Martha and I have been friends for many years, but I still get nervous in the kitchen when she's around. She once asked me to hand her a garlic press, and I froze -- I had no idea what it was. Cooking is clearly not my forte, but it's something I've always wanted to learn. So when it came time to set up my new kitchen, I had lots of questions. Namely, what are the essential tools and appliances? And how should they be stored? I knew whom to call for answers. Martha shared her expertise and assured me that the best solutions would be the simplest.
It's all about risers -- and how they can expand your cabinet storage. Martha put them in all the upper cabinets, doubling capacity for dishes, cups, glasses, and pots and pans. We chose expandable risers from the Container Store, which adjust easily to fit the space. Martha was also strategic about where she placed cookware and tableware: pots and pans in a cabinet above the stove, dishes and cups over the dishwasher for easy unloading. In both spots, she put the things I use daily on lower shelves, while roasting pans and other infrequently used items were relegated to upper shelves.
After a shopping trip with Martha to pick out the best basic cooking tools and small appliances, we got down to the business of where to put things. Logic reigned: Frequently used items, such as my toaster and coffeemaker, went on the counter; ones I seldom need, in a lower cabinet. Things I use occasionally, such as my rice cooker and blender, went in a drawer we installed on a cabinet's bottom shelf.
One of Martha's absolute musts in the kitchen is shelf liner, to prevent surfaces from scuffing when you push pans in and pull them out. (She loves Ikea's clear, nonadhesive rolls.) For nested pans, she places liners -- paper towels, coffee filters, and even paper plates will work -- between each pan to protect them. On the countertop near the stove, another Martha Stewart signature: a canister filled with utensils. Martha always keeps metal tools separate from silicone and wooden ones, so she'll know exactly where to find them.
"In small spaces, you must be resourceful. Kevin needed a stepladder to reach his high shelves, but there was no room to store one. So we had the contractor install a drawer under the sink cabinet to house a collapsible ladder [polder.com]. You could also use a drawer like this for baking pans and other flat items." --Martha
Under the sink, we created a tidy cleaning corner with suction-mounted bathroom accessories -- a soap dish for the sponge, a shower caddy to hold tools -- inside the cabinet door. The screw-mounted towel rod withstands frequent tugging. My favorite touch is the stainless steel cleaning bucket, a gift from Martha's daughter, Alexis. Who says it has to be plastic? Over the years, I've used this one for flowers, Champagne, and now floor cleaner.
To reduce clutter in my utensil drawer, we combined a standard tray for flatware with an expandable organizer for cooking tools. The expandable one has "wings" that adjust to fit a drawer perfectly. With everything in place, all that's left is for me to learn to cook, and my organized kitchen is already providing inspiration. I used to have a binder packed with take-out menus; now it's filled with appliance warranties and recipes from Martha. Flatware tray and utensil tray, organizedliving.com
"Keep it simple to start. Buy the basics, and add to them as your cooking skills improve. Kevin's small kitchen has pretty much everything a beginner or an accomplished cook needs. It will take him a couple of years before he needs to add to his collection. But I'm happy to report he's already mastered scrambled eggs." --Martha
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