Clever ideas, practical storage, unusual solutions -- Martha shares her secrets for creating a kitchen that works.
Open up and use every inch. Shelving in place of upper cabinets makes the room look lighter and airier. "I use everything in my kitchen regularly, and shelves make it all accessible," Martha says. "These nearly reach the ceiling, putting underused space to work." A combination of shelving and cabinets makes sense if you don't want everything on display.
See Martha's answers to common kitchen questions on "The Martha Stewart Show."
Martha considered every corner of her kitchen in Bedford, New York, right down to the shelving supports. "I like 'bird's beak' supports, an old carpentry style with notches that let shelves slide in and out," Martha says. No holes, no hardware -- the look is streamlined. Martha Stewart Collection Whiteware large pitcher, macys.com.
Everything Martha needs for a perfect cup of coffee or tea is all in one place: The espresso machine is on the counter; assorted cups, French presses, and teapots are on the shelves above; and everyday flatware and teas are in the drawers below. Fresh coffee beans are stored in electric grinders next to the espresso machine.
An island provides a central spot to work and eat. Martha doubles the functionality and flexibility with a pair of marble-topped islands, one on wheels and one stationary. She can use one for prep work and the other to seat guests for an informal meal. "I also push the rolling island up to the stationary one for buffets," Martha says. To be most useful, an island must be at least 4 feet long and 2 1/2 feet wide; clearance of at least 3 feet all around is essential.
Decide what you want to keep in the islands, and plan the space accordingly. "Upright steel slats provide perfect spots for heavy baking sheets," Martha says. She also has drawers for aprons and utensils; deep shelves for platters, books, and pet supplies; and small cubbies for towels and other items.
Corral items on open shelves using nice-looking containers. These baskets add warmth and texture to the room; the gray trays are simple and stylish. Add adhesive pads on the bottom so they slide smoothly. Modern-Weave storage baskets and lacquer wooden trays, in Platinum; westelm.com
By all means, keep out the items you use often or enjoy looking at; Martha keeps fruits, vegetables, and eggs, as well as a collection of mortars and pestles, on the counter. Just make sure there's plenty of room to work so you don't have to rearrange things when you're ready to cook.
In Martha's "servery" off the kitchen, used for washing and storing dinnerware, she wanted storage that felt like furniture, not cabinetry. "This apothecary-like glass case, one of a pair, provides the solution," she says. Light shines through it, opening up the small room and glinting off the glasses and dishes inside.
Martha designed her kitchen with lots -- and lots! -- of drawers. You might not have as many, but you can still use her tips: Group like things together, use containers and dividers to customize spaces, add labels, and do a good clean-out once a year to make sure all the items are where they belong. The next 15 slides will show you the essentials to keep in your kitchen drawers.
Martha has collected Japanese knives on trips to Tokyo and Kyoto (many from centuries-old knife maker Aritsugu). "These are my favorites," she says.
You don't need a walk-in pantry to keep things neat. Martha doesn't have one. Instead, she devotes a tall cabinet to nonperishables, grouped according to use and cuisine. Shelves are labeled and lined with custom-cut stainless steel sheeting, which protects the cabinetry and wipes clean. Canisters on top hold ingredients purchased in bulk.
"Use a plastic bin for soaking or soaping to save water," Martha says. The plastic is also more forgiving than a hard sink should you drop a dish. When you're washing a lot of very fragile items by hand, such as crystal stemware, lining the sink with a terry towel also does the trick. Keep dish soap in a clear plastic pump bottle by the sink. (Martha uses Martha Stewart Clean Dish and Hand Soap, of course, homedepot.com.) PP Basket, muji.com.
In a high-traffic area, adding a side "wall" to a counter can be helpful. At Martha's pastry station, by the kitchen door, there's a marble bracket with a graceful silhouette, echoing the wooden ones in the room. It keeps flour from flying onto the floor and prevents things from being knocked off the counter when people walk through the door.
Large metal bins for garbage and recyclables sit at each end of the island (food scraps go into smaller pails for composting). Though the trend is to have pull-out bins behind cabinet doors, these are easier and cleaner to use: Step on the pedal to open. Similar trash cans, globalindustrial.com.
In addition to tall windows, Martha has a glass-paned kitchen door. Translucent, lightweight shades can be lowered for some privacy, while still letting daylight through. Countertops are often hidden in shadows. Undercabinet or undershelf lighting brightens those areas. Dimmers on fixtures let you control the amount of light and increase energy efficiency.
A cart provides storage where you need it. Martha usually parks this stainless steel one, with tools for cooking, by her range. A small freestanding island on wheels can serve the same purpose and is especially useful in a tight kitchen; it provides a work surface and a casual sideboard. "By adding a custom-cut marble top, a rolling cart can also be used as a bar when entertaining," Martha says.
Also on the rolling cart: Martha's mise en place -- ramekins of various salts and often-used spices. A pinch is easier to gauge with fingers or a spoon than it is with a shaker.
Martha keeps two fire extinguishers in the kitchen. Look for ones designed for the kitchen or multipurpose ones for the home. Read the instructions so you're prepared, and test the devices according to the directions. Keep them by exits, and remember that safe evacuation is always the priority.
"I have three dogs, five cats, and 22 canaries," Martha says. "So it's important to be organized." She devotes pantry space to dry food, which she transfers from the bulky bags into stackable airtight plastic containers. Labels are crucial for keeping them straight. Bowls and cans are stacked nearby in see-through bins. Click-top storage containers and frosted totes, containerstore.com. 3-piece medium bowl sets, in Ivory, by Martha Stewart Pets, petsmart.com.
Paint (top center): A warm, almost-monochrome palette makes the kitchen serene. The cabinetry and woodwork are Bedford Gray, and the walls are slightly darker Flagstone. Martha Stewart Living Paint, homedepot.com/marthastewart.
Stainless Steel (top center, under paint): Appliances and accents are all stainless steel. Martha also uses this metal to line the shelves and drawers where spills are most likely, such as in the pantry. Custom-cut sheets of metal are slipped into place and wiped down as needed. 24-gauge metal, 12-inch square, No. 4 brushed finish, speedymetals.com.
Towel Hooks and Bars (far right): Simple designs in white are utilitarian and chic. Look for vintage versions or use new ones like these. Aspen Glacier robe hook and Porcelana Glacier, 24-inch towel bar, moen.com.
Veneer (center): Many of the cabinets are faced with thin layers of gray-dyed harewood, which has a satiny look and gorgeous striations. Harewood veneer, veneeronline.com.
Cushioned Shelf and Drawer Liners (top center): This soft liner is good for glassware and other fragile items. Gripliner, gracioushome.com.
Marble Flooring (bottom left): Martha created these one-of-a-kind large, rectangular floor slabs from pavers actually dug from a garden path. The 4-inch-thick pavers were sliced into 1-inch-thick "tiles." The weathered outside pieces were used for the kitchen; the inside slices, for bathrooms.
Soap and Sponge Holders (center bottom): This vintage porcelain enamel holder was made for soap; rounder, larger versions were meant to hold sponges. Find these at flea markets or get them from specialty hardware dealers. Soap holder, from Historic Houseparts, 888-558-2329.
Marble Surfaces (center left): Honed gray-veined white marble, used for the sinks, the counters, and the islands, is luminous and a joy to work on (especially for pastry, since this stone stays cool). Danby marble from Corcoran Marble and Monument, 631-423-8712.
Drawer Pulls (top left): These small round pulls are unassuming but good looking. Stainless steel knobs, sugatsune.com.
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