, limes, and grapes. Having fresh fruits makes your kitchen feel like home, and provides a pop of color if needed. 

—Eleanor Trepte, Partner, Lead Designer, Dekay & Tate Interiors, Palm Beach, Florida/Denver, Colorado

Consider Pullout Drawers

Favorite decluttering tip: Look for kitchen cabinet pullout drawers such as Rev-A-Shelf to keep bulky items like mixers accessible yet out of sight. Even better, wire an outlet into the cabinet so you don’t have to remove the appliance when in use.

Always on my counter: A beautiful charcuterie board is a subtle way to decorate your kitchen counters without cluttering them up. Lay one against the backsplash to add texture or directly on top of the countertop for warmth against the stone. 

— Ariel Richardson, Founder & lead designer, ASR Design Studio, San Diego, California 

Invest in Cabinet Add-Ons

Favorite decluttering tip: Appliance garages are a newer way to hide small appliances and their electrical clutter, but if you move into an older home and have to get creative, an in-cabinet add-on system like LeMans will make the most of cavernous corners that are often deemed useless, reducing counter clutter. 

Always on my counter: I love these wood and glass canisters for rice, nuts, and flax seeds as they create a uniform look on the counter while keeping things organized.

— Georgia Zikas, Principal, Georgia Zikas Design, West Hartford, Connecticut

Upgrade Your Everyday Items

Favorite decluttering tip: Try and make the everyday items you use as beautiful as possible. For example, choose a wood cutting board over a plastic one, a copper pot versus a non-stick one, a beautifully colored tea kettle in lieu of standard silver. These things all add charm to your kitchen countertops so the clutter will be less noticeable. 

Always on my counter: I love to invest in small appliances that coordinate with the design of the kitchen. The SMEG brand comes in adorable colors like baby blue and pink.

— Mimi Meacham, Principal Designer, Marian Louise Designs, Houston, Texas

An uncluttered kitchen with smeg fridge

Desiree Burns Interiors

Match Your Finish

Favorite decluttering tip: Cohesiveness helps reduce visual clutter. I try to make whatever is going to be displayed on the counter as aesthetically pleasing as possible by matching the finishes to the kitchen hardware or cabinetry color. 

Always on my counter: I love these trays from West Elm because their sleek mirrored finish reflects light into a space. 

— Brittany Farinas, Creative Director, House of One, Miami, Florida

Design a Decluttering Plan 

Favorite decluttering tip: The secret to keeping countertops free of clutter but also functional is a good analysis of what you use daily and what you use less frequently, especially if you live in a home with a small kitchen. Thoughtful consideration to what you have out and what’s actually needed will result in the best yet most practical look for your countertops. 

Always on my counter: For me, it's cutting boards leaned up against the backsplash. I love adding warm woods to a kitchen plus they’re super accessible when you need to slice your fresh loaf of bread or prep your veggies.

—Becky Shea, Founder and Creative Director, BS/D, New York City, New York

Invest in Baskets

Favorite decluttering tip: If you have limited space, use baskets with handles to store countertop items without creating an eyesore. I love these water hyacinth baskets because they’re made of renewable materials, they look more decorative than utilitarian and come in a variety of sizes to store odds and ends that clutter countertops.

Always on my counter: For fruits and vegetables I love to display a footed bowl, which provides storage while also creating sculptural interest on the counter. 

—Lilse McKenna, Founder, Lilse McKenna, New Canaan, Connecticut

Sync Up Your Colors

Favorite decluttering tip: It helps from a decluttering standpoint if you keep things visually cohesive and incorporate items that match. For example, incorporate a white toaster, blender and standing mixer, along with white vessels to hold cooking utensils.

Always on my counter: These all-white 100% Turkish cotton textured dishcloths by Williams Sonoma are a must for all my clients as they’re super absorbent and match every kitchen design. 

—Mary Patton, Designer, Mary Patton Design, Houston, Texas

Display Only What You Love

 Favorite decluttering tip: It comes from Marie Kondo, author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. To paraphrase Marie, look at each object on your counter and ask if it sparks joy, if it’s already served its purpose, and if it’s still adding value to your daily life. Her book is filled with many editing tips, but these questions are at the core of the process of eliminating clutter, excess and redundancies.

