Clever kitchen storage ideas, matched with precision planning, can transform a chaotic space into one that's neat and tidy for working, cooking and entertaining.
Efficient kitchen storage should be a priority when it comes to planning kitchen ideas – no one wants a hectic space after all.
With the kitchen coming under increasing pressure to perform a variety of crucial roles, such as family dining, relaxing, working and entertaining, a good layout and adequate storage are more important than ever.
'High capacity, well sited storage is essential to keep everything neat and tidy, providing a clutter-free space that’s a pleasure to use,' says Danny Lay at Caple (opens in new tab).
Kitchen storage ideas
1. Let function and form meet in the middle
Great kitchen storage doesn't have to mean sacrificing the good looks of your kitchen. If anything, it can be used to give it a boost.
'The kitchen island is always going to be the largest piece of kitchen storage furniture any space will have, and is usually the key focal point of the room, too,' says Lucy Searle, Editor in Chief, Homes & Gardens. 'Ensuring its design is beautiful is vital, and this can be achieved simply by choosing a stand-out countertop; the kitchen above by Roundhouse (opens in new tab) has an island in a striking material that is illuminated from within, so that, at night, it glows from within. The fact that the island includes plenty of kitchen storage is almost incidental.'
2. Ensure drawer space is maximized
Kitchen drawers at base level are undeniably a better choice than cabinets that you have to reach to the back of while on your knees to access anything, particularly if you are planning to use them for smaller items, such as crockery or food.
'If you want to have a sleek kitchen, it's better for multiple, individual drawers to be hidden behind a single large drawer front, as in the kitchen above,' says Jen Ebert, digital editor Homes & Gardens. 'Then you can organize kitchen drawers behind the front into categories as you normally would.'
3. Maximize kitchen storage space with a double island
Double island kitchens are a sensible solution if you have a large, square room with plenty of floor space in the center of the room, allowing you to rethink your kitchen layout ideas, so that kitchen storage is at its heart.
'This type of layout is unusual,' says Lucy Searle. 'But it does enable you rethink an awkward space and to design a kitchen that plays to the efficiency of the classic kitchen triangle, with storage worked around it. I would advise that seating is worked into one of the islands to make the space feel sociable rather than soulless – facing a great view is always the best positioning for this if possible.'
4. Design a floor-to ceiling, half-depth cabinet
We've sung the praises of half-depth, floor-to-ceiling cabinets for kitchen storage before, and will continue to do so again and again. Half-depth, tall cabinets are a fantastic solution when floor space is limited, or when you need to work cabinetry around architectural elements, such as old chimney breasts, plus they make accessing what you need incredibly easy.
Organizing kitchen cabinets so that the least-used items are up on the higher and lower shelves, and the most-used are between waist and eye level is the most efficient approach.
5. Be clever with wine storage
Ideally, we would all have wine rooms in which to keep our best vintages, alleviating our kitchens of the need for storage there. But in truth, wine storage is usually limited to an in-kitchen cabinet that can hold perhaps a month's worth of wine.
The best way to incorporate this type of kitchen storage? The solution above is one of them: it allows for easy access and visibility, and the bottles can be split between white and red or 'every day' and 'special'. Plus, the use of an awkward end-of-run space for a half-width cabinet makes it perfect for wine bottle storage. A similar idea can be repeated on kitchen islands, with red in a storage solution like this and wine in a cooling refrigerator next to it.
6. Rethink space under the kitchen sink
Kitchen sink ideas usually focus on the design of the sink itself with the storage beneath a tricky series of compromises where at best you might keep some difficult to access cleaning bottles.
However, organizing under the sink can be improved both in terms of practicality and looks. Here, a more rustic approach with pretty baskets allows for a variety of kitchen storage uses while creating an eye-catching focus. For a sleeker, more modern finish, you could swap baskets for smart drawer fronts instead.
7. Use a ladder to maximize your ceiling heights
'There are many creative bespoke solutions to storage in the kitchen,' explains Jane Stewart, design director at Mowlem & Co London. 'One way is to maximize full ceiling heights with a traditional sliding ladder, which also makes a great decorative feature.'
To break up a large wall of kitchen cupboard storage ideas, it's also a good idea to use a combination of closed and open solutions. 'Items such as collectible ceramics or less frequently used vases can be placed on open shelving to be enjoyed when not in use, while delicate glassware or 'special occasion' table linens are best placed in closed cupboards with multiple inner configurations so that they carefully cared for but easily accessed,' adds Jane.
