How To Design A Low Maintenance Kitchen – Tips To Simplify Your Space
As a kitchen designer, I understand how crucial it can be to have a low maintenance kitchen that combines style, practicality, and ease of upkeep. A thoughtfully designed kitchen can greatly improve the functionality and enjoyment of your home and creating a space that requires minimal maintenance can significantly impact your daily life.
I mean, nobody enjoys constantly cleaning their kitchen. Do they!?
In this post, I’ll share my expertise and insights on designing a low maintenance kitchen that not only looks fantastic but also makes life easier for you and your family.
Buggle up and grab a drink, as this is my ultimate guide. Let’s get into it!
Importance of a Low Maintenance Kitchen
A low maintenance kitchen is essential for busy households (or those that just hate dusting!), as it simplifies daily tasks and reduces the time and effort required for cleaning and upkeep. When designing a kitchen with maintenance in mind, you can focus on enjoying your cooking and entertaining experiences without the constant stress of maintaining a pristine space.
Benefits of a Low Maintenance Kitchen
There are numerous advantages to designing a low maintenance kitchen. Some of the key benefits include:
- Time-saving: A low maintenance kitchen is designed with efficiency in mind, minimizing the time spent on cleaning and organizing. This allows you to focus on more enjoyable activities, like cooking and spending time with your loved ones.
- Money-saving: By choosing materials and appliances that are durable and easy to maintain, you can save money in the long run by avoiding frequent repairs or replacements. A well-designed, low maintenance kitchen also typically features energy-efficient appliances, which can reduce your utility bills.
- Enhanced functionality: A kitchen designed for low maintenance can be highly functional, with optimal workflow and smart storage solutions. This enables you to utilize the space effectively and enjoy a clutter-free, organized kitchen that is both practical and visually appealing.
- Stress reduction: A low-maintenance kitchen reduces the stress associated with constant cleaning and upkeep. It can prevent the ever-present worry about protecting and delicately using your kitchen for fear of creating any damage or mess. By minimizing the time and effort required to maintain your kitchen, you can enjoy a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere in your home.
Choosing the Right Materials
Selecting the right materials is crucial for creating a low maintenance kitchen. The surfaces you choose should not only be aesthetically pleasing but also able to withstand daily wear and tear while remaining easy to clean. Here are my recommendations for choosing the best materials for countertops, flooring, and cabinets.
When it comes to countertops, I always suggest opting for materials that are both durable and low maintenance. Choosing countertops that are simple to clean and resistant to stains, as this will save you time and effort in the long run. Depending on your budget and how hard you need your countertops to work for you, there are a few good options.
A porcelain countertop is a type of engineered surface made from a composite of materials, including high-quality porcelain. Porcelain countertops are ideal for low maintenance kitchens due to their numerous advantages such as durability, stain resistance, heat resistance and easy maintenance.
Some well-known brands I’ve used over the years include Dekton, Neolith and Lapitec.
These countertops are extremely resistant to scratches making them long-lasting and perfect for busy kitchens. Their non-porous nature ensures stain resistance, maintaining their appearance even with regular use. Porcelain countertops do not require sealing or special cleaners, making them easy to maintain and clean.
Additionally, they can withstand high temperatures, so hot pots and pans won’t damage the surface. The non-porous surface also inhibits bacterial growth, making porcelain countertops a hygienic choice for kitchens.
Probably the countertop material I recommend and use the most. Quartz is a man-made engineered stone that is incredibly resilient and non-porous, making it resistant to stains and easy to clean.
While not completely stain, scratch and heatproof it offers a good all-around low-maintenance work surface that’s available at a wide variety of price points. So there’s usually a good quartz option for most kitchen budgets.
Plus, it’s available in a wide range of colours and patterns, allowing you to find the perfect match for your kitchen design.
Laminate countertops can sometimes get a bit of a bad name, but don’t let that put you off them.
While laminate countertops may not have the same luxury appeal as other stone work surfaces, they are a great affordable, low maintenance option. Modern laminate materials can closely mimic the appearance of more expensive materials, and they are easy to clean and maintain.
They have good stain, scratch and heat resistance, especially for the price!
