How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers for Good

First, empty your cabinets and lose what you don’t use. Then follow these steps to keep your kitchen organized

By Annie Thornton

Getting your kitchen storage organized and working well is very satisfying, but it can be hard to know where to begin — especially if you’ve been using your kitchen for a while and are used to its quirks. To help, here’s a quick guide to the best ways to organize your kitchen cabinets and drawers by grouping items by type, storing them near where you use them, and getting rid of what you’re not using.

How to Organize Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers

These are the basic steps to organizing your kitchen storage. We’ll go into each one in more detail:

  • Empty cabinets and drawers, including pantry food items.
  • Sort the cabinet contents by what you want to keep, what to throw away or recycle and what to donate.
  • Thoroughly clean all the surfaces of your cabinets and drawers.
  • Group all the items you’re going to store in your kitchen by category.
  • Plan to place items near where they’ll be used.
  • Add baskets, shelf inserts, cabinet racks and any new storage solutions you want to use to keep your kitchen cabinets organized.
  • Return everything to cabinets and drawers, prioritizing items by use.
  • Enjoy your clean, organized kitchen.

1. Empty Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers

Take everything out of your cabinets at once, or go cabinet by cabinet, and place the contents on a table or countertop.

“Physically handling each item forces you to make decisions about keeping, donating or discarding,” says Karen Duncan, a certified professional organizer out of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

2. Decide What to Keep and What to Part With

The contents of your kitchen cabinets, like many storage cabinets around the house, are likely filled with items that you use often, but they’re also likely filled with even more items that you use rarely, if ever.

Give yourself permission to let go of those unused items. Donate or give away what you can, recycling or throwing out anything you can’t, such as expired pantry items.

3. Clean Cabinets and Drawers

Now that your cabinets are empty, spend some time getting them really clean before you fill them back up. Wash all surfaces thoroughly with gentle soap and water and allow them to dry completely before restocking. For an extra level of polish, and to make future cleaning easier, you can also add shelf or drawer liners, or replace old ones.

4. Group Items by Use

“Think of your kitchen as functional zones: washing, prepping, cooking on stovetop and baking,” Duncan says.

Group the items or tools you use for each of those tasks together for efficiency. In the pantry, this means grouping food types by category: cooking, baking, snacks and breakfast,or whichever grouping technique works best for your lifestyle.

5. Place Things Near Where They’re Used

Once you’ve grouped your items, plan to place them in cabinets or drawers close to where their function is performed.

In the panty, place the foods that you use most often in the easiest-to-reach places. (One possible exception: “If you think you eat too many snacks, put those up high so you don’t see them as often, and it’s more of a to-do to get them,” says Tori Cohen, an organizing and decluttering specialist in New York City.)

While you’re working out what to store in each cabinet or drawer, Duncan suggests placing temporary labels made of blue painter’s tape on the cabinet or drawer where each group is going. This will help you get a sense of how your storage plan is shaping up and simplify making adjustments as you go.

6. Consider New Kitchen Cabinet Organizers

Once you have determined where you’d like to store everything, look for places where your kitchen cabinets and drawers could benefit from additional organization and storage tools. Some ideas to consider:

Roll-out shelves. 
Extra-deep lower cabinets benefit from roll-out shelves, either custom-made or purchased from a kitchen or organizing store. The shelves will allow you to easily see the cabinet’s entire contents — even what’s at the very back.

Baskets and storage containers. Storage containers and open-topped baskets can be a great way to group like items, especially food.

Drawer pegboard. Pegboard systems, which feature adjustable screw-in dowels to keep plates in place, can be purchased for existing drawers.

The dowels can be moved to accommodate the size of whatever you want to store in the drawer. (Depending on your drawer’s construction, the bottom may need to be reinforced for heavy dishes.)

Cabinet risers and drop-downs. Freestanding cabinet shelves can double your storage by adding another shelf for storage without losing any accessibility.

Drawer dividers for kitchen tools. Standard drawer tray inserts work great for silverware, but kitchen tools can be a little more challenging to corral; they’re not uniform in size and not everyone has the same kind. “My best suggestion is [a set of] drawer dividers, and not a tray. That way you can create the sizes of spaces you need,” Cohen says.

Look for adjustable dividers, which can be expanded to fit your kitchen drawers. As you have done with the rest of your organizing, group kitchen tools by type before placing them in drawers.

Pan organizer racks. Consider a pan organizer rack, which can be added into an existing cabinet. “That way none of the pans need to sit in one another, and they’re easily accessible,” Cohen says.

7. Put Everything Away

Put the contents of your kitchen cabinets and drawers in their new homes, prioritizing what you plan to use most in the most accessible spots and placing rarely used items, such as seasonal platters, out of the way. “This is what the top shelves are for,” Cohen says.

8. Maintain Organized Cabinets

To maintain the organizing system, and to help you or guests quickly identify what is stored where, consider putting a label on the inside of each cabinet indicating the cabinet’s contents. “When you’re running around the kitchen trying to figure out where your roasting pan is, all you should need to do is read these labels,” Cohen says.

Other Considerations for Organizing Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers

Cabinets versus drawers.

“Shelves are great for taller and odd-shaped items, since shelves tend to be adjustable,” Duncan says. Drawers can be useful for everyday items, including kitchen tools and cutlery. Deep drawers can also be used for baking supplies and pots and pans.

