Design Discussion : Countertop Space

Design Discussion : Countertop Space - roomfortuesday.comIt’s time for a new Design Discussion, and this one is another controversial home topic- countertop clutter. Maybe clutter is the wrong word, but let’s chat about what we feel is alright to leave out on the countertop, what things we tuck away in cabinets or drawers, and how we feel about items (or cabinets) that take up precious counter space. I’ve been getting a lot of countertop related messages on Instagram lately and thought it would be fun to share my personal opinion, design reasoning, and hear about preference! Click through to talk countertop space with me…

Design Discussion : Countertop Space - roomfortuesday.comIn both our current kitchen (below) and previous kitchen (above), I designed a few cabinets to rest on top of the countertop. Both times I revealed our kitchens, I received a lot of negative feedback for that particular design choice, asking how and why would I take up precious counter space with a bulky cabinet. I was honestly surprised to receive so many opinionated messages on that topic, because those cabinets ended up being my favorite. They add character, closed storage, and look beautifully custom. So let’s talk about my design reasoning! Check out the examples above and below before we dive in… see the cabinets resting atop the counter?

Design Discussion : Countertop Space - roomfortuesday.comCounter space has never been a huge issue for me. I don’t mind cooking and baking in a small kitchen, and I’m the type of person who cleans as I cook. I typically stick to one area when working in the kitchen. I suppose I’ve never been a cook or baker that spreads out and uses the entire space all at once. Perhaps it is because I’ve always lived in smaller homes with small to average size kitchens to navigate? I’m not entirely sure, but as long as I have a cleared surface to work- I’m a happy gal. In all three of our kitchens (first, second, and current), I would say we have had a normal amount of counter space. Each kitchen required two stone slabs.

Design Discussion : Countertop Space - roomfortuesday.comWhen determining the layout and cabinet design, I considered aesthetics AND function. We need a lot of closed storage because we have a TON of glassware, serveware, dishes, cooking & baking items, and bar supplies (check out this post). I was willing to compromise a little countertop footprint for an entire tower of cabinetry space. Of course I loved the look, but I also knew it would be functional for our family and the way we use our kitchen. In all of our kitchens, I felt like they were designed smartly and we had plenty of room to cook, bake, and entertain… I never felt cramped or wished I had more counter space to work with. That brings me to my next question and point for you…

Design Discussion : Countertop Space - roomfortuesday.comWhat is acceptable to leave on your countertop, in your opinion? Over the years, I’ve probably crossed the minimalist to maximalist line. In terms of aesthetics, I actually prefer to see functional kitchen items left out for ease of use and design layering. I like a kitchen that looks lived in… like the inhabitants put it to good use. On the counter, I actually like leaving the following out:

Design Discussion : Countertop Space - roomfortuesday.comAfter typing that all out, it seems like a lot, but I don’t feel like our countertops look overly cluttered or unorganized. Everything has a place. Everything is functional. Everything makes me happy when I’m in the kitchen. I’d call that a win! I also think the size of your kitchen plays a factor in how much room you have to play with, and that will certainly influence what you can leave out.

Design Discussion : Countertop Space -[Total_Soft_Poll id=”8″]

To me, I think countertop space can be overrated (in terms of kitchen design consideration), but then again- I’m the type of person who doesn’t need much room to work, and I clean as I go. I think it definitely depends on how YOU use and work in your kitchen, which is totally different based on your family and personality. I was surprised so many people thought I was insane for the counter cabinets. Haha! To me, they made perfect sense- but hearing perspective from others made me question how important counter space actually is to me. Don’t get me wrong… I definitely need to have an organized, clean work surface and kitchen, and I’m definitely not into clutter that feels chaotic- it has to function nicely and have a place. I’m eager to hear where you stand on this topic!

Design Discussion : Countertop Space - roomfortuesday.comIf you’ve missed any of my previous Design Discussion posts, I’ll link them below. I enjoy chatting about all sorts of controversial design topics! It’s pretty awesome to hear unique perspectives that might shape my design opinion in the future…

You can also catch a video tour of our cabinets here, if you’re interested!

