Valuable Space

marie26February 11, 2008

I went from a house with a kitchen that had room to spare in the cupboards. Everything had been perfectly organized and was easy to find. Now I find myself in a kitchen with few cupboards and even those aren't user friendly. For instance, there's a long lower cupboard in a corner that I'd never be able to retrieve something in the back of it without always pulling everything out in front of it. Besides this one, there is the cupboard under the sink and three other lower cupboards. One is holding the mixing bowls and corning ware type items, another is holding all the pots and pans and the last one is holding trays, ccokie sheets and cutting boards because it has one built-in divider in it and is made for this purpose.

The wall with the sink and two counters on either side has no plug. This wall extends around the corner and that has one plug. Then there's a door to the deck and on the other side of this door is the phone jack and a plug. I put my table that was supposed to be behind a couch there since it has an extra shelf and fits well into that space.

The other counter space is on either side of the stove on another wall; the fridge is at the end. The only plug on that wall is one in the stove and behind the fridge so I put an extension into that plug.

So, I have very few plugs for the coffee maker, microwave, etc. I've decided to move the toaster oven and rotisserie to the laundry room because there's no room for them.

There are five small drawers versus the 9 huge drawers in my old place so I've put the stacking drawers I purchased last year in the kitchen so that some of the items can be organized.

I'm just not used to not having everything I need in the kitchen and I'll be the first one to admit I own too many kitchen items but they are used, even if not all the time. My problem is coming from a kitchen with a 6 foot pantry, island and loads of storage space. Here, there's a small cupboard that's been converted to a pantry, hardly any plugs (I rent and there's tile backsplash so I'm not putting in any new ones) and terrible storage.

The only place to store anything is in the laundry room which does have quite a few cupboards. There is no attached garage. How I miss that!

The dining room is in the room next to the kitchen and I put my credenza there which barely fits in that space. I could use the top of it for some items (the microwave?) but I'm not sure if I should. DD suggested I put my good china (used only a few times a year) in the laundry room cupboards and use the credenza for my kitchen items. That makes sense but the chairs from the table are so close to it that it will be necessary to move everything out of the way each time I want to get in there.

So, how do you decide which items get the valuable space in the kitchen and which ones end up going downstairs to retrieve?

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Just call an electrician to put in some more outlets (like I just did).

    Bookmark   February 11, 2008 at 9:08PM
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She rents, Lucy
(I rent and there's tile backsplash so I'm not putting in any new ones)

--she can't just add outlets to a house she doesn't own. might be able to get the landlord to do it, Marie. I don't know if he has to bring his home up to code, but this is NOT code in almost every jurisdiction:
The wall with the sink and two counters on either side has no plug.
The only plug on that wall is one in the stove and behind the fridge so I put an extension into that plug.

The NEC says (and most municipalities have adopted it): no point on the counter may be more than 24 inches from an outlet. The idea is, extension cords can be dangerous, and they don't want you to have to use them.

I don't know whether his kitchen would be grandfathered in, but it's certainly not current code. You don't want to turn him in and start a huge feud, but I think it would be fair to bring this up to him.

He doesn't have to mess up his tile, though.

If your landlord will let you attach something to the underside of the cupboards, you could put in Plugmold, which comes in both the version you plug into an existing outlet, and the version that's hardwired into the wall. Your landlord (or you) would want to use the kind that plugs into an existing outlet.

Him letting you put that in (or him putting it in himself, or adding outlets) would actually add some value to his home. You might approach him on this.

We used to have our microwave in the DR. I didn't mind it there. It wasn't THAT far from the kitchen, and if I was reheating something, or making popcorn, it didn't matter at all.

As to what goes downstairs: stuff I only use now and then, AND, stuff I'm actually willing to go downstairs to get. Maybe I only use that nice pitcher now and then, but I wouldn't bother to go downstairs to get it. So, since I do enjoy using it, I keep it closer, so that I *will* use it.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 9:46AM
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It all depends on how the place is set up on what you can do. After I got married, I moved into dh's apartment. It had a tiny kitchen with almost no storage space. I made the coat closet the pantry by adding some inexpensive shelves and over the door racks. I used a dresser/chest with deep drawers in the dining/living area for storing fancier dishes/appliances that wouldn't fit in the kitchen or pantry area.

Would it be an option to move the credenza to the living room or another closer room so you can put something more functional in its spot? Alternatively, do you have room in the living room for another piece of furniture that would hold extra things? I'd definitely put the good china away if you don't use it very often.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 9:55AM
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Adellabedella , the rooms are so small that there are no more walls left. The living room has 1 wall that fits the couch under the window. Across from it is a 1/2 wall with the TV and electronics cabinet. The only other wall has a fireplace with not enough room on either side to be usuable for my furniture. We had to put the DVD/CD cabinet in the room with most of the bookcases. The part that didn't fit went into the office which, in the end, works well for me since I can keep "my" books in there.

I ended up putting my computer in the office. At least I have my filing cabinet in there with it. This used to be in DD's room which always gave me an excuse not to file anything.

Talley Sue, when you mentioned the pitcher, you explained my problem perfectly. I know me. I won't want to go downstairs to retrieve anything.

