If your kitchen feels inefficient, here's good news from interior designers: Even the oldest kitchens can become streamlined, without major remodeling. • First assess how you use your kitchen. Do you do lots of cooking or is the microwave your best friend? Which items do you use and which collect dust? • Once you know how you work, says designer Janine Carendi, "trim down to the bare necessities." • Spices, too, should be jettisoned once they get old. Things used only on special occasions can be stored in your garage. • Once the culling is done, Carendi and two other designers named to Domino magazine's "10 Designers on the Verge" list this year say it's time to think outside the cabinet. Associated Press
• Display favorite nonperishable foods on open shelving. Streamline your breakfast routine (and free up cabinet space) by displaying cereals in transparent canisters on a shelf next to stacks of pretty bowls and spoons, Brian Patrick Flynn says. "I like to keep the foods that I eat most often completely separate from other things stored in the cabinets or pantry," he says.
• Another vertical idea: Mallory Mathison suggests attaching hooks or towel racks to a wall or pantry door for hanging your supply of dish towels. She also recommends hanging pots, pans and glassware on racks to save space. Utensils also can also be hung on racks, so they're visible and accessible but not using counter space.
• Know at a glance what you have by emptying half-full boxes of pasta and rice into clear plastic containers. If you can quickly see your supply, you'll be less likely to mistakenly buy things you don't need. If canned goods tend to get forgotten in the recesses of your pantry or cabinets, place them on small turntables where you can see everything. "The more you know where things are and the more you can see them, the more you'll end up using them," says Carendi.
• If your cabinet doors are solid, have a carpenter cut out the center of each door and replace it with plexiglass, says Flynn. No more opening the wrong cabinet in search of something. If you'd rather not have your cabinets' contents fully visible, have the plexiglass frosted.
• Small appliances take up vital counter space and attract clutter, so Carendi recommends storing them out of sight. If you worry that these appliances will be ignored, devote one cabinet to all of them.
• Replace the chairs around the kitchen table with benches that have storage space inside, Mathison suggests. Clutter that gathers on the kitchen table or on counters can be stored inside the benches at mealtime. Once a week, have family members go through the benches to claim their own items. Or the benches can be used to store toys or reading material.
• Don't forget the highest spaces, Carendi says. Have a step stool nearby to easily access things stored on top shelves or above cabinets. If you're replacing or updating cabinets, she recommends installing them up to the ceiling. Empty space above cabinets "just attracts dirt and clutter," she says.