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When looking for flooring, opt for materials that are both durable and water-resistant, as this will help to ensure that your kitchen floor stands up to daily use without requiring constant maintenance.
Here are some good low maintenance options to consider.
Luxury Vinyl Plank or Tile:
This versatile flooring material is both durable and water-resistant. It’s also available in various styles, including wood-look planks and stone-look tiles, providing you with a wide range of design options.
It can also be relatively quick and easy to install and won’t break your budget!
Ceramic or Porcelain Tile:
If you’re looking for something a little bit tougher and more substantial feeling, then consider a ceramic or porcelain tile.
Kitchens are both high-traffic areas and prone to moisture, making it crucial to choose the right flooring material. Ceramic and porcelain tiles offer superior moisture resistance compared to natural stone or wood.
Additionally, they are highly resistant to scratches and stains. Unlike natural stone, ceramic and porcelain tiles don’t require sealing and can be easily cleaned with a wide range of sanitizing agents, eliminating the need for special cleaners.
They’re also available in numerous styles, colours, and patterns, allowing you to create a custom look for your space.
Ah, the trusty laminate!
Laminate flooring is an affordable alternative to hardwood that is easy to maintain and clean. With advancements in manufacturing, modern laminate flooring can closely mimic the appearance of real wood, providing a stylish yet practical option for your kitchen.
My advice is always to try and go with the most natural-looking finish. These can look great and fool most people. Try to avoid any of the ‘uber cool’ finishes that can end up looking a bit fake.
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Moving on to your kitchen cabinets themselves. Choosing the right materials for your kitchen cabinets plays a significant role in creating a low maintenance space. They tend to be the workhorse of the kitchen and probably receive the most punishment over time.
Here are some popular material options that balance style, durability, and ease of cleaning.
Vinyl Wrap (Thermofoil):
Thermofoil kitchen cabinets are a popular choice in the world of low maintenance kitchens.
Thermofoil is a type of vinyl (hence vinyl wrap). The manufacturing process involves heating the vinyl and moulding it over medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or engineered wood. This combination of materials results in a product that’s durable, easy to clean, and resistant to moisture—a perfect trifecta for a low maintenance kitchen.
Their moisture resistance means they won’t warp or discolour when exposed to steam or spills—a common occurrence in any busy kitchen. They’re also resistant to stains, so if your spaghetti sauce gets a little too excited, it’s no big deal.
Maintenance is as easy as a quick wipe-down with a damp cloth. No need for special cleaners or polishes. Plus, the often seamless design means there are no nooks and crannies for dirt or crumbs to hide in.
If you’re aiming for a kitchen that blends the beauty of natural wood with low maintenance, wood veneer kitchen cabinet doors should be high on your list.
Wood veneer is simply thin slices of real wood bonded onto a more stable material such as MDF or particleboard, creating a product that looks much like solid wood but provides better stability.
The benefits of wood veneer in the kitchen are twofold. First, it’s low maintenance. The material resists warping and cracking common to solid wood in fluctuating kitchen conditions. It’s easy to clean. Usually, a wipe with a damp cloth suffices. And its natural wood grain subtly hides minor dirt and stains, lessening your cleaning load.
Second, it offers aesthetic flexibility. Despite its durability and easy upkeep, wood veneer doesn’t skimp on style. It faithfully replicates the look of solid wood, infusing your kitchen with natural elegance. You also get to pick from a multitude of wood types and finishes to suit your design preferences.
Although not the cheapest choice, wood veneer kitchen cabinet doors make up for it with their blend of style, durability, and low maintenance. They’re a smart investment for anyone aiming for a kitchen that looks great with minimal effort.
Can you see a recurring theme here!?
Laminate kitchen cabinets are another excellent contender when designing a low maintenance kitchen. They’re durable, easy to clean, and come in a vast array of colours and patterns.
Laminate is a synthetic material made from layers of paper and plastic resins. The manufacturing process involves pressing these layers together under high heat, forming a product that’s tough, moisture-resistant, and versatile in terms of design.
The laminate is adhered to a substrate material, such as particleboard or MDF, to create the cabinet doors. The result is a smooth, hard surface that’s ready to withstand the rigours of your kitchen.
