Set Up Zones
Save steps by assigning work space and storage to just about everything: baking, beverages, lunch-making -- whatever happens in your kitchen. That might mean separating similar items, like spatulas near the cooktop and the panini maker. Dividing tools into two holders makes it easy to spot and pluck the one you need.
More ideas for creating kitchen zones include keeping spices in a cabinet at eye level near the cooktop and using nonslip liners in drawers to avoid a jumble. You need room to work, so put away items you don't use every day.
Choose Easy-Grab Cabinet Hardware
Quick access to gear and ingredients makes a kitchen run smoothly. One small but important detail: cabinet hardware. Long rectangular pulls are easier to grasp than latches, cylindrical knobs, or bin pulls you have to grab from below.
U-shape knobs and ring pulls let you open a cabinet with one finger, which is perfect for when your hands are messy or wet. Simple, smooth handles are easy to grasp and clean. Plus, a long pull can double as a towel holder.
Install a High-Profile Faucet
If you're ready to upgrade your standard faucet, consider investing in an industrial-style model. A high-arc faucet with a pull-down nozzle you control with your fingertips makes it easy to fill a tall pot and rinse dishes. The newest models are designed for ultimate maneuverability and easy docking.
Does your sink have holes for faucet handles? You'll need a faucet with an escutcheon -- a plate that covers all but the center hole.
Overhaul Your Pantry
What's the easiest change you can make right now? Transfer your dry goods into airtight, clear glass jars. They maximize shelf space, and you'll always know when it's time to restock.
Keep Your Gear in Sight and Easy to Reach
Drawers and cabinet doors can sometimes seem inefficient. Open shelves are handy for dishes. Just be sure they're used every day (or put clean ones on the bottom) to discourage dust.
Other out-in-the-open options include wall- or ceiling-mount pot racks, utensil holders attached to a backsplash, and pegboards with hooks. A big cutting board, with smaller boards on top for meat or onions, designates an at-the-ready prep spot.
Expand Your Lighting Options
Pendants and undercabinet lighting are key players in ready-to-cook kitchens. Both can be turned on to provide a bright work space or off when it's time to eat.
Consider a dimmer switch for your pendant. You'll need dimmable bulbs, and your switch should be new enough to sense what type of bulb you're using. The best spot for a pendant is 30-36 inches above your kitchen counter.
Undercabinet lights can be installed without an electrician. Use an adhesive-back strip of LEDs that plugs into an outlet and operates by remote control.