How to Arrange a Kitchen


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How to Arrange a Kitchen

Jun 22, 2020, 11:20 am

Hi all,

I don't yet have much in the way of cookbooks, thought I am starting to collect them, despite having neither the money nor shelving for more books - a common ailment around here, I'd guess - but I love to read about them and borrow them from the library, and I've been getting really into teaching myself to cook and bake, which is why I joined this group.

I'm moving into my own place for the first time, and I'm looking for ideas and advice on how to arrange my kitchen. The infrastructure, so to speak, can't be changed, but I can hang things on walls and put inserts into/onto shelves and drawers, etc.

Since I've never lived outside my parents' home (excepting college, where I used the dining hall, and six months study abroad in Tel Aviv, where I left all of the kitchen stuff I'd amassed in my tiny student apartment behind because I couldn't get it into my suitcase, and I hadn't thought to buy extra baggage until it was way too late, alas), I'm buying basically everything, from shelving/drawer inserts up, brand new, which I see as an opportunity to do this right, rather than impulsively buying whatever looks like it will work and regretting it in a month.

And to do it right, I need advice, because I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.

I have a good window ledge, 8.5" deep and 46.5" long, which I was thinking of using to grow herbs, and/or maybe to hold a crock of cooking utensils and a spoon rest, since the thing I have the least of is counter space. Given that counter space is at such a premium, and I need basically all of it for food prep/cooking, I'm looking to leave as little as possible sitting out on counters. Other than that, I'm not sure where anything is going yet, and I move in Friday. Obviously, thinking ahead is (still) not my forte. Something to work on. :)

If anyone has any ideas, suggestions, products, work-arounds or hacks, or advice to share, I'd really appreciate it.

And if anyone just wants to share inspiring photos/descriptions of their own kitchens, or pictures/descriptions of their dream-if-money-were-no-object kitchens, those would be welcome, too, for fun and inspiration and group pining.

Thanks so much, and I look forward to getting to know you all!

Jun 22, 2020, 11:34 am

Our kitchen is long, narrow and a thoroughfare, a design that I sometimes think qualifies the architect for any painful, fatal punishment you care to devise. The stove is against an inside wall, so we can't convert to gas without flattening a significant part of the house. The first part is a disaster, as there is an extra-narrow bit between the stove and the sink -- an irresistible magnet to anyone wanting to chatter idly when pots etc. need to go from the stove rapidly for cleaning. So for a start, I'd say it is ESSENTIAL that two people can get past each other with fridge and cupboard doors open simultaneously.

Two dream kitchens you can probably find on the internet if you look in the right place: Brighton Pavilion (decor arguably overdone, says he with tongue firmly clamped in cheek) and Groot Constantia (Cape Town).

Editado: Jun 22, 2020, 12:04 pm

Hi, welcome! My "kitchen" is just a corner in a room and my main organising principle is to keep things minimal, so I don't know I have much useful to contribute. This list of kitchen basics may be of interest:

Stuff to Buy Right Now:

Extra-large, nonstick frying pan
Set of thick-bottomed saucepans (large, medium, small)
Good, sturdy sheet pans
Nest of mixing bowls
Knives (chef's knife, serrated carving knife, small paring knife)
Can opener
Speed (vegetable) peeler
Pestle and mortar
Weighing scales and measuring cups
Large colander
Large measuring cup
Box grater/Microplane grater

Stuff You Can Pick Up Later:

Large grill pan
Extra-large casserole pan or dutch oven
Metal tongs
Wooden spoons
Metal whisk
Potato masher
Ladle, slotted spoon and slotted turner
Plastic spatula
Rolling pin
Salad spinner
Thick, sturdy wooden chopping board and a small plastic chopping board
Food processor

I'm missing quite a few of things on there, and still have some I haven't used and thus should probably consider unnecessary (the wok).

For my needs I manage quite well without a salad spinner, potato masher, or a special vegetable peeler (mostly I don't peel vegs and fruit at all, and if I need to, ordinary knives work well enough).

