Kitchen Storage Solutions

A place for everything, and everything in its place,” or is it, “Everything in its place and a place for everything”? I’m not quite sure how the saying goes, but, regardless, it certainly makes sense and it’s a motto I like to live and design by. I find that if there isn’t a proper storage place for items in the kitchen, homeowners will use the countertop for storage. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of a beautifully designed kitchen? Why would you want clients to hide their beautiful countertops and backsplashes with all their clutter? They most likely spent a good chunk of their budget on those items, after all.

I also have found that if you define what goes in each drawer and cabinet, clients are less likely to purchase multiples of what they already have and, therefore, will need less storage space. Have you ever taken inventory of your clients’ existing kitchen as they go through the items they’ll need in their new kitchen? Typically, they find something they thought they had misplaced, or they find two, three or four of one thing. This is because their current kitchen doesn’t define where each item should go, so they simply throw items into a cavernous cabinet and forget they have them.

Design By Function

I like to design my clients’ kitchens with function in mind and then add design elements to make it beautiful. I believe a pretty kitchen might sell the job, but a functional kitchen brings the clients back. Asking clients lots of questions regarding their cooking, cleaning and shopping habits is important. You also should ask about their entertaining needs. Two of my most recent clients are almost empty nesters, busy in their medical fields, who like to be together at the table when they’re doing their “homework” on the weekends. She does all the cooking and he’s all about grocery shopping and cleaning up. When time permits, she likes to prepare meals that take time in the oven or simmering on the cooktop, so an area where she can lounge while keeping an eye on her cooking would be ideal for their space.

In their space, an “L” shape with an island is ideal. One leg of the “L” will house her induction cooktop with ventilation above; her spices in a drawer to the left of the cooktop; cooking utensils in the top drawer to the right of the cooktop; knives on a magnetic strip mounted on the backsplash; pots and pans on rollouts or deep drawers below the cooktop; hot-pad holders in a drawer below the utensil drawer; and cooking oils and larger spice bottles in the wall cabinet to the right and/or left of the vent hood. The island across from the cooktop will house her mixing bowls, serving bowls and platters.

If your clients have a lot of spices, ideally they should go in a large drawer on either side of the cooktop. However, if aesthetically it makes more sense to have narrower cabinets on either side of the cooktop, then I would put the spices on both sides of the cooktop and move the cooking utensils one drawer down.

The other leg of the “L” would house the sink and dishwasher, where he could start his cleanup while she’s still prepping dinner. The outer part of that run is where dishes, bowls and drinking glasses would be stored. They could go in the wall cabinet or in a larger dish drawer. Utensils go in a drawer near the dishes.

Specific Solutions

Ideally all specific inserts would be defined and incorporated into the cabinets when they are built because they would match the interiors of the cabinets and usually fit the design style, as well. However, for clients with a tight budget, this might not be possible and would have to be a part of their project’s “phase two.” If we assist them in specifying the items they’ll need, then they are more likely to purchase these items and install them in the future. The Container Store is one of my favorite places to send them because the store has many options that are reasonably priced.

I’ve found that one of the toughest things to design for is storage containers. They always seem to multiply, and there is no universal size or shape to them. My best solution to date is to take a deep drawer and install a divider from front to back for lid storage and in the remainder of the drawer install a dish drawer insert. I believe the pegs for the dishes are perfect for stacking containers and adjusting to the different sizes and shapes.

Once the footprint of the kitchen has been established by positioning each of the appliances, defining the purpose of each drawer and cabinet can take place. After those two items have been accomplished, aesthetic design elements will work themselves out. For example, for one of my projects we needed to add pantry storage in the eating area. We didn’t want the bulkiness of pantry doors in that particular area so we added glass doors to the pantry and backed it with fabric to hide unsightly items.

Function before form is what I was taught in design school 23 years ago, and during the years I’ve learned that if function comes first, then form inevitably will take its shape. My former instructor, Mr. J, would be so proud.

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