Glass-front cabinets and open shelves. Glass-front cabinets and open shelves provide an opportunity to create an attractive kitchen display. Store your most attractive plates, cups and pots where they can be seen, and try not to stuff the cabinets too full.

If you’d rather not display your kitchenware, peel-and-stick window film can turn transparent cabinet doors translucent. Decorative bins can sit on open shelves, with items stored inside.

Corner cabinets. In areas where items always get pushed to the back and are hard to reach, install turntables, which make it easier to see and access the cabinet’s entire contents.

Alternatively, Cohen suggests using these blind corners for rarely used items, like holiday serveware, or for storing bulk items, like paper towels, that you don’t necessarily need to see in order to grab.

Small kitchens. Duncan and Cohen shared their tips for keeping a small kitchen organized:

  • Buy only what you really need.
  • Declutter frequently.
  • Purchase multi-use items, rather than specialty tools.
  • Designate an alternate closet for overflow items.
  • Consider a portable prep cart with storage underneath.

How to Remodel Your Kitchen

You’ve decided to remodel your kitchen. Now what? Not knowing where to start, many homeowners start by looking at kitchen appliances. Others collect inspiring kitchen photos. Some homeowners decide they need more room. Others simply want to upgrade their current kitchen. Homeowners may find themselves in this exploration stage for a year or longer before they start interviewing kitchen designers or general contractors.

Once you’ve pondered long enough and you’re ready to green-light a kitchen remodeling project, then what? We’ll start with the first nine steps in this article and then get into the nitty-gritty details in other kitchen workbook stories.


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1. Think About What You Need in Your Kitchen Remodel

This step is all about figuring out how you use your kitchen and finding the layout and features that fit your household’s lifestyle. Get ideas from Houzz kitchen guides, photos, and discussions.

Think about your priorities and ask yourself some questions. How many people will be cooking and gathering here? How will they need to move around? Do you need an addition, or can you work with your existing kitchen footprint?

If you haven’t done so already, start saving photos of kitchens with features that suit your style. Your collection can be organized and beautiful as a scrapbook might be, or it can be filled with unorganized images. I like to randomly stuff images into my folders and ideabooks and go back to them later for edits.


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2. Research and Plan

Ready to green-light that project and take the plunge? The best place to start is by formulating what’s commonly referred to as the scope of work and figuring out your preliminary budget.

Both of these may be subject to change, so don’t feel as though you have only one chance at this. Budget and scope are intertwined and often change many times during the kitchen design process as you become more educated and able to reconcile what you want and what you can afford. As a homeowner, you’re not expected to walk into this knowing what everything should cost. Remember, this is an educational process.


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3. Find the Professionals You Will Need

Unless you’re building your own kitchen cabinets and doing your own electrical and plumbing, you’re going to work with a professional at some point.

The Houzz pro directory offers a list of design, remodeling and service professionals throughout the U.S. and internationally. You can search by your ZIP code and the category of professionals you seek. Click on pros’ profiles to learn more about them, see photos of projects they’ve completed and read reviews of their work by other homeowners.

Some homeowners start a kitchen remodel by hiring an architect or interior designer. Some go with a kitchen designer. Still, others might work on their own with a builder or contractor. Pros are available to help you with everything from contracts and permits to space planning, budgets, choosing finishes and fixtures, shopping, ordering products and managing your project from start to finish.


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4. Settle on a Schematic Design

This phase includes sketches, space planning, preliminary floor plans and elevations showing the layout and cabinet sizes. I try to keep my clients focused more on layout and space planning, even though the temptation is to talk about what the kitchen will look like. But I find that getting caught up in the look too early can distract from the space planning phase.

Plus, you need a plan to figure out what materials will go where, and how many square feet you will need, and ultimately how much this will cost. I like to begin the contractor interview process early and give them a preliminary drawing packet and scope of work so we can get some ballpark construction numbers. At the same time, you can be sending out drawings for estimates on some top choices of kitchen finishes and fixtures.


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5. Specify Fixtures and Finishes

Throughout this process, and probably long before, you have been saving photos of kitchens you love into your ideabooks and folders. You’ve found your kitchen style, whether it’s modern, classic, traditional, cottage or a personal style in between. You probably know if you want a white kitchen, a natural wood kitchen or some color.

Now you need to make your final selection of finishes and fixtures. This may include:


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  • Cabinetry construction type, door style, finish and color

  • Countertop material

  • Refrigerators and other appliances

  • Kitchen sinks

  • Kitchen faucets

  • Light fixtures

  • Flooring

  • Backsplash

  • Decorative hardware


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6. Work on Design Development and Construction Documents

This is the stage where you finalize the design and prepare final floor plans, elevations, details and, if applicable, mechanical and electrical drawings, lighting switch plans, and exterior elevations.

This is where your final permit set or construction drawings come into play. It’s important to have finishes and fixtures selected at this time since this is what will be considered in the final pricing from the contractor.

You’ll submit drawings for permits. These have a lead time, so check the timing with your local village. You’ll need an architect, designer or licensed contractor signed up to finalize the paperwork and pick up your permits, so get ready to hire someone in the next step. I often find that we’re submitting for permits around the same time or a little bit after we’ve placed the cabinet order, due to similar lead times.


