NYC Renovation Chronicles

Maximizing NYC's most valuable real estate: Counter space

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The Situation

Sure, you're a sophisticated New Yorker now, but your holiday visit back home has left you craving the one thing exurbans have that you don't: Counter space.

Here's the Deal:

You have two choices for quelling countertop lust: Rip out your old kitchen, or just rethink it.  Either way, you'll need to rely as much on psychology—updating your habits—as on some rather cunning space-saving techniques.

If you’re renovating:

• Kill the huge countertop microwave. Buy a shallow model (12-13" deep) and build it into a wall cabinet. But skip the over-the-stove type––they're bulky and ugly and it’s better to use a real hood there.

• Clean up your sink area by adding a deck-mounted soap pump and a pretty dish for sponges. Also, lose the water pitcher lingering next to your sink. If your new fridge doesn't provide filtered water, install an under-sink filter and chiller.

• More efficient storage clears space on your counters, so install base cabinets with deep drawers rather than doors.  Most are deep enough for blenders and other small appliances to stand in.

• Don’t hog counter space with that dust-collecting knife block that no one ever cleans. Instead, mount a magnetic knife rack (vertically or horizontally). Hang oft-used pots, pans and colanders from wall-mounted utensil racks and you'll gain valuable cabinet space which, as noted, can hold the stuff usually clogging your counters.

• If possible, plan for an appliance garage with a door that keeps the clutter under cover. Place outlets inside so gadgets are ready for use. (Note that garages are not meant for toasters or appliances that heat up.)

If you’re just re-thinking:

New rule: If it's not used daily, it belongs in a cabinet or the hall closet, not on the counter!

Simplify:  That KitchenAid mixer looks super cool, but would a plain old mixing bowl work for the twice-a-year cake-baking urge? And a manual drip filter cone might prepare your coffee just as well as your 10-cup electric model--and can be stashed in a wall cabinet when not in use.

Multipurpose-fy:  Do you need a toaster and a toaster oven? A blender and a Cuisinart? Red and white wine glasses? A panini press and a George Foreman and a stovetop grill? Pick one. Are six flavored oils going rancid sitting in the sun on your counter? Choose one quality olive oil, and store it in a cabinet.

Think like a restaurant chef: They can cook anything in 24" of counter space. All you really need is two clear feet of counter space between your sink and your stove, and you can crank out any feast.