The kitchen is where you store your food, make dinner for your family and go crazy looking for that pan you know is somewhere in the cupboard. Considering everything you have to do in that room, it's essential to make it as functional as possible. That doesn't necessarily mean sacrificing style for utility – you can still have a showpiece kitchen that is also stress-free. You simply need to organize the space appropriately with these tips from professional organizers and designers.
Pegboards have been a staple of garages for as long as dads have been uptight about keeping track of their wrenches, and for good reason: They use vertical space to make tools visible and easily accessible. Over the years, chefs have brought them into the kitchen as well. Julia Child had a baby blue pegboard in her kitchen that she used to store pots, pans, whisks, knives, measuring spoons and her rolling pin. Lately, amateur cooks have made kitchen pegboards a hot trend on Pinterest.com and other design websites. They are relatively cheap – the materials for a decent sized pegboard can be purchased for less than $50 – and easy to build, and while the ones seen in garages are often blandly utilitarian, the right paint colour, à la Child, can make them the most stylish thing on your kitchen walls.
DO THE MATH
A well-functioning kitchen is largely a matter of math, says Corey Klassen, a Vancouver-based interior designer who specializes in kitchens and baths. There are two key areas of kitchen calculation. "Ideally you want a 36-inch wide by 24-inch deep preparation zone per activity," Klassen says, referring to cooking, refrigeration/storage and prep/cleaning. "Without that total amount of preparation space you're going to find you are hindered," he says. The second key calculation is the distance between those three zones, which is called the work triangle – with the sink, fridge and stove at the triangle's three points. There should be no more than nine feet and no less than four feet between the points to spare you from unnecessary movement, Klassen says.
PULL OUT ALL THE STOPS
Lower cabinets can be back-breaking nightmares thanks to all that bending over, and they're also often where items get stuffed and forgotten. Pullouts, which allow you to slide the entire cabinet out, are a must, says Eno Bushi, owner of Parada Kitchens + Bathrooms, a Toronto-based design company. "You don't have to crawl all the way in the back, and they keep everything organized," he says. Pullouts can cost from $200 to $500, depending on the size and shape of the cabinet, Bushi says. If you have a big kitchen with lots of cabinet space, they are not as necessary. "But when you have a relatively small kitchen, you have to make is as efficient as possible," he says.
STRIP THE FRIDGE
There's usually no greater magnet for clutter in a kitchen than on the fridge door. "You actually want to be able to see your fridge door," says Suzanne Perrett, a Toronto-based professional organizer. "Visually speaking, you want to walk into a kitchen and see it for its main function, which is a kitchen for cooking and food preparation." Chances are you look at your fridge a lot every day – you don't need a reminder of how cluttered your life is every time you reach in for a snack. Perrett suggests setting up a message centre or message board on an unused wall where you can keep a calendar or notices from your child's school.
PURGE, PURGE, PURGE
Creating a streamlined kitchen means tearing down the one you have. Okay, you don't need a sledgehammer, but you do need some boxes. That juicer might be on your counter, but really, how often do you make juice? "To ensure that the items in your kitchen are the ones you frequently use and are in the proper place, you need to begin by doing a purge, says Rowena List, a Vancouver-based professional organizer. "You have to be totally ruthless," she says. Clearing out frees up space and allows you think about where to put the items that have survived the purge. Often, dishware is in multiple cupboards far away from one another, or food is stored at opposite ends of the kitchen. "It's all about putting as many like items together as you possibly can," List says.