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7. Get Contractor Estimates

If you don’t already have a licensed contractor on your project, your next step is to find one to carry the project through. I always recommend to my clients to get at least three contractor estimates. I like to do preliminary walk-throughs with the contractors once the schematic designs are done so we can get some ballpark estimates and find out if we’re on the right track or need to pull back some to fit the budget.


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8. Prepare for Demo

The big day is upon us, most likely about four to eight weeks from when you submitted for permits. Now it’s time to get that schedule firmed up and plan on cleaning out the cabinets, putting what you don’t need in storage and — if you’re living in the house during construction — setting up a temporary kitchen.

You may be moving out of your house temporarily, but most homeowners white-knuckle it and try to live in the house through construction. Preparation and organization can save your sanity.

Discuss the logistics ahead of time with your contractor. Will you meet once a week for updates? Will you have to be out of the house for certain tasks like demo or flooring? What about debris removal and dust? Are there any family allergy issues? What is a typical workday for the crew? Getting all this on the table beforehand can set expectations and make for a smoother ride.


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9. Get Through the Punch List

Once construction is over — well, almost over — there’s typically a list of items that are missing, wrong or simply forgotten about. This punch list, as it is called, could include small things like a missing light switch plate, a caulk line that shrank and pulled away from the wall or paints touch-ups. Sometimes it can be bigger things, such as a faulty range hood, or a big scratch in the newly refinished floor.

Sometimes the homeowner does the punch list. It can be as informal as an emailed list of items that need to be fixed or finished. I like to use a little form I put together that identifies the item to be fixed or finished, the responsible party and the date of completion. I send it to the client for review, changes, and additions, and then forward it to the contractor.

It’s inevitable that the contractor may have to make multiple visits back to the house to finish these items. Prepare yourself for more than one visit and you’ll be fine. The best way to approach this is with a Zen attitude. Things happen, and little things get missed. It’s sort of like making a list for the grocery store and still forgetting some key ingredients. We all do it.


5 Trade-Offs to Consider When Remodeling Your Kitchen

It would be great to have an unlimited budget for a kitchen renovation. But the fact is most of us do not. And that’s OK. Compromises of one form or another are part of the process, even for the rare homeowner who enjoys a bottomless budget and expansive square footage. 

But how, exactly, do you decide between two compelling options with different pros and cons? The most critical tool to have on hand to help you make tough choices is a clear picture of your remodel goals. To get clarity on what matters most to you, read about some key trade-offs you and your kitchen designer will consider during your project.


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How Will You Use Your Kitchen? 

When planning a kitchen remodel, you want to be very clear on how you want to use your new kitchen. Here is one example: I want to have people over more often. I want to feel relaxed when I entertain. In order to feel relaxed, I need to make sure that no one is in my way while I cook. I also want my kitchen to stay neat during the cooking process and be laid out so that cleaning up will be efficient.

Clear goals can help homeowners make decisions and, as the budget nears its limit, ultimately choose the options that will best support their goals. What matters most to you in a kitchen?


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1. Daily Use vs. Special Events
This area of consideration has to do with how many people your kitchen will serve. From refrigerator storage to seats at the dining table, the number of people you want to accommodate will affect your design choices. You’ll want to consider not only how many people live in the home now, but — if this is your forever home — how many will live in it 10 years from now. Also, how often do you entertain and for how many people? 

I had a client who was retired and cooked only for herself and her husband most days. She entertained just four times a year, on holidays. At first, I was a bit baffled by her choice of a 36-inch range, double ovens and a 48-inch-wide refrigerator. But for her, these choices made sense. 

As the matriarch of a large family, on those four holidays she cooked for 25 to 30 people and had at least two or three people helping her in the kitchen. It was important to her that we designed a flexible space that worked just as well when cooking for two as for 30. 

That approach is a good one: Whenever possible, I recommend that clients design with their maximum capacity needs in mind.


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2. Cost vs. Value
As you may have discovered if you’re considering a remodel (or in the midst of one), everything from cabinets to sinks to appliances comes at a variety of price points. How do you decide when it’s worth it to splurge for a high-quality item and when it’s best to save your dollars? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Will the investment improve your everyday life?

  • Will the product solve a pet peeve?

  • Will the addition of this element make your house feel like a home?

  • Will the purchase increase the value of your home?

In each of these cases, you may decide that the cost of a feature for your new kitchen is worth it because of the value it brings. For example, a better dishwasher might eliminate the need to prerinse dishes. 

Perhaps you hate scrubbing dishes, can afford an upgrade and would cherish any minute of spare time away from the sink. Or perhaps you feel quite the opposite: You don’t mind scrubbing dishes at all, and this investment wouldn’t be worth the pennies spent. 

Framing your choices as cost vs. value — in terms of your experience in your kitchen, and possibly the resale value of your home — can help you get clarity on what’s worth the extra money.


Kitchen_Cabinet_Tradeoffs_4.jpg

One helpful way to prioritize your desires is to analyze the frequency and duration of a given task. Tasks you do frequently or spend more time on should get more weight as you consider what is worth investing in. 