8. Hang frequently used utensils above a working island
It can be a fine balance keeping cooking utensils close to hand without your kitchen looking too busy. One option is to adopt a professional approach – in this Smallbone kitchen hanging storage has been installed above the working kitchen island, much like you’d find in a working restaurant kitchen. Not only does this mean you can have equipment nearby without cluttering up your countertops, but it also makes a statement in the centre of your kitchen.
An alternative to this is a utensil holder. Whether for keeping on your countertop for ease of reach or for hiding in open shelving, this keeps your utensils together — and looking neat and tidy.
9. Turn your backsplash into clever storage
Building a kitchen backsplash out into the room may be of more value to your kitchen than the space it initially takes up. Here in the kitchen of Roddy Murray, founder of interior design practice RJ Murray Design, and his partner Andrew Keith, president of both Hong Kong-based fashion retailer Joyce and luxury department store, is an impressive marble backsplash that not only provides clever cubby-style storage set within, but creates a shelf above to display the couple’s favorite pieces of dinnerware sets and kitchenware too. It's also a great place to store a coffee canister so that it's easy to reach early in the morning.
10. Tailor your storage design to unusually-shaped rooms
Unusually shaped rooms don’t have to stand in the way of efficient kitchen storage. In fact, having a bespoke design that works with the shape of the room, rather than against it, can open up the opportunities to add in necessary kitchen storage.
This deVOL kitchen, for example, accentuates the property’s original curved walls and low windows while still incorporating plenty of practical storage space. 'The curved wall has bespoke shelves and a slender brass rail, giving this area a very special feel,' adds Helen Parker, creative director at deVOL (opens in new tab).
11. Add freestanding pieces for a more layered, eclectic look
Remaining sympathetic to this Grade I listed building, Chris Dyson Architects helped to restore the original layout and features of this home. An antique-style tall freestanding cupboard discreetly houses a fridge freezer, while this impressive sideboard has been adapted to include a sink and hob, as well as house handy undercounter storage boxes.
12. Install a hardworking pantry that uses every inch of space
'When it comes to pantry organization ideas, more is always more and the best ones always use every last drop of available space,' says Louisa Eggleston, creative director at Humphrey Munson (opens in new tab). 'Even the back of the door can be utilised for storage by including a full length spice and condiment rack to provide easy and quick access to everyday essentials.'
Ladders or steps can help you make the most of the space too, while open shelving allows you to see what you have in your larder cupboard with ease.
13. Zone different areas for kitchen storage
Consider your space as divided into zones for specific functions, planning appropriate storage for each area and creating an easy sense of flow around the room.
'In larger spaces, for example, you might plan a dresser on a wall between the kitchen and dining areas, linking the two zones and providing crockery and cutlery storage close to the dining table and to a dishwasher, perhaps built into an island close by,' says designer Emma Sims-Hilditch (opens in new tab).
14. Make the most of cupboard space
There has been a significant move away from base unit cupboards in favor of drawers. The real bonus of drawers is the ease of accessibility.
If you have found yourself on your hands and knees scrabbling at the back of a cabinet to find some long-forgotten item, you’ll recognize the advantage of kitchen storage ideas that double as drawers, pulling open to offer a full view of their contents.
15. Look at the bigger picture
If you have the room, consider a walk-in larder or pantry. Clever pantry ideas provide storage, freeing up the kitchen for preparation and cooking. Ideally, a walk-in includes drawers at the lower level, shelves above for optimum storage, and you may want to add extras, such as a microwave and sink.
Current kitchen trends go a step further with whole kitchens disappearing from view behind vast sliding doors.
Much like a walk-in wardrobe, these generous banks of storage are fitted with shelves and internal drawers to make everything organised in one place.
16. Opt for an island
Islands play an essential part in functional kitchens, providing a handy area to prepare food, socialise, eat and even store extra equipment.
If space allows, incorporate bespoke kitchen island ideas, such as a unit with handleless cabinets, that will neatly store your glassware and crockery out of sight.
17. Let shelves come into their own
Kitchen storage can come in many forms other than traditional wall cupboards.
Kitchen shelving is a great option if you are the proud owner of an impressive crockery collection, or are a keen cook who appreciates having ingredients close at hand.
Having everything on display, however, is not for the faint-hearted as it requires a certain amount of dedication to keep shelves looking smart.
