Tablets, TVs and smart phones. Gourmet oils and an abundance of spices. Recycling centers with multiple containers. Pet sleeping quarters. The list of items being stored in today’s kitchens goes well beyond the traditional inventory of pots and pans; plates, bowls and glasses; cooking utensils, and pantry items.
Today’s kitchens have become multi-functional… pulling double, and even triple duty, as the place where people cook and entertain, and where kids do their homework. In an increasing number of kitchens, even the family pet gets special attention. As a result, storage needs have evolved to the point where they bear little resemblance to their former selves.
“Lifestyles have changed,” says Sorrell Scaglione-Poelzer, interior designer, Kowalske Kitchen & Bath, in Delafield, WI. “People are on the go. They eat out more and may not need as many pots and pans or as food storage. But they want to be organized so their kitchens can work efficiently for them.”
Finding a place for everything – both the traditional and non-traditional – is driving much of what’s happening in kitchen storage these days. “People are recognizing – as they have for a while now – the importance of proper accessories that make a kitchen more usable, as opposed to blank drawers and adjustable shelves,” says Jason Landau, Amazing Spaces, in Briarcliff Manor, NY.
As such, designers KBDN spoke with often use dedicated inserts for everything from spices to knives.
Arthur Zobel, Majestic Kitchens & Bath, in Mamaroneck, NY, likes to use pull-outs. They provide easy access to contents and are available in a variety of sizes – including narrow widths that can provide storage opportunities in what otherwise might be wasted space. They are also available with a variety of options, such as roll-out and swing-out shelves. Vertically divided cabinets provide efficient storage for cookie sheets and cutting boards.
Deep drawers and doors with roll-out drawers behind them can also improve pot and pan storage. “Years ago people just piled everything into a cabinet,” Zobel continues. “When they wanted something in the back, they had to take everything out. Now we have so many storage options. People love to come into the showroom to see all the possibilities.”
Landau often ‘fully loads’ his kitchens with these bells and whistles, plus he uses pull-out towel bars and recycling centers – with as many as three or four containers. He also recesses paper towel rolls into the face of cabinets to keep countertops clear. With electronics moving into the kitchen, he equips drawers with electrical outlets and USB ports to serve as storage/charging stations, and he stores TVs in base cabinets equipped with pop-up mechanisms.
For Nadia Subaran, drawers within drawers are a great shallow-storage solution for items such as saucepans that aren’t very deep. The owner/senior designer at Aidan Design, in Bethesda, MD, also likes open shelves. “I encourage clients to be open about how to store things,” she says. “We do a lot of open shelves, although not as much from a decorative standpoint, but rather as a way to keep items you use every day within sight and easily accessible.”
Small appliances can create storage headaches for many designers. Scaglione-Poelzer often keeps them at countertop level in a cabinet behind a lift-up door, in a sort of updated, more user-friendly version of an appliance garage. “It allows for complete access and doesn’t interfere with the workspace in the kitchen,” she says. “And you never have to take the appliance out to use it. It stays in place, covered up and concealed.”
Subaran likes to use roll-outs for small appliances. “The benefit is that they are adjustable,” she says. “Plus, you can keep all the attachments with the appliance in their own dedicated space.”
It seems there are always unique, client-specific items that designers must find a spot for, such as great grandmother’s skillet. “It gets used every day, but doesn’t fit anywhere,” says Zobel. “We’ll find a place for it. The trick is talking to clients to figure out their needs.”
Corner Storage Evolves
Oftentimes, focusing on organization is essential because renovations don’t always come with an expanded footprint. “A lot of times when we remodel a kitchen, we aren’t making it larger, but we can make storage better,” says Zobel.
Paying special attention to historically ‘dead’ spaces such as corners is a great place to start, he relates, adding that blind corner pull-outs have revolutionized storage for these previously underutilized areas. “Corner storage options have really evolved,” he says. “There are so many options to make them usable.”
To create additional storage within the same footprint, Scaglione-Poelzer often eliminates soffits – which allows her to run cabinets to the ceiling – and uses full-access, or frameless, cabinets. “You gain a few inches in every cabinet,” she says. “That might not be much, but everything you gain is a bonus.”
There are also renovations where storage space may actually shrink, making it even more important to be organized. “I don’t love wall cabinets,” says Subaran, adding that she likes to minimize their use to improve aesthetics. “A lot of storage in wall cabinets can be inefficient. People tend to overload them, too. They have to reach up high for items that are heavy.”
Subaran often replaces them with tall cabinets, capturing extra storage in the space between a traditional wall cabinet and countertop. “In some ways you get the same storage from 54 inches off the floor and above,” she says. “But you have so much storage that is right at and below eye level that is easy to access. You don’t have to reach up for a big stack of plates. I’d much rather do that when my elbows are at 90 degrees.”
Don’t Rush It
For many designers, optimum storage is often about reevaluating the space, and sometimes it’s important to take time to find the perfect solution.
“People don’t always know the best way to store something,” says Scaglione-Poelzer. “I had one client who had a lot of clutter…keys, mail, etc. I helped organize it with a tall, narrow wall cabinet that is located where a picture used to hang. Now it’s a place to hang keys, charge phones, update the calendar, etc. The whole family can reference it. It’s become their ‘unloading zone.’”
For Subaran, sometimes the best choices are made after clients move back into the kitchen. “There are certain accessories that we love, such as knife blocks, trash units and spice storage,” she says. “But I often tell my clients that it’s best to do final tweaking once they’ve had a chance to really see how they’ll use the space. There are some wonderful aftermarket options. This is especially true when it comes to accessories under the sink. There are a lot of pieces that get ordered but are never installed based on the realities of plumbing…no matter how much planning has gone into the design!”