One of the main draws of laminate cabinets is their incredible durability. They do a great job resisting scratches, dents, and stains, making them an excellent choice for a bustling kitchen. And if you’re worried about spills (because let’s face it, they happen), laminate’s got you covered. Its non-porous surface makes cleaning up a breeze and helps prevent long-term water damage.
Laminate also offers a wealth of design options. Whether you’re after a sleek, modern look or something more traditional, there’s a laminate out there for you. You can find laminate in solid colours, patterns, and even faux wood finishes, allowing you to create the kitchen of your dreams without compromising on practicality.
Opt for cabinetry with minimal detailing
While cabinets featuring crown molding, corbels, and decorative legs can enhance a traditional kitchen’s aesthetic, they also increase the surfaces that require cleaning. Shaker cabinets are a popular choice nowadays and are much simpler to clean compared to ornate cabinets from the late ’90s and early 2000s. However, even shaker doors have ridges that can trap crumbs and dust.
Flat-front, slab cabinets lack grooves or ridges, making them the most low maintenance option. For the ultimate ease in cleaning, consider flat-front cabinets without handles, pulls or knobs.
Select cabinet hardware that is simple in design and won’t collect dirt or grime. Opt for handles and knobs made from easy-to-clean materials, such as stainless steel, that can be wiped down quickly and effortlessly.
Avoid using highly polished hardware and faucets. Shiny chrome, nickel, and stainless steel faucets, pulls, and knobs tend to display fingerprints, watermarks and water spots more prominently than matte or brushed finishes.
Optimal Layout and Design
Creating a low maintenance kitchen goes beyond selecting the right materials; it also involves designing an efficient layout that simplifies tasks and reduces clutter. As a kitchen designer, I always consider the following factors when designing a low maintenance kitchen.
Efficient Kitchen Workflow:
It all started with the work triangle!
The work triangle is a design concept that connects the three main work areas in a kitchen: the sink, the stove, and the refrigerator. By ensuring that these areas are in close proximity to one another and arranged in a triangular layout, you can create a more efficient kitchen workflow that reduces the need for constant tidying and maintenance.
While the work triangle is a great design consideration, these days, I prefer to design with kitchen zones in mind. Designing using kitchen zones refers to the process of organizing a kitchen layout based on specific functional areas or “zones.”
These zones are created to optimize workflow, efficiency, and organization within the kitchen. Each zone is dedicated to a particular task or activity, such as food preparation, cooking, storage, cleaning, or serving.
By dividing the kitchen into these zones, the overall functionality and convenience of the space are improved, making it easier to perform tasks and maintain a clean and organized kitchen.
Reducing Clutter and Simplifying Tasks:
A well-designed workflow helps to keep your kitchen organized and clutter-free. Reducing clutter in the kitchen contributes to a low maintenance environment by simplifying cleaning tasks, improving organization, and enhancing overall functionality.
With fewer items on countertops and in cabinets, it’s easier to clean surfaces and access frequently used tools or ingredients. A clutter-free kitchen also promotes efficiency by reducing the time spent searching for items or rearranging cluttered spaces.
Ultimately, a well-organized and clutter-free kitchen requires less effort to maintain, allowing you to focus on enjoying the space and preparing meals with ease.
The essence of customizable cabinetry lies in its ability to fit your unique storage needs. Every kitchen is different, and what works for one might not work for another. Do you need deeper drawers for your hefty pots and pans? No problem. Want vertical dividers for your baking trays? It’s possible. Need a pull-out spice rack? Consider it done. By tailoring your cabinetry to your specific needs, you eliminate wasted space and maximize your kitchen’s functionality.
But customizable cabinetry is not just about the right fit—it’s about reducing clutter. In a low maintenance kitchen, less clutter means less cleaning. When everything has its designated place, there are no stray items left on countertops or stacked precariously in overcrowded cabinets. Not only does this cut down on time spent tidying up, but it also makes your kitchen easier to navigate.
Opt for customizable cabinetry that can be tailored to suit your specific storage needs. This will help to ensure that everything in your kitchen has a designated place, reducing clutter and making it easier to maintain a clean and organized space.
Pull-out Shelves and Organizers:
This could be considered part of customising cabinets but you don’t have to have completely bespoke cabinets to benefit from some good cabinet organisation. So I thought it deserved its own point.