For example, most people use the burners to cook 80 percent of the time, the oven 20 percent of the time. If this applies to you, I recommend prioritizing the cooktop as opposed to the wall oven, both in terms of placement in your kitchen and quality of product. You wouldn’t want to give up a great burner feature to get a fancier oven. 

On the other hand, if you are a frequent baker but rarely use the stovetop, you may prefer to invest in wall ovens rather than spend your budget on a fancy range. For you, it would be better to make sure that reaching into the oven is more ergonomic — done while standing upright, rather than bending over.


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3. Function vs. Aesthetics
Ideally a kitchen redesign brings both beauty and function, but when we are dealing with limited funds, trade-offs between functionality and aesthetics may be necessary. By function, I mean not only the kinds of bells and whistles you get with high-end appliances, but also the kitchen’s layout and the choice of whether to have one sink or two. 

Aesthetics, of course, are the expensive but gorgeous finishes and customized detailing that bring a high-end look to a kitchen. Quite often, a budget may force you to make choices on what matters most to you — the functionality or the look. 

This area of trade-off is deeply personal and has a lot to do with your lifestyle. When weighing aesthetics vs. function, you’ll want to consider everything I mentioned before: how many people you cook for daily, how often you entertain, the kind of entertaining you do (backyard barbecues vs. sit-down dinners), the style of cooking you prefer and how many people work in the kitchen at one time. 

For example, a client who doesn’t do a lot of cooking and is more concerned with the kitchen’s look than its function might really want a beautiful built-in fridge with custom panels but be willing to use a less expensive range or counter material to have that pricey, beautiful fridge. 

On the other hand, I have had several clients (including the owners of the kitchen in this photo) who chose a free-standing fridge and put their budget into the plumbing and construction work required to add a second sink. To me, this is a significant functional improvement and, for those who enjoy cooking and entertaining, worth scaling back on some of the aesthetic details. 

There are many ways you can cut back on aesthetics to create room in your budget for what’s important to you functionally. You might consider a simpler, less expensive door style on the cabinets, or a ceramic backsplash tile instead of glass, or quartz counters instead of granite.

I even had one client use a very inexpensive laminate counter so that she could put more money into the remodel work necessary to get the layout just right. Since she was in her forever home, she replaced the laminate with a beautiful stone two years later when finances allowed.


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4. Speed vs. Patience
Any home improvement project takes time — that’s just part of the process. And once the kitchen is demolished and construction is underway, any delay can be difficult, particularly if you are living in the home and dealing with the mess. When you are in that situation, the risk is that you will be tempted to say yes to anything just to get the project done and your home back to normal. 

This happened with one of my clients, who decided to use a second-choice backsplash because it was in stock, whereas her first choice had a month lead time. On the other hand, a different client had trouble finding a backsplash tile she liked, so she finished her kitchen and skipped the backsplash altogether. Three months later, she found the perfect tile and brought the tile installer back. I am sure you can guess which homeowner was more happy with her kitchen remodel.

When making a large financial investment that you are going to live with a long time, I recommend that you go slowly, taking the time to find the right people to help and weighing your decisions carefully. 

That being said, speed can be a necessary evil. Perhaps you are remodeling for a special event, such as a backyard wedding. Or maybe you are planning to sell the house and just want a quick face-lift to get the most out of your investment. 

As a guide when weighing the need for speed vs. the need to exercise your patience muscles, I recommend you consider how long you plan to live in your home. If you’re going to sell within five years, keep in mind that everything doesn’t have to be perfect — you simply want to be sure you will get your investment back when you sell. However, if you plan to live in the home for 10 years or more, it’s worth slowing down and investing in your quality of life. Take the time to find the right solution, not the quick one.


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5. The Ideal Me vs. the Real Me
This one isn’t so much a trade-off as a reality check. It’s worth mentioning that some clients have fantasies that a remodel can change their habits — or even their personalities. But my observation has been that if you are already a messy cook, the chances of a new kitchen transforming you into a clean-as-you-go type are pretty slim. 

Rather than plan a kitchen for the person you wish you were, focus on solutions that take your true habits into account. For example, a messy cook who is embarrassed when guests are around might want to add a separate cleanup sink where he can hide dirty dishes while making a meal. 

Or, if clutter is a constant problem, a homeowner might want to create a hidden drop zone for papers, cellphones, pens and other detritus that kitchen counters tend to attract.  

7 Reasons to Choose Dark Kitchen Cabinets

Dark and dramatic or light and bright? When it comes to choosing kitchen cabinets, it can be hard to decide. Here we look at the benefits of crossing over to the dark side.


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1. Add Ambiance

If you’re looking to design a kitchen that’s both contemporary and cozy, dark cabinets could be the way to go. Inky surfaces, like the ones in this elegant kitchen, help enclose the space slightly to create an intimate feel.

Position your lighting strategically, so it casts an atmospheric glow over the dark finishes.


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2. Bump Up the Style 

For a dose of sophistication, you can’t beat dark cabinetry. Moody colors give a grown-up feel that can make a space feel seriously chic. 

In this kitchen, the classic white wall tiles and the pale gray flooring highlight the dark gray cabinets and the black architectural features beautifully. Brass handles, meanwhile, bring out the richness of the charcoal hue.


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3. Hide the Knocks

All kitchens get their fair share of wear and tear, but some show it less than others. A kitchen with dark cabinets, such as this one by Compass & Rose, is a good choice if you think your cabinets are going to need to stand up to frequent spillages and dings. 

