Renovating a kitchen drawer to maximize storage

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., Oct. 17, 2012
- Contributed Photo

If you are beginning to conceptualize changes to your kitchen that will update it, redecorate it, and hopefully make it more user-friendly as well, you will want to find better ways to organize things. One easy target is the kitchen cabinetry, including its several drawers, for some much-needed improvement. How many times have you fumbled around looking for just the right tool, while something needed attention on the stove?

In our house we have those plastic inserts that segregate the knives, forks and spoons. But everything else is just swimming in a separate tray that may or may not be the right size to hold odd utensils. My solution will be customized to our everyday and occasional utensils so that we can store and retrieve them without conducting a search. You can do this, too.

Measure the dimensions of your drawers, including width, length and depth. This is all the space you will have to work with, and you will actually lose a tiny portion of that to your renovation. I suggest using a cardboard box fashioned to simulate your drawer's available space.

Clear the counter or table, and spread all those utensils out where you can see them and move them around. Experiment with different combinations that include or exclude some of the obtuse tools. Group your tools by size. Then subgroup them by function. The everyday flatware - forks, knives and spoons - is a quick move. But what do you group with the big soup ladle and that scary claw-like thing for serving spaghetti?

It's a good idea to segregate items by frequency of use. We have a very nice set of chopsticks that have been little-used in the past 25 years or more. Doubtless you have several implements or even sets that fall into that category. Now with these solutions, you will know exactly where they are and be able to get right to them.

Fool around with combinations of utensils as they lay on the counter. See which ones will fit best lying side-to-side and which are long and need front-to-back orientation. Some things are pretty flat, and will not consume too much of the drawer's depth. Spatulas, forks and salad tongs are good examples. But others, such as a whisk, ladle and mallet may require 2 inches of depth.

Once you have things sorted out and grouped the way you think they may work well, make cardboard partitions to corral them all together. As you do that, you might find more space than you knew you had. Some of those things are just little odd-shaped pieces, like those corn cob holders. You might hate them, but your spouse will never let you throw them out. These might need a special spot in one of the corners.

Live with your cardboard mockup for a week or two to see how well it works. Once you find your level of comfort, replace the cardboard with finished wooden partitions. Cover the bottom of the drawer with shelf liner, and set your custom partitions in place.

Creating a drawer-within-a-drawer using only the space from a single drawer doesn’t quite double your storage, but it provides flexibility, while allowing you to separate those things you use from those you rarely need. You can configure this feature such that you have the frequently-used pieces on the top layer, with the lesser-used utensils underneath. Construct the upper layer with the partitions you need, and let it float on rails fastened to the sides of the existing drawer.

Let me suggest here that another way to gain space in your kitchen drawers is to remove some of the utensils and store them elsewhere. I specifically recommend that you create another place to keep all those sharp knives. One of the cleverest ideas I have come across in researching kitchen renovations is a hidden knife storage rack, separate from the tangle of other kitchen tools. If you don't have room for a butcher's block for knife storage on your counter, consider concealing a narrow, customized version fixed to the end of your cabinet. I have also seen knives stored in a drop-down rack hidden under the upper cabinets. And the inside of a lower cabinet door is yet another concealed storage location to attach a slim knife block. All are convenient and concealed, and they give back the drawer space you desperately need.

You might never use some of those unique bottle stoppers or hors d’oevres skewers, but you have them if you ever need them. It is, after all, 'your stuff.' You can personalize this kitchen drawer renovation to hold all you have.

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