Incorporate pull-out shelves and organizers into your cabinetry design to make the most of your available storage space. These features allow for easy access to items stored in the back of cabinets and help to keep your kitchen organized and clutter-free.
These can easily be added to existing cabinets or installed as upgrades in your new kitchen.
Minimizing Open Shelving
I know it’s all the rage right now, but open shelving really isn’t for those looking for a low maintenance kitchen. Sorry.
While open shelving can be an attractive design feature, it can also contribute to dust accumulation and require more frequent cleaning. By minimizing the use of open shelves in your kitchen design, you can reduce the need for regular dusting and maintenance.
Closed cabinets help to conceal clutter and create a more streamlined, low maintenance kitchen design. By keeping items hidden away, you can maintain a clean and organized appearance that is visually appealing and easy to maintain.
Extend cabinets up to the ceiling
It will involve a bit more work and a bit more money, however, this can be a great way to avoid that dust trap at the top of cabinets.
To eliminate the need for cleaning dust and grime from surfaces above your upper cabinets, install cabinetry that reaches the ceiling. Alternatively, if you have sufficient lower cabinet and pantry storage, you can design your kitchen without any upper cabinets at all.
When selecting a backsplash material, opt for smooth surfaces that are easy to clean and maintain. Some of my top recommendations include:
Glass backsplashes are non-porous, making them resistant to stains and easy to wipe clean. They also add a sleek, modern touch to your kitchen design. You can get them in any colour imaginable as well as glossy or matte finishes to add a little bit of colour and texture to your kitchen.
Materials like quartz, laminate, and porcelain composite aren’t just for your counters—they can make a fantastic, low maintenance backsplash too.
Having a seamless transition from your countertop to your backsplash means fewer gaps and grout lines where grime and grease can accumulate. The fewer crevices and crannies, the less time you’ll spend scrubbing and the more time you’ll have for everything else.
Not only that, as I’ve already discussed, these materials have great strain, scratch and heat resistance as well as being easy to wipe down clean and maintain.
Using your countertop material as a backsplash not only provides a sleek, modern look, but it also significantly cuts down on maintenance. Whether you opt for quartz, laminate, or porcelain composite, this strategy is a win-win for design enthusiasts and busy homeowners alike. You get to enjoy a stylish and coordinated kitchen, with the bonus of it being wonderfully easy to keep clean.
Stainless steel isn’t just for appliances—it can be a standout choice for your backsplash as well. Known for its industrial charm and modern appeal, stainless steel brings a unique aesthetic to any kitchen. It’s also an incredibly practical, low maintenance option for your kitchen.
Stainless steel backsplashes boast smooth surfaces, which are a dream to clean. A simple wipe with a damp cloth or sponge is usually all it takes to keep them looking pristine. For tougher messes, a mild detergent can help lift stains without damaging the material.
Another significant advantage of stainless steel is its resistance to heat and rust. This makes it an excellent option for the area behind your stove or sink. It can withstand the heat from your cooking and the moisture from your cleaning, all while maintaining its sleek appearance.
In terms of design, stainless steel offers a sleek, polished look that complements a wide range of kitchen styles, from ultra-modern to rustic-industrial. Plus, its reflective surface can help to brighten your kitchen by bouncing light around the room.
A Note About Grout Sealing and Maintenance:
If you do opt for tiles, regardless of the backsplash material you choose, it’s essential to seal the grout and maintain it regularly. Sealing grout lines helps to protect it from stains and discolouration, ensuring your tile backsplash remains looking fresh and clean with minimal effort.
Grout is porous, meaning it can absorb spills and become discoloured over time. This can result in unsightly stains that mar the beauty of your backsplash.
Sealing your grout lines is an essential step that should not be overlooked. Grout sealant is a protective layer that prevents moisture and stains from penetrating into the grout. This helps to maintain its colour and keeps it looking fresh and clean.
Applying grout sealant is a straightforward process. You simply apply the sealant to the grout lines after the grout has fully dried from installation or cleaning. There are various grout sealants available on the market, from spray-on types to those that require a small brush for application.
