The next time you covet one of those splashy show kitchens that look bigger than your whole house, just remember that sheer size doesn't deliver the goods. What really counts is high-performance storage, and having it all within easy reach is the real luxury. To cut your dream kitchen down to size, adopt some of the smart storage strategies that shaped these real-life kitchens.
Maximizing every square foot of their new house became a prime design factor for Californians Denise and Larry Tannenbaum. The windows in their kitchen frame panoramic views of Del Mar and the Pacific coastline, leaving little space for wall cabinets. Avid cooks, the couple often hosts big family get-togethers, so ample, easy-access storage was a must. "We have up to 18 people here every Thanksgiving," says Denise.
The appliance garage utilizes "dead" space under the microwave, clearing the main work counter for action. Between meals, this area doubles as a snack center.
Architect Ione Stiegler met the challenge with a U-shape work area, a roomy island, and extra wall cabinets above window height. Each side of the island harbors full-depth cabinets -- more than enough storage to make up for space lost to windows. And having full-size units on both sides makes it easier to outfit two separate workstations. Open-shelf units at each end keep frequently used items within arm's reach and give the island a furniturelike look.
A double-duty drawer stows cutlery in tidy organizers under a pullout chopping block. The drawer was placed near the main sink for easy disposal of food waste.
For optimum flexibility, Stiegler positioned the refrigerator in the end wall where it can be reached from both stations. A countertop niche turns that corner into hideaway space for small appliances.