Not Martha

to make: my small kitchen storage

I have a small kitchen with a 2-foot section wall in the middle of it which gets in the way. Unfortunately we’ve been told by trained professionals that that wall is currently holding up the roof beam. So our dreams of knocking out the wall will have to wait. In the mean time, I’ve used the wall for kitchen storage. Here is what I did to create storage space where there was no counter space.

All of these images are also in a Flickr set here.

click the image above to see it in Flickr with Notes

The image above was created using this nifty little application: HGTV’s Floor Planner.

Finding wall storage for a 25 inch length of wall was a challenge. Most kitchen shelf/hook combinations are 30 to 36 inches. Also, I wanted to avoid wire. I don’t like the look of it, and I find that too many small things poke through or fall through. And I knew I wanted solid shelves to hold little things that needed a flat surface to perch on. I looked at a bunch of different storage systems and none of them did quite what I needed, so I put pieces together fron a few places.

The one thing I knew I wanted for sure was a way to store utensils – spatulas, spoons and kitchen scissors – right there for me to grab. The world is completely lacking in this ability. I didn’t want to hang them from hooks suspended from bars, the fiddliness of this combined with the imagined sound of the S-hook always falling to the floor had me frustrated already. Besides, I would have needed more than 20 hooks. I considered using the Grundtal cutlery caddies from Ikea for this, but they are just too shallow to hold long-handled utensils, they would have just tipped and fallen out.

I decided I could attached a utensil canister to one of the Ikea Gruntal bars. At first I figured that a canister with holes in it – like this one – would be easy enough to attach using some flexible wire. But first I couldn’t find the canister, and then I decided I really didn’t love the way it looked. And then I found solid stainless canisters at Storables and declared that I would find a way to attach them. The lip at the top keeps them above the bar, I just needed a way to keep them snug to the bar and I’d be set.

I spent an embarrassing amount of time in the hardware store peering at the various plastic bits with holes and bolts. Finally I wandered into the aisle with chain and discovered thin wire cable and ferrules (little bits of metal that you thread the wire through, then clamp down to create a permanent hold).

click the image above to see it in Flickr with Notes

Here is how I attached the cable:

The lip of the canister against the rail is all I needed to allow me to use a length of wire cable to hold the canisters up. Getting the length of the wire cable was the only tricky part – tight enough to hold the canister in place but loose enough to allow the loops to slide along the rail.

Luckily the Gruntal bars and brackets are separate, they mount together when you put them in place. Having the bar free made figuring out the wire cables easier.

I used wire cable and ferrules from a hardware store. I don’t remember the size, but it was in the aisle with the big spools of cable you have cut to size, and it was the smallest size they have. I found it challenging to cut the wire cable using regular wire cutters, so if you decide to do something similar you might want to look into cable and ferrules at a jewelry supply shop.

First I wrapped a loop of wire cable around the bar and through both sides of a loose ferrule. I marked where the ferrule sat over the cable using a permanent marker. I made the loops pretty tight (the cable wouldn’t curve much more than that), I didn’t want the ferrule to sit against the side of the canister.

I took the wire outside and used a flat head screwdriver and a small mallet over a stone in my front stairs to clamp down the first ferrule over the marks. Place the flat head screwdriver over the crease in the ferrule and pound, this will tighten both sides of the ferrule.

Next I put a canister in place with the lip over the edge of the Grundtal bar, wrapped the wire around the canister, and repeated the looping over the bar on the other side using a loose ferrule. This was a little awkward. I needed to be sure the cable was tight enough to hold the canister in place, but had enough slack to allow me to slide the attched canister back and forth on the bar.

I marked where the ferrule would lie on the wire cable, and where I wanted to clip the end of the cable and took everything apart. I clipped the cable, and took the wire outside to clamp down the ferrule to create the second loop. I made a little hopeful gesture, and tested it. The lip of the canister holds it above the rail, the bottom of the canister sits against the wall. It works really well for my purposes.

