If you believe in the old adage, “a place for everything and everything in its place,” you will appreciate this month’s Kitchen & Bath Education Series article. Regardless of a kitchen’s size, organization is a must for most people who love to cook. Time wasted looking for the right-sized pan can take the fun out of cooking that special meal. A good kitchen designer will spend time interviewing clients to determine how they want things stored in their kitchen. Occasionally, the designer will be asked to recommend locations for proper kitchen storage. This is not common, but it happens.
Since I became a kitchen and bath trainer, my wife and I have moved into five different kitchens. Three were in apartments, and two were new or remodeled kitchens. Each time before I left town on a training trip, my wife would hand me a stack of sticky notes and request that I label each cabinet with a list of items to be placed inside (she knew that I was great at kitchen organization). The kitchens in the three apartments were not laid out well, but with some organization the space could function adequately. My wife resolved that since she was new to the space it did not matter where things were, as she would get used to their location in the “new-to-her” kitchen.
Ideally, the best way to plan kitchen storage is to arrange the kitchen in an organized manner. The smallest kitchen should have a minimum of three basic centers: refrigeration/food storage, sink/clean-up and cooking center. As these centers are planned, place the sink/clean-up center in the middle of the other two centers. Each center will have utensils, pots, pans and dishes unique to that specific center. However, there are some items that might be used in more than one place. Utensils used in the cook center for stirring also could be used for transferring food from cooking pans to serving bowls and platters. Therefore, some items would best be stored between two centers for quicker access.
Ask your client to name their six most used pots and pans. A typical list might include a couple of different sized sauce pans, two different sized frying pans, a casserole dish and a covered baking dish. These items should be stored between the cooking center and the sink/clean-up center. By storing these items between the two centers where they will be used, it will be easier to get to them when cooking and easy to put away after cleaning. If I had planned a wide, three-drawer base cabinet between the cooking surface and the clean-up center, these six items would be in the middle drawer with less frequently used pots and pans in the bottom drawer. The top drawer would contain utensils, pot holders and other items used for cooking activities.
Storing items at point of first use is the No. 1 thing to consider when planning storage in the kitchen. If I am standing in front of the cooking surface, what are some of the things I would need to complete my task? Spices, pots, pans and lids come to mind first. These items should be within arm’s reach of the cook. Spices can be stored in either horizontal spice racks in base cabinet drawers, or in swing-out racks mounted in wall cabinets. Baking pans and trays can create a storage problem unless they are separated with vertical tray dividers. Nine-inch tray base cabinets with dividers can hold several trays, and since they are stacked vertically they will be easy to reach with little bending. Trays can also be stored vertically at the top of oven cabinets.
Storing items within a comfortable reach is the next important consideration. Store the most utilized items in a space between 15 and 48 inches above the floor, in the area between the knees and shoulders of most people. This space will be more important to our older clients. When placing roll-out trays in tall utility cabinets, keep them in this 15- to 48-inch area. Since typical wall cabinet storage will not meet the 48-inch dimension mentioned above, consider pull-down wall cabinet storage.
Storing items in convenient accessory spaces is another important consideration. The kitchen is the location of many accidents, and disorganized storage is the cause of many mishaps. A cutlery divider will organize the flatware, while a knife drawer can keep the knives accessible but safely stored. Sometimes these two accessories can be within the same drawer space. Consider pull-out waste containers for trash and recyclables storage, as recycling is easier if it is convenient. If the recycling container is next to the trash container in one base cabinet, you are more apt to recycle the item rather than take it to the garage and place it in a separate container.
Storing items in previously unused spaces is much easier now than in kitchens designed several years ago. Blind corner cabinets now have accessory units that provide access to space we could not use in the past, by using half-circle shelves or slide-out trays. Spices and other small items can now be stored vertically behind fillers in pull-out shelves. Additionally, tilt-down trays in sink bases can hide cleaning supplies normally found behind the sink on the counter.
Remember, the most important part of a glamorous kitchen may be a well-designed and convenient storage space.