The landlord needed to put in new flooring in the family room and was going to do it this summer. I ended up convincing him to start this weekend. He also had to fix 3 doors. He's been quite helpful but this is his only rental and I don't want to overwhelm him. It's a good idea to check on the codes here about the outlets. Then, if they need to be brought up to code, I'll approach him.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 10:34AM
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Well, obviously the items you use every day get the most valuable real estate. I have satellite storage elsewhere in my home for things I don't use all the time, but the trick is to make it easy to find and access when I do need something. How far away is your laundry room with the extra cupboard storage? Is it anywhere near the kitchen? Can you use it for a pantry? A food pantry can usually be stored somewhere besides the kitchen if it's not too far away.

If it were me, I would consider using the credenza for open storage of plates and bowls, a cutlery basket for flatware, and everything else you need to set the table (if this is where you'll be eating). You might consider a bookcase or additional storage unit to set on top so you can use the entire wall height for more items. A food pantry can usually be stored somewhere besides the kitchen if it's not too far away.

When you have little space for things, it's time to get creative. If you need more storage space, it might be time to get rid of some smaller units for taller, vertical pieces that aren't deep, but would allow you to store and find things more easily. I like the idea of using a dresser for baking items or even a pantry. When I was trying to fit too much stuff into my original 1948 small galley kitchen, I made the executive decision that something had to do double duty to take up valuable real estate. It always takes tweaking to fit old stuff into new space, doesn't it?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 1:18PM
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The credenza is under a window and won't fit on the only other available wall in the dining room. I'm probably going to have to put my curio cabinet next to the credenza which is tall and will end up covering part of the window on one end.

The laundry room is 6 steps down in this split level which isn't that far, I know. But I really want things I use in the kitchen. Perhaps this is the time to finally realize what I do use almost always and what is only sometimes used. In another house, they could be brought back to the kitchen.

In one apartment, we had the smallest of kitchens with the two tiniest of drawers. So small that the normal small cutlery tray wouldn't fit. I ended up using my dresser for kitchen items.

We also don't have any outlets in the bathroom. Is that normal?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 2:10PM
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. Perhaps this is the time to finally realize what I do use almost always and what is only sometimes used. In another house, they could be brought back to the kitchen.

This is what I came back to say. And here I didn't even need to.

Hmmm, no outlets in the bathroom.

Maybe they aren't required, but they'd sure be nice.

Again, this is the sort of thing that wouldn't be THAT hard to fix, and it would add value to his rental. You can get one-gang light switch/outlet combos.

He'd need GFCI protection, but that's not necessarily all that expensive either. You can change out the circuit breaker for a GFCI one. Maybe more expensive than a GFCI outlet, but maybe about the same if you'd have to enlarge the junction box and reskim the walls, etc., to make room for a GFCI-protected outlet.

He probably wouldn't even have to hire an electrician.

(and if you were willing to sneak around behind his back, I bet you could do it yourself and he'd never notice--but you shouldn't have to, really)

    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 3:18PM
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Considering we just hired an electrician to switch out a dryer cord and fix a phone plug that wasn't working, we're obviously electrically deficient. It costs $75.00 for someone to just come out to the house and I don't want to spring for that again so I'll be checking the codes first.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 5:05PM
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While moving items out of the cabinet over the sink (which is quite high up), I noticed there is an outlet in there. To use it, I'd definitely need an extension cord, though. At least I'm now of the mind to put everything I don't use regularly downstairs.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2008 at 8:53PM
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Current codes only apply to new houses being built this year. All other houses are grandfathered in, as long as they met the code that was current in the year they were built.

This is because the code changes every year -- if all houses had to meet current code, then each house in the US would have to have alterations every year. That would be very expensive and cause rents to go through the roof (so to speak :).

OTOH, landlords are often happy to make minor alterations or upgrades in order to keep a good tenant happy! Replacing a tenant is surprisingly expensive and time-consuming. It would likely be cheaper to add some outlets in your kitchen, and, as mentioned, future tenants might appreciate them too. Plus it's a tax deduction :).

-- Zanna, a contractor, landlady, and devoted lurker on OTH

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 12:22AM
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EXCEPT that, if the kitchen was renovated, it must meet code at the time that it was renovated.

Plus, it would just be smart--and safe, bcs w/o those extension cords, his tenants would be less likely to injure themselves or burn down his house.

(also, rental units may have to meet more current codes than a single-family home, because of their commercial status.)

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 10:06AM
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All very good points TS! (Plus I feel so honored to see a reply to my post coming from you, as I have admired you for years :).

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 10:44PM
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For that long, lower cupboard where you have to move a lot of things to find the things in is what I do in that situation. Put a lazy susan in the back, that way you may have to move one or two boxes to spin the lazy susan and find what you need. Of course you're going to have to put smaller things that fit on a lazy susan like boxes of baking soda, etc. Stuff that you don't use on a daily basis.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2008 at 12:17PM
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I can tell neesie doesn't have my kids--I use my baking soda almost daily, what w/ all those choc.chip cookies.

But yes, smallish stuff is best on a lazy susan.

For someone who can modify that cabinet (someone who owns, or whose landlord is lenient, or will do stuff for them), there are "blind-corner units" that allow you to access it much more easily. They're not cheap, but they're really useful.

I have a friend who absolutely loves hers.

Knape & Vogt makes one.

So does Rev-a-Shelf and Haefele.

And of course there are the half-moon pivot-out shelves.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2008 at 12:47PM
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Hi Talley!

Tee hee, no neesie doesn't have your kids! I have three of my own but they're pretty big now. I just want to tell you that I've read many of your posts on the board and think you're a pretty solid, intelligent woman. And a champion baker, besides!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 1:31PM
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