Remember, however, that grout sealing is not a one-time thing. Depending on the sealant type and the wear and tear your backsplash sees, resealing may be required every one to two years.
Maintenance of sealed grout is also quite straightforward. Regular wiping with a mild cleaner should keep it in good shape. Avoid harsh or abrasive cleaners, as these can wear down the sealant over time.
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Choosing the right wall finish is a crucial element in designing a low maintenance kitchen. After all, the walls are likely to take a fair share of splashes, spills, and stains. Here’s a rundown of some of the best options for easy cleaning and maintenance: semi-gloss paint, satin paint, and wipeable wallpapers.
If you’re looking for a paint finish that’s durable and easy to clean, semi-gloss is an excellent choice. Its slightly shiny surface is more resistant to stains than flat or matte finishes, and it’s easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth.
Semi-gloss paint is especially suitable for areas prone to moisture, like around your sink or dishwasher. Its reflective properties also help to brighten your space, making it feel more open and airy—a big plus in any kitchen.
Another superb option for kitchen walls is satin paint. This finish offers a balance between durability and a subtle sheen, making it an ideal middle-ground option if you find semi-gloss too shiny.
Like semi-gloss paint, satin finishes are resistant to stains and can be easily cleaned with a damp cloth. They also do a good job of hiding minor imperfections in the wall surface, providing a smooth, attractive finish for your kitchen walls.
Kitchen Wall Paint:
In addition to standard paint finishes, you might want to consider special kitchen wall paint when designing your low maintenance kitchen. These paints are specifically formulated for the unique challenges a kitchen environment presents, making them an excellent choice for those wanting minimal upkeep.
Kitchen wall paint is typically fortified with a technology that makes it resistant to common kitchen issues like grease, moisture, stains, and even mildew. It’s tougher than regular paint, providing a hard-wearing finish that can withstand regular cleaning without losing its colour or sheen.
These paints often have a semi-gloss or satin finish, making them easy to wipe clean while also providing a pleasing aesthetic touch. Some brands even offer kitchen paints with added antimicrobial properties for an extra layer of protection against mildew and mold.
For those who prefer the pattern and texture that wallpaper provides, wipeable or washable wallpapers are your go-to. These wallpapers are specifically designed for use in high-traffic areas like kitchens.
Made from materials that can be easily wiped clean, these wallpapers allow you to maintain a spotless and stylish kitchen without needing to put in extra elbow grease. They come in a vast array of designs, from modern geometric patterns to traditional florals, allowing you to make a statement while keeping maintenance to a minimum.
Choosing Low Maintenance Appliances
The choice of appliances plays a critical role in your quest for a low maintenance kitchen. By selecting appliances with maintenance and ease-of-cleaning in mind, you can save yourself a considerable amount of time and effort.
I recommend considering the following factors when choosing appliances for your space.
Smooth Cooktops (Hobs):
Induction cooktops are a top pick when it comes to low maintenance hobs. With their smooth surfaces, they’re a breeze to clean—just a simple wipe down post-cooking and they’re back to their shiny best. This is a stark contrast to gas cooktops with supports and burners, which often require meticulous cleaning to remove food particles and stains.
In addition, induction cooktops offer a high degree of safety and energy efficiency. Since they heat the pan directly rather than heating the cooktop surface, they are cool to the touch within moments of turning off, reducing the risk of accidental burns.
Oven cleaning is a task that many of us would happily avoid. Thankfully, with a self-cleaning (pyrolytic) oven, the dread associated with this chore is a thing of the past. These ovens heat to extremely high temperatures, turning food residue to ash that can be easily wiped away once the oven cools down.
While self-cleaning ovens may be a bit more of an upfront investment compared to traditional ovens, the time and effort saved in maintenance can make it a worthwhile purchase for your low maintenance kitchen.
Stainless Steel Appliances:
Stainless steel is another smart choice for low maintenance appliances. It offers a sleek, modern aesthetic that complements virtually any kitchen design. But the appeal of stainless steel goes beyond its good looks.
Stainless steel appliances are durable and easy to maintain. Their smooth surfaces can be quickly wiped clean, and many are designed to resist smudges and fingerprints. This means your appliances will always look stylish and polished, contributing to the overall cleanliness of your kitchen.
