I’m pretty sure there is a support group for those of us who get an unnatural thrill from staring at the perfectly organized pantry. Previously I have only done so in the magazines (please read like on the internets) or at the Portland house. But thanks to my genius design team + NEAT Method + Target’s Made by Design line, we are dripping with tips on how you can design, organize and style your kitchen, including how to store EVERY SINGLE THING in the most efficient and frankly beautiful way possible. Or if you just want to know where I hide my kids’ sippy cups, we got that covered, too.
We’re going to go into every area and every drawer, but before that, we wanted to get all the deets from Krisztina Galambos, owner of NEAT Los Angeles, about her top five expert tips that anyone can use to get a super organized kitchen, regardless of how much space you have.
Tip 1: Take inventory, purge, categorize. Our process at NEAT Method is to start by taking everything out of a space, sorting into categories, measuring the space for bins/containers, purchasing products and then implementing them into the space. For the pantry, we recommend tossing expired items first to free up space. From there, create your categories for like items: baking, spices, snacks, pasta, canned goods, etc. If you can see everything you have, you are less likely to buy duplicates which means eliminating clutter. Decanting also helps with seeing everything, and as long as you find a brand with tightly sealed lids, it will preserve your food longer, too.
Tip 2: Find your flow. Think through how you move in your kitchen on a daily basis. You’ll want to place items in areas that create efficiencies so you aren’t walking in circles! There are obvious things like wooden spoons and spatulas near the stove, oven mitts near the oven, cleaning supplies near the sink, etc. but there are also questions we like to ask our clients about how they function in the kitchen that helps us understand how a space can be customized for them. For example, having sweet treats stored out of reach from the kiddos or storing serveware up high because it’s only used once a year when your mother-in-law is in town.
Tip 3: Win the war against tops. Where possible, keep bottoms and lids together (storage containers, pots/pans). If space is an issue, use drawer dividers and stack bottoms on one side; lids on the other in order vertically filed by height (we like to use bamboo dividers like these).
Tip 4: Help your kids help themselves. For those of you with families, we love creating a kids drawer of plates, cups and bowls (we did that here in Emily’s kitchen). Having said drawer where your kiddos can help themselves at mealtime is a great way to teach them independence in the kitchen. If there are any drawers you do not want them getting into (such as fragile items), consider child locks.
Tip 5: Conquer the “junk” drawer. We typically don’t like to recommend “junk” drawers, but there definitely needs to be a place for multi-use items like pens, scissors, batteries, keys, post-it notes, etc. A drawer divider tray is a great solution in a spot off the beaten path in the kitchen, and we try not to leave empty space for “stuff.” It’s best to decide what to do with an object right away instead of delaying the decision by “dealing with it later.”
I know you’re just itching to see the inside of all my drawers, but first, we asked Krisztina what her can’t-live-without kitchen org products (and what to skip) and here’s what she recommended: “Our must haves definitely include bins/baskets, lazy Susans, risers for canned goods, drawer dividers and labels! If on a budget, maybe skip decanting as this can add up quickly.”
Okay okay, let’s open up those drawers and cabinets now:
There have been so many soups cooked here, guys, and since everything is SUPER organized and exactly where I need it to be when I need it, that souping has been nearly effortless. We labeled where it all goes in this area above, and it’s really so great not having to run around the kitchen to find the top to a certain pot or containers to put away leftovers. Three cheers for kitchen org!
I knew I wanted a window here, which meant less uppers, so it only made sense to put in deep drawers for pots and pans, dishes, etc. We toyed with having this be a cabinet front with drawers you pull out, but that was a two-step process to get what you needed, while this was just one: pull open the drawer you need and boom, done.
To the left of the cooktop are all the pots and pans (with every lid that belongs to each pot paired so there is no digging around) as well as our “tech” drawer (this is NOT a junk drawer…yet).
