Dear PoPville – Suggestions for a renovated kitchen

Current kitchen

Dear PoPville,

I’m thinking about knocking out a wall from my kitchen and opening it up, but will be losing considerable cabinet space in the process. I’d like to add a bunch of little nooks and crannies for hidden storage and have gone to the obvious sources (magazines, web sites, etc.), but I wonder if there’s any unique feature in your kitchen that you think is absolutely brilliant and/or a must-have for a renovated kitchen? I’ve seen so many unique things in friends places in Washington, but imagine there are dozens of other little, but cool things people have done that make their place that much cooler. Any advice is welcome!

38 Comment

  • I have an open kitchen, and I find my overhead pot-rack is really essential for making up for the lack of cabinet space.

  • our old rowhouse had a galley kitchen and the wall was knocked out to open it up. best thing. we recently renovated and the best thing we did, to make room for more cabinet space, was to find a nearby closet to house a kitchen pantry. that way the cabinets are purely for storage of dishes, etc. i would also highly recommend pull out shelving in cabinets, and try and do as many deep, wide drawers as possible. the wider the drawer the better. oh and quartz countertops. marble too hard to maintain and granite — i think is passe.

    • Granite is no more passe than diamonds or gold. I mean seriously. There is such a diversity of granite, some of which is so beautiful it should be a piece of art that you hang on the wall. Your subscription to HGTV has hereby been revoked for your own good.

      • Agreed…. Granite is passe now? It is a great countertop surface for a reason. Some granite might look boring, but there’s lots of slabs you can get with really nice irradessence to it that adds a ton of character. There’s nothing wrong with the material — it will be used for decades to come. Its also what 95% of people remodel their kitchens with, so the above comment seems more than a bit on the snobbish side.

      • Granite is porous to an extent, Quartz wins in my book

    • I completely, totally agree on finding a space for a pantry or floor to ceiling pantry cabinet. We redid our kitchen back in the fall and I really wish we had taken space from one side of the fridge to create a wider pantry cabinet on the other side.

      Also, 100% yes on pull-out shelves and drawers. We are probably going to retrofit a couple of our cabinets to be all drawers rather than 2 small drawers with doors/shelves below. Finding stuff like storage containers and even pots and pans and lids is so much easier if you can fully pull out the shelf/drawer to see what’s in there. We used Ikea cabinets (and are extremely happy with them so far) and the kitchen designed recommended more drawers. I looked at her like she was nuts, but in retrospect I wish I had listened.

      And I agree with whoever said to have cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling. Stack them if you need to. Even if you need a stepstool to reach up there, it’s more enclosed storage space.

  • My microwave is integrated into the range/oven (it’s a drawer that pulls out just below the range surface and above the oven portion). It’s a great way to save counter top space or cabinet space where a microwave would normally go. Most kitchens also waste a lot of space under the cabinets where the kickboard is…that 4″ of space is useful for sheetpans, frying pans, etc.

  • In general I think open kitchens look nice, and in a case like Nancy’s where there’s a closet that can be converted into a pantry, things might work out logistically.

    But before you knock the wall out, I’d caution you to think very carefully about the storage space you’re losing. I’m in a house that I generally like, but it has a really poorly done open kitchen. (It was renovated by the previous owner.) The remaining cabinet space is totally inadequate, and what little cabinet space there is was mounted higher on the wall than it should have been and requires a stepstool to reach.

    For the time being, I’m using two Closetmaid pantry cabinets in my dining room to hold everything that doesn’t fit in the reachable cabinet space. Eventually I’ll redo the kitchen, and maybe that will alleviate some of the cabinet shortage… but unless I tear out some hanging lights and put cabinets in their place, I’m not sure I’ll ever have enough cabinet space without the separate pantry cabinet(s).

    In sum, for my particular space I wish the previous owner had renovated but left it as a galley kitchen. It might not have looked as nice as an open kitchen, but it would have been much more practical.

  • Bring your cabinets all the way up to your high ceiling. Glass fronts can make prevent them from making the room look smaller and are a great way to store your pretty servingware that you don’t use on a daily basis.

    • Totally agree. There is no reason to have all that wasted space up there. Go for 39″ cabinets if you can, and get a folding stool to reach up that high. Store your still-needed-but-not-often-used stuff, like fancy glassware, on the upper shelves.

      Also, think about under counter drawers, not cabinets. My contractor talked me into them and I’m so glad he did. I now have no idea why anyone would ever install old-style cabinets, where you have to reach in and pull out everything to get stuff from the back (so you end up not using it…). It’s so much easier and more efficient to pull out a drawer and reach in to grab a saucepan (which can’t be hung that easily if they’re large).

      Also, read Thursday’s Style section in the Post, where they interviewed 3 Top Chefs about their kitchens, what’s important, etc. Read also Mark Bittman (NY Times) who talks about making the most of a small kitchen.

  • I bought pegboard from home depot, had them cut it to the size I wanted (it’s free!), painted it black, and screw the two pieces to the sides of a tall cabinet in my kitchen. It holds all of my pots, pants, and large utensils- I love it.

