Great modern residential design pays attention to aesthetics, functionality, uniqueness — and easy maintenance.

“There are a number of ways in which a home’s design can specifically reduce cleaning and maintenance — or make those tasks easier for homeowners,” says Malia Yee of Graham Builders.

As senior designer for the Honolulu design/build firm, Yee offers a few thoughts on how design can make upkeep exponentially simpler.


For starters, one-story homes are simpler to maintain.

“It’s easier to clean windows, clean gutters and paint or pressure wash the exteriors,” Yee shares.

Walk-in pantries, generous linen closets and designated areas for brooms, mops and vacuums are also great options, she adds.


“Adequate storage can prevent clutter on counter-tops and other areas that tend to collect stuff and make them harder to clean.”

Laundry rooms built close to bedrooms, and on the same level, can be helpful.

“When a laundry room is conveniently located, it’s much easier to manage that chore, especially for larger families and kupuna,” says Yee. “And there’s less excuse to let laundry pile up!”

When designing for easiest maintenance, Yee recommends avoiding recessed can lights in stairways, simply because they’re too hard to reach. Double-hung windows that drop and tilt inward so that the outside glass can be cleaned like a tabletop are also helpful.


The kitchen merits special attention when it comes to designing for easy upkeep.

“Soffits can be built over cabinets, so the homeowners don’t have to clean the tops of them,” Yee says.

Soffits, she explains, are boxed-in structures built on top of cupboards.


“Alternatively, some homeowners opt for full-height cabinets that go up to the ceiling; they’re also great for extra storage.”

Cabinets that hold baking trays, cookie sheets, big cutting boards and more are becoming increasingly popular, as are sliding drawers and shelves for cookware that help simplify organization after washing dishes.

For easy maintenance in both bathrooms and kitchens, Yee suggests coved, solid-surface counters; integrated solid-surface sinks; and solid-surface shower surrounds. (Coved counters transition seamlessly from backsplash to the deck of a countertop, she explains.)

“There are no silicone or grout lines, no hard corners to clean. And integrated solid-surface sinks don’t have crevasses to catch dirt,” Yee says.

In the bathroom, Yee says frameless plate-glass mirrors are a great option because they’re quickly polished. And commodes with aprons are simpler to maintain than standard commodes.

“Skirted toilets have no seals or caulked edges, and trap ways are concealed,” Yee says. “Much easier to clean!”

For more than three decades, Graham Builders has been designing homes with creative, efficient, space- saving storage solutions for Hawaii’s busy, active families. Founded in 1990, the Honolulu design/build firm remains the only contractor in Hawaii honored by the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Business Ethics. Its free “Building Your Home for Life” seminar will take place on Saturday, Jan. 22. Register now at or call 808-593-2808.

CONTACT 808-593-2808