Amanda & Merrill

Kitchen Design Tips

December 31, 2009

Spice Jars

- Amanda

Last week, I wrote a short post about the plastic jars that I use for storing my spices, and was surprised by what a lively discussion it prompted. We thought it would be fun to open up that conversation again by asking you for your own kitchen design tips and ideas.

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To break the ice, I'll start off with one, which I don't have in my kitchen but hope to someday: if you have stone or granite countertops, you can have a short shallow groove carved into its surface (off to the side or toward the back of the counter) for resting eggs in -- this way they won't roll around.

Your turn! And if you have photos of your design detail, send them to us at [email protected] and we'll post them here.

Our first photo contributor!

Pot Filler

Here is a photo of my potfiller, a wall mounted faucet that has been the best addition to our kitchen! We installed it over the rangetop, for filling large pasta pots, and placed our coffee and tea making equipment right nearby. That way, I can fill my water boiler for tea and my husband can fill his beloved vintage Pavoni espresso machine without carrying water from the main sink across the kitchen.

And above are some cool features from AntoniaJames's kitchen (described in the comments below).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Shoshanadh
  • DianePlesset
  • betteirene
  • wanderash
  • Jocelyn Grayson
    Jocelyn Grayson
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Shoshanadh November 20, 2010
The design feature of my kitchen that I love is the deep drawers under the cooktop that hold my pots and pans. I also like to open shelving over the cooktop for the tiny microwave (the GE Min-mike, no longer available. My kitchen is only 5'x8' so I had to make the best use of the space. I wish I had a window. Here's the full story of my kitchen design:
Amanda H. November 21, 2010
Wow, I love that microwave -- they need to bring it back! Thanks for sharing the link -- what a great use of limited space (always my favorite kind of kitchen).
DianePlesset November 19, 2010
We designed our new kitchen to increase natural lighting by mounting two glass-backed cabinets in windows and put glass doors on them. Our kitchen is on the north side of our house, so the extra light is really nice. Add the custom LED under-cabinet lights, and it's a lovely kitchen to work in. Pictures here:
Amanda H. November 20, 2010
Very cool -- I've never seen that done before!
betteirene January 3, 2010
Oh, how I envy all of you! In my dreams, the first thing I'll do is plan an eating trip across America, during which my kitchen will be gutted and upgraded. Sigh. Thanks for the ideas.
cheese1227 January 4, 2010
Now that would certainly be a two-pronged reality TV show that I would tune in for....
AntoniaJames January 4, 2010
And knowing the timelines of a typical gutting/upgrade project (especially one in an old house), there would be many episodes. In fact, you could probably cross the country, at a leisurely pace, several times!!
wanderash January 3, 2010
My mom recently did a kitchen remodel that dreams are made of. One cleaver detail I love, is a thin long rectangle slot in the back of the counter top in which to vertically store knives. The handles stick up for easy grabbing and eliminates the clunky chopping block, the unreliable wall magnet and the scary kitchen drawer scenario. The other fun one is a large deep drawer with a square grid divider. She stores her silverware vertically.
AntoniaJames January 3, 2010
How does she keep the slot in her counter clean? Is there a removable tray under it, for getting out crumbs and small bits of stuff that inevitably would obey the laws of gravity?
Kelsey B. January 4, 2010
I was just about to chime in about my friend's knife holder that is built in to her butcher block. The knives hang vertically by the handles - all you can see are the handles on top. A square in the block pops out to reveal a tray underneath so it is very easy to clean out crumbs, etc. My other favorite design element is my in-law's vegetable sink that is built into their kitchen island. It is small and perfect for washing/scrubbing/draining when they are chopping away instead to use the large sink for everything.
wanderash January 4, 2010
I will have to take a closer look, but I am pretty sure the crumbs fall into no-man's-land. A removable tray would be a great idea.
AntoniaJames January 4, 2010
I'd also be wondering what happened to the spilled milk/juice/water/water-mixed-with-whatever-is-on-the-counter, excess water, etc. And I'd sure hope that the no-man's-land would not be the cabinet under the counter . . . . but that seems unlikely, given the obvious safety issues of having the knives dangling down into a storage space. I have a compact, well-designed knife block, which I've had for several eons, and which I like a lot. It co-exists comfortably with me, about a forearm's length from the spot on my counter where I typically do most of my cutting . . . . . ;o)
Jocelyn G. January 3, 2010
We also have a pot filler, which I adore. I can't figure out how to post a picture here, but this is a link to a cool feature we have. I stole it from Flo Braker who uses it on a moving cart, I believe. I just installed it in one of the cabinets,and I could never store as much kitchen junk if I didn't have it. There are other pics in this set if anyone is interested.
Amanda H. January 4, 2010
