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, appliances, TVs (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!