Countdown to More Counter Space
While some might argue with the adage that you can never be too rich or too thin, who could ever have too much counter space? "No matter how big the kitchen, people always want more," says Deb Lillard, the principle of Space to Share organization consultants in Philadelphia.
When you haven't built yet or are diving into a remodel, there are all kinds of nifty ways to extend the available counter space, like the Blancocosmo 5 S Circular Sink, which tucks into the corner of the counter and leaves one long, uninterrupted cutting surface open where the sink ordinarily takes up space.
But if you have a pre-existing lack of elbow room for food prep and no remodel in sight? That's when you look into products that add the equivalent of new counter space, and there are a lot of options out there.
Before you type in your credit card number, though, Lillard recommends making sure the problem is too little counter space, not too much junk on the counter. "You can gain at least a square foot of counter space just by getting the paperwork out of the kitchen," she says.
"And you should only keep small appliances on the counter if you use them every day. The stuff you use once a week goes in the cabinets. The things you use once a year go in storage, like the punch bowl. And the things you haven't used in a year? Have a yard sale or donate them to Goodwill."
After that exercise, consider these solutions:
Separate and Lift Small Appliances
For those small appliances you do use fairly often but not so often that they should be hogging the counter, consider a heavy-duty lift mechanism such as the Rev-A-Shelf Chrome Mixer Lift. You install it in a cabinet beneath the counter or sink and rest a small appliance (up to 60 pounds) such as a mixer or blender on top. When you pull the shelf, the lift mechanism raises the appliance to counter top level. When you're done, tug on the release lever and the mechanism lowers the appliance back into the cabinet.
Pull out an Extra Chopping Surface
You don't need a major remodel or a contractor to be able to install a pull-out cutting board beneath the counter. Plenty of companies will take your specs and make a grooved pull-out board you can put in yourself. Mission Door Bells takes your measurements over e-mail for pull-out hardwood boards, while companies like Meraz & Associates in Chico, Calif., make Corian models in numerous colors to match your countertop.
Cut Over the Sink
Cutting boards that fit over the sink have been around a long time, but Catskill Craftsman in Stamford, N.Y., have gone one better with their Cut 'N Catch model. It, too, fits over the sink, but it has a plastic insert that's level with the board, so you can chop and then slide the stuff into the tray and carry it to its destination. If you leave the tray out, you can shove debris from the cutting board down into the sink for an eventual date with the garbage disposal.
Cart your Counters Around
If you have occasional need for more counter space, like for summer vacation when all the cooks are home, a rolling kitchen cart will do the trick. It may be your one chance to get the counter surface you've always longed for, too, with models such as the Boos Butcher Block Kitchen Cart from Williams-Sonoma. But you have to be careful, here, says professional organizer Lynda Foxman of the Organizing Group in New York City. "If you're just using it for special occasions, you have to have a designated place for it to live or you're just asking for trouble." The dining room, deck or even laundry room all make sense for the rolling cart's semi-permanent home.
Roll and Fold the Kitchen Cart
A more practical option for those who are truly strapped for space, says Foxman, are island carts that fold up and can be put away, such as those by Oasis. "I used one for a client recently and it's really cool -- just folds up like a ladder," she says.