18. Pretty up a dull cabinet
Small kitchen storage ideas do not have to be purely practical, it can also be stylish.
Your favorite wallpaper ideas can be used to line the back of the cupboard to create an attractive display. Here, a large-scale pattern adds intrigue to the interior of a cupboard, making a striking backdrop for neutral ceramics.
19. Use drawers rather than cupboards
A 1290mm-wide drawer will likely allow you to store all your pans in one readily accessible space, which is much easier than delving into the back of a cupboard to retrieve a heavy casserole dish.
When planning how to organize a kitchen, use drawer dividers to store cutlery and utensils, plates and bowls, pans and lids. Some systems include roll holders for foil and cling film, sloping shelves to lay spice jars with their labels easy to read at a glance, knife blocks, espresso racks to organise pod refills, and more.
'There’s something undeniably satisfying about opening a drawer and finding everything in its right place,' says Bernard Otulakowski, MD, SieMatic (opens in new tab).
20. Think tall
While drawers make great use of space below hip level, you may also want to make the most of the ceiling height of your kitchen with a section of tall cabinets to house an integrated fridge, freezer and eye-level oven and coffee machine, as well as dry food larder storage.
'The trend is about lots of storage hidden behind sliding doors, so that the kitchen can be shut away when not being used,' says Alex Orosia, Marketing Manager, Porcelanosa (opens in new tab).
Slide and hide systems can create, when closed, a feeling of uncluttered space, with the advantage that everything is within easy reach when open. Pocket doors which open, pivot and slide into side recesses, leaving contents directly accessible without doors in the way, are also particularly useful here.
21. Invest in fitted storage
Fitted kitchen storage can be specialist and comprehensive, detailed to suit your needs, and adjusted to fit your space.
You can also supplement standard units with bespoke elements, such as an under-stairs pantry, custom-made to fit the dimensions of your room.
If this is not offered by your kitchen supplier, you may wish to commission a local joiner. Here, simple shelves fill up unused space between two fitted cabinets.
22. Factor in freestanding elements
You may prefer to use freestanding kitchen furniture to create a more individual look.
Dressers and glazed cabinets can be used to display decorative china and glassware, adding character to your kitchen, while a sideboard can be used to store china for the dining table, linking cooking and eating areas.
23. Make your storage work hard
Make your kitchen work efficiently by cutting down on wasted walking time.
If you're wondering how to organize a kitchen, arrange your storage carefully: it helps if your fridge and freezer are close to your larder, so that you can unload bags of groceries quickly and easily.
The same applies to unloading the dishwasher, so make sure that china and cutlery are stored close by, and preferably also in easy reach of the dining area. Store mugs near the coffee machine or boiling water tap, wine glasses near the wine fridge or your wine storage, and pots and pans under the hob. Try to keep storage areas which need to be accessed frequently away from the main cooking area, so that the drinks server doesn’t fall over the chef.
24. Choose a double pantry
Smaller than a walk-in pantry, a double pantry is a great place to hide all the everyday chaos.
Bi-folding cabinet doors offer neater, more usable access to the contents of the cupboards without blocking other cabinets. The space inside is expansive, often with work surface space for smaller appliances, such as your kettle and toaster. It’s also a great place to store your cereals, crockery, tea, coffee and cookbooks.
'Effective kitchen storage is of course the primary function of the pantry, this comes down to not only the internal working of the cabinet but also where to incorporate it into a kitchen design,' explains Tom Howley, Design Director of Tom Howley (opens in new tab).
25. Make good use of ceiling height
Why waste the storage opportunity of lovely high ceilings – especially if space is limited elsewhere.
There are a range of kitchen cabinet ideas to choose from and they can be built floor-to-ceiling with handcrafted doors, open shelving or glazed doors; whichever is best for your space.
High cupboards offer useful storage for gadgets or crockery you don’t use or need very often.
According to Tom Howley: 'With a bespoke kitchen designer, you will be able to design floor-to-ceiling units that give maximum storage. In general, I advise clients only to fit floor-to-ceiling cabinetry if they have lofty, high ceilings.
'If space is limited, kitchen storage ideas, such as waist-height pull-out drawers are the best option. A waist-height unit means you’ll have access to copious countertop space that floor-to-ceiling cabinetry cannot provide in the absence of an island counter, and lots of low lying storage units. This will open up the space at head height to give the impression of a more spacious kitchen.'