I just tried your link and it said your photo is private. Can you make it public so we can take a look?
Jocelyn G. January 5, 2010
oops! I fixed it. Here's a link to the set That should work :-).
Amanda H. January 2, 2010
Thanks to Linda Rosso for sending in the first design detail photo -- her potfiller (above). Cool, right?
AntoniaJames January 3, 2010
Very cool! My neighbor has one, set up a bit differently. Their's is more behind the stove. Linda R's is better, if you can make the plumbing work (i.e., in most kitchens, this would have to be installed as part of a major remodel, or at least in connection with a counter re-installation), as you don't get as much grease/splattering on the unit when it's off to the side. Plus, it probably doesn't get as hot. Wow, this is fun. Can't wait to hear more ideas, and see more photos!
Merrill S. January 3, 2010
My mother has one just like this attached to the wall behind her AGA. Totally great for filling the kettle.
cheese1227 January 3, 2010
I miss the AGA I had in the kitchen where I lived in England for the past two years. That said, I was not paying the heating bill for that house!
cheese1227 January 2, 2010
I have four things I love about my recently renovated kitchen. The first is the bare walnut butcher block top to the island that I just cut right on. If something stains, I just get out the sander followed by a bit of walnut oil to rub into the wood to keep it happy. The second is a 20-inch deep, double wide sink. I love this because I can sit at the island and eat a freshly prepared meal and not actually have to look at the dishes sitting in the sink because it is so deep! The third is putting the dishwater in the corner. Since it sits back about six inches from the rest of the cabinetry, the door can be wide open and not really block and pathway. The last is the unpainted tin ceiling that reflects so much light that the place always feels very sunny.
Amanda H. January 2, 2010
Do you have a photo -- would love to see.
cheese1227 January 3, 2010
I will send one along.
AntoniaJames January 1, 2010
I recently did some work on my kitchen, upgrading surfaces, replacing the sink/faucets and cabinet doors and making several other improvements to my cabinets. My terrific cabinet maker suggested two items, which I'd never seen before and which I like a lot (in addition to the slide out shelves in one of the lower cupboards). The first reclaims about two inches of dead space between the outer edge of the sink and the strip of cabinet that's between you and the sink when you are working there. It's a small triangular tray for putting scrubbing tools, bottle brushes, "tuffy sponges" etc., keeping them out of sight but very handy. The other is a new cabinet over the refrigerator; it's about three feet deep, so the cabinet maker installed an amazing slide out compartment (behind standard cabinet doors), which is divided vertically, allowing you to put things on both sides, and retrieve them easily. The device can support 300 pounds. No more dead space there, either! The same cabinet has a large vertical compartment, as well, which I use for extra trays, muffin tins, hard placemats and cutting boards.
Amanda H. January 2, 2010
All great details -- thanks for sharing them!
Amanda H. January 4, 2010
Antonia, just added the photo of your sink drawer for sponges. Everyone -- scroll up and take a look!
mleconge January 4, 2010
Love how you have a drawer pull on yours. When I updated my kitchen last year, I was really happy with the lay-out and the most of the space, so I decided to have the cabinets only refaced. The salesperson suggested the same thing that you have, but mine is done in two separate tilt-out trays. Only big enough for a sponge or two, but definitely cleans up the counter top. Mine don't have the pulls, though, which makes it a little tricky when you're trying to open it with wet hands!
drbabs January 1, 2010
My kitchen has a floor-level cabinet with vertical dividers where I keep cookie sheets, cutting boards, trays, wire racks, muffin tins, etc. No more rooting through drawers to find that one thing! When we were remodeling our kitchen, a friend recommended a cabinet to store a step stool (to reach the top of those ceiling-high cabinets), and fortunately I found the perfect spot below the kitchen sink.
AntoniaJames January 1, 2010
I have one of those two. I cannot imagine living without it! Mine is immediately next to my stove. So handy! I keep my most-used baking sheets, my cooling racks, my most seasoned muffin tin, my bread stones, my broiler pan, my largest cutting boards AND an extra oven rack in there. And it's only about 8 inches wide!
Merrill S. January 3, 2010
Oh, how I covet those vertical dividers! Amanda has a cabinet like that, and I love it. My cookie sheets are a mess.
Amanda H. January 4, 2010
Antonia, I've added your photos of this above -- thanks for sending them to us! I like your cabinet hardware.
AntoniaJames January 4, 2010
Thanks! After spending an hour at the enormous designer kitchen hardware emporium in San Francisco (and feeling a bit overwhelmed), we wearily took a quick look and found these at Restoration Hardware. These are RH's "Ephram" in satin nickel -- simple ovals, which are perfect in our old house's tiny but efficient "maid's kitchen." The Ephram pulls are also pretty.
MrsWheelbarrow December 31, 2009
In my dream kitchen, the stone countertop is carved in such a way, right next to the sink, so the dishrack's water drains away. Saw this once in a Design House and have craved it ever since. It's so tidy. (fusspot)