I have one set of glass bowls that are baking-resistant and that also function as serving and mixing bowls. In general I always try to buy only what is multifunctional or can be adapted to do more than one thing.

With so little space (not helped by keeping books in the kitchen cabinets instead of, well, kitchen stuff), I use both the oven and the dishwasher to store things.

ETA: Hm, didn't notice he* left this out--a large, good quality skillet with a heavy bottom and a glass lid is my Numero Uno cooking "pot". Can't imagine a kitchen without it. You can do everything in it (there are even versions that can go into the oven).

*googling shows the list came from Jamie Oliver

Editado: Jun 22, 2020, 12:26 pm

My preference for the cookbooks is to have them just off the kitchen. Well, for one thing, there is no space for them, but also, things in the kitchen get greasy after a while. This is probably made worse by cooking with gas. For that matter, the end of the living room next to the tiny kitchen has lots of other kitchen stuff in it, too.

I couldn't live without a good electric hand beater. It actually does live on the counter. Get a powerful one with beaters (also dough hooks if you might want to make bread) and a stick blender. Mine will knead dough longer than my arm can hold it without getting warm. The stick blender saves having a blender on the counter. This one has lasted much longer than my previous ones.

I have a rail for metal implements over the stove. That means they are right there when I need them, and they leave the drawers for smaller implements. The wooden spoons and such are in a flower pot nearby.

I certainly agree that you need a large heavy weight pot of some sort that can go from stovetop to oven. I prefer 'frying pans' with two small handles to one long one. With a large, hot pan you probably can't carry it safely with one hand, and it fits in the oven better. My go to is enamelled iron, weighs a ton, and I should have bought more than two when the supermarket had them in a sticker deal.

Jun 22, 2020, 1:49 pm

>2 hfglen: You have described my kitchen exactly!

>1 Julie_in_the_Library: See if you can find pictures of Julia Child's kitchen. It is a display at the Smithsonian, I believe. She had a real Working kitchen, although several times more stuff than I could do.

I have eliminated as many electrical appliances as possible. I use a good quality hand blender for many things. I have a microwave, although I could do without it. Also purchased a Vitamix because it does multiple things very well. I use a recipe for bread which doesn't need kneading and I don't bake anything i can't mix by hand (I love my dough whisk) or in my Vitamix. Going down to the essentials saved lots of space for me. I have a closet in the hall that I use for a food pantry, and my cookbooks are in my dining area which is just an extension of my long narrow kitchen.

When I organized my kitchen, I thought about each area for the tasks I would be doing there. So the cupboards above the counter where I mix things hold my spices, dry goods, etc. And the drawers and cupboards below hold the tools/containers I use most in that area. Most of my dishes are in the cupboards nearest the dishwasher. Since I have the long narrow kitchen, nothing is very difficult to get to, so the counter I make bread, cakes, cookies, etc. is directly across from the cupboards with the spices, flours, and measuring tools. Large things, or infrequently used things are in the awkward cupboards above the refrigerator and ovens.

Finding spice containers and other containers which are square/rectangular helps fit more items in the cupboards. Also stacking them. I bought Tupperware cupboard containers to put things like flour, cornstarch, baking soda, sugar, cornmeal, dried chilies, chocolate chips, and so forth in. Because they are the same shape, I can stack the containers and they are not as bulky as the store packaging. They also help keep out mice and weevils.

I found metal baskets to hang under the counter to hold garlic, onion, lemons and limes. 3 baskets, which i took apart and hung separately. I have 2 containers on the counter by the stove for implement which I use frequently while I'm cooking. One drawer for smaller implements, and one for measuring spoons, cups, cookie cutters and other baking type of tools.

I have 2 large, deep drawers which have a divider down the middle which is helpful so things don't get jumbled. I also have a flatware divider a drawer which has 2 levels. Very useful. I don't have the space to hang my pots and pans, whish I did, but my knives hang in a narrow holder on the cupboard wall by the sink, and my strainers hang on the other side of the sink.