Design Discussion : Countertop Space - roomfortuesday.comDrop your thoughts in the comment section below, if you feel inclined to do so! I’d love to hear your opinion. I’m guessing my preference isn’t the popular opinion. I’m working on an updated kitchen post since we’ve officially lived with the renovated space for one year now. I want to share what we’re loving about it, how it functions, what has changed, and if there is anything we would’ve done differently. It’s in the works! Happy Tuesday, friends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. i think I fall about where you do. I don’t need a ton of worktop space. However I do need the storage space-even after I’ve Marie Kondo’d the place. It makes me crazy to have to dig around or move things to get to other things so storage space design and function is much more important to me than countertop space. In general, I like it pretty minimalistic, but during quarantine I’ve seen inside Rachel Ray’s mountain home kitchen and I could totally have a kitchen like that. It’s so cozy-feeling it’s a place I’d want to spend all my time in. Plus the natural light!

    1. Haha! I’m with you, Brittany! Also- that is amazing about Rachel Ray’s mountain home… I just googled it. So beautiful! What a gorgeous space to experience. Happy Tuesday :)

  2. I was actually just thinking that I prefer not having cabinets that sit on the countertop, and then I remembered that the cabinet design for the house we are building has just that! We have one set of countertops that does that, and houses the microwave. I liked the design and honestly didn’t even think about the fact that the cabinets were on the counter… I just thought it was a good solution for the microwave. Hope I like it when it’s built, HA!

    1. To add to that, this reminds me of a related controversial design topic: open shelving. I for one dislike it because I like all my “clutter”/dishware to be hidden and don’t want to look at them. So I guess I’m pro having an abundance of cabinets.

      1. You will love it!! At least I do :) I think in those scenarios it’s mostly a design element (showing a tiny bit of stone reveal / countertop, but if you think about that bank of cabinets… my philosophy is this: I would’ve installed floor-to-ceiling cabinets there anyway (for our pantry and microwave), and the 2-3 inches of countertop showing obviously isn’t usable space, but more for aesthetic purposes to break up an entire wall of cabinetry. The counter cabinets flanking our sink is a different story because there is 12-13″ of usable countertop in front of them, but I think in pantry and microwave situations, it’s an awesome design and functional solution! Should open shelving should be our next Design Discussion post?! You’re totally right- that is another hot topic.

  3. I am always surprised at choices people find controversial! I adore your countertop cabinets! I would say that I prefer fewer items on the counters; I like to have baskets of produce, cutting boards, a utensil crock, a plant and art. IRL though, we also have water jugs, a microwave, drying dishes and a pile of mail. I would have gladly sacrificed counter space for a place to hide these. As for workspace, my smallish kitchen accommodates one very messy cook.🤣 I think the arrangement and flow of the countertop space is as important as the amount. In kitchen design, are there industry standards or minimums for lengths of counter and arrangment (beyond the work triangle)? I’d be interested to know! I’ve never been in a position to design my kitchen, but I would definitely favor closed storage to acres of counter. (Take note future kitchen designer😉)
    Have a beautiful Tuesday, Sarah!💜

    1. Thanks Peggi! It is really interesting to see what people notice, like, or dislike… I enjoy learning about their reasoning for that. I definitely agree with you that workspace flow is the most important (the work triangle is a must). There are industry standards for countertop depth, but not really the length- I think that’s just personal preference and whatever looks visually balanced. Taking notes over here ;) Have an awesome Tuesday! xo

  4. When we did our kitchen a few years ago, I was so focused on how I could keep countertop items to a minimum. We have a large cabinet set – floor to ceiling – that’s our pantry, to the right of the fridge. At one point I asked our contractor about installing a plug in the back of it, so I could house my coffeemaker in there (it has pull-out drawers), so I wouldn’t have to look at the coffeemaker. He looked at my kinda weird, and said “no one’s ever done that” and I pretty much dropped it. Haha! It probably was over-kill. So now my coffee maker sits in my little “cooking corner”. Speaking of – I love where I cook! I have everything in one little corner – counter space, sink, trash, stove, primary cooking items right at-hand. I’m an avid baker, and I used to keep all my baking ingredients in the pantry (about 9 steps away). I recently moved them into one of the deep drawers in my cooking area, and love that they are so easily and quickly accessible when I bake. (I’m one of those “grab ingreds as you go” bakers, not someone who brings out everything in the beginning.)

