Space Solutions: Under-Cabinet Knife Rack

I may have mentioned that I live in a little cottage in the woods: 1000 square feet (a 900-sf footprint and a tiny, 100-sf loft with 30-inch ceilings) and basically one big room. The bathroom is the only room in the house that has a door (for which I am eternally grateful), so packed into the other 800-or-so square feet are kitchen, dining room/office, living room, entry hall and bedroom. It’s a beautiful space and one that I love: the original structure was a horse barn, built in the mid 1700s, and the renovation to a modern living space stayed true to the style, with lots of exposed wood, ancient support beams and 14-foot ceilings. As much as I love it, for someone who cooks each and every day, and whose cooking projects range from home-fermented pickles to a 4-layer mountain-themed wedding cake, a 64-square foot kitchen can be, well, a challenge.

Of late, I’ve been inspired to tackle several of my nagging kitchen problems, which (like most every kitchen problem, I suspect) always seem to hinge on a balance of efficiency and beauty (and, in a kitchen as small as mine, the laws of physics). I want things close to hand, but I dislike clutter. As an <ahem> enthusiastic home cook, married to a former professional pastry chef, our collection of kitchen gear is fairly staggering (more than half of it lives in huge plastic bins in the garage), and knives are no exception. Between the two of us, we have about 25 good kitchen knives, all requiring a non-knock-about-the-one-utensil-drawer home. I do have a knife block (a gift from a friend years ago when he realized that, despite cooking all the time, I didn’t own any decent knives) that holds a good portion of our collection and lives in a convenient little alcove next to the stove. The rest of the knives, either too long, too wide, or too many to fit in the knife block, ended up piled alongside the block (in plastic sheaths, of course) cluttering up the joint and making me crazy. The straw that broke this camel’s back occurred a few months ago, when, frustrated with our collection of really old, been-sharpened-so-many-times-they-won’t-keep-an-edge Henckels, I invested in a two new knives (a Global 8-inch chef and a New West Knifeworks santoku). The knives-beside-the-knife-block pile became not only an eyesore, but a serious impediment to kitchen efficicency as I had to spend precious minutes digging around in the pile to pull out the knife I wanted: definitely time for Plan B.

While a magnetic knife rack seems an obvious solution to a knife storage dilemma, our problem was a lack of wall space to install said rack. Again: 64 square feet. Not a lot of space. When you include a refrigerator, stove, microwave, cabinets and a large window over the sink, even less space. Living in one room is wonderful, especially in a small space, because it is so open that it doesn’t feel small, but it does cut way down on available wall space. Because you don’t have many walls, you see. The available wall space in the kitchen, that is not covered with lovely tile backsplash, can be measured in inches and most of those inches are already busy holding other pivotal kitchen gear. In fact, as I stood at the stove, knife in hand (for inspiration) and thought about where a knife rack could possibly go, I realized that the only blank space of any consequence was under the cabinet. Eureka!

I know, I know. It’s not exactly rocket science, right? People install all sorts of things under cabinets: lights, appliancesTVs (because God forbid you should spend one minute of your day sans television) and yes, even knife blocks (although I didn’t know these existed until just now). But what I like about mine is: 1. I invented it, simply standing at the stove, new knife in hand, without the assistance of Mr. Google. 2. The slim profile of the magnetic strip takes up much less room than the bulky wooden under-cabinet knife block; it bears repeating – 64 square feet. All space is at a premium. 3. Because it is so slim, the knife rack disappears when the cabinet is shut; you would never see it unless you knew it was there. 4. It was a snap to install (well, if you have a handy husband with a drill, that is). 5. When we eventually move on to some other tiny kitchen, it is flexible for wall or under-cabinet use. So there you have it: under-cabinet magnetic knife rack. I am in love with mine: it makes me happy every day.

Whether your kitchen is large or small, minimalist or cluttered, sleek & modern or country & cozy, the kitchen is one of the most important rooms, and one of the most difficult design challenges, in any dwelling. We all have kitchen challenges: stay tuned as I tackle my kitchen nemesi and share ideas with you in Space Solutions.  Have a great knife storage idea?  Shout it out in comments!

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37 comments

  1. Kaela, this is brilliant. I am slapping my forehead. Counter space is a problem in our kitchen here at home, and every kind of storage space is an issue in our Alaska cabin. I am going to do this in both places. I am sitting in my kitchen right now, eyeing the cabinet — right next to the stove — that will support my new magnetic rack. Now if someone would please propose a good way to organize the glass and plastic containers and lids of all shapes and sizes that collect in my cabinets, I will be all set. So far, my favorite way to organize them is to get rid of them altogether.

    • Globeadue

      Saw a idea on lifehacker or some such a few weeks back to use a audio cd rack for the lids. Wont help for the large ones, but for the single serving sized lids etc, would work great. Did a face palm when i read it cuz i had a nice 100 ct wire rack that i could never find a use for after I moved my cd collection to a bookshelf that eventually got tossed 8(

  2. Ladies-

    I forgot to mention: the rack I bought is a 15-inch Norpro; solid, very nice quality and reasonable price. However – I wish I had searched for a longer one – could have gone to 21 inches easily. We’ve already filled it and I keep thinking of other things that could go there (pizza wheel, Microplane, veggie peeler, apple corer, pastry brushes, the list goes on…) and free up space in the over-crowded utensil drawer. So – maximize your space! You’ll find a million uses.