Unless you have a very deep corner cabinet, i don't recommend lazy Susan's. They take up more room than they are worth. Better to use a largish shallow plastic tub you can store things in and pull it out when you need something in it. Think of ways you can utilize your walls and the dead space in tall cupboards or the shelf above cupboards if you have one.

Editado: Jun 22, 2020, 1:57 pm

Thanks so much for all of the replies!

I'm considering getting lazy-susan inserts to put into some of the cabinets for things like oils and vinegars and honey and syrups and stuff, which is something my mom has here, and also possibly a pull-out spice rack or two for some of the upper cabinets to hold spices for easier access. I'm 5', so I can't reach the back of even the lower top cabinets without getting out the footstool.

I've pretty much decided that the closet will be for nonperishable foods, like pastas and snacks, etc, possibly also canned goods, and any pots and pans that I don't hang, but I think I'll need some sort of shelf-organizing stuff for that as well, to maximize use of space.

It's so interesting to hear about everyone else's kitchens, especially as I'm making decisions about mine.

>4 MarthaJeanne: I'm lucky in that my mom is letting me take the Cuisinart standing mixer and attachments - dough hook, whisk, spatula, and the plastic shield that goes around the bowl - that we have. We got it from my grandmother when she died, and it's heavy as all get-out but very high-quality, and it's what I'm used to using to boot.

I can't hang things above the stove, since that's where the microwave is, but I'm definitely considering hanging things on other walls and places.

>3 LolaWalser: thanks for the list! That'll be super helpful.

>2 hfglen: I'm going to be living by myself in a one-bedroom, with no one sharing space, but it's still good advice for when I have guests, so thanks. Having been doing all of my cooking thus far here in the kitchen of my parents' house, I've definitely had similar issues with parents people in my workspace while I'm trying to cook or bake. Unfortunately, the placement of big things like cabinets, the counter, and the fridge can't be changed without gutting the kitchen, which we are not doing, but I think there's room as it is, which is good.

Editado: Jun 22, 2020, 3:13 pm

For spices, I bought two bathroom cabinets at IKEA. The doors and one of the cabinets are up in the attic. The remaining cabinet with doubled up glass shelves works very well. Most of my spices are in round cans that lie on the shelves. Actually, I bought the second one after pricing extra shelves at the local glass dealer.

The point is that with wooden shelves you lose a lot of space to the shelves.

Editado: Jun 22, 2020, 5:08 pm


This reminds me of the DOs and DON'Ts in the old Glamour mag--MarthaJeanne is a DO and I'm a DON'T :)

The cabinets are quite high up, the lowest shelf comes to just about the top of my head (167cm).

Jun 22, 2020, 5:12 pm

>8 LolaWalser: Then how do you get things down?

Jun 22, 2020, 6:21 pm

As a person who is short, and needs to store things everywhere, you gotta buy a stepstool and get used to using it. Store bulky, lightweight things high up (e.g., large plastic salad bowl).

Jun 22, 2020, 6:27 pm

>9 MarthaJeanne:

Oh, I can reach all the way inside the lowest shelf and the front of the middle. To get the stuff behind I need to jump a little for a grab, but it's what I use rarely--sugar, Arborio rice, semolina... Top shelf--I get the step stool.

Jun 23, 2020, 4:12 pm

You could get something to reach which has a clamp. I cannot think of the name of it. I am also 5' but 82 years old so forbidden by my kids to get on a step stool.
Great ideas here and loads of ideas on the internet. Go to some name sites like Kraft or Pace for some suggestions. Looks like you are getting things together. Have fun cooking and baking.