Always on my counter: I love the smile-inducing charm of old-fashioned apothecary jars filled with candies that evoke the cheerful atmosphere of soda shops of yesteryear and bring instant joy to even the most modern and minimal kitchen.

—Michael Cox, Co-Founder, foley&cox, New York, New York

A sage green and white kitchen with open shelves

Sarah Fultz Interiors

Add Shelves to the Sides of a Stove or Cabinet

Favorite decluttering tip: Not only are shelves an easy way to keep things tidy, but they give you a way to showcase your most used items in a stylish way, including canisters, plates, bowls, cooking books and bookends.  

Always on my counter: Pedestals, which add visual interest to a countertop, and footed trays, which are a unique way to gather and hold small kitchen items. 

—Lindye Galloway, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Lindye Galloway Studio, Costa Mesa, California

Consider an Appliance Garage

Favorite decluttering tip: I'm in favor of a less-is-more approach to countertops, so a big fan of appliance garages that come with pocket doors to hide things like toasters, blenders and coffee machines.  

Always on my counter: My go-to countertop staple is a heavy marble bowl and a clear glass vase with some greenery, nothing too fancy. 

—Kristen Mendoza, Project Designer, Four Brothers, Washington, DC

 Style Up Your Clutter

Favorite decluttering tip: Being organized goes a long way when it comes to controlling clutter—utilize your space properly with a well-organized plan and think out of the box when creating functional space. Designate certain areas for specific needs, for example, a baking station—instead of stacking flour, sugar, oats in your pantry, place these items in decorative glass canisters which will keep your pantry free of baking goods so you can store away other less attractive things that are occupying your counter space.

Always on my counter: My favorite eye candy is a high-end espresso machine which will elevate any kitchen countertop. 

—Shoshanna Shapiro, Owner + Principal Designer, Sho & Co., Gaithersburg, Maryland

Hide the Knives and Paper Towels

Favorite decluttering tip: Two things I swear by when it comes to decluttering countertops—swap out a knife block for an in-drawer insert and keep your paper towels in a caddy under your sink.

Always on my counter: An orchid. Plants add warmth and life to a space and make it feel more like home. 

— Evelyn Pierce Smith, Principle, Evelyn-Pierce Design Studio, Washington, DC

Place a Dish Drying Rack on a Floating Shelf

Favorite decluttering tip: A dish rack in a floating shelf is the perfect solution when counter space is at a minimum. I discovered this great decluttering secret when I lived in Europe and swear by it especially for small kitchens. 

Always on my counter: A well-designed kettle will add style to any kitchen countertop. 
—Gretchen Murdock, Founder, Modtage Design, San Francisco, California

Measure Small Appliances Before Buying

Favorite decluttering tip: It may seem obvious, but when purchasing small appliances like toasters and food processers, be sure you measure your cabinet space to ensure you’ll be able to store them out of sight. Vitamix makes a low-profile blender that fits nicely in cabinets. 

Always on my counter: Anything stored out in the open should be both functional and beautiful, like these gorgeous white bowls from Kelly Wearstler and John Derian, which I fill with colorful fruits and vegetables. 

— Madeline Merin, Founder, Madeline Merin Interiors, New York City, New York 

Make It a Moment

Favorite decluttering tip: If there’s no place to hide your giant espresso machine, play into it and create a beautiful coffee bar station that becomes both functional and visually harmonious with the rest of your space. 

Always on my counter: Beautiful cutting boards, whether new or vintage, add character to any countertop while still being functional. 

—Maria Viola-Kuttruff, Principal, Viola Interior Design, Ardmore, Pennsylvania

Maximize Your Existing Cabinetry

Favorite decluttering tip: One way to keep counters uncluttered is by making the most of your inside cabinetry. Hidden toe kick drawers, pull out pantries and drawer dividers are great ways to organize items so you can keep your counters as clear as possible. 

Always on my counter: Nothing beats a colorful stand mixer—it’s a pretty and useful small appliance that makes any countertop look better. 

—Rozit Arditi, Principal, Arditi Design, New York City, New York