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Jan 30, 2010 07:12 AM

Ideas to improve kitchen set-up?

I have a 1-bedroom condo with a smallish kitchen (see pictures) and an even smaller budget ($200 of "play money" a year if lucky). I'd love suggestions to hang my knives and arrange the kitchen in a more efficient way. Currently my cast iron stuff lives inside the oven and have to move the wok every time I need to cook. Also, because I hate splatters on the wall, I don't use the burners close to it... Which makes my kitchen range as useful as a portable 2-burner camping stove, darn!
My ceiling is concrete and the opposite side walls are drywall. One of them is occupied with the microwave/cooking book cart and folding table. The other could hold a metal grid to hook the gadgets on...
I live in the east end of Toronto, Canada.

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  1. Go to a fabric store and look at their selection of bolts of clear plastic and flannel-backed plastic (like that used for kitchen chairs) Buy a piece that you can hang between the stove and the wall. It will be easy to wipe down and to replace. You can just tack it in place, or hem the top edge, slide a dowel through, and hang it on cup hooks.

    Get a large vinyl-coated metal grid, sold by places that carry closet-organizing components, mount it on the wall where the decorative plates are now, and hang your pots and utensils from S-hooks. The closet-components also include small shelves and hanging containers that could be used for small items.

    Put nails, hooks, or hanger strips on the inside of your upper cabinet doors. Hang things like measuring spoons and knives there - easy access but out-of-sight. I have sheets with ingredient conversions and spice charts stapled there, too. The dustpan and brush are on nails on the inside of the door below the sink. Cutting boards hang on the outside of the upper cabinet doors. I just used nails but if you wanted to have a more finished look you could install small towel bars (or closet components) and hang from those.

    1 Reply
    1. re: greygarious

      Thanks for a post chock-ful of good ideas! I'll start running on a couple of them and see what develops.

    2. Your dish strainer is in your prep area. I'd move it to the left of the sink. Makes it easier to pull a glass from the strainer instead of the cabinet next to the fridge (where I assume your glasses are). That lets you wipe things off the prep area into the sink. It'll also give you room for a knife block.

      Grab a piece of melamine or formica and put it next to the stove. A piece large enough to sit on the floor and extend out a bit might be 3 feet by 5 feet, and shouldn't be too expensive. Also won't be damaged from heat coming off the sides of the pots next to it.

      Cute canister set, do you use them? I ditched mine and now only use one for flour, so I can shake it up and not have to sift. Sugar rice and whatever else now stay in their bags in the cabinet.

      Stick a little 4 to 6 inch deep shelf up on the right side of the counter, above that unused electrical outlet, and put all those small containers on it.

      You've got decorations hanging on the wall next to the stove, why not hang your cast iron there too?

      4 Replies
      1. re: ThreeGigs

        I did move the dish strainer to one of the sinks and freed lots of counter space. I'm keeping my eyes open at the harware store for materials to make a splatter-guard, and considering all suggestions.
        The canister set is enamel over metal and I use it fur sugar and salt, and store rock sugar and demerara in their bags on the first and second largest canisters.
        Sadly, the side wall is drywall, so the cast iron would fall, and take half the wall with it too!

        1. re: Dracodl

          I'd be concerned about the plastic melting.

          I say paint with a high gloss paint and it will wipe clean easy. Or since it's a condo, put up a nice tile backsplash.

          1. re: Dracodl


            This link is info and instructions for using toggle bolts and other winged fasteners to anchor heavy items on drywall. If the studs aren't in the right place to allow you to fasten a large metal grid to the wall for hanging, several toggle bolts will do the job.

            1. re: Dracodl

              I was once able to buy a sheet of aluminum that adhered to the wall, expressly for this purpose. I put it behind a free standing range. It came in a brushed finish, and we decided to use screws and not just the peel and stick adhesive. It looked good, and I never worried about melting. I am sure there are other finishes available as well. You need to ask at an appliance or home store.

          2. check out for lots of good storage options and tricks. Your canisters are rather large - do you really use that much sugar and flour? Check out the Bygel rods and wire baskets you can hang from them - I found small canisters also and used this set up for my flour and sugar and ditched the big canisters. Also check out Grundtal line for heavier duty rods and hooks for your pots and pans, all at great pricing.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ruby765

              Save one of those canisters to store your cooking utensils, strainers, ladles, etc. next to the stove. Put your s&p shakers next to the iron teapot on the stove ledge.

            2. can you offer more details about what you have/use (especially large items), what type of cooking you do/what you use your kitchen for, and how it's currently organized (that's a lot of closed cupboard doors)? it's a little vague right now and from all i can gather it seems like you use cast iron a lot or have a lot of it so it's taking up quite a bit of space? it would also help to know what your style is... ie cozy kitchen and look at my great cookware or minimalist nothing on the counter.

              i think the suggestions for installing small items on the insides of your cupboard doors is a great great one. i would hesitate to put knives on a surface that moves that much though. if you must hang knives then i would put a magnetic strip (ikea, craigslist, lee valley, etc) on the wall in front of your main cutting space, which i assume is beside the stove. i also think that with such little space between the wall and the stove your best bet is to paint the wall a high gloss white so it's easy to clean.

              as someone who lives in a very small space and feels that they have an efficient kitchen wrt to the size... the main thing you need to focus on first is priorities. make a list of absolutely everything you have or go through each cupboard with doors wide open and pull out what you do not use or use infrequently. you don't have to get rid of anything if you don't want to but if these items are yearly or less use then find the furthest spot from your main working area as you can for them. go so far as to even put them in other places of your home if you have storage space there. hopefully this frees up some space. then get a whole variety of baskets from the dollar store (the options at the dollar store are surprisingly good for smaller scale), ikea, craigslist, etc. mesh ones, solid wall ones, stacking ones, ones with wheels, etc. drawers are awesome to have but for renters who can't install them then baskets are the next best thing. these can corral anything - linens, spices, flour varieties, small baking pans, nuts/dried fruits, utensils, sauces/oils/condiments, etc.

              do not be afraid of dry wall. as mentioned by someone else toggle bolts are your friend. i have a 5' wide dense row of books sitting on about 4 toggle bolts and there are zero issues. since i'm not a fan of the whole grid system where you let everything hang out, i would put shelves up instead (brackets can be found anywhere these days, shelves pretty much the same... for simplicity i had a hardware store cut down a 3/4" thick plank to size and stained it with instant coffee someone left me).

              good luck and websites like are great for small space things.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                My style tends to be "cozy kitchen". I keep a skillet, frying pan and flat griddle, all frequently used cast iron, inside the oven. The bread-proofing drawer is occupied by the chicken and turkey casseroles plus camping cookware and another cast iron griddle.
                I use the wok at least once a week. One full cabinet door is devoted to spices, one to tins of various teas and the rest for dishes, glasses, tea service, dried goods, etc.
                The lower level cuboards hold pots & pans, three doors under the sink just for garbage, recyc. & cleaning items (unfair!) and the cuttlery drawers.
                I managed to make more space by putting some hooks on the counter wall next to the fridge and hanging part of the knives there. The paring knive and cleaver are on the fridge side, on magnets.
                So, all I need to do really is to paint the kitchen range wall so I can enjoy all the burners.

              2. I say get rid of your dish drainer. It just encourages you to leave washed dishes out and takes up room 24/7--and it doesn't look nice. If you have a dishwasher either use it to wash your dishes or use it to drain and hold washed dishes. When I wash dishes, I put a towel on the counter as a drainer and then hang it up when they're put away. More counter space without spending a penny!