Jun 24, 2020, 9:55 am

I do think one of the best ways to organize a kitchen is trial and error, seeing what works for you. There really isn't a "perfect" kitchen plan because one size never fits all. I have rearranged my kitchen several times, not because I got it "wrong" in the first place, but because over the years my needs and cooking styles have changed. Besides, when you rearrange, it's a good time to clean out the back of the cupboards and lay down new shelf paper. :)

Editado: Jun 24, 2020, 2:24 pm

I popped in because my kitchen annoys me (the cupboards are too small and the available worktop space is broken up so I sometimes end up working in two or three different spots) and I thought I could pick up ideas here. So I'd say try and keep one stretch of worktop free so you don't have to move about too much.

Store things near where they'll be used (pots near the cooker) and have a breakfast cupboard with coffee etc that you'll use daily. Obvious things, really, so I don't know how helpful I'm being.

Good luck!

ETA: I find microwavable serving dishes with plastic clip-on lids useful for serving and then storing and reheating leftovers. They save space because they're multi-functional.

Editado: Jun 24, 2020, 10:15 pm

It's been a while since I uploaded a picture, but this one just seemed apropos.

My kitchen, from last year; bananas were destined for banana bread.

I love that table. I use it for everything (except for eating, because I live alone, and eat in the living room).

Jun 25, 2020, 9:31 am

>14 libraian: I also have broken up workspaces. I bought a couple of large cutting boards to place across the sink and add to my space. One of them doesn't completely cover the sink from front to back, so there is room to put a bowl or other container below it and shove chopped up things into it. Terrific when I'm making a chopped veg. salad, or slicing, etc. for a stir-fry or stew.

Jun 25, 2020, 10:12 pm

Congrats! What an exciting time for you.

The Kitchn Cookbook has a great section at the beginning on how to arrange a kitchen according to what you use. We were lucky to have the information from the book right before putting in cabinets and counters for the first time. We live in a 1920 bungalow that had a sink with a drain board and two freestanding cabinets from the 1980s or 90s.

For example, we eat a lot of fresh produce so we have a hole in the counter to a compost bucket in a weird spot where no cabinets would fit that's about 18" from the sink. The drawer in between holds our fruit and veggie gadgets like peelers and the apple cutter the kids use and the strawberry tool. The wall has a magnet with our knives. The cabinet over it has our spiralizer and food processor blades. So I can stand there and and do every produce related activity without taking a step. We used to keep all that in the same drawer with the measuring spoons and rubber spatulas but now those are on the opposite side of the kitchen because we almost never use them together. And the proximity of the sink and compost bucket to the rest of it makes it so easy.

The way I figured it out was to keep a stack of index cards in the kitchen prior to organizing it and write a list of everything I use together on a single card. Then I sat in my armchair and analyzed the cards for patterns. We have an appliance cupboard, a setting the table cupboard, and a drinks area (on the other side of the sink to be near the water...a cupboard with mugs and glasses and travel cups and counter with hot water kettle, blender, and coffee grinder).

It's not perfect. We use a Moka pot so making coffee involves the drinks area plus the stove, which are not adjacent to each other. But it's overall a great way of using the kitchen and very intuitive once you understand it.

I'd recommend you don't make any major decisions until you've lived alone and used it for awhile to see what your habits are. I have a smoothie every day for breakfast and we all drink lots of coffee and tea so devoting a section to drinks makes sense but maybe you do a lot of grilling or baking so creating a more robust area for those would make more sense.

Our kitchen is only 10x10 plus a narrow pantry btw and I'm equipped to cook every item my son eats because he has multiple food intolerances. So anything from homemade grainfree pizza to stir fry to grain free angel food cake can happen with little notice. So don't feel like you have to have a huge kitchen. It's about knowing what you need and what you don't need and how to keep it. Be open to change over time. We eat 100% differently now than when we set up our first kitchen together. But I'm still using the same hand me down waffle iron from my husband's ex stepmom. :)

Have fun! And do get the Kitchn Cookbook from the library to read that first part.

Jun 25, 2020, 10:15 pm

Oh and bottom cupboards are blackholes. We used to have plastic bins without lids to use as drawers so we could pull them out and get at the stuff in the back. Now we have nothing but drawers and a lazy Susan on the bottom.

