Organized kitchen can be beautiful

My husband and I have a long-standing war going on over the counter space in our kitchen — all 8 inches of it. Dan, the sole cook in our home, seems to think the counters should be left bare for food-prep purposes. I, the sole decorator in our house, think counters are at their best when covered with eye-popping displays. After all, my idea of food prep is to phone in a carryout order, which requires absolutely no counter space at all.

But a few years ago, I started giving ground to Dan when I realized I could combine my unbridled passion for decorating my kitchen with the need to organize it. The change came when I discovered organizational tools that were as beautiful as they were functional. While I’ll never be accused of being compulsively organized, I’ve been delighted to discover that when your kitchen is organized, you can actually find what you’re looking for. Who knew? If your kitchen could be a bit more organized, here’s where to start.

On the counters

Since I think of my kitchen counters as little stages waiting to be styled, I’ve filled them with organizational tools that are a feast for the eyes. I store dog biscuits and cat food in lidded apothecary jars, cooking oils and marinades in a cast-iron planter, and paper towels on a silver tray.

Right now, my favorite organizational tool is a two-tiered wire stand that artfully holds cream pitchers filled with cutlery, vinegar and oil jars for salads, and salt and pepper shakers.

In the cabinets

Let’s face it, when you have a kitchen that has as little workspace as mine, you either stack the items stored in your cabinets with the precision of a structural engineer, or you risk being buried in a landslide every time you open a cupboard door.

Since I use my pots and pans so rarely, they remain nicely stacked without a lot of intervention. But if I cooked as well or as frequently as my friend Brenda, I’d want all the cool and effective organizational tools she relies on to keep her kitchen in order.

When Brenda remodeled her kitchen a few years ago, she designed her new space to have oodles of storage for kitchen gadgets and dishes. Instead of standard cabinets, she used custom pieces equipped with shelves that rolled out so she could more easily retrieve items. To store her ample collection of platters, she had the cabinet above her oven divided into vertical slots.

I’m most jealous of her huge new pantry that not only holds all her food, but also houses small appliances that she keeps stored on the shelves, plugged in and ready to use but out of sight.

On the floor

Through the years, I’ve discovered how to use every inch of my kitchen efficiently, including the floor space. For instance, Dan and I invested in a kitchen island on casters that he can use for food prep before a big meal, then roll away when we want a bit more elbowroom.

Recently, I’ve decided to take advantage of the floor space in front of a long, open wall in the kitchen. I bought two large, lidded baskets, stacked one on top of another, then butted them up against the wall like a small side table. The bottom basket holds our recycling and the top, the mountain of mail waiting to be processed.

Above the cabinets

When you’re looking for a spot to store large serving pieces, be sure to look up. The space above your kitchen cabinets and on your open kitchen shelves is perfect for displaying awkward pieces you rarely use, like soup tureens, pitchers and trays. In my kitchen, I’ve fanned out my cream and white pottery serving pieces on a high shelf where I can enjoy looking at them every day.

Mary Carol Garrity owns three home furnishings stores in Atchison, Kan., and wrote several books on home decorating. Write to Mary Carol at Her column is syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service.

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