Cooking Caddy for Quick Clear-Off
Keep condiments and spices in an easy-to-carry rack to free up countertop space (check out more space-saving tips for a small kitchen). You always want salt, cooking oils and your favorite spices next to the stove because you use them every day. But they don't have to take up valuable counter space full time. Place them all in a caddy that you can instantly stow in a cabinet after cooking. You'll find caddies in various shapes, sizes and prices at any store that sells kitchenware.
Tuck the microwave under your cabinets to get it off the counter. Microwave ovens are the biggest space hogs on most countertops. With a few models, manufacturers offer optional mounting kits that let you mount the microwave under cabinets. To raise your old microwave, consider the sturdy brackets shown here. But first measure its height and the height of the space above the countertop; with a larger microwave, you might find that the space under it will be too small to be useful. Plus: check out more quick and clever kitchen storage ideas.
Under-Cabinet Knife Storage Racks
Pull-down racks give you instant access to kitchen essentials without the clutter of spice racks or knife holders. When the cooking is done, the rack swings up against the underside of the cabinet. The acrylic knife rack like the one shown here, or buy a pair of hinges only and make your own wooden rack to hold knives, spices or other small items that take up counter space.
Concealed Message Center
Don't let shopping lists, phone messages and to-do notes clutter up counter space. Mount a dry-erase board and a plastic bin on the inside of a cabinet door with double-sided foam mounting tape. The bin will protrude into the cabinet, so be sure to position it where it won't collide with shelves or the stuff inside. Get the board, bin and tape at a discount or office supply store.
Tidy File Center
Countertops are a landing pad for paper?mail, news clippings and other assorted notes. Get that mess off your counter with folders and a file holder. The one shown here (from an office supply store) mounts with screws or double-sided foam tape. If you don't have suitable vertical surface, get a file holder that sits on the countertop. It will take up less space (and look neater) than a stack of papers. If you're short on space and could use a home office, read up on how to turn your closet into a makeshift home office!
Tucked Away Coffeemaker
For serious coffee drinkers, stowing the coffeemaker inside a cabinet just doesn't make sense; you'll only have to pull it out again in a few hours. Here's a solution: An under-cabinet coffeemaker is always available and doesn't take up valuable counter space. Plus: here's how to get those pesky coffee stains out of carpeting.
Expand the Counter with a Kitchen Cart
A rolling kitchen cart is the next best thing to adding cabinets and countertop space. The top provides extra work space when you're preparing that big Thanksgiving dinner. And the shelves below hold items that would otherwise consume countertop space. If you plan to use a cart for food preparation, choose one with a tough top like butcher block, stainless steel or plastic laminate. Some cart tops are glossy finished wood—beautiful, but not very durable. Carts come in a variety of wood finishes, so there's a good chance you can match your existing cabinets. Or you can go for an eclectic look with a shiny metal or painted cart.
Decorative Backsplash Rack
Backsplash racks offer easy access and stylish storage. Most versions take just a few minutes to install. Backsplash racks have a few disadvantages, though. All your kitchen utensils have to look good, since they're on display. And if you ever decide to remove the rack, you'll be left with screw holes in the backsplash; not a big problem with drywall, but ugly and unfixable in tile.
Under-Cabinet Entertainment Center
Replace that countertop TV with an under-cabinet model. On most models, the screen folds up and out of your way when not in use. Basic models include a radio, and pricier versions play CDs or DVDs too. Under-cabinet TVs are easy to mount—all you need is a drill and a screwdriver. But running cable or antenna wire to the TV probably won't be so easy. Make sure you can connect a TV before you buy one.