Thursday, June 27, 2013

Kitchen Tales

Four years and a couple months ago, Dan and I were apartment hunting. We stumbled upon this quirky little place situated just perfectly between all of our "stuff" (you know...train station, church, school, family). The price was right, and it needed a little TLC, so after a little deliberation we signed the lease.

Fast forward four years and a couple months, and we're still here, minus some carpet and linoleum, plus refinished hardwood, tiling, painted walls and a remodeled bathroom.

Needless to say, our landlord's been good to us and we've been good to him (the only thing he did was the bathroom remodel, since there was a leak that wasn't our fault). We love our place, complete with all it's quirks.

It is, however, very small. And being small comes with certain challenges. One of those challenges is the kitchen.

Our front door opens into our kitchen, so it quickly becomes important for the kitchen to be a functional and inviting space. Also the kitchen is my favorite room in the apartment (not that I have a lot of choices here...) so I like to keep it fairly clean and organized.

Since I had extra time at home this week, I decided to tackle some of that cleaning and organizing.

Yesterday I hit several key spots in the kitchen, and thought I'd share some of my tricks for keeping a fully stocked and busy kitchen with minimal space.

This guy is probably my proudest kitchen storage solution. This is the top of a china hutch given to us by some friends who were leaving the country to become missionaries (read: FREE). It fits perfectly in the space behind the front door, and as you can see, I can store a ton of stuff in here.

All my unopened foodstuffs go here: boxes of pasta, jars of red sauce and salsa, canned goods, etc. Once it's opened I move it into the cabinets, since that's a little more protected from dust and Lily fur, but this works great for unopened goods. 

I also fit some awkwardly sized bakingware, along with vases or unused glasses. It's a versatile space, and sometimes it becomes a catch-all (although that was the point of the project: cleaning out the catch-all stuff, cleaning the shelves, and putting back only the stuff I need). 

On top of the hutch lives my most-used cookbooks, Kitchen-Aid mixer, and some cake pans that have become the home for my potatoes and onions. Yep, classy.

On the other end of the kitchen is my kitchen cart. This little beauty is from Ikea, and it was the first thing we purchased for the apartment when we signed the lease. It houses my knife block, all my pots and pans, my crockpot and my Pyrex dishes, as well as being the primary locale for all food prep (and let's be honest, some food consumption). Worth every penny of the $100 we shelled out.

My sister actually ended up buying one too, when she got her own place. It has two drawers as well, although we can only access one when the cart is pushed into the corner like you see here. That's our "junk drawer": takeout menus, recipe cards, gum, odds and ends...

I nest everything, but as you can see it's highly effective! I read a comment on a blog once that someone didn't like nesting items because "it takes too long." I clearly do not agree. 

My beloved little ceramic milk and sugar cartons, in a place of honor on the kitchen cart.

The rest of the kitchen is pretty simple. I squirrel away what I can wherever I find space. I use the top of my fridge,

Nesting at it's finest: I've got cutting boards, cookie sheets, cooling racks and a muffin tin all on top of my microwave (our fridge is a 3/4 height, so on tiptoes my 5'6 self can reach everything). 

See all the stuff tucked away behind the microwave? Toaster, french press coffeemaker, and a loaf pan containing napkins. I usually store the pitcher I use to water plants up there, too. 

And even the space above the cabinets.

It gets dusty and hard to reach up there pretty quickly, so I only store things I don't use very often up there. Big serving platters, bowls, etc, and I just give it a quick scrub before I use those items.

Last but not least, our kitchen table: another Ikea find, which we love for its leaves and its price (sorry, couldn't find a link for this).

Complete with bowl of fruit in the corner.

(You know how you always dream of something about your grown-up life? Be it your job, your wine cellar, your rooftop terrace? I always dreamed of having a lovely bowl full of fresh fruit in my kitchen. Glad I managed to have one childhood dream that came true!)

(Like everything else in my apartment, it never stays this clean for long, but it looks nice when we manage to get things spotless!) 

Most of the things I've learned along the way are pretty basic: make sure everything has a home (I'd love a food processor or salad spinner, but there's just nowhere to put them), keep like things together, and keep your most-used items easily accessible. Nothing mind-blowing, but this is how I apply it!

What's your kitchen space like? Any amazing tips or tricks to keep things running smoothly?