The top priority in kitchen makeovers? A place to put everything

Tim and Robin Lung’s kitchen in Queen Village has a clean, uncluttered look, thanks to storage such as a bench to hold cleaning supplies, a floor-to-ceiling pull-out pantry, and built-in wine storage.

When Stephanie Guerrera bought her Queen Village townhouse seven years ago, the 22-year-old original kitchen lacked storage space. So when she gutted the kitchen in 2015, storage was a priority.

“I believe there’s a place for everything, and everything has its place,” Guerrera said.

Now, two floor-to-ceiling cabinets fill an entire wall. Glass doors show off glassware on top, and solid doors hide pull-out shelves below. Electrical outlets at the back of the shelves allow for an electronics charging area and a hidden place for the microwave oven.

“It’s my version of an appliance garage,” she said. “I can easily store and organize everything,  where previously I would have to move six things to get to one thing.”

Amy Meade added a floor-to-ceiling pull-out cabinet in her home in the Bella Vista section of Philadelphia.

Kitchen storage is a priority these days as homeowners seek ways to declutter and organize. Popular are pull-out pantries, roll-out drawers, charging stations that hide wires, toe-kick drawers housing pet bowls or expandable ladders, and backsplash bars to easily access popular household items. Kitchens are more than just a functional space for cooking; they’re often where friends gather, kids do homework, and household bills are paid.

“You need lots of solutions to accommodate those multiple functions,” said Nino Sitchinava, principal economist for Houzz, an online design site. “Kitchen storage is the number-one priority in kitchen remodels.” In the 2018 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, “homeowners said they are obsessed with decluttering and putting things away. That means optimizing your storage so you can easily find things.”

Two large storage areas are kitchen islands that incorporate multiple cabinets and pull-out drawers, and pantries that might be a cabinet, a stand-alone, walk-in closet, or something in between.

“We also see a second dimension to storage with individualized, customized storage in cabinetry,” Sitchinava said. That includes pull-out drawers and waste bins, built-in wine racks, dish and utensil organizers — a wide range of customized solutions that come inside the cabinetry.

Camera icon iMove
iMove shelving ($399) is a pull-down system that allows consumers to bring a top shelf down to them.

German-based Kessebohmer entered the U.S. market in 2004, but popularity for its storage products has soared in the last three years, leading to the addition of three new product lines and four new standalone products. Their U.S.-based product specialist team has grown from three to eight, said marketing director Lessa Manotti, based in Wilmington, N.C.

“Storage is important and becoming more popular because it allows homeowners a more customized cabinet experience,” she said. “Products that pull down or move to bring the contents of the cabinet to the consumer reduce reaching, stooping and standing on a stool.”

Popular items include the LeMans storage unit ($540), a kidney-bean shaped shelving system that fits into a blind corner base cabinet, allowing it to navigate tight corners; the Dispensa pull-out pantry ($1,068), which pulls completely out of the cabinet for easy access to every item, and push-to-open waste bins ($216) that attach to a cabinet door for easy access.

Camera icon LEMANS
The kidney-shaped LeMans shelving system ($540) fits into a blind corner base cabinet.

Recently introduced products include iMove shelving ($399), a pull-down system that allows consumers to bring a top shelf down to them, and the StraightLine drawer organization system ($131) of customizable wooden drawer organizers. (Costs may be higher depending on customization.)

The availability of storage systems as part of the kitchen redesign, as opposed to adding them in afterward, was a game changer, said Amy Meade, owner of Teknika Design Group in Old City.

In smaller homes, where efficiency is a must, storage can be customized to both the particular space and individual needs. Like to bake? A dedicated drawer can hold foil and wax paper with built-in cutters, as well as a rolling pin and cookie cutters. And you can open the trash can with a kick while your hands are covered in batter.

“You can mix and match for precise storage,” said Meade, who redesigned her own Bella Vista kitchen in 2013. “The kitchen I had before was original to the house, from 1980, and it just had cabinets with shelves. I was sick of sitting on the floor pulling everything out to get to the one item I needed.”

She added roll-out pantries, shelves that pull out from dead space in a corner, a backsplash bar for knives and paper towels, and a charging area to hide cords.

“Because of the storage options I have, I don’t have to move more than three steps to get anything,” she said. “It’s very efficient.”

Amy Meade likes the efficiency of storage areas such as a pull-out spice rack.

Tim and Robin Lung renovated the kitchen in their Queen Village rowhouse last fall. An open space where the kitchen, living room and dining room flow into one another meant taking out a walk-in pantry, so adding storage back in was key.

“You can imagine how much stuff was in that walk-in pantry that had to find room elsewhere,” Tim Lung said.

They added a 9-foot island with cabinets, a floor-to-ceiling pull-out pantry with stationary shelves and drawers, built-in wine storage, an appliance garage for large appliances, a double drawer for cutlery, and a broom closet and bench to store Vacuflo components and cleaning supplies.

“You have a functional seat by the window and big pull-out drawers underneath,” he said. “It’s easier to store things in drawers than in cabinets.”

Costs to get organized can vary greatly. Guerrera spent about $70,000 on her renovations, with close to 25 percent devoted to cabinetry, which is standard, said Houzz’s Sitchinava.

There are less expensive options at container or home goods stores, but be careful when making trade-offs, said Mary Ann Kleschick, of Mary Ann Kleschick Interiors in Washington Square West, who designed Guerrera’s kitchen.

“Silverware containers are an item you can easily purchase at a container store,” she said. “If you have a kitchen person do it in wood, it’s going to be much more expensive. It’s beautiful, but there’s not a lot of flexibility.”

Yet, an inexpensive pot rack may not be worth the savings. “I bought a wire one at the container store and it’s fine, but as a rushed, busy mother, if you put something in askew and slam the drawer, things fall and the drawer doesn’t close.”

Most important for do-it-yourselfers: measure properly, Kleschick insisted. And be sure to follow the instructions for installation.

Backsplash bars, like the one in Amy Meade’s kitchen, are one way to reduce clutter but maintain convenience.

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