I also dream of a small room off the kitchen called the Cooks Library. I've got a corner of the breakfast room designated as such now, but really, it should be a room. All bookshelves, filled with my cookbooks and garden books, and a great chair.
AntoniaJames January 1, 2010
I wonder though how tidy it really is, on a day to day basis. I see a groove in a counter or other surface, and I see maintenance. You'd have to wipe it clean periodically, at least once or twice a day, it seems. In any event, I view any design feature skeptically, and summoning my inner engineer, ask what could possibly be the downside to it. Before incorporating something like that, which is irrevocable (well, not entirely, but to correct it would be costly), I'd want to see if an experienced cook -- who uses his or her kitchen every day and does NOT have staff on-site -- really likes the feature, and would recommend it.
mariaraynal January 1, 2010
My version of the Cooks Library has a fireplace, too. Two cozy chairs, with the bookcases, etc. etc. It's part of the kitchen, but set off a bit, to give it its own identity, yet it all flows perfectly.
Amanda H. January 2, 2010
I've seen this carved drain feature in a kitchen. Probably does require some cleaning, but so do actual dish racks. RE the cook's library -- have you ever seen Nigella Lawson's early shows that were filmed in her house? Her dining room walls were all bookshelves. Very inviting -- always loved that.
mrslarkin December 31, 2009
It's fun reading about everyone's ideas! Sadly, my kitchen is in desperate need of a major overhaul, as is the rest of my 110-year-old house. Maybe I'll incorporate some of them into my dream kitchen when we renovate someday....
Jennifer A. January 1, 2010
My house is also in the 100+ year category. The previous owner renovated the very small and drafty kitchen - in her style - to include a much needed counter, the length of the north wall, in front of a lower hanging window. This created a sort of well (the length of the window, about 8 " wide, and 10" deep); I considered this an unfortunate design until I recently read the article "Personal Space" by Judith Jones, in Saveur, where she describes something very similar in her kitchen as a 'garde manger.' Not sure whether this is original intent of the design, or that I am making lemonade from lemons here, but it really does work like a charm for storing potatoes, onions, and squashes (chocolate too).
Amanda H. January 2, 2010
I think it sounds great actually.
maryvelasquez December 31, 2009
My aunt has a platform in one of her under-counter cupboards for her food processor that rolls out and then lifts up and locks at counter height. I love that it doesn't take up any additional counter space and that it is already plugged in somewhere underneath. She stores attachments in a drawer right next to it.
melissav January 2, 2010
Saw this idea in a magazine once for a Kitchen Aid Mixer and loved it! I totally want it in my dream kitchen one day.
Amanda H. January 2, 2010
Wow, very cool. I want this for all my appliances.
AntoniaJames January 2, 2010
I want one too!! It's amazing what you can get these days.
aichkaybee December 31, 2009
I use the Grundtal magnetic containers from IKEA to store loose teas. They look awesome on my refrigerator door and make the tea super-easy to find.
Amanda H. December 31, 2009
That's cool -- very convenient!
Merrill S. January 3, 2010
Right up Amanda's alley!
mleconge December 31, 2009
When I first moved into my house 9.5 years ago, I loved one feature of my kitchen immediately: a roll-out trash container system. It has two bins, so I have trash and recycling together. It's very simple and basic, but has saved my life many times, especially when I'm holding a heavy pan, trying to put something in the trash, turning off a faucet, and closing another door with one foot - you get the idea. Again, nothing fancy or unique, but something that I will always have in the kitchen, whether I stay here or move.
Amanda H. December 31, 2009
I have that, too -- mine is underneath the counter where I chop so I can scrape the trimmings right into the garbage. I didn't design this, but now I have deep affection for the previous owners who built it in!
maryvelasquez December 31, 2009
In my fantasy kitchen, there is a hole in the counter top, so I can push my trimmings into it and they fall right into an under-the-counter compost bin, filtered, of course, to eliminate odors until I can take it outside to the real compost heap.
sticksnscones December 31, 2009
When we built our house 15 years ago I wanted to designate a special area for my baking. We put in a 3 1/2 foot marble counter that is a few inches lower than the rest of the kitchen counters. This provides better leverage for pie dough rolling while keeping the dough nice and cool. Over the years it has developed its own personality with plenty of dings, but also a beautiful patina.
Amanda H. December 31, 2009
Sounds ideal.