    1. I love the idea of an enclosed coffee maker, Karen! My friend Erin did that, check it out here: … Definitely not overkill, in my opinion. And the next time a contractor gives you a hard time or dismisses your request- let them know! As a female in the industry, this happens all too often. Just because something isn’t common, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. You’re spending a lot of money to renovate and it should be exactly as you envisioned :) I bet it’s beautiful though, and your coffee corner sounds like a happy and well-used area. Your kitchen sounds so functional. It sounds like you have it so well organized to fit your baking needs- I love that. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. All of your kitchens have been lovely, Sarah. I sort of fall in the middle of this topic too. I think a nice amount is necessary for meal making, but too much is just a lot of surface to wipe down and keep clutter free. I’d love to see your kitchen with a long rustic/reclaimed wood piece down the middle to bring in some warmth and character and with a stool I could perch on and chat with you while you were cooking, but understand that doesn’t work for you. I like kitchens that gather people, conversation (and maybe a little dancing??) while we’re cooking so I designed ours with space for that and surfaces to accommodate more than just cooking. I think that’s what the question could really be about – how else do you use your kitchen?

    1. Thank you, Michelle! Totally agree… functionality is the most important. If I ever find a vintage cart or island that is super slender to fit the space, I’d jump… but it’s tricky in our kitchen, because of size. I think photos make it look wider than it is. We really don’t have room for an island with seating. The good news is- our dining room is open concept to the kitchen and is just on the other side of the fridge (which I really haven’t shown much of). When we’ve hosted friends and family, people usually congregate in both areas- helping me in the kitchen, sitting at the dining space, and it’s still very easy to talk, listen to music, and hold a conversation since it’s all pretty much in the same room. I’m with you- I love areas that gather people! You hit the nail on the head: how do you use your kitchen? That’s what it’s all about :) Happy Tuesday! Thanks for the fun chat.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Wow. Has it really already been a year since you did your kitchen? Gosh! It feels like it was not that long ago. I love your use of counter cabinets, it seems like the best of both worlds to me – keep things on the counter, but also get to hide it behind closed doors. I feel like we leave a ton of stuff out on our counters, because we use it so often and we got tired of fetching our small appliances from other places. On our counter, we have our espresso machine, toaster, microwave, blender, kettle, knife block, cooking utensils, cutting boards, … Oh boy. It’s a lot. I do wish we had more counter space, but we’re all for function-first! And these are all things we totally use on a regular basis.

    1. Right?! Time flies! We finished the space in July 2019. So crazy! I like having everything out and easily accessible. There is nothing wrong with keeping things on the counter (in my opinion)… I think it should be whatever is most functional for you and your fam. I like a kitchen to looked lived in and well used. I like that you keep those things out and ready to use, Stephanie! It sounds like it works well for you. Function first :) Happy Tuesday!

      1. Can u please tell me the color you used for the greenish cabinets

  7. I absolutely love countertop cabinets – they’re on my dream kitchen wishlist for all of the same reasons you love them. They look beautifully high-end and add so much function. I find it so funny that some people would find them so controversial as to require unsolicited critique. People. 🤦‍♀️ I’m with you on countertop space, too. I tend to work in one spot and clean as I go, so having oodles and oodles of space has never been a huge priority. I don’t know what I’d do with it all. :) I think I lean slightly minimal on the countertop accessories spectrum. I like the counters to be relatively clear, with just a few pretty and functional items to help it feel lived in (basically the same way I like to style the rest of my house): a plant or vase of greens, a pretty bowl for produce, a tray with salt, pepper, olive oil, and a candle, and occasionally a leaned piece of art. We also keep a Sonos speaker and mail basket on one small side counter, and a soap and lotion set by the sink. It’s fun to read everyone’s preferences. I’m definitely of the mindset that as long as it functions for the homeowners and makes them happy, it’s perfect.