A dark surface can be more forgiving than a light one and won’t instantly show scuffs and stains. If you’re painting your cabinets, make sure you apply a few coats, so the dark undercoats hide any scratches in the topcoat.


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4. Contrast With White

If you’re going for a white countertop, contrasting it with a dark shade will have the most striking effect. The gleaming marbled surface here looks stunning against the deep-hued cabinets. The House of Beulah designers embraced the contrast, mixing white walls with dark gray features. To warm up the room, they added a wooden floor and some soft foliage.


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5. Highlight Bold Colors

Just as dark cabinets set off a white countertop, they also can form a dramatic backdrop for other vivid colors. Take a look at this kitchen designed by Roundhouse, for example. The dark gray cabinets are neat and practical, but it’s the accents of green and red that really make the space. The cabinetry works as a moody canvas to showcase those bright bursts of color.


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6. Embrace Luxury

Dark colors look beautiful with metallic finishes, such as brass and copper, as this space by Naked Kitchens illustrates. The green cabinets complement, rather than clash with, the brass faucet and backsplash.

The two surfaces are wonderfully balanced, giving this room a feeling of understated luxury.


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7. Zone the Space

In an open plan, it’s a good idea to use color to zone different areas. By using a dark shade on your cabinets, you can make your kitchen appear grounded in its spot.

The dark cabinets in this kitchen by Hannah Gooch contrast with the white walls around them, helpfully marking out the kitchen from the rest of the room.

Tell us: Have you dared to go dark with your kitchen, or do you prefer a lighter color scheme? 

5 Trade-Offs to Consider When Remodeling Your Kitchen

By: Moorea Hoffman 

It would be great to have an unlimited budget for a kitchen renovation. But the fact is most of us do not. And that’s OK. Compromises of one form or another are part of the process, even for the rare homeowner who enjoys a bottomless budget and expansive square footage. 

But how, exactly, do you decide between two compelling options with different pros and cons? The most critical tool to have on hand to help you make tough choices is a clear picture of your remodel goals. To get clarity on what matters most to you, read about some key trade-offs you and your kitchen designer will consider during your project.


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How Will You Use Your Kitchen? 

When planning a kitchen remodel yourself or with a kitchen designer, you want to be very clear on how you want to use your new kitchen. Here is one example: I want to have people over more often. I want to feel relaxed when I entertain. In order to feel relaxed, I need to make sure that no one is in my way while I cook. I also want my kitchen to stay neat during the cooking process and be laid out so that cleaning up will be efficient.

Clear goals can help homeowners make decisions and, as the budget nears its limit, ultimately choose the options that will best support their goals. What matters most to you in a kitchen?


5_Trade_Offs_2.JPG

1. Daily Use vs. Special Events

This area of consideration has to do with how many people your kitchen will serve. From refrigerator storage to seats at the dining table, the number of people you want to accommodate will affect your design choices. You’ll want to consider not only how many people live in the home now, but — if this is your forever home — how many will live in it 10 years from now. Also, how often do you entertain and for how many people? 

I had a client who was retired and cooked only for herself and her husband most days. She entertained just four times a year, on holidays. At first, I was a bit baffled by her choice of a 36-inch range, double ovens and a 48-inch-wide refrigerator. But for her, these choices made sense. 

As the matriarch of a large family, on those four holidays she cooked for 25 to 30 people and had at least two or three people helping her in the kitchen. It was important to her that we designed a flexible space that worked just as well when cooking for two as for 30. 

That approach is a good one: Whenever possible, I recommend that clients design with their maximum capacity needs in mind.


5_Trade_Offs_3.JPG

2. Cost vs. Value

As you may have discovered if you’re considering a remodel (or in the midst of one), everything from cabinets to sinks to appliances comes at a variety of price points. How do you decide when it’s worth it to splurge for a high-quality item and when it’s best to save your dollars? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Will the investment improve your everyday life?

  • Will the product solve a pet peeve?

  • Will the addition of this element make your house feel like a home?

  • Will the purchase increase the value of your home?

In each of these cases, you may decide that the cost of a feature for your new kitchen is worth it because of the value it brings. For example, a better dishwasher might eliminate the need to prerinse dishes. 

Perhaps you hate scrubbing dishes, can afford an upgrade and would cherish any minute of spare time away from the sink. Or perhaps you feel quite the opposite: You don’t mind scrubbing dishes at all, and this investment wouldn’t be worth the pennies spent. 

Framing your choices as cost vs. value — in terms of your experience in your kitchen, and possibly the resale value of your home — can help you get clarity on what’s worth the extra money.


5_Trade_Offs_4.JPG

One helpful way to prioritize your desires is to analyze the frequency and duration of a given task. Tasks you do frequently or spend more time on should get more weight as you consider what is worth investing in. 

For example, most people use the burners to cook 80 percent of the time, the oven 20 percent of the time. If this applies to you, I recommend prioritizing the cooktop as opposed to the wall oven, both in terms of placement in your kitchen and quality of product. You wouldn’t want to give up a great burner feature to get a fancier oven. 

