Whether you are completely remodeling your kitchen or working with what you already have, there are ways to make your kitchen a joy to work in. Creating a functional kitchen will make using your kitchen fun and keeping it clean easy. Here are a few tips I have picked up on creating a functional kitchen.
1: Create functional storage. Using every available space to cram dishes, pots, and pans does not a happy cook make. There is nothing I hate worse than digging for my cookie sheet under a mountain of other pans falling out of the cabinet. Baskets, racks, and dividers are great solutions to this problem. Ikea has a great cabinet divider for bake sheets and pot lids. They stand up-right for easy access. See the Ikea website for lots of great organizers for storage spaces.
A huge trend in functional storage is deep drawers instead of lower door cabinets. They allow you to stack pots and pans and access them easily. Deep extending drawer pulls allow you to pull the drawer out completely and not loose the hidden dark space in the back. If you are remodeling or building a new kitchen, consider using all drawers in the lower cabinets or pull-out shelving. If you don’t have the money to build new, try using baskets in lower cabinets that allow you to pull them all the way out, get what you need, and put the basket back. No bending down and digging through a dark mess needed.
2: Keep your frequently used items at arms reach. Any pots, pans, or food you use a lot should be the easiest things to get to. A pot rack can be a great way to use ceiling space and make your pots easy to reach. A utensil rack by the stove is another good storage option that is in your work space. My number one tip is to not over load your pot rack. If the rack has to much on it you will be fighting to get the item you need, while you burn your dinner.
3: A large prep area in the center of the kitchen is essential. There is nothing worse that running around your kitchen trying to find a place to set down the cookie pan that is now burning your hand through your oven mitt. Yes I have been there. An island is a great solution for this. Note: Don’t try to fit an island in a kitchen that is to small. You must have enough room to move around or cook with others. If you have a small kitchen, build on a fold-down extension to your countertop.
4: Stock your kitchen in zones. I learned this great tip by working in the food service industry, where they stock and cook in the kitchen according to zones. For example, I keep all my bake-wear, measuring utensils, and baking ingredients all in the same part of the kitchen. Everything I need to bake my famous cookies is all within arms reach. I don’t want to run a marathon around my kitchen collecting things before I bake (although if you don’t want those cookies to stick to your thighs you could hide ingredients all over your house, but for our purposes lets just stick to the gym for working out). I also keep all my dry prep in one place, meat prep in another, and so on. This tip may result in you storing things in places you would not ordinarily think of, but if you try it, I promise you will thank me.
5: If you can, make a gathering place in your kitchen. A kitchen island is great for this. We all know the kitchen is where we gather. I don’t really understand why, but we all seem to be drawn to the kitchen to gather to talk, laugh, cry, you name it. Even if you have minimum space, try placing a barstool next to a counter.
6: Don’t forget the pretty stuff. Functionality is the most important thing, but try to find some space to make your kitchen pretty. I love to bake, but I love it more when I am in a beautiful kitchen. A glass front cabinet with your favorite dishes is a great way to show off your beautiful collections. Inner-cabinet lighting will highlight these collections even more. Beautiful hardware can be the jewelry of your kitchen and a great way to update old cabinets.
7: Don’t limit your storage options to just cabinets. Lovely pieces of furniture can add great storage and beauty. This armoire is a great example of a beautiful piece used for functional storage.
The following are pics of my own kitchen-reno. It was a tiny kitchen, built in the 50′s and not functional at all. I completely gutted and redesigned the lay-out. It is still small, but the most functional kitchen I have ever worked in.
After ( I used the deep cabinet above the fridge to store those long "fridge pack" drinks, and the smaller cabinet beside that to store wrapping paper.)
After (I did eventually get a dishwasher for that giant whole under the countertop)