    1. I think so too, Julie! They’re my favorite and have proved to be super functional (otherwise I wouldn’t have installed them in two of our kitchens in a row, haha). I don’t mind the feedback… I’ve accepted that this is the space I’m in and when sharing my home with the world, it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s just part of my job, and I’ve slowly learned to not take things so personally. Ha! If it works for us and we love it, I’m happy. I’m definitely like you- I work and clean in one small area. I don’t really spread out and find myself using the same part of the kitchen each time I cook or bake. We used to keep our Sonos speaker on the countertop in our first two kitchens, but now we just listen to music on our Amazon Echo, so the Sonos moved to my office. I also think it’s fun to hear about everyone’s work flow and preferences in their kitchens! These Design Discussions are among my favorite posts, for sure. Thanks so much for weighing in :)

  8. Your kitchen is my favorite! Color, design, decor….it’s the best! I love countertop cabinets and have put a note in my binder that I want one at our next house.
    I hate to hear that people are so negative or controversial about something that brings joy to the designer or home owner. My grandfather always said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!” That’s what I tell my kids too. Trust me I have seen things I did not like but would not tell a homeowner or designer.
    I try to keep our counters clean but its hard with a family. The only items I don’t care to keep out is the coffee maker and knife block. We aren’t coffee drinkers. I do have my juicer out right now that is hidden beside the refrigerator. Unfortunately, I hand wash all our pots and pans and leave to dry on the counter top. I am hoping that someone will put them away for me. HA!
    Sarah, you have an eye for design so keep on designing those beautiful rooms! Have a great Tuesday!

    1. Thank you, Danna! We really love it. It’s hard to believe we’ve lived with it for a year now! Countertop cabinets have been super functional for us. I’d definitely design and install them again in the future… plus I love the way they look. I think negative feedback is just part of my job. I used to take it personally, but have since learned to shrug it off. In all honesty, it’s a small portion of the feedback and encouragement I receive. For every negative comment, there are 9 positive ones. My grandparents and parents say the same thing though- if you don’t have anything nice to say, you probably shouldn’t say it. Lol! I also don’t mind constructive criticism (in a friendly way) because that makes me a better designer, but my mindset has been this: if we love our home, then it’s perfect. Everyone uses their kitchen in their own way and it has to function for their specific needs and taste. You’re making me want to invest in a juicer! I’ve been trying to convince Emmett, but he’s not on board / not a juice person to begin with. Someone needs to invent something that magically puts dishes away- I feel that. Ha! Thanks for chatting this morning, Danna! Have a wonderful day :)

  9. Happy Tuesday Sarah!
    I am shocked to learn that you received negative feed back regarding your countertop cabinets! What?! I am with you soul sister all the way ….we’ll almost….I don’t have utensils out(but otherwise your list matches my list!)

    10yrs ago my hubby & I diy’d our kitchen remodel(down to the studs) When it came time for cabinet design I couldn’t find anything that fit my aesthetic that was still within our budget so my solution was to use IKEA cabinet boxes and then we had the door /drawer fronts custom-made from a custom cabinet company. I designed the layout based on looks and function! Our previous kitchen did not have adequate storage and did not have enough counter space but more importantly I wanted things to not look cluttered . Near the top of my list was wanting an “appliance garage” which meant I wanted a cabinet resting on the countertop. we removed the bottom of the wall cabinet box (12”deep) and rest it directly on the quartz counter so that the countertop is visible when you open the cabinet doors this is the countertop cabinet that house is our toaster and blender which I like to use frequently but definitely don’t want to see! So glad I pushed myself to achieve what worked for us.

    I actually kind of wish I would’ve done another countertop cabinet as now I feel like we have too much counterspace! I too just prepare our meals on one area of the counter and don’t spread out All over. I’m not sure why some people want so much counter space only to fill it up and make it feel visually clutterEd. I definitely like a Kitchen to feel lived in, organized foe ease of use and have a sanitary appearance. I am definitely not a minimalist when I see photos With nothing on the countertops it feels depressing. Keep being you Sarah, it’s a treat to watch!

