— A. A. Milne
In the decade-long renovation of our Vermont farmhouse, the kitchen was the last thing we tackled. We started off ready to do it first. But in the end, the waiting paid off. We had experienced many many kitchens in our years of renting -- a funky tiled kitchen in Austin, a tiny damp brick kitchen when we lived in Ireland, a dark builder grade early 80s kitchen in Massachusetts. So we'd collected a long list of things we liked and things we definitely did not like.
Kitchen planning is time consuming. It is easy to get engrossed in the fun things like fixtures & finishes. Cabinet style and color. Counter top materials. Appliances! Often, when the time comes to plan out things like the specific cabinet and drawer inserts and layouts you're already exhausted by decisions. And kind of ready to be done. I felt the same way.
But I had a friend who kept saying: measure everything. Plan everything. Give everything a place. Over and over she said it. So I finally listened. More kitchen organizing Pinterest boards were filled. Measurements for spatulas and napkins were made. And in the end, we created a very literal map of our kitchen. This was a guide, for sure, but it also gave us a clear vision of what we hoped to achieve: a place for everything and everything in its place. This post is about what worked. It's about what we learned. And it's also about what we would definitely never do it again.
Pantry Door Storage
Oh how I dreamed about a walk-in pantry. Unfortunately, because we wanted to maximize our windows and keep an open floor plan, it just wasn't in the cards for us. So, we got creative with a built in pantry. One of my favorite additions to the kitchen are the mason jar shelves on our pantry doors. We have one on either pantry door side and they provide easy access to things most often used: like nuts, rice, and raisins. Mason jars and some simple shelving? Would we do it again? Yes please.
This was a custom shelf that we designed. Details:
- Mason jars are Ball wide mouth, 30 ounce (3.38"w x 6.5"h)
- Shelves are 5.5” deep x 8” high. This allows ample space for the jars to be easily pulled out
- The 2.5" high bar prevents the drawers from toppling out when opening the doors.
- Each shelf is 18” wide on a 22.25” door panel
Drawers and Drawers in Drawers for Days
We love drawers. And we really wanted to minimize overhead cabinets. (Although we do have a couple for things like glasses and mugs.) But we created a ton of easy to access storage with lots and LOTs of drawers. Many are over sized. On our kitchen island we used an extra long slide length of 24 inches, where we had plenty of space for longer drawers. This extra length gives us ample space to fit all our plates and bowls. And in another drawer we can have all our flatware and with divided spots in the back for everything from ice cream scoops to spatulas.
We also built a separate storage and bar area in our kitchen where we keep serving dishes and things like linens. In this area we created a more modern, contrasting space. Over here the magic happens with double depth drawer in drawers. A sneaky way to get two types of storage into a single spot. We liked how this simplifies the cabinetry profile. Here's a little peak at our napkin and placemat drawer from the side.
And from the top you can see the separated spaces for different styles of napkins with placemats handy just below.
Practical vs. Pretty. Why practical prevails.
Continuing with the drawer theme. We really wanted a dedicated separate space in the kitchen for a bar set up. We do lots of entertaining and were excited to install an ice maker, second small dishwasher, bar sink, and drawers fitted for liquor and wine. I LOVED the look of the neat and tidy liquor drawer with everything boxed off in its perfect partitioned home. So we made one of those. It’s great. And it’s pretty.
And we also created a SECOND liquor drawer, which we did a bit differently to accommodate larger bottles. Instead of individual squares, we did a series of rows, where multiple bottles can nestle in together. This also works to organize and the row dividers keep the bottles from clanking together.
So, what did we learn? Well, sometimes pretty prevails. And sometimes practical prevails. And as users of both approaches for a couple years now, I have to say that I’d opt for two practical drawers – with rows instead of squares in the future. You can fit many many more containers and its actually much easier to see things. If we had to do it again I’d make one minor additional change – which is to make the rows adjustable. So instead of fixed dividers to use a slotted side where the dividers could be moved around. So we’ll pop that one in the file of design life lessons.
Oh, and two more lessons learned. First, about our ice maker – which we love – made by True. It makes beautiful clear ice and has a fun LED and we use it ALL the time. It also runs ALL THE TIME, continually draining and re-making fresh ice. Lovely. And also very NOISY. I have to say, we were warned. We’d read reviews. The sales rep clarified multiple times with us before purchase. And so, we thought we knew what we were getting into. But in real life it basically sounds like a pile of rocks is shifting around in your cabinet every few hours. Guests are often perplexed. And it can be annoying in the middle of a movie (our living and TV area is right nearby.) So, would we put an ice maker in if we had to do it again? Yes, probably. And I’m not sure that any other location is really an option. So we’d probably install another noisy ice maker. But, ice lovers and kitchen designers be warned.
And so our second lesson: We never use the little extra dishwasher by the bar area. Like NEVER. Well, ok, maybe once in a LONG while we’ll run it after a big gathering. And then we forget that we ran it. And I end up wondering where our extra glasses have disappeared to. The issue is that it’s just not part of our routine, part of our motion and how we operate in the space. When we clean things up we always bring them to the main sink and primary dishwasher. And so, alas, it goes largely unused. Bummer. If I had to do it again, I’d put in a small wine fridge instead. Lesson learned.
Stay tuned for more to come on our kitchen journey and learnings!