Our cabinet maker built in a charging strip so our phones, laptops and tablets could be tucked away here (away from cooking splashes and spilled juice cups), and if you’re currently renovating, THIS IS THE WAY TO GO FOLKS. The left side of that drawer has a removable top compartment, so the top part is where we keep all our “office-y” stuff and down below is a handy tool section. NEAT Method kept it all organized with Made by Design clear dividers. My goal was to come in, drop off my phone and laptop and not touch it over the weekend and my theory was that If I didn’t see it, I wouldn’t check it mindlessly.
This house was meant to be minimal, and the kitchen’s focus was just all that beautiful wood and crisp countertops, so I didn’t want to get clutter body by having a utensil canister up top, hence the pull-out drawer to the left of the stove that has different “cups” to hold all our whisks, spatulas, ladles, etc.
The above photo was taken before the drawer-within-a-drawer was inserted above the utensils. If you are thinking “geez, that’s a lot of wasted space,” you are right and our cabinet maker simply forgot about it but it’s now installed, don’t worry.
The downdraft of the stove takes up a good portion of the left side of the cabinet underneath it, but on the right side, we took a pan organizer and used it for all my cutting boards, and added small hooks to the door frame for pot holders and trivets.
Hold on…I want to ask everyone: are you a butter on the counter or refrigerator person? I know this is polarizing, and both have merits (soft, spreadable butter 24/7 vs. you know…food safety??) but please tell me. We are VERY warm, spreadable butter people over here and believe strongly in butter dishes (though note, we kind of just grabbed this pretty container for the shoot, but it’s a bathroom organizer, and not sure whether it’s food safe).
Okay, back to org lust. The pull-out two-tiered drawer to the right of the stove is where we keep all the spices, oils, vinegars, shelf-stable sauces and below. There’s plenty of clearance on the bottom shelf for anything that might be super tall (this was intentional because we are sauce and oil heavy over here). Decanting is my life mission, forever and always, but I’ve never done it with spices before, thank you NEAT Method. Those come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, so getting cohesive containers keeps it all visually pleasing, plus the labels on the tops make it super easy to find what you’re looking for. I think it’s not as necessary as other decanting, but for me it’s more about the labels on top. Why don’t all spice companies just put labels on top, too?
Moving over to the far right are all the drawers with kitchen tools, baking sheets and tools, and food storage.
The knife holder, again, keeps things off the counters, which makes me very very happy. FYI, all these things (the can opener, garlic press, masher, etc.) are all from the Made by Design line, and I love how they all coordinate and are all similar in size (makes putting them in a designated divider so much easier). The price point on these are SO great and work really well/feel solid. I splurged on the cabinets, I didn’t need to splurge on the tools (and while I do have a budget at Target for these posts, I had actually bought most of them in December because I knew we would be living up there). My goal was to match and not be expensive.
We didn’t really have storage near the oven for all the baking stuff, so it went here, but because I’m not using this stuff every day, it works just fine for my “kitchen flow.” Also, can I recommend something that will make your life so much easier hence happier? Get yourself coordinating sets of food storage, instead of all those rogue repurposed takeout containers or mix-and-match stuff that’s all different colors and shapes. When everything can be stored together and properly, you’ll avoid that inevitable avalanche of tops. And I much prefer glass over plastic because I can heat up leftovers without transferring.
The Wall Unit
I knew I wanted a full-wall unit like this one, where all the appliances were hidden away and I had an actual pantry (our LA kitchen doesn’t really have a pantry…it’s just a cupboard with random empty granola bar boxes).
Before we reveal that glorious pantry, let’s start over on the left:
Backstory: we actually intended this to be at least 12 inches wide with pull out drawers for more food storage (you might remember from this kitchen functionality post) except there were some things we didn’t plan for and had to make some adjustments. We were left with this sliver which isn’t ideal, but it actually works for keeping oven mitts, extra cookie sheets and “auxiliary” things like cupcake liners and sprinkles. Extra storage is extra storage, so we made it work but the proportion of that cabinet is HILARIOUS.