    1. Hi Lori, happy Tuesday! Soul sisters for sure- my utensils are behind closed doors in our current kitchen. We have an AWESOME drawer organizer for them ( check it out here: ). In our previous kitchen, we didn’t have room for them in a drawer, so I left them out. I LOVE hearing that you two did a DIY kitchen down to the studs. We really are soul sisters. Your kitchen sounds beautiful and super functional. Amazing work! We’re on the same page in terms of kitchen functionality philosophy :) Have a great day!

  10. I fall into a different category… I need the “I like appliance garages and stroage- i dont like things on the counter where they get dusty and greasy, but I dont need a lot of counterspace, with a side of my huband is a ‘use every dish in the house’ cook”.

    1. How could I forget that option?! We keep our microwave and toaster in the ‘appliance garage’ below our pantry. Such a valid point about keeping things clean.

  11. I’m very much a “mise en place” cooker and baker, so for me, the location of open counter space is almost as important as the amount. In our current kitchen, we only have an 18″ section of counter that is anywhere near the stove, so that’s been more frustrating than anything. I also think that long stretches of counter top serve are better than lots of short sections.

    1. Ahhh LOCATION. Another awesome point, Dani. Our largest stretch of countertop is on the opposing wall from our range and I never use it.

  12. Love all of your design choices with your custom cabinets! I agree- keeps things hidden and looks very custom!

    Would you mind linking the backsplash tile from your previous kitchen? I checked the original post, but the page was not found. I’ve searched high and low for it. I love it so much. Many thanks!

      1. I think that is your current kitchen backsplash. Could you post the link to the backsplash in your second kitchen? The small vertical marble tile. Thank you!

  13. I love your full cabinets. I tried to do that a couple of houses ago and the kitchen designer talked me out of it! She thought I was crazy to give up any counter space. We had a huge kitchen, and I still wished I’d chosen storage over counters in that part of the kitchen. It just ended up cluttered anyway. I probably should have done it in my current kitchen also. I like to hide most of my kitchen stuff. I have my mixer in a lift, for example.

    1. Thanks Susie! I’m so surprised your designer talked you out of it… as a designer myself, I always jump at the opportunity to do something different. Ha! We have a hidden mixer lift too and it’s my favorite! I definitely like to keep the big things hidden, too.

  14. Countertop size doesn’t matter so much as storage and as little as possible on the countertop. Coffee maker, fruits and dish soap. It feels cleaner to me and when I cook/bake, I clean while I go. I think if we had larger countertop areas it would be more space to get messy. Interesting topic. Haha.

    1. Right?! I find this fascinating. I’m with you on cleaning as I go. I’ve definitely found the portion of countertop we don’t actively use, tends to accumulate “stuff”.

  15. Kimberly Stewart says:

    I thought lots of counter space was more important before we lived in a 750sq ft garage apartment. The only space I have here is a small bar height table and it’s been surprisingly fine. We are almost done building the rest of our house (my husband built the garage first so we could live here while he finished the rest) and I’ll have an island there. I’ve never had one before! I’m excited to have that as my countertop space and decorate the wall cabinet counters. We are doing microwave and coffee in our pantry. So I guess I still like to tuck certain things away. :)

    1. Isn’t that crazy? I love that you’re making the most of your small kitchen and it still functions nicely for you, Kimberly! What an exciting time. Congrats on your new home- I’m sure living in the garage will be worth it once you’re all moved in… and fun memories :)

  16. I land with you on this discussion, and I think for the same reasons. I’ve always had kitchens that are on the smaller side. In the larger kitchen we have now, I naturally stick to a smaller area to work with; I clean as I go as well. I just don’t feel the need to sprawl when cooking or prepping. When I saw the cabinets in both of these kitchens touching the counter-tops, I thought it was genius! I’m a lover of kitchen appliances, but I don’t love the look of them on the counter- this solution keeps them hidden, and they would be in the same footprint as normal, but I’ll have to wait for renovation to do that. For now, my KitchenAid mixer and toaster oven occupy space. I too leave out a produce basket, one or two of my favorite cookbooks, utensils for stove-top cooking, my instant pot, oil carafes, a few plants. I usually hate my counter-tops because they do tend to look cluttered, but then I remember that everything is functional and placed appropriately, so I guess its not too bad. I love the niche for oils you put in your last kitchen…another genius idea by Sarah!! I guess the kind of kitchen clutter I don’t care for is tchotchkes on the counter…this type of clutter takes away from the function of the space, rather than enhancing it.