On the other hand, if you are a frequent baker but rarely use the stovetop, you may prefer to invest in wall ovens rather than spend your budget on a fancy range. For you, it would be better to make sure that reaching into the oven is more ergonomic — done while standing upright, rather than bending over.


5_Trade_Offs_5.JPG

3. Function vs. Aesthetics
Ideally a kitchen redesign brings both beauty and function, but when we are dealing with limited funds, trade-offs between functionality and aesthetics may be necessary. By function, I mean not only the kinds of bells and whistles you get with high-end appliances, but also the kitchen’s layout and the choice of whether to have one sink or two. 

Aesthetics, of course, are the expensive but gorgeous finishes and customized detailing that bring a high-end look to a kitchen. Quite often, a budget may force you to make choices on what matters most to you — the functionality or the look. 

This area of trade-off is deeply personal and has a lot to do with your lifestyle. When weighing aesthetics vs. function, you’ll want to consider everything I mentioned before: how many people you cook for daily, how often you entertain, the kind of entertaining you do (backyard barbecues vs. sit-down dinners), the style of cooking you prefer and how many people work in the kitchen at one time. 

For example, a client who doesn’t do a lot of cooking and is more concerned with the kitchen’s look than its function might really want a beautiful built-in fridge with custom panels but be willing to use a less expensive range or counter material to have that pricey, beautiful fridge. 

On the other hand, I have had several clients (including the owners of the kitchen in this photo) who chose a free-standing fridge and put their budget into the plumbing and construction work required to add a second sink. To me, this is a significant functional improvement and, for those who enjoy cooking and entertaining, worth scaling back on some of the aesthetic details. 

There are many ways you can cut back on aesthetics to create room in your budget for what’s important to you functionally. You might consider a simpler, less expensive door style on the cabinets, or a ceramic backsplash tile instead of glass, or quartz counters instead of granite. 

I even had one client use a very inexpensive laminate counter so that she could put more money into the remodel work necessary to get the layout just right. Since she was in her forever home, she replaced the laminate with a beautiful stone two years later when finances allowed.


4. Speed vs. Patience

Any home improvement project takes time — that’s just part of the process. And once the kitchen is demolished and construction is underway, any delay can be difficult, particularly if you are living in the home and dealing with the mess. When you are in that situation, the risk is that you will be tempted to say yes to anything just to get the project done and your home back to normal. 

This happened with one of my clients, who decided to use a second-choice backsplash because it was in stock, whereas her first choice had a month lead time. On the other hand, a different client had trouble finding a backsplash tile she liked, so she finished her kitchen and skipped the backsplash altogether. Three months later, she found the perfect tile and brought the tile installer back. I am sure you can guess which homeowner was more happy with her kitchen remodel.

When making a large financial investment that you are going to live with a long time, I recommend that you go slowly, taking the time to find the right people to help and weighing your decisions carefully. 

That being said, speed can be a necessary evil. Perhaps you are remodeling for a special event, such as a backyard wedding. Or maybe you are planning to sell the house and just want a quick face-lift to get the most out of your investment. 

As a guide when weighing the need for speed vs. the need to exercise your patience muscles, I recommend you consider how long you plan to live in your home. If you’re going to sell within five years, keep in mind that everything doesn’t have to be perfect — you simply want to be sure you will get your investment back when you sell. However, if you plan to live in the home for 10 years or more, it’s worth slowing down and investing in your quality of life. Take the time to find the right solution, not the quick one. 


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5. The Ideal Me vs. the Real Me
This one isn’t so much a trade-off as a reality check. It’s worth mentioning that some clients have fantasies that a remodel can change their habits — or even their personalities. But my observation has been that if you are already a messy cook, the chances of a new kitchen transforming you into a clean-as-you-go type are pretty slim. 

Rather than plan a kitchen for the person you wish you were, focus on solutions that take your true habits into account. For example, a messy cook who is embarrassed when guests are around might want to add a separate cleanup sink where he can hide dirty dishes while making a meal. 

Or, if clutter is a constant problem, a homeowner might want to create a hidden drop zone for papers, cellphones, pens and other detritus that kitchen counters tend to attract.


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Wood and White Brighten This Kitchen

Article by: Monica Banks

Kitchen at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple with two children
Location: Rosemont neighborhood of Montreal
Size: 210 square feet (19.5 square meters)

After living in their 1945 home for a few years, the owners decided it was time to expand their 155-square-foot kitchen, which lacked sufficient storage and felt cluttered. Originally, the home was designed in the typical Montreal fashion, with one corridor that has separate rooms branching off from the axis. The homeowners wanted not only to have more space, but also to give that space an open-concept feel.


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Before. In this snapshot taken before the remodel, the existing kitchen had an eclectic look; the homeowners wanted to give it a cleaner, more minimalist design style.


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Before. The kitchen also felt a bit closed in, thanks to the side walls surrounding the entry opening into the space.


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Kitchen (After)

Layout. Removing those side walls and opening up the kitchen to the adjacent dining area created more breathing room and brought in more light. The right side of the room is composed of wall cabinetry that gives the family plenty of storage space. The kitchen is now 210 square feet. 

Style. Though the kitchen has a simple palette of primarily wood and white, the space feels dynamic thanks to variation in the textures and shapes — from the subway backsplash and the hexagon floor tiles to the beadwork on the upper cabinets and even the horizontal lines marked by the open shelving.

