Kitchen Update: Design solutions for tight spaces and comfortable counter space

Kitchen Update: Design solutions for tight spaces and comfortable counter space


A well-designed kitchen offers home chefs the maximum amount of efficiency with the minimum of clutter creating clean countertops unhampered by endless gadgets and easy-to-reach tools, pots and pans as well as the calming feel of having the space in which to whip up wonderful meals.

“The first thing I do when faced with a kitchen where space is particularly tight, is look for a way to add some,” says Trent Vanderzee, owner of Straight A Builders, Inc. in Crown Point. “Sometimes it isn’t practical or budget doesn’t allow it, but in the context of a kitchen remodel it often costs less than one might think to knock out a wall or part of one.

As an example, Vanderzee notes they recently removed a pocket door and frame that had the support in place over the frame, opening up a space of almost three feet.

“Whenever a hallway can be converted and utilized that is great way to redeem what is otherwise wasted space as well,” says Vanderzee. “We also removed a brick chimney that was hidden between a kitchen and dining room in a small home and it made a world of difference.

On the flip side, instead of removing a wall, another Straight A Builders kitchen renovation project let it stand in to use for adding cabinetry.

“But we modified it to add in a large pass-through that functioned to let daylight and a nice view into the kitchen from a front window and allowed serving on a raised ledge to the front room,” he says.

“A lot depends upon your budget,” says Sandy Syvertsen at Von Tobel in Schererville, “but generally a pantry is a wonderful idea.”

Syvertsen says one of the newest trends in both new and renovated kitchens are double stacked cabinets.

“People are moving towards the ceiling,” she says. “”We have double stacked cabinets with the top cabinets having glass doors to display items that aren’t used frequently. We installed cabinets the other day that went up as far as possible—102 inches—to the crown.”

Under counter lighting helps make kitchen spaces look larger says Angela Suto, who has worked as a cabinet designer at Lowe’s in Merrillville for the last decade.

“Lighter finishes also make kitchens look bigger,” she says. “Built in cutlery dividers are good for storage and we have cabinets with underside trays that tilt down for storage.”

Hiding garbage containers, one of the most popular trends, creates a clean look for a kitchen and saves floor space.

“Cabinets with space for two 35-quart garbage cans make them disappear by just closing the door,” she says. “And two lets you have a can for recyclables and another for trash.”

Another space saver, says Vanderzee, is installing microwaves over the range which is a better use of space than setting it on a countertop.

“We’ve done a few lately that have used a shelf space built into either the upper or lower cabinets instead,” he says. “It’s safer than reaching over a hot stove and more reachable for the kids who like to heat up a bag of popcorn or some Pizza Puffs.”

Vanderzee goes on to mention that while most of us are familiar with Lazy Susans but not many people use them in an upper corner cabinet.

“I feel that is even more useful than in a lower corner,” he says. “Without it, anything that is not right at the front of the cabinet is very difficult to reach when leaning over the countertop below.”

Other useful options include filling in a small lower cabinet space with dividers for storing cookie sheets and other uniquely sized items says Vanderzee. Suto recommends underside trays that tilt down for storage and easy accessibility.

“There are a lot of 3-inch to 15-inch pantry cabinets,” says Syvertsen. “People particularly like 3-inch spice rack cabinets as a good way to store their spices.”

To avoid kitchen items from getting lost in the back of shelves (a reason why many people keep them displayed on countertops instead), Suto says rollout trays for top and bottom shelves make it easier to find canned goods, pots and pans and gadgets.

“There are a variety of really useful options for any kitchen to become more efficient,” says Vanderzee. “It just takes planning.”


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