  17. Bit late to the party here, but with a few comments. I also have gone back and forth on this. When I lived in a tiny apartment without much storage, almost everything was out, and I liked the way it looked, and how easy it was to grab what I needed, but things got filthy quickly when the windows were open, which was anytime it wasn’t snowing.
    In my current house I have also gone back and forth. Finally, a couple of years ago, and under the influence of Marie Kondo, I decided that for the most part, ease of cleaning would trump ease of use. I have two hairy dogs, and a long-haired cat, and there is hair EVERYWHERE. I have even found it under the crisper drawers in the fridge.
    So I found/made a place for everything that had been on the countertops, and decided it could only come back out to live if it were more of a pain to lift it out and put it back than to clean behind it.
    What has made the final cut: cutting boards (too heavy to lift easily), produce bowl (easy access),, utensil crock (ditto), vintage aluminum canister serving as a compost bucket (right under the coffee cupboard so I’m not dripping coffee from the filter paper on the floor), and the dog food and my beloved Weetabix in glass jars (access plus easy inventory, plus keeping dog food where they can’t help themselves).
    For me, I find it worth while to keep both the toaster and the electric kettle in the cupboard, even though they are both used at least twice a day. I’m a dedicated coffee drinker, but I’m equally dedicated to pour-over, so all the coffee stuff fits in its own cupboard. I have never had a coffee maker of any sort, and am still using the Melitta cone I bought at a garage sale in 1985 for $0.50.
    I really like the way your countertop cupboards look, but I do have one question. Did it add significantly to the cost to install such high-end counters and then cover them up?

  18. I replaced a poorly designed pantry closet and upper and lower cabinets with a deep (30″) and tall cabinet. I insisted on two appliance spaces for my microwave, toaster oven, and coffee maker. These spaces have pocket doors for easy access without blocking access to everyth9ing else. And to the point of this post I took some inspiration from those old fashioned pull out cutting boards. I added two pull outs that are flat topped and although too high to function as workable counter space are great landing areas for hot items from the above mentioned appliances. Plus if we ever get back to gatherings at home this would be a great space to lay out a buffet.

    1. Such a smart and functional design decision to make those changes! I love your pull out surface idea… definitely a great spot for entertaining :)

  19. In addition to our home, we have had 4 different RV kitchen configurations through the years and if cooking with your spouse in a small space doesn’t teach you about kitchen efficiencies I don’t know what will! I have never had a designed kitchen but my wish list if I did: 1. one wall of full pantry cabinetry, not too deep and no corner cabinets. 2. I’m a shy cook, so no mass seating at islands that people sit around watching one cook or prep food. (That’s controversial for sure!) Haha seating though on the prep side so I can sit and ruminate over recipes….3. No knives out EVER. Not on a block and certainly not on a magnetic knife board on a wall…(who wants a suggestion to have your throat slashed in the middle of the night). 4. pretty much no upper cabinets. Mine were taken down once when we had new countertops installed and I have never gotten over that moment of openness, lightness and space. I indelibly learned that I want that next next reno….Note; I have one beautiful styled open cabinet for every dishes that is super functional for our family. So nice not to have to open a door or grab or put away dishes. 5. A long counter under the windows (to let out steam and odors and grow herbs) with a large undivided sink with white reflective countertops for all things prep. 6. Some type of movable, versatile, leggy, stunning island/table that i could move to anywhere in the kitchen as a landing pad, kitchen table and even all non cooking related tasks. (Have we not learned through Covid that versatile spaces are genius? )7. Big wide slide out drawers in all lower cabinets. PS I also love a small lamp on the countertop; it evokes some sort of memory of a cabin or a kitchenette in a tiny European inn…

    1. Such a valid point, Pam! I love all of your smart observations and preferences… although I don’t mind people watching me cook- I just can’t talk and cook at the same time. Haha! Multitasking was never my strong point. Lol! I also agree that living in a pandemic has taught us what is important in our homes and how multi-functioning spaces are so helpful! I’m also a fan of European kitchens- they’re so charming. Have a great day! xo