Floor. The homeowners kept the existing cherry floor but had it sanded and refinished.


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This photo shows the left side of the kitchen (when viewed from the dining room). On the floor in front of the sink, the homeowners added a strip of hexagon tile for visual interest. 


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Backsplash. Simple white ceramic subway tile gives the room subtle detailing that supports the kitchen’s clean, modern look. 


Island. The island countertop is covered with multiple tile pieces (see first photo in this story) that echo the subway tile pattern. 

Cabinets. A two-tone cabinet scheme contributes to the kitchen’s contemporary feel. The majority of the cabinetry and hardware is from Ikea, but the wood doors were handmade by a local artisan. 


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Niche. The cabinetry wall on the right side of the kitchen is broken up by a central nook that the designers finished in herringbone tile. 

8 Elements of Classic Kitchen Style

By: Rebekah Zaveloff

Many people are at a loss when it comes to defining their style. Some people know what they like but are afraid of getting the terms wrong, or they’re afraid of being pigeon-holed into one style when they feel like they’re in between a few different ones. The truth is, most spaces have elements of different styles and aren’t all one way. 

To sort all this out, join me on a tour of kitchen styles and sub-styles, from Classic to Modern, Industrial to Cottage, and lots in between. Today we’ll start with the most approachable of styles, classic style. 


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Classic kitchens are timeless and flexible. This comes with other givens, such as neutral color palettes and simple, unfussy details. Sure, a classic kitchen can be deemed too safe for the individualist and too ornate for the purist, but for me it’s like jeans and a white t-shirt: add a beaded necklace and heels or tennis shoes and black blazer and you can make the look your own. (And so can the next homeowner if you’re concerned about resale value.) 

1. White or cream cabinetry. Classic kitchens are timeless yet fresh. This is a style that almost everyone feels comfortable in, even some the modernists among us. White kitchens define this style.

2. Simple architectural details. You may see legs on islands, feet or furniture-style toekicks, crown molding and even a paneled hood, but these details are often restrained in a classic kitchen rather than being over the top and ornate.

3. Honed black countertops. Classic kitchens often go the timeless route with blacks or whites, whether it’s honed absolute black granite, soapstone, or cast quartz material.


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4. White marble countertops.Cararra marble and Calacatta marble are the two that really stand out in classic kitchens. In fact, marble countertops are often the focal point of a classic kitchen. Even though many homeowners know there are maintenance issues with marble, they can’t resist its beauty. 

5. White subway tile. It really doesn’t matter what size, though the classic is 3×6. It can be glossy, crackle, beveled or square edged, handmade or machine made, or even in white marble. If you’re looking for a twist on the classic, try a 2×6 or 2×8 or 2×4 — the proportions can really change the look of your kitchen, as can the grout color. 

6. Simple door styles, not too modern, not too ornate. Another aspect that defines this look is the cabinet door style — often either a simple shaker door or a shaker door with a bead moulding. You don’t see a lot of raised panel doors (of the sort often found in traditional kitchens) or flat-panel doors typically seen in modern kitchens.


7. Neutral palettes: Classic kitchens don’t have to be all white. This kitchen mixes stained and painted cabinetry, and even though the “white” cabinets have a glaze, the simple door style (shaker with a bead moulding) keeps it from going too traditional. The subway tile here has a bit more color than the classic white that’s so popular, but it’s still a classic.


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Black and white is about as timeless and classic as it gets. This kitchen with the shaker doors goes a bit more contemporary with the black island and dark subway tile with white grout, but its bones are still grounded in the classics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alternative palettes like brown and white or black and white also find their way into classic kitchen design. Here, walnut cabinets, white marble and classic door style have all the elements of a classic kitchen.


8. Flexibility: What I love about classic kitchens is that they’re chameleons: You can take the same kitchen and completely change its look by mixing in modern bar stools or lighting … or industrial bar stools and lighting … or traditional — you get the idea. Classic can become eclectic by adding modern tile and mixing it with a vintage-style table and chairs and industrial-style pendant lights.


Classic can go more traditional when mixing it with an ornate hood, traditional chandelierand turned island legs.


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Classic white shaker doors can go more modern by adding a modern light fixture and terrific Saarinen table to the mix. This kitchen even has a bit of farmhouse modern because of the ceiling, but it’s still classic.


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Sometimes it’s the architecture alone that influences a classic kitchen in one direction or another. Here, classic goes country-modern with exposed beams and voluminous space. As you can see, classic-style kitchens are limited only by your imagination — or the imagination of thousands of designers. 

Post-KonMari: How to Organize Your Pantry

By: Laura Gaskil

So you’ve tossed the old, unloved and expired food and spices. What’s next? After decluttering the pantry, it’s time to get organized. But with so many organizing products to choose from, it can be hard to know which are worth buying and which will end up gathering dust (or worse: making your pantry even more cluttered). 

To help you bring order to this hardworking part of your kitchen, we’ll divide your things into three categories: stuff you reach for every day, meal building blocks and staples, and occasionally called-for ingredients.


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Stuff You Reach for Every Day

A tray or platter beside the stove. Your true everyday essentials (think olive oil, salt and pepper) should live within arm’s reach of where you use them. A tray, platter or slab gives these items a defined space to prevent straying, and is easy to move and wipe down. 