And here is the complete wall-o-storage, hung about 8 inches above a bit of countertop:

click the image above to see it in Flickr with Notes

The bars are Ikea Grundtal as are the two cutlery caddies, one of which holds napkins. The utensil canisters are from Storables, the small shelf is the stainless steel gallery ledge from Pottery Barn. I use it to hold kosher salt, sea salt, a pepper grinder and the kitchen timer.

I was hoping to find a little stainless steel shelf, but if I was unable to find one I was willing to go with a white picture ledge. You can find these everywhere and I think they would work really well for spices. I wonder if they are sturdy enough allow you to screw those little mug hooks into the bottom?

One note – I spent an obsessive amount of time comparing products from The Container Store, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Storables. I consistently found the products at Storables to be the most pleasing and didn’t end up buying from the other places. Unfortunately Storables doesn’t sell online and they only have a few stores in the PNW.

Here is the other side of the wall as seen from the perspective of the dishwasher:

click the image above to see it in Flickr with Notes

I wanted to make sure that if anything on this wall were to fall into the trash can I would not cry, so we stuck with things that we use well and replace often. The Simplehuman trash bin is lovely, I never thought a really expensive trash can could make me happy. Above that, high enough to clear the swing open top of the trash can, we hung wall-mounted screws, again because loose s-hooks on a bar were too fiddly. The hooks hold kitchen towels and pot holders. Over that is a paper towel holder similar to this one. It was bought at Storables and sort of matches the Grundtal bars. It’s so easy to change the paper towels now. (Make sure you hang a bar like this with the joint on the side you expect you’ll rip the paper towels off in. The other end of the bar has a stopper, but you know. And over that another gallery ledge from Pottery Barn. This one holds splatter screens, cutting boards and baking sheets, all of which are too big to fit into my cabinets.

To further free up counter space we ditched the knife block and fit everything sharp (I tend to cut myself reaching into drawers) on one Ikea Grundtal magnetic knife strip:

I also have two under counter shelves which are narrow and deep and therefore nearly useless. I bought two slide-out shelves from Storables for them and now they are much more useful.

The shelf liner in those pictures? Previous owner.

And last I bought a lightweight, narrow step ladder which fits between the fridge and the wall:

I use a lot to reach the upper cabinets, and the storage on the top of the cabinets. I bought it from Williams-Sonoma, and they don’t appear to carry it any longer. Not pictured: I bought some Umbra collapsible rectangular baskets in natural muslin. They are shallow enough to fit on top of the cabinets but wide enough to hold larger items, and when I need to get inside all I have to do is pull down the top. I store lesser-used things up there – baking molds, ice shaver, cake stands. It’s ok for a temporary solution.

added August 7, 2007:

I needed a place to hang some kitchen utensils but I didn’t have any space in my kitchen except for the side of the cabinet next to the sink. Trouble was I couldn’t find any bars short enough for the 11-inch depth of the cabinet. I spent way too long thinking up the obvious answer: use a cabinet handle instead. (Since they attach from a screw from the inside of the cabinet* the handle would’t work as a solution for a wall.)

Note: This is obviously not something you would do to kitchen cabinets you like a lot as it will leave rather large holes. I do not love my cabinets.

I wanted to use hooks that wouldn’t fall off the bars (hooks shaped like an upside down 6 instead of an S) so I had to choose a handle the hooks could slide on to. I bought 9-inch Attest handles from Ikea and Grundtal hooks that you can find in the bath section of Ikea (they fit the Grundtal kitchen stuff as well).

The only thing I took care about was to make sure the lower bar was set high enough so that the things I hung there wouldn’t hang down past the bottom of the cabinet. We transfer dirty dishes from that side, through the sink and to the dishwasher or dish drainer on the left side of the sink and I could foresee becoming frustrated by knocking into the tips of the kitchen tongs if they hung too low. I was afraid my kitchen might look cluttered with even more stuff hanging out in the open, but so far it simply looks cheerful.

* I had to take some time to make that not sound naughty, I mean, the easiest way to say that is that they attach by a screw from behind. You know?


39 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lisa // Dec 4, 2006 at 11:03 am

    i luv your space saving ideas and your webpage… saved so i can pass on to someone who just moved into a place who needs some redo’s. thanks a mill.

