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Jan 25, 2011 07:52 AM

Any advice for cooks who are "vertically challenged"?

I'm 5'2" tall and my kitchen counters are just too high for me to work comfortably. I love my relatively new gas cooktop, but it's got raised grates and I've got several pots (pasta pot and stock pots) that I can't even see into when I'm using them. I've been contemplating buying a new John Boos cutting board, but with a thickness of around 2", that would only worsen my problem. I've tried using a low step stool at the prep area, but my legs get really tired. I wish I had room in my kitchen for a 30"-high work table, but I don't. I'd really love to hear how other vertically challenged home cooks deal with this. Thanks!

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  1. My grandmother is about the same height. She had a false floor installed which raised it 3-4 inches, the height of the kickboard, to the bottom of the cabinets. Works great for her.

    1 Reply
    1. If I designed my own kitchen, I'd have one countertop lower for my baking area. I use a BOSU when I knead bread, make pasta, etc. Work your core while you cook:

      I have the smaller 55 cm one. And, if I'm feeling up to it, I do it standing on one foot for more balance work. Why do your legs get tired on a step stool?

      4 Replies
      1. re: chowser

        My legs get tired because the step stool is small, and my feet are too close together when I'm standing on it.

        1. re: CindyJ

          In that case, the BOSU would be similar, though the surface is soft. It's also good for your balance.

          1. re: ladooShoppe

            Anyone who's used one gets how great it is to use it like that. What's better than improving your core/balance, and getting your cooking done? I might try flipping it over, dome side down next time.

        2. Would wearing clogs indoors be impractical?

          8 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            I am 5'0' on a good day, and I wear clogs that are 1 and 1/2 to 2 inches high. I often have to tiptoe to peer into stockpots. I figure it's good for my calves.

            We're hoping to remodel in a couple of years, and I've thought about putting in a lower counter. But I'm concerned about 1) the resale factor, and 2) the aesthetics of having one counter lower (although it would be a side counter).

            1. re: goodeatsgal

              My home was built in 1963 for a short woman. The kitchen counters are lower than standard. Since I'm short too, it's been helpful since I bought the house about 13 years ago.

              The downside is that there's no dishwasher because the cabinets are too short to accommodate one. I'm about to remodel the kitchen and haven't figured out the height issue yet.

              1. re: Discerning1

                My wife is a designer and just redid a multi million dollar home that had been built for a very short couple. Allo the counters (kitchen and bath) were 7 incehes shorter than normal. She had to address the installation of a dishwasher and found several solutions.
                There are dishwashers that are individual drawers, and she installed several of them side by side, instead of on top of each other.
                Some European appliances are smaller and shorter than US brands, but may require a 220 converter system.
                The new owners of the house wanted a French stove that was much too high for the lady to use comfortably. They built a platform in front of the stove for the lady to stand on, and installed plumbing for pot filling above the stove as well.
                With money and imagination, much can be accomplised.

                1. re: bagelman01

                  Thank you for the dishwasher drawer idea. I'm pursuing it for my remodel.

              2. re: goodeatsgal

                What if you did an area that could be staged later as a desk - instead of doing cabinets do an open shelving system you could take out, maybe?

                1. re: shanagain

                  That's exactly what I'd do if I could remodel my kitchen. I'd have an area that had an empty space below it and have a cart on wheels that could be tucked under and pulled out that would have all my baking supplies. File cabinets/drawers on both sides. The counter would be long and and low and be used as a desk.

                2. re: goodeatsgal

                  About one lower counter: a friend pointed out that on resale it can be featured as a kneading station. Tall or short, she pointed out that kneading requires leverage.

                3. re: ipsedixit

                  I hadn't thought of clogs. It's worth a shot. Thanks!

                4. My sister is 4'11" and my MIL is 4'9", and they have struggled a lot in this challenge over the years! My sister's had some good luck using the stackable steps used in step aerobics classes - she has one 4" in height and one 6" and uses them singly or in combination depending upon the task.

                  They're along these lines:

                  My sister and I will often having baking days in my kitchen (which has counters scaled for the household inhabitants that range from 5'9" to 6'5") and the portable step units have been a godsend for that.

                  One drawback: the steps are not that large in area, so you have to be aware of where you're standing. Ankle-twisting opportunities abound.

                  1. I'm under 5'2" and second on raising the floors. At work though, I stand on a milk crate. You can stack gelmats for a stopgap. Also, one lowered counter's a great idea.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mamachef

                      When I remodel my kitchen -- whenever that happens -- I'm definitely going to have one lower counter area just for me.

                      1. re: mamachef

                        I'm a lofty 5'4"--the tallest woman in my family. Mom was 4'10" before she lost those two inches we often do after 60.

                        I am remodelling my kitchen at some point this year (spring, I hope). So we went to the Home Show at the convention Center here last week. Several of the kitchen setups were fabulous for the vertically challenged--a blend of standard height counters and lower counters (so dishwasher still fit), lowered cooktops, pull down cabinet shelves. It may have delayed my remodel as now I have so many new possibilities to consider.

                        Until that time, most mise en place takes place at the kitchen table--nd I suppose after 82 years, mom is used to that approach.

                        As far as cabinets, the house I bought in June must have been built for giants--I have a hard time reaching the second shelf, so forget the third. Poor mom has a hard time with even the first shelf; forget the step stool, we have a heavy-duty 4-step ladder folded away in the corner. The added space between the counter and cabinet bottom is nice and aesthetically pleasing, but God, I'll be happy to get those suckers lowered.