  • My wife got a pot filler installed right next to the stove. That is a little indulgent for my tastes but if you are looking for little touches, it might be a good one.

  • Drawers in the table for flatware; otherwise I just got rid of things. You don’t need much for a fully functional, convenient kitchen. Mark Bittman has a nice list of essentials floating around somewhere (and in his How to Cook Everything, of course).

    I have one set of dishes, glassware, etc. No microwave (saves soooo much space, and I’ve never once missed it). A small toaster oven. For coffee I have a French press (small footprint) and a small hand-cranked burr grinder. No fancy CO2 machines or rice cookers or even a crock pot (though I’m considering the latter).

    All in all, I’ve got three wall cabinets, two under-counter cabinets and a bookshelf in my kitchen, and get by just fine.

    • (and cook frequently and often for large groups, I should add)

    • My kitchen table has a wine rack and shelving built into it, and it’s also counter height which I use for additional work space. Ditto on the hanging pot rack, I found one at World Market that makes the most out of my limited wall space. Also, I like to display things like coffee beans, pasta, four, sugar, etc. in glass containers that I keep out on the counter. Instant decoration and storage.

  • Don’t forget to plan for where you’re going to keep your trashcan. Really. I find the under-the-sink contraptions too cutesy and small. They fill up quickly, and I hate having to open a door to throw something away.

  • OP here; thanks for all your comments! It’s a large studio (550 sq ft) and I’m walling off the entrance where this photo was taken with a built in bookcase to make a small bedroom (bottom of the bookcase will face the kitchen for cookbooks and the top to the bedroom for storage there). The bedroom factor outweighs kitchen storage for me.

    I was going to get all new cabinets and create a U-shaped kitchen, but decided to just add in a peninsula, which only requires I get a few cabinets for that section. I’m leaning toward the big cabinets with pull out drawers for things like pots and pans (that’s what I keep up top on the left side of this photo right now). I’d really like to keep clean surfaces, though and know that I’ll need some good hiding spots for some other things like canned and dry goods.

    I like cooking a lot and I think this will be enough storage for me – I’m hoping I’d be in the kitchen more than the average studio apartment owner as well, so am thinking this out carefully.

    • Emmaleigh504

      For clean surfaces my grandmother, who had a large kitchen, had part of the counter tops turned into shallow cabinets with sliding doors to store the counter top stuff like the coffee maker. She could slide the door open, pull out the coffee maker, use it, then slide it back. You couldn’t even tell they were there and only used a few inches of counter space.

    • Your talk about wanting to store away canned goods, etc. reminded me how valuable a pantry is, though others may not feel this way. I use my kitchen (it’s not for show) and in any kitchen I’ve ever had, I have loved my pantry space. It doesn’t have to be smack in the middle of your kitchen, either. If you have a closet nearby, that can work wonderfully, or you might have to install a cabinet to make a pantry. I have had an open pantry with long shelves (it was huge and might have been built-in bookcase at one time) and could store tons of stuff there. Caveat: It was maintained pretty orderly since the shelving was open. Alternatively, if you have a not-too-deep closet, that could make for a perfect pantry as well. As I said, it doesn’t have to be in the kitchen, but would be helpful to be near to the kitchen instead of across on the other side of your apartment.

    • It was my personal preference, but I bought a studio with a kitchen that had 4 walls and a door that closes. It is invalueable to me to not have cooking odors in my living area. I cook a lot.

  • I skipped granite and got ice stone – it’s AMAZING. Seriously, I get compliments on it from everyone.

    And get a magnetic strip for your knives. And spices you use frequently. I have all my knives on the strip, and when I move, I’d like to have the same for metal containers of spices I use frequently. It’s WAY easier to grab what you need vice looking through spices in a cabinet.

    Most of my cabinets in my small kitchen (I live in a similar sized place, and completely gutted the kitchen) are under-counter cabinets and I find it very helpful to keep a list of what is in them and tape it to the inside of my cabinet. for example, “black beans, 3” then I cross out the 3 when I use a can. It makes it easier to shop for things and avoid excess which I don’t have room for.

    If you can get a tall pull out cabinet (a la what Rachel Ray has in 30 minute meals), go for it – they can hold a LOT. I wish I had one, but didn’t have the space.

    • dt

      What color ice stone did you get, where did you get it from, and how did the cost compare to other materials? I’ve never heard of it before but I’ll probably reno my kitchen later this year and am collecting ideas!

      • I think it was called “cobalt ice” (the white concrete with the blue glass). I got it from Amicus Green in Kensington – they were snooty as heck, but it was worth it. For everything, it was $2500. I have no idea what any other surface cost because I only looked at Ice Stone because I wanted unique and durable. My kitchen is tiny and it was a significant investment, but well worth it. It’s unique, but not too personal (or ‘gender specific) that a buyer won’t like it.

  • I’d consider glass tile over slate or even ceramic for your backsplash… it creates a modern, glossly look that looks great and isn’t pourous at all which makes it easy to clean. Be wary off very “trendy” tile when selecting though — classic looks (subway tiles, muted colors) are timeless, the latest fads (bright colors, bold patterns) will turn people off in the long run.