26. Display treasured crockery and pottery
Open shelving encourages a tidy space because items are on show. It’s a great opportunity to display treasured pottery instead of hiding them away behind closed doors.
Arrange glass jars containing dried goods or exotic spices in size order on an open shelf for a practically stylish pinch of color. Open shelving helps light flow through and can make a small kitchen look bigger. It’s a great kitchen storage alternative if space is at a premium, as shelves make smaller spaces feel less cramped.
'We are seeing a real increase in popularity of open shelving amongst our clientele, who want to carry the aesthetic of the rest of their homes into the kitchen by displaying their most beautiful belongings on open shelving,' says Sophie Hartley, Kitchen Designer at Tom Howley.
27. Save space with curved kitchen storage
Curved cabinetry offers practical storage that simply takes up less floor space than square-cornered pieces.
'The kitchen island is often a hive of activity with cooking, eating, work, learning, and play centered around this area,' says Tom Howley.
'When designing a kitchen island, it is essential to consider both internal solutions and exterior proportions. Many aspects of your kitchen design can determine your kitchen island size and shape. You can opt for integrated bench seating, consider extra knee room for practical kitchen seating ideas – or design a bespoke circular table if you have the room.'
28. Use every inch to good purpose
'People don’t only gather in the kitchen at parties; this hard-working room often gets the most footfall throughout the day, as people naturally gravitate towards it for food and company,' says Tom Howley.
'As such, it can make sense to separate some activities from the rest of the room. Here, a narrow sliver of wall has been put to good use with a breakfast station. Everyone can help themselves, then close the door until such time as one of them tidies up.'
29. Light up open storage units
Beautifully constructed kitchen storage ideas can become features in their own right when illuminated with smart kitchen lighting ideas.
One way to really draw attention to them is to light them – whether with downlights in open shelves, as shown in the kitchen picture above by Tom Howley, lighting inside cabinetry or with accent lighting from the ceiling or walls.
30. Make kitchen storage blend away
Sometimes you don't want to show off kitchen storage ideas – you want to highlight what you're displaying on them.
In this black and white kitchen, this technique is shown off to perfection. The shelves are painted the same color as the wall behind, allowing the curves of the china to stand out in sharp relief.
How much storage do you need in a kitchen?
Before embarking on a kitchen project, it’s always a good idea to have a good clear out and to take stock of your kitchen possessions so you know how much you need to store and how.
The ‘where’ is just as important as the ‘what’ and a good designer will devise a kitchen layout that puts the necessary storage in all the right places.
A pantry or larder should be close to your fridge and freeze for instance, making it quick and easy to unload groceries. Likewise, china and cutlery should be stored close to the dishwasher.
Think not only about how you will use the space, but also how any children and guests will, too.
It is usually a good idea to keep storage for glasses and frequently accessed items away from the main cooking area so the cook can work uninterrupted – and a dedicated breakfast cupboard away from the main kitchen and close to the seating area is increasingly popular with young families.
How do I get more storage in my kitchen?
Precision planning is the best way of keeping your kitchen from descending into chaos. In a multi-use, open-plan kitchen, try to allocate dedicated storage in each area, not just the kitchen cupboards.
For example, window seats with deep pull-out drawers are perfect for stashing away toys. Ensure that there’s at least one drawer or shelving unit near the TV for tidying away books, remote controls and games consoles.
'Installing an island with cabinets on both sides helps maximise storage in the dining area for formal crockery and glassware,' adds Tony McCarthy, commercial director at Crown Imperial (opens in new tab).
Keeping everything neatly behind closed doors is much easier if the interiors are designed with specific contents in mind. Smaller items will benefit from a shallow drawer with numerous compartments to keep items separated and easy to locate.
Consider whether any cupboards will benefit from integral electric sockets, allowing you to charge gadgets out of view. The cases for electronic games tend to come in standard sizes, so shelving can be fitted at precise heights to get more in, and the same is true of spice jars, which can slot into racks on the back of an easily accessible cupboard door.
As the Deputy Editor of Livingetc's print version, Busola Evans works across both the physical magazine and digital and specializes in kitchens, bathrooms and projects. She is an expert at explaining how to improve, extend and convert your home. Prior to her current role, she was Associate Editor on both Livingetc and Homes & Gardens, where she authored kitchen and bathroom articles. Busola has also written for The Guardian, The Sunday Times Magazine and Grazia, and was an interiors columnist for the London Evening Standard's ES Magazine.
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