  • 2 Kate // Dec 6, 2006 at 2:33 am

    Ooooh, storage. I now feel the way about storage that I used to feel about new stationary – you can never have enough and there’s a special magic about it that I just can’t explain.

  • 3 amanda // Dec 28, 2006 at 3:38 am

    wow. i’ve been checking out your site for all of 10 minutes and i’m amazed. bookmarking now. keep up the good work!

  • 4 Chelsea // Jan 10, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    I was quite inspired by your storage solution and decided I needed something similar. Here’s what I came with.

  • 5 Chelsea // Jan 10, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    oh link didn’t work..

  • 6 megan // Jan 10, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Chelsea – very nice. Did you use a special drill bit to make the holes?

  • 7 Chelsea // Jan 11, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    No need for a special drill bit. We used one slightly larger than the hooks. We had to bend the hooks slightly to fit around the the towel bar, but otherwise it came together pretty smoothly. Thanks for the inspiration! I am extremely low on counter space (I have about 3 square feet to work with) so anything i can do to get stuff off the counter and open up some drawer space is helpful.

  • 8 Norma // Feb 1, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    Awesome use of space. I really like what you did there.

  • 9 Zoe // Feb 12, 2007 at 7:44 am

    Just last week I was looking for products to hang on the wall of my tiny kitchen to increase its storage capacity without having to buy and install expensive cabinets. And now this week I stumble across this page while at your site looking at a cupcake recipe for Valentine’s Day! Your setup, including the slideout drawers for the deep cabinet, is *exactly* what I want to do in my kitchen. Thanks for the detailed description and photos.

  • 10 Angie // Feb 23, 2007 at 8:14 am

    That is so cool. I too have a REALLY REALLY small kitchen and storage is ALWAYS a problem. I hate cluttered counters and with not enough cabinets it’s hard to find alternatives. You did a really great job. Looks like I have my spring project in line for me. Thanx for the inspiration!

  • 11 communicatrix // Mar 13, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    So beautiful! So inventive! I want the NotMartha magazine!!!

  • 12 Selma // Mar 26, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    Love all the craft ideas and info, here…any patterns or instructions on how to make a halter top from scrap fabric, scarf, or recycled t-shirts? I am a stay at home mom, who needs to comfy, practical, and still look chic…lol…is it really necessary to get a pattern?

  • 13 Kasia // May 24, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    AMAZING site!! Love everything. Already bookmarked ;) GREAT job!!

  • 14 Anita // Jun 20, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    for the under counter shelves how are they
    attached to the shelves?
    im trying to figgure out if its do-able
    in a renting situation.. i also have
    similarly shaped super deep storage that is soo under-utilized.
    Great site!

  • 15 megan // Jun 20, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    Anita – The rails that the pull-out drawers ride on are screwed to the bottom shelf (the one they are sitting on). If you’re renting there are less expensive versions of these pull out shelves that are made of wire – check The Container Store website.

  • 16 Angie // Jun 23, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    I LOVE IT!!!!!!!! No seriously, my kitchen is ridicously small. Kinda of a one man job when it comes to cooking dinner. I will have to try out some of your ideas.

  • 17 Meagan // Jun 26, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    That is pretty much the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!

  • 18 Aria // Jul 18, 2007 at 9:05 am

    I hate my drawer full of utensils!!! This is a terrific idea.

    It seems that Storables now sells online, which is great because there are no stores near me. Is this the type of canister you used:

    Thanks for a great how-to!

  • 19 megan // Jul 18, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Aria – Thanks for letting me know the Storables site was up. I don’t see the canisters I used on the site anywhere, and last time I was in a Storables store they didn’t have them any longer.

  • 20 amanda // Sep 22, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    Love your site! You have great ideas and a simple, chic design.

  • 21 Glenda // Sep 28, 2007 at 5:33 am

    I just came across your site whilst surfing around, looking for (any) ways to improve my pokey little kitchen – short of taking a sledgehammer to it. I LOVE your ideas. They’ve actually inspired me to do a few things. Thank you ever so much for taking the time to put it out there. Very helpful.

