Some of the latest ideas and products for whipping a kitchen into shape:
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
Kitchens function best when divided into work zones, says Josee Berlin, an interior designer for Ikea USA. She cites three: storage (fridge/freezer/pantry), washing (sink/dishwasher) and cooking (oven/cooktop/microwave).
"Work zones give your kitchen a practical structure. Placing them well is crucial to achieving an ergonomic work triangle, with a natural workflow and everything within reach," Berlin says.
If you're planning a new kitchen, place your oven and stove near sinks and worktops so you aren't walking too far with hot pots and pans, she says. A worktop near pantry cabinets and fridge makes unpacking groceries easy.
If space is tight, consider a stainless-steel cart with lockable wheels for portable storage and extra prep space.
CABINETS AND DRAWERS
Experts suggest taking an inventory of your kitchen tools, and then outfitting cabinets and drawers so they work for you.
Use adjustable drawer dividers and shelf inserts at different depths.
The drawers in Ikea's new Sektion kitchen system open fully, eliminating that awkward nowheresville at the back of many drawers. A new horizontal hinge design allows for additional slim storage in what was once dead space above the drawer — good for tools, towels and spices (the last of which should be kept in a cool dark space and not on or above the stove). A quiet-close mechanism and optional LED lights make the system handy for middle-of-the-night cookie raids. (www.ikea.com)
TOOLS AND GADGETS
You don't need a lot of stuff, says Craig Norton, director of operations at the Prince George Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
"Buying a pot and pan for every dish is a mistake. One good large Dutch oven, one sauté pan, one 4-quart saucepan, one omelet/crepe pan, one cast-iron pan and that's it," he advises. He stores lids on the door to free up shelf space.
If you're a baker, consider consolidating those components. "I put all baking ingredients in one bin — flour, sugar, baking soda, etc. — and just haul it out when making something," Norton says. Invest in a slab of cool marble to make pastry rolling easy.
"Gadgets are the biggest waste of space — egg slicers, green bean cutters, all that stuff. Just use a knife," laughs Norton.
However, if you're a proud collector of small tools, consider a rolling mechanic's tool cart with shallow drawers that can be tucked in a closet when not in use.
To hold knives, BASE4's KnifeDock is a slim-profile slab of magnetized walnut, bamboo or acacia wood. (www.ebase4.com )
House Beautiful's editor in chief, Sophie Donelson, likes OXO's stackable Greensaver containers, which have carbon filters in the lid to reduce spoilage. But her favourite small space storage solutions are from Joseph Joseph.
"Just about everything they make either folds, collapses or nests to save room in the drawer. I wanted to toss all my existing tools and start fresh when I saw these," she says.
Measuring cups, a whisk and nesting utensils are part of the colorful collection. (www.josephjoseph.com )
Some experts suggest checking out restaurant supply houses for high-quality, affordable items. Commercial-kitchen-grade, stainless-steel pans come in a variety of squares and rectangles that you can stack to save space.
If your kitchen's a workhorse, don't worry about keeping it "showroom ready." Your food processor, scale, utensils and blender should be right out where you need them.
Norton likes to keep a lazy Susan next to the stove with olive oil, a dish of salt and a pepper grinder.
Hanging rails with "S'' shaped hooks provide extra storage without taking up real estate. Sturdy racks can hold pots and pans, plates, utensils, sieves and even a small herb garden.
Ikea's Rimforsa wall system combines steel rails and hooks with bamboo containers. Elfa's bonded-steel no-tools wall and rack system turns a door into a handy pantry. (www.containerstore.com )
Liberate even more space by using zipper plastic bags and stacking containers for things like tea bags, pet treats and dried foods, eliminating bulky packaging.
And for those items you use only a couple of times a year?
Norton advises getting them out of the kitchen altogether. "Put the turkey roaster in the basement with the tree ornaments," he says.