    Shae – you & me both. The Tupperware drawer is one of my banes. I’ll definitely share if I have a Eureka! moment.

  3. That looks awesome! Sadly I live in a small apartment with a decent-sized (but never big enough) kitchen, so I really can’t install anything to help save space. It really puts the onus on me to keep things clean, which I rarely ever do, alas… :)

  4. and secondly, can i just congratulate you on your ingenious spice ‘rack’. …don’t think i didn’t spook it. and how fun seeing your kitchen and hearing about your home. :)

  5. Jane – We swear by Gorilla Glue here as well, although this one we just screwed into the underside of the cabinet. Pretty sure Tai had to buy some longer screws, but other than that, it was a cinch.

    Tigress – yes, my other new love – the magnetic spice jars!! Deets in an upcoming post.

  6. OMG!!! How simple, yet a totally outstanding idea! I have less than your 64sq ft., probably half that if I don’t count the eating area in my kitchen and space is a tremendous commodity, so this is awesome.

    I’ve thought of using the slim space between my stove and counter and putting a slot there to store my knives, but I think it would ruin the flow, so this is an even better idea!

  7. Marnee

    awesome! i just put that very knife rack in my basket but wasn’t sure where I could install it!! thanks for the inspiration!

    • Hi Annette,

      It’s a super strong magnet, but also, because they are tucked up underneath the lip of the cabinet, there is not really an opportunity to knock them off. I did worry about it, because there is a spice shelf and a container of utensils nearby that I reach into all the time, but I’ve never even brushed against it accidentally.

      Hope that helps,
      Kaela

  8. Pingback: Hide Your Knife Rack Under The Cabinet | Lifehacker Australia

  9. Pingback: Space Solutions: Under-Cabinet Knife Rack « local kitchen « Nonstickron's Blog

  10. See the following pinterest post for DIY fabric or contact paper magazine holders made with cereal boxes cut at an angle. http://pinterest.com/pin/177610779024494338/

    Possible uses include:
    1) Storing your tupperware lids (even the large ones).
    2) Organizing cookbooks for display.
    3) I use mine for standing parchment paper, foil, and plastic wrap rolls on end for easy access (try putting them under the sink or in a tall cabinet- mine is in the above stove cabinet that has the vent in it).
    4) For a non-kitchen use, holding coloring books =)

  11. Pingback: Space Saving Under Counter Knife Rack Idea | Did Ya See?

  12. Vince

    The spice container might be trendy and save space, but it’s not a great place to store them with your stove just under them. Spices loses their flavour when in light, heat and humidity.

    But the knife rack is very good idea!

  13. Laura

    where did you get that rainbow wood handled chef’s knife?? i have been looking for one a long time now. thanks–laura

  14. BRILLIANT!!! i’ve been going thru quite a long time of cutting down on the # of items in my kitchen, & better organizing what remains-i just LOVE this idea, especially for using more than one under multiple cabinets for lots of different tools! thanks so much for sharing!!!

  15. Nansu roddy

    Appreciated everyone’s comments. I had my magnetic knife holder on the wall but i then tiled it so removed it. I hadn’t rehung it yet as I did not want to compromise the tile or put screw holes in my cabinets. I did not know about gorilla glue. I like my knives readily available and this will work quite well. I absolutely love the concept of the smaller home with space saving ideas. Congratulations on a sustainable lifestyle and i like to think with more focus on the outdoors and growing your own food. From a montana “farm” girl. Thanks for this great discussion

  16. Nina McBride

    I too love the knife rack. Question No. 1 is what is the yellow tape on the knives for? No.2 is since your brilliant spice jars are hung right next to the stove, do they not get affected by the heat?

    • Hi Nina,

      The yellow tape is a leftover from culinary school (my husband is a trained pastry chef); you’ll see some culinary school alums laughing about it in the comments.

      As for the spices: I know that right next to the stove is not the optimal spot. But honestly, there was nowhere else, and this way, I actually use them frequently enough such that I don’t notice any suffering in the quality. I go through them too quickly, for the most part. In the battle of Convenience & Ease of Use vs. Protect from Light & Heat, for me, easy wins every time.

  17. Pingback: Moving into Your Tiny Apartment | Moving Happiness Home

  18. matsugirl

    I found your blog when I did a search of magnetic knife holder. So happy to have found this blog post! I would not of been able to have the knife holder on the wall–wall space between counter and cupboards is not tall enough. Your idea seemed to be the one that would work. I ordered a holder from Amazon and my dh installed it yesterday. I love it! My knives are off the counter, the knife blocks are off the counter and the knives are easily accessible. I will be ordering another magnetic holder to put my steak knives on. One more knife block that will be off the counter. :)
    Thank you for your great “space saving” idea!

  19. Pingback: Under Kitchen Cabinet Wine Rack - New Storage Solutions

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