From Martha’s Kitchen | Layout & Design Tips

In a dream parallel universe, I would’ve actually interviewed Martha Stewart for this piece, but instead I’ve mined the internets for the queen of domesticity’s best advice on how to maximize your kitchen’s design potential.

Over the years, Martha Stewart estimates she’s designed more than 22 custom kitchens, so she’s learned the hard way what works and doesn’t work for her. Here is some of the advice she’s shared recently.

Kitchen Storage Savvy

  • Look for cabinetry with the most options for shelf-height adjustments, for maximum versatility when it comes to your organization options. The queen favors the “birds beak” style of shelving, which just slides into place.
  • Hang your pots. A famous habit of celebrity shelves and an age-old tradition, it just makes sense. Get ’em out of drawers and cupboards, and up-up-and-away.
  • Contain your crazy with containers. Martha likes pretty baskets and bins, but I’m a “better make it clear” or at least mesh kind of girl, as I’d like to see what’s in storage rather than have to label it. Either way whether in cupboards or drawers, bins and containers make keeping organized much simpler, and also make far lighter work of periodically cleaning the spaces.
  • Have lots of drawers and don’t be afraid to label things. Embracing the nerd-side and labeling will keep you on a tighter path as weeks pass and chaos threatens your space. Store things together. All knives, all spatulas, etc., so you’re not having things scattered between different cupboards when they’re related to the same tasks.
  • Martha recommends protecting your expensive silverware in a nice drawer lined with a special flannel from Pacific Silvercloth, which limits tarnish and keeps them looking nice.

Photo: Omega Contemporary Kitchen with a Metro Door Style

Layout Tips

  • Work that happens together should stay together. Have a chopping station, a drinks station, a tea drawer, a coffee counter, and so forth. Keep knives near where you chop. Keep spices near the stove. Think about where you will most likely use things, and ensure you store it there. This gives you flow and purpose in your work.
  • Pantry staples are things you really can’t see yourself living without, and they should be kept close at hand and grouped accordingly. These are spices, oils, condiments, seasonings, vinegars, sauces and more. Again, they should all be in one area, close to where you cook and prep your food. Martha labels sections in her pantry so things get put back in the right place no matter who’s in the kitchen (Asian Sauces, Oils, etc.)
  • If you have the option of a lot of drawers, it’s a great way to go. Think of narrower drawers for things like knife trays and other tools of the trade.

Photo: Omega Traditional Kitchen with a Delmar Door Style

Versatility and Convenience

  • Open cupboards can be very useful. Martha likes them open for her towels, cutting boards, and strainers – things one often needs to grab quickly. She especially loves open storage under her islands, which she recommends being 4 feet long, 2.5 feet wide, with a 3-foot clearance around it.
  • If you can’t have a kitchen island, a movable cart or butcher’s block on wheels can be the perfect extra workstation for those big cooking nights.
  • If designing your own kitchen, try to include as many plug outlets for different work areas as you can, since it makes life much more convenient.

Photo: UltraCraft Destiny Kitchen with a Amherst Door Style


  • Even Martha Stewart finds she’s sometimes in the kitchen for far too long. She’s got a large TV installed in her main kitchen, so she can catch up on shows while doing her grand meals. With today’s mountable panel televisions, there’s no reason it can’t stay out of the way, mounted up high to be seen from any angle.
  • A first-aid counter in the kitchen is the smartest place to have one, since it’s “command central” of every home, and is also where the sharp knives do their work.
  • Pets are family members too, and Martha’s kitchen is loaded with pet care, all tucked into a handy station for her cat and dog buddies. From trays under feeding dishes to keep kibble from wandering, to toys, leashes and treats, it’s all close at hand so meal time meals are more than just the humans getting fed.

The big lesson we’re learning today from the Queen of Domesticity is that it’s all about staying practical, organized, and knowing what you need. Following Martha’s kitchen exactly wouldn’t work for my lifestyle or my space, but there’s plenty both you and I can learn from her many years of kitchen designing and cooking mastery.

(You are reading an article originally posted on Build Direct Blog