Directly to the right of the double oven (which is hidden behind all that beautiful Ross Alan Reclaimed Lumber cladding) is the coffee and tea bar. There’s a built-in outlet so there’s no need to pull out the coffee maker when we want to use it. The doors tuck back in, so we usually just leave this open all morning while we’re up here, then close it up when we move on from caffeine to adult happy hour.
Under the coffee bar is our small appliance storage and while some people might think it’s odd to have a microwave this low, it doesn’t actually bother me. Plus, if the kids want to make popcorn, they can reach (with adult supervision, of course).
Oh man. I think we all know I didn’t do this alone. NEAT Method really delivered here and I just want to sit and stare at this all day. With all the constant grabbing of food and snacks (and kids’ hands), it doesn’t always look like this, but it’s kind of fun to try to keep it this organized. All the drawer dividers, lazy Susans, cereal and snack sealed containers and baskets make it MUCH easier though to get it all back to tip-top shape. I have SUCH pride for this pantry cabinet, I force all my guests to sit and have me show this off to them when they visit (you’ve been warned).
We’ve never thought to use lazy Susans like these and they are a game changer. Everything is so easily accessible, the kids can spin them to grab their snacks and everything is visible. Same goes with the air-tight storage containers from Made by Design. I LOVE THESE THINGS. I’m not great at clipping bags and boxes to keep things fresh, plus I always just forget I have stuff, so I end up with four bags of open almond flour, half tipped over. Yes, buying containers to decant can add up fast, and it’s an investment, but I find that I buy fewer multiples of things because I can SEE things. Plus, they keep food fresher longer (LOVE the cereal containers), so there’s less food waste. I want to start buying more in bulk to also reduce packaging in general, so it’s an initial spend but will eventually spend less by buying in bulk.
Next is the dry bar which we outfitted with a dark stone from Bedrosians. I typically keep a small cutting board in here to cut citrus for cocktails, pretty bar tools, pretty bottles and all the glassware I need for “happy hour.” Should I need to bring in a blender to make something frozen, there’s an outlet (with that amazing bronze Forbes & Lomax) here, as well as that super sexy dimmer switch.
We went back and forth between whether to do a bold tile back there (which you can see through the glass cabinet doors here and in the coffee bar) or a simpler textural brick, and ultimately landed on the brick (from Bedrosians) and I’m so happy with it. It’s just enough texture to keep it interesting without stealing attention from the wood.
We didn’t get a great photo of it, but the drawer under the double oven cabinet is where I store bigger bowls, serveware and linens for the nearby dining room and the drawer under the bar is for larger bulk bottles of drinkies and bar tools.
I spend so much time hanging out at this island (there are barstools on the other side where people perch all day) mindlessly tidying anything that ends up in the sink as I chit chat with guests so I love how visually simple it is with the hidden dishwasher and the trash bin compartment (instead of having a trash can against the island, hiding the special ebony stained wood).
We had trash bin and recycling compartments built in with a side section to hold all the bags. There was enough room to put up a hook for a small brush and dustpan.
Under the sink are all our kitchen cleaning supplies (dish soap, sponges, brushes, cloths, etc.), a towel rack for a hand towel and a higher up little shelf for more brush storage. I don’t normally keep the dish pods that accessible because with little kids, that can be a hazard, but if you don’t have small children, this is a great way to further decant and know at an instant glance if you’re running low on anything.
The last “arm” of the kitchen is the peninsula, which is part adult and kid plate storage, part drink storage (there is my dream nugget ice maker in the middle and refrigerated drawers for snacks, juice boxes, beer, etc. at the far left).
Like I said, there are no traditional “uppers” in this kitchen, so drawer storage was the way to go for us in terms of plates, bowls, etc. To prevent things from banging around inside and breaking, our contractor installed this peg system which we love. You can move around the pegs based on the size of your dishes or what you’re storing and they’re awesome.