  • 22 Sean // Oct 4, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    I don’t know if it’s the same model, but Williams-Sonoma still sells a compact folding ladder.

    I love all your ideas. The DIY j-me shoe rack is still my favorite.

  • 23 Devin // Oct 26, 2007 at 11:08 am

    Does anyone know where I can get one of the Grundtal cutlery stands / caddies??? The stainless steel box style has been discontinued at IKEA – at least in Canada – as of the 20th of August.

  • 24 Sherri // Jan 21, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Your ideas are fabulous!! I have a lot of the same challenges and now I can fix them

  • 25 Theresa - Coastal Dimension Image & Design // Mar 25, 2008 at 5:01 am

    Wow, thanks for the ideas. They are awesome. Will definitely utilize some of these!!

  • 26 Nancy Treder // Apr 24, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Dear Megan,

    Your space saving ideas are great. It totally reminds me of all the things I’ve seen in European homes. They really know how to use every inch of space.

    thanks for the tips,

  • 27 Virginia // Apr 30, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    IKEA no longer has the cutlery caddies, it has been discontinued. The now have a wire one. I used their Asker’s white cuttery caddy.

  • 28 Amber // May 18, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    I think I love you. Fantastic ideas. I will be getting handles for the cabinet next to the sink. And really, a screw from behind?! You are a fine human being.

  • 29 Taylor // Sep 24, 2008 at 6:47 am

    Oh how I wish I could do this!
    I’m living in an apartment, and I’m sure they wouldn’t like it very much if I put holes in the doors/cabinets/or anything… I have to admit, I’m tempted to do it anyway to my incredibly tiny and insufficient kitchen. ;-)

    (don’t worry, I wont… It just pains me so)

  • 30 Thea Crosby // Oct 21, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Wow! This is really great! I am soooo glad that more people are realizing that living simply is more fulfilling- thus making the world a better place!

    Your website could also be called “better than Martha”! :-)

  • 31 zoulima // Apr 3, 2009 at 9:44 am

    I love it! but what about the roach motel closets,bedrooms,and bathroom. Sister, come what some suguestion for those areas.

  • 32 Chaya G. // Sep 24, 2009 at 9:26 am

    This is brilliant! I love your use of wire!

  • 33 Janeen // Oct 29, 2009 at 2:39 am

    Oh, this is amazing! I’m crammed into a small place with my husband & kids and in desperate need of space saving ideas. Your website is an awesome resource. Many Thanks for sharing all these creative ideas!

  • 34 Jennifer // Nov 29, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    You rock!!! You have given me some awesome ideas – and significantly, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPER DETAILED DIRECTIONS ON INSTALLATION- You have put this “literal thinker’s” mind at ease. I can’t wait to get started now!

  • 35 redmenace // Jan 18, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    This is fantastic! What a fantastic makeover. Thanks for the inspiration. We need it!

  • 36 Tania // Mar 29, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    If you ever decide to sell the GRUNDTAL cutlery holder, I would love to buy it. I also sent a message to your flickr (Junior1892)

  • 37 Frugal Storage Solutions for the Small Kitchen | Frugal Storage Solutions for the Small Kitchen diet doctor oz | Frugal Storage Solutions for the Small Kitchen diet plan | Doctor Oz Diet > Doctor Oz Website > Doctor Oz Vegan Diet // Sep 10, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    […] … the curse of the tiny kitchen. It’s plagued friends, family members, and fellow food bloggers for generations. Those of you out there with two shelves, one cabinet, and zero counter […]

  • 38 Greg // Dec 28, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    I installed the utensil hanger today and it’s awesome. Thanks for the idea!!! By the way, they’re phasing out the attest cabinet handles at IKEA. Therefore, don’t procrastinate in buying them!

  • 39 Brandy // Jan 1, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Love your storage ideas. We hang utensils and flat things like cheese graters on the back side of cabinet doors, to keep them from swinging out when the door is opened, we use a peice of elastic stapled across the bottom like a little bungee cord. It’s really effective, but tacky. I’d love to see someone creative come up with a classier version.

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