Choosing energy-efficient appliances is not only environmentally friendly but also helps to reduce the overall maintenance of your kitchen. Appliances that consume less energy are typically designed with better performance and durability in mind, which can result in fewer repairs and replacements over time.
Energy-efficient appliances can also help to lower your utility bills, saving you money in the long run. By investing in appliances with high energy-efficiency ratings, such as ENERGY STAR certified models, you can enjoy the benefits of a low maintenance kitchen while also reducing your impact on the environment and your wallet.
Lighting and Ventilation
To design a truly low maintenance kitchen, don’t overlook the importance of lighting and ventilation. Both elements contribute not only to the aesthetic appeal of your kitchen but also to its functionality, comfort, and upkeep.
Here are some tips on how to approach lighting and ventilation in your low maintenance kitchen.
Positioning Lighting Fixtures Away from the Stove:
When it comes to positioning your lighting fixtures, being mindful of your cooking area is crucial. The heat, grease, and grime generated from cooking can accumulate on nearby surfaces, including light fixtures. Over time, this accumulation can dull the brightness of your lights and make cleaning a hassle.
A clever solution to this issue is to opt for recessed can lights or lights integrated into your exhaust hood. These options provide direct lighting over your cooking area without the risk of grease buildup.
Of course, if you love the appeal of decorative lighting fixtures, there’s still room for those in your low maintenance kitchen. Pendant lights, sconces, or small chandeliers can be placed safely away from the stove—over the kitchen island, in the breakfast nook, or above the sink, for instance. This way, you get to enjoy a stylish lighting setup without the extra cleaning headaches.
Embracing energy-efficient lighting, such as LED lights, is another key step towards a low maintenance kitchen. LED lights consume less energy and have a much longer lifespan compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. This means you’ll be changing bulbs less often, saving you time and effort in maintenance.
For a touch of versatility, consider installing dimmable LED lights. These allow you to adjust the brightness based on your needs, offering the flexibility to create either a bright, energizing atmosphere or a warm, relaxing ambiance. Plus, dimming when full brightness isn’t needed can further reduce energy consumption.
The role of ventilation in a low maintenance kitchen can’t be understated. A good range hood is a must—it helps to clear the air of cooking odours, smoke, and airborne grease. By removing these elements from your kitchen air, a range hood helps to keep your kitchen cleaner and more pleasant, ultimately saving you cleaning time.
Adequate Window Placement:
Windows, too, play a key role in kitchen ventilation. Strategically placed windows can provide natural ventilation, helping to circulate air and reduce heat and humidity. This contributes to a more comfortable kitchen environment and reduces the likelihood of issues such as mould and mildew, leading to less maintenance in the long run.
To complete your low maintenance kitchen, it’s important to consider the finishing touches that will help to keep your space clean, organized, and stress-free.
When selecting decorative items for your kitchen, opt for accessories that are easy to clean and maintain. Choose materials that can be wiped down quickly or are dishwasher-safe to simplify cleaning tasks and keep your space looking polished.
Adopting a minimalist design approach in your kitchen can help to reduce the need for constant maintenance. By keeping decor and accessories to a minimum, you’ll have fewer items to clean and manage, allowing you to maintain a clean and organized space with less effort.
Simplifying Cleaning Tasks:
Establishing a regular cleaning schedule for your kitchen can help to simplify maintenance tasks and ensure that your space remains spotless. By breaking down cleaning tasks into smaller, manageable steps, you can tackle them more efficiently and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Maintaining a Clutter-Free Kitchen:
One of the keys to a low maintenance kitchen is keeping it clutter-free. Make a habit of putting items away after use, and regularly declutter and reorganize your space. This will not only help to maintain a clean and organized kitchen but also make it more enjoyable and functional to use.
There you have it! Everything you need to know if you’re designing your very own low maintenance kitchen.
A well-designed low maintenance kitchen can provide you with a functional, stress-free space that is easy to maintain and enjoy.
Designing a low maintenance kitchen involves selecting the right materials, creating an efficient layout, choosing easy-to-clean appliances and surfaces, and incorporating practical decor and storage solutions.
By focusing on these key principles, you can create a kitchen space that is not only beautiful but also requires minimal upkeep!
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.