  • ikea sells a dishrack that attaches over the sink and folds down when needed. I didn’t have a dishwasher in my old place and with literally 3 square feet of counter space in the kitchen, that rack saved my butt.

    Also, I had a paper towel roll that attached to the side of the fridge and McGuyvered a silverware caddy that did the same. Don’t rule out that area for storage space!

  • I just finished renovating my kitchen – took out the wall between the kitchen and dining room and put in a peninsula with a combination of drawers, pull out shelves and regular shelving.

    Like others recommended, I have my wall cabinets going up to the ceiling which added essentially another shelf. And I have a floor to ceiling cabinet in the dining room with glass doors which is great for things I don’t use so often but want accessible.

    I have a glass tile backsplash which I love.

    My sink cabinet has a small tilt out shelf for sponges and such – very handy and keeps these things out of the way.

  • If you live in a small apartment and the kitchen is a galley one, I’d think carefully about trying to turn your kitchen into a U-shaped one. In small spaces, the one advantage to a galley kitchen is not feeling closed in, as if you’re cooking in a closet (although I’ve had tasty meals come out of these types of kitchen as well). A U-shape one will be darker and more closet-like feeling, unless you have a ton of light in the kitchen area.

    In terms of the over-head or hanging pot rack, while a great idea for limited storage space, I would caution on 2 points: they can look messy and will become a part of the decor, whether or not you want them to and may make a small space feel smaller (because the space from the ceiling is occupied). This is why rooms with high ceilings can feel more spacious than a room with lower ceiling height. I tend to think over-head pot racks work really well for people with a gorgeous pot/pan collection and like to show them off. I think if you open up the kitchen and are worried about losing cabinet space, there are those tables or shelving on wheels. (Clumsy description) but you could have one in the dining area (butcher block top with wire shelving below), for example, and you could roll it in the kitchen when you needed additional countertop space or you want to serve hors d’oeuvres and roll them back to the living area where guests are.

    • There are a lot of wall mounted pot racks available. I agree that a pot rack dangling in the middle of the kitchen ceiling can really only be pulled off it it’s above an island. You don’t want to duck under the hanging pots or have them so high up that you can’t reach them.

  • orderedchaos

    Knife Rack! Keeps all your nicer knives out of the way, plus it’s nice to easily grab the one you need without having to open drawers. Simple to attach to the side of a cabinet. Here’s the one we used (bought two of them) but there are plenty of varieties:

  • I’m also in the very early stages of kitchen ren0 – mostly because I hate my cheap white vinyl floor, and the island is impossibly in the way. My main thoughts – (also from having worked in lots of kitchens as a caterer.)

    1.- An open kitchen means that everyone sees your messy kitchen. If you have a separate dining room – keep some kind of separation.

    2. Not everything you think of for a kitchen has to be in the actual kitchen. Cookbooks, large stew pots, rice cooker, cuisenart – don’t have to be stored at hand – they can be in a pantry, closet elsewhere.

    3. I drawers for plates.

    4. Most kitchen lighting sucks. I personally hate pot lights anywhere. Pendant lights over granite countertops are horrible – very glarey.

    5. Eliminate all cracks, crevices.

    Let us know how it goes! I’m hoping the kitchen fairy just shows up here and fixes it all.

  • We removed a wall between a galley kitchen and dinning room in a dc row house (or more accurately, we bough a house where the wall had been removed but before the flippers could ruin it be installing a horrible kitchen). We installed our own kitchen, and built a breakfast bar in the place of the removed wall. The dinning room side of the bar is made of tall wall cabinets (from Ikea) so those essentially replace the storage that would have been in the upper cabinets if the wall had remained. On the kitchen side, the regular under-counter cabinets remain. Another advantage of this, was that we moved the whole breakfast bar about 10 inches further into the dinning room than the wall originally was. This seemingly small amount of additional width makes the kitchen area much more usable, and does not make the dinning room too narrow.

  • Best things we added to our kitchen during renovation were 1) big drawers to store pots & pans, 2) pull-out base cabinet for trash/recycling (holds 2 bins). Also re: wanting to take out a wall and losing cabinets, if you can manage one section of cabinets to surround your fridge, esp with a deep “pantry cabinet” on one side, that will give you a ton of storage (also having an actual pantry is great, but don’t know if you will have room). When I re-did the kitchen in my condo I also got a mini-dishwasher, but I’d do a full one of you have the room. The small ones actually cost a lot more. Cabinets that go all the way up to the ceiling are great in a small space. Even tho it may be a pain to get a stepstool out to reach them, it gives you the room to store all those appliances/items you want to have but only use occasionally (food processor, mixer, stock pots, etc).

  • Toe-kick drawers.

    Also, while I hate things showing, I have considered removing a wall and replacing it with open shelves or double-sided glass door cabinets to store stuff and open the space. I’d keep or widen the doorway too.

Comments are closed.