Check your own cupboards to see if there’s a platter or tray you can use for this purpose. You may not need to buy anything!


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A dedicated shelf (or two) for essentials. Beyond salt and pepper, you can probably think of a handful of other ingredients you reach for nearly every day. These items would take up too much room on the counter, so aim for a shelf or cupboard near the stove, or above the counter where you like to chop vegetables. If your pantry is already near the cooking zone, dedicate an eye-level shelf to your essentials. 

 

Add one or more of these tools to make ingredients easy to spot at a glance:

  • Lazy Susan. A small turntable lets you circulate bottles of oil with ease.
  • Risers for spices. See what’s in the back row without having to rummage.
  • Clear bins. Corral little packets of this and that.


Meal Building Blocks and Staples

Clear, airtight containers for bulk goods. Buying grains, flours and other items from the bulk bins in the grocery store is economical and reduces packaging waste. Once you get home, transferring these items into a good set of canisters will help them stay fresh longer and keep critters out.

Tip: If you like to change up your ingredients frequently, use wipeable chalkboard labels. Then, when you fill the container with something new, you can simply wipe off the old info and write what’s in it now.


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Risers for cans and jars. Slightly larger than spice risers, these stairstep-like organizers are especially helpful if you have deep pantry shelves and lots of canned goods (or jars filled with homemade goodies). 

DIY: To create your own risers, borrow a few wooden blocks from a child’s set (or get them from the hardware store) and stack in the back of a cupboard to give cans a lift. If the cans are sliding around, top the blocks with a layer of anti-slip tape (available at hardware stores or online).


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Baskets for potatoes and onions. If you have a walk-in pantry that stays cool and dark, this can be a great place to store potatoes, onions and other produce that doesn’t require refrigeration, such as apples and squash. Pick baskets that will allow air to flow around the produce, and store each type in its own basket. 

Tip: Keep apples in a different section of the pantry since they produce ethylene gas, which can speed spoiling of nearby veggies.


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Occasionally Called-For Ingredients

“Project cooking” baskets or bins. Project cooking is the kind of cooking you may sometimes love to do, but it’s certainly not part of your everyday get-dinner-on-the-table cooking life. In other words, it’s a project. Think baking birthday cakes, decorating Christmas cookies, making homemade pasta or canning your own jam. 

Instead of mixing the special tools and ingredients required for these projects in with the rest of your pantry items, gather them in a project basket. The size of the basket or bin will depend on how much stuff you need to store, so gather the ingredients together before you go basket shopping!

Tip: Project cooking bins can certainly live on high shelves. Just be sure to label them clearly, and keep a stepladder nearby, if needed, to reach them.


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Bulk supply bin or crate. If you like to stock up on certain supplies or ingredients, you’ll want to find a convenient yet out-of-the-way spot in which to keep them. The shelves from waist to shoulder height are best reserved for more frequently used items, so use the floor or a high shelf to store your extra goods. 

Bulky but light items (like paper towels) can go on a high shelf, while big and heavy stuff (like bags of dog food) should go on the floor. One or two large bins or crates can keep everything contained.

Reclaimed Siding and Red Accents Personalize a White Kitchen

By Camille LeFevre


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Photos by Brandon Stengel

Kitchen at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple with two teenagers
Location: St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Size: About 450 square feet (41.8 square meters)
Designers: Tamatha Miller and Timothy Ferraro of Bluestem Construction

In a busy household with two teenagers, the former kitchen was a natural gathering spot for family and friends, but it was feeling cramped. To make more space, designers Tamatha Miller and Timothy Ferraro removed the wall between the kitchen and the adjacent breakfast room. Access to the backyard was also important, so a new doorway off the eating area leads to the patio and grilling area.


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The homeowners already had the red dining chairs, and they requested a neutral color palette to make the red stand out. “The mother is a seasonal decorator, and the red really works throughout the seasons, as she decorates for all of the holidays,” Miller says. The custom cabinets are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Simply White. The countertops are a mix of two Caesarstone products: white for the island, and black for the outer countertops and built-in desk. The wood flooring is new and is narrow-strip red oak. A farmhouse sink and stainless drawer pulls complete the look.


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“They wanted the feeling of an open kitchen but with character,” Ferraro says. “So we created the dark accents by utilizing some of the house’s old shiplap sheathing for the island, computer nook and mudroom wall.” 

The salvaged sheathing had served as insulation under the home’s previous exterior siding. When the exterior received new siding and insulation, some of the sheathing was saved to be used in the kitchen. The recycled wood was treated with a four-step stain process: deep purple, then a dry brush of warm gray, followed by a dry brush of soft white and ending with a final dry brush.

To free up counter space, the new island features a built-in microwave. The industrial-style pendants above the island and the light fixture above the dining table complement the reclaimed wood.


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By adding a built-in desk in the kitchen, the parents can monitor their teens’ computer use and searches without hovering over their shoulders. “This was our way of bringing the computer out of the kids’ bedrooms and into a public space,” Ferraro says. The built-in desk is counter height, and the same industrial-style stools were chosen for the island and the desk.


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The newly remodeled mudroom adjacent to the kitchen features the same reclaimed shiplap sheathing as in the kitchen. It covers the back wall of the custom built-in bench with coat hooks.