And while I love a mix of vintage and handmade plates, they can either look messy or just waste space generally. This simple set from Made by Design keeps everything looking cohesive, plus they are super light and stack SO well and tight, so it takes up very little space. It’s affordable, durable and works really great for our family up here.
That bottom drawer is where we keep the kids’ plates/cups/silverware and napkins and it’s so convenient. They can help set the table, help unload the dishwasher because it’s all easy to reach and feel like they’re contributing.
And now you’ve seen inside everything (well, except for the refrigerator and oven…more on appliances soon).
Thank you again to NEAT Method who did such an incredible job getting me organized and maximizing space in this kitchen (both Krisztina from the Los Angeles team and Nicole Loiterstein from NEAT Method St. Louis). There’s a place for everything and everything tucks away into its space. I feel like the luckiest person on the planet.
If you’re ready to tackle your cabinets and drawers, seriously check out the Made By Design line from Target. Also, a quick tip is don’t just look in the kitchen section. We hit up the bathroom storage section and general home storage and org collections, too. Get creative and just find the shapes and functions you need, regardless of the room.
As always, let us know in the comments if you have any questions, and browse through the below Get the Looks we put together with all the product we used (and loved).
1. Two Tier Server | 2. Metal Wire Basket | 3. Black Mug | 4. Tall Tumbler (set of 6) | 5. White Mug (set of 6) | 6. Wine Glass | 7. Coupe Glass | 8. Moscow Mule Mug | 9. Wood Tea Cup | 10. Travel Mug | 11. Champagne Flute | 12. Glass Straws (set of 8) | 13. Japanese Style Jigger | 14. Cocktail Shaker | 15. Tea Cup | 16. Cocktail Picks (set of 8)| 17. Old Fashioned Glass (set of 8) | 18. Stemless Wine Glass (set of 6) | 19. Long Coffee Spoon | 20. Expandable Drawer Organizer | 21. Vessel | 22. Cutting Board | 23. Canister | 24. Black French Press | 25. Drawer Organizer | 26. Black Flatware (5 pc) | 27. Spoon Rest | 28. Book Easel | 29. Bowl | 30. Salad Plate | 31. Dinner Plate | 32. Pasta Bowl | 33. Tall Storage Container | 34. Small Storage Container | 35. Pot Holder | 36. Spinning Organizer | 37. White Tumbler | 38. White Square Plate | 39. Organizer Set | 40. Terry Dishcloth (set of 6) | 41. Shelf | 42. Drying Mat | 43. Pot Holder and Oven Mitt | 44. Cabinet Turntable | 45. Tea Towel | 46. Food Storage Container (12 pc) | 47. Pan Organizer | 48. White Basket | 49. Spice Jar | 50. Spice Jar Label | 51. Bathroom Tray | 52. Knife Dock
1. Tongs | 2. Pasta Server | 3. Serving Spoon | 4. Slotted Spatula | 5. Solid Spatula | 6. Electric Tea Kettle | 7. Pour Over Coffee Maker | 8. Coffee Maker | 9. Strainer | 10. Can Opener | 11. Measuring Cups | 12. Mixing Bowl | 13. Toaster | 14. Dutch Oven | 15. Measuring Pitcher | 16. Cooling Sheet | 17. Box Grater | 18. Jumbo Cooker | 19. Skillet | 20. Jumbo Cookie Sheet | 21. Pizza Pan | 22. Cookie Sheet | 23. Rolling Pin | 24. Wood and Silicon Spatula | 25. Wood Turner | 26. Wood Slotted Spoon | 27. Wood Slotted Spoon | 28. Loaf Pan | 29. Muffin Tin | 30. Garlic Press | 31. Masher | 32. Scrub Brush | 33. Round Cake Pan | 34. Dish Brush | 35. Dutch Oven | 36. Sauce Pan | 37. Sauté Pan | 38. Hand Broom and Dust Pan | 39. Cake Pan
***Photography by Sara Tramp for EHD