Jun 26, 2020, 3:50 pm

I have a medium sized kitchen with horrible storage. In my 30+ years of marriage and having my own kitchen, I have learned the following:

1) Cookbooks can live anywhere in the home. Mine are in an antique pie safe in the dining room; my mother-in-law keeps hers on a bookshelf at the end of the island; my mom kept hers in the hall closet.

2) Purchase quality items if you can, especially cookware and knives.

3) To the list given earlier, I would add that you need at least two skillets (large and medium/small).

4) A blender, food processor, and stand mixer are not necessary -- just nice. I have a blender to make frozen drinks for summer parties, which happen twice a summer. I've never had a food processor or stand mixer. I do have, however, a high-quality electric mini-chopper and a high-quality electric hand mixer that work just fine.

5) Things I use almost daily that aren't listed above: a mandolin slicer, multiple sizes of liquid measuring cups (1-, 2-, 4-, and 8-cups), an egg slicer, a veggie dicer, tongs (also useful for grabbing things in the cabinet that are just out of reach).

6) When choosing storage containers, square is best. There is less wasted space between the bins, baskets, or containers. (Imagine stacking square blocks vs. round balls).

7) Use bins in the cabinets and refrigerator to corral like items. I have a long rectangular bin for cheeses, a narrower one for yogurts. I have a bin for all my pastas and rices, and one for seasoning packets. I have one for baking that has all my flours and sugars in it.

8) Decant from store packaging into airtight storage containers when possible. It preserves freshness, keeps out mice or bugs if that's a problem in your area, and it makes storage easier.

9) Finally, have fun with it. I live in the house where my husband grew up. When we moved in after his mother passed away, I wanted to make some changes, but he was adamantly against them. So, outwardly the kitchen still looks mostly like it did when the house was built in 1960. But, I have some gorgeous red cookware and small appliances. I have my favorite antique vases lined up on the windowsill. The storage space is still crappy, but I've learned to work with what I have and to have fun doing it.

Jun 28, 2020, 1:27 pm

>16 MrsLee: That sounds like a good idea.

>1 Julie_in_the_Library: I see that you aren't going to change your infrastructure but one of the things that annoys me about my kitchen is the corner cupboard (as in, in the corner, next to the dishwasher, not an L-shaped cupboard) because it only has one door but is quite deep, so if we want anything at the back (assuming we haven't forgotten what's there), we have to take things out. I've put in mini free-standing pantry shelves for the time being ... but I have plans ...

I assume you've moved in by now. I hope the move went smoothly. Looking forward to hearing about your kitchen adventures.

Editado: Jul 1, 2020, 1:45 pm

I have moved in, which is what I've been doing instead of checking this thread and replying to all of the wonderful replies. Thank you all so much.

>5 MrsLee: Mrs. Lee, you are so right about the lazy susan cabinet situation. I put the lazy susan we bought in the cupboard, where it works well, and I plan to get an insert I can pull out to put in the cabinet for oils and vinegars and stuff.

I also didn't realize you could keep lemons and limes out - I thought that they had to be refrigerated. I do need to get something to keep my fresh garlic in, since having it just sitting out on the counter won't work long term.

I have been trying to organize by use as much as I can.

>19 Modenian: Modenian, thanks for all of the great advice. That's all really helpful. I'm actually keeping my cookbooks in the kitchen for now, since the island we bought has shelves for them, but if I end up needing those shelves for other things, they'll end up somewhere else.

My aunt just gave me the KitchenAid cordless hand blender with attachments that she'd bought and, after several months of not even opening it, decided she didn't really want or need after all, which I am very excited about.

I have some pictures of the kitchen as it is now to share with everyone. I don't know enough html to turn the images that are sideways, so you'll have to crane your neck on some.

A lot of the drawers and shelves still need organizing, obviously, eventually with inserts of some kind, but I'm happy with where things are for the most part.

Last night, I cooked a meal from scratch in my new kitchen for the first time, and it came out great! I'm really settling in here, and all of your advice has been a great help in that.