The key to a happy kitchen? Organization. While it may not get your heart pumping as fast as some other design elements—like, say, Italian marble, for instance—it’s truly the difference between a kitchen you like to *look* at and a kitchen you actually like to *cook* in. If you’ve ever made a beeline for your kitchen with enthusiasm for a new recipe in mind, only to find it in messy disarray and get discouraged before you’ve begun, you understand.
While palatial spaces with wall after wall of cabinetry used to be the gold standard in kitchen goals, the new class of highly functional kitchens knows how to mix things up a bit more and make use of every inch, while maintaining architectural character. Look for a mix of floor-to-ceiling, wardrobe-style cabinets that reveal shelves, open shelving for displaying the pretty stuff, properly stocked pantries that make grocery list building a breeze, and drawers—lots and lots of drawers. Seriously, if we could snap our fingers and magically replace all lower cabinets with drawers, we probably would.
Whether you’re contemplating a full kitchen remodel and looking for inspo, or just trying to make the most of the space you already have, these storage-rich kitchens are a great place to start. Read on to see our favorites.
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Use Every Inch
Did you feel that? The sudden sense of calm that just fell over anyone who gazed upon this photo? We sure did. Not only are these pantry shelves styled to perfection (*chef’s kiss*), but they beautifully illustrate how even the smallest space can benefit from some built-in shelves. (Yes, even that awkward little corner—it’s begging to become a spice storage hub.)
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Tuck ‘Em Away
Admit it—you have a “favorite” stockpot and frying pan. No shame—but if there are bulky kitchenware items you’re not using on a regular basis (say, that giant setup you only haul out for Thanksgiving dinner), there’s no reason to keep them super-accessible 365 days a year. These built-in cubbies might not be right for your everyday items, but they’re great for more specialized cookware—and they display them in an appealing way, too.
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Don’t Forget Your Pet
Drawers galore? Check. Open—and closed—shelving? Check. The only thing missing from your dream kitchen: a visit from Fido. Designer Rachel Halvorson created this ingenious doggie door that can be concealed behind a glass-front cabinet when the kitchen is closed for business.
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Raise The Bar
For larger areas that are still (somewhat strangely) disconnected from the main kitchen area, building out a dry bar is a smart fix. Not only does this nook fit a wine fridge and glassware storage, but it’s an ideal prep space for mixing up a few Mules when friends come over.
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Show Some Personality
“Storage” isn’t exactly the most exciting topic to most people. But just because it’s functional, doesn’t mean it has to forego fun—this bright and cheery kitchen uses an under-utilized space to show off some of the homeowners’ prized possessions. (Who says you can’t play with your food?)
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Bookend Your Bake Station
Another storage-as-shadowbox moment: Flanking the oven with two columns of storage cubbies creates some stunning display space for chic ceramics and more.
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Lift Up A Ledge
Naturally, upper cabinets were out of the question in this window-lined kitchen. But a thin shelf above the stove is a smart (and simple) hack that keeps the most reached-for items close at hand—from favorite spices to grains and other cooking essentials. We can’t think of a kitchen that wouldn’t benefit from this handy catchall.
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Create A Stunning Display
Can’t decide between a cabinet and open shelving? This unique—and stylish—system from Henrybuilt is pretty much the best of both worlds. The bright pop of color and contrasting frame reminds us of a chic shadowbox or piece of modern art, and it makes for a bold backdrop for your prized kitchenware collection. (They also have a similar, closed variation if you’re worried about dust or prying hands—not all pantries were meant to be out in the open.)
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Make It Multitask
Not all kitchen storage is about pots and pans. If you have an exterior entry/exit off of your kitchen (and let’s face it—you probably do), your kitchen probably has to serve double duty as a de facto mudroom. Designer Ginny Macdonald used coordinating cabinetry styles to create a storage bench adjacent to the kitchen—the sleek, clean look feels cohesive and airy, and its functional drawers keep hats and mittens from congregating on the countertop.
Just be sure to accessorize the bench with some hooks for bags and a comfy pillow to make it more inviting when pulling off those boots.
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It’s not uncommon to see dead space above upper cabinets—but that space is a dust and grime magnet, and a missed opportunity to boot. The solution? Chic upper cabinets that mimic the historic look of transom windows—with handles on the bottom, making them easier to access.
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Glass-front cabinets are a modern and sophisticated way to break up a wall of storage (if you’re lucky enough to have such a thing). But they also come with great responsibility—you’d never want your Tupperware cabinet to have a clear front, for instance. The solution: save them for a built-in wine fridge, which is less likely to look cluttered. Then sprinkle them elsewhere as display areas, especially in hard-to-reach spaces where you won’t miss the ability to pack the items in.
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Tap Into Texture
Cabinets are usually pretty uniform in style—but there’s no rule that says they have to be a snore. This bar hub from Decorist designer Deirdre Doherty is positively dripping in midcentury style—from the mixed-and-matched woven rattan to the woodgrain and eclectic color blocking. In short, it has a ton of personality and brings a definite point-of-view to the space—while adding loads of storage. That’s a win-win.
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Make A Home For Your Cookbook Habit
Cookbooks are tricky to store—too close to the stove or the sink, and they’ll warp from water or oil splatters. But if you keep them outside the kitchen with your other reading materials, you’re less likely to use them and may have trouble tracking them down later. That’s where this end-of-the-island hack comes in—it’s a relatively small space that often goes unnoticed, so it’s just right for corralling your cookbooks and keeping them close for when you need a little inspiration.
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