Category: Kitchen


5 Simple Steps to a Perfect Pantry

Bring neatness to your pantry—a notoriously hard-to-organize space—with these tips and tricks, based both on common sense and experience.

How to Organize a Pantry

Photo: cawarchitects.com

In many households, meals start in the pantry. Whether it’s an oversize cabinet, a converted armoire, or a separate small room, we rely on the pantry to store as many canned goods, paper products, pet supplies, packaged foods, and cleaning solutions as the laws of physics allow. No matter how compact or generously sized, pantries hold more and function better if well kept. But neatness can be difficult to maintain in these notoriously jumbled, chronically overstocked storage areas. Read on for five simple yet effective pantry organization tips, all geared to help you get in and out with a minimum level of frustration along the way.

 

1. MAXIMIZE AVAILABLE SPACE

How to Organize a Pantry - Maximize Space

Photo: yestertec.com

Put every square inch to good use. That means packing as many shelves, drawers, or cabinets into the pantry as possible. In an awkward corner or cavity where nothing else would fit, capitalize on exposed sections of the wall, using them to support hooks, pegboards, or magnetized panels. Also, if there’s a door into the pantry, don’t overlook the straightforward, no-frills benefits of a hanging pocket organizer, perfect for loose items like bags of rice or pouches of beans.

 

2. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

How to Organize a Pantry - Configurable

Photo: farrowarcarodesign.ca

Successful pantry organization depends in part on the changeability of the space, whether or not it can be modified over time as storage needs shift. Whenever there’s a choice, opt for configurable shelves over fixed-in-place ones. Built-ins are nice, but stand-alone metal units are a fraction of the cost, at least as functional, and most important of all, they’re almost endlessly versatile. Adjustable wood cabinetry exists, but it tends to be one of the costliest options.

 

3. CONSIDER USING CONTAINERS

How to Organize a Pantry - Containers

Photo: neatmethod.com

It may seem unnecessary—and for some people, it probably is unnecessary—but if you struggle to keep the pantry tidy, I recommend storing dry goods (e.g., flour, sugar, and rice) in transparent, airtight containers. There are many round-shaped options to be found in this product category, but rectangular containers stack much better, affording a more efficient use of space. For miscellaneous small items, use inexpensive baskets or repurposed crates to cut down on clutter.

 

4. GO LABEL CRAZY

How to Organize a Pantry - Labeling

Photo: onmyagendaonline.com

Many homeowners love open storage, because with no cabinet doors or drawer faces to obstruct the line of sight, you can see what you’ve got at a glance. Particularly in the pantry, where so many different items commingle, the downside of open storage is how visually chaotic it can look. One solution is to store like items in opaque containers, each labeled in keeping with its contents. To make your labels, get creative with washi tape, clothespins, or chalkboard paint.

 

5. ADD STYLE

How to Organize a Pantry

Photo: getmytour.com

The pantry’s role is a functional one, but loving how it looks may motivate you to keep the space more organized day in, day out. Paint the walls a cheery color, or hang wallpaper over visible portions of the wall. Space permitting, install a funky pendant light or chandelier. And if you’re buying baskets and bins to fill the shelves, coordinate them not only with each other, but also with the decorating scheme that exists elsewhere in the kitchen and throughout the rest of your home.


Bob Vila Radio: Dealing with Finicky Fridge Doors

If you're tired of checking and rechecking the fridge to make sure the door has closed tightly, read on to find out how easy it is to fix that problem for good.

If your refrigerator door doesn’t open and close as it should—or if it doesn’t seal as tightly as it’s supposed to—the  problem could be that the fridge is not level.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LEVELING YOUR REFRIGERATOR or read the text below:

Fortunately, getting your fridge to sit up straight isn’t a difficult job. For safety’s sake, start by unplugging the appliance. Next, remove the grill on the bottom. That’ll expose the adjustable leveling feet.

Place a level on top of the fridge, positioning across the front of the cabinet. Note the position of the bubble in your level. Then use either pliers or a crescent wrench to adjust the leveling bolts until the bubble in your level moves to the middle.

Once that’s done, turn your level so it sits front-to-back on the top of the cabinet. Recheck the level and fine-tune the adjustment on your leveling bolts as needed. If the floor where your refrigerator sits is not level, you may need to position shims under the leveling feet to make up the difference.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Defrost a Freezer

Defrost older freezers from time to time, not only to keep the appliance working efficiently, but also to prevent ice from hogging the storage space within. It's a simple task—you'll just need a few towels, a little time, and some heat.

How to Defrost a Freezer

Photo: shutterstock.com

Have you got a freezer full of frost? That’ll happen. Fortunately, defrosting a freezer isn’t as big a deal as people make it out to be. Yes, it’s a bit of hassle, but there are definitely benefits. Once you’re done, you can expect the appliance to run more efficiently, which can mean lower electricity bills. And you’ll win back precious freezer space for storing microwave pizzas and pints of ice cream. Rather than put off the chore for another month (or six), scroll down now to learn how painlessly simple it can be to defrost a freezer.

Preparation
At the outset, you face perhaps the most difficult step in the process: Because food must be removed from the freezer before it’s defrosted, you’ll have to somehow keep everything from thawing out in the interim. If you can’t borrow space in a neighbor’s freezer, the best alternative is to place frozen food into a cooler (or even an airtight plastic bag), together with a suitable number of ice packs. Of course, another way to handle the problem is to plan far enough ahead so that you can eat up a good portion of your stock of frozen food in the weeks before you defrost.

Next, turn off the freezer before taking out all the removable parts inside, such as shelves, drawers, and trays. (Some parts may be so covered in ice that they refuse to budge; in that case, wait until the ice has melted enough to release its hold.) Before you move on, pile up old towels or dishrags beneath the freezer door to soak up the water that inevitably drains out of the chamber during the defrosting process.

How to Defrost a Freezer - Appliance Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

Melting the Ice
To persuade the ice within the freezer to melt faster, there are at least a couple different strategies you might try:

• Place bowls of hot water into the freezer. The heat from the steaming water will get the ice melting. Replace the bowls every five minutes or so to sustain the momentum.

• Use a hairdryer to blow hot air over the ice. For safety’s sake, move the hairdryer around so that no one area gets too hot, and be absolutely certain that the melting ice comes nowhere within reach of the electrical outlet you’ve plugged the dryer into.

Of course, if you’re in no hurry, you can simply wait for the ice to melt on its own!

Cleaning the Interior
Once the ice begins to melt, break it up into pieces and remove them with a plastic spatula. Don’t scrape too hard—and definitely don’t use a metal tool—or you could damage the interior of the freezer. As you pull out chunks of ice, put them in the sink or a large mixing bowl. All the while, try to keep dripping water contained to the towels you’ve placed at the base of the appliance.

With the ice gone, proceed to clean the freezer. Dry it completely before turning the appliance back on. If there are water droplets in the chamber when the freezer returns to operation, ice is just going to accumulate again, and quicker than you might expect.

The more often you defrost the freezer, the less time-consuming the process will be.


Get the Look: Retro Kitchen

Cheerful colors and nostalgic details lend their charms to these kitchens inspired by the past. Read on to learn how to re-create the look in your own home.

Retro Kitchen

Photo: Mitchell Snyder Photography

They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Today, the popular notion of a “dream kitchen” includes an an all-white color palette, a suite of stainless steel appliances, and granite countertops polished to a glimmering sheen. In years past, however, such a design would most likely have struck homeowners as cold, antiseptic, and uninviting. Indeed, kitchen design philosophy has changed a great deal over the decades. Some of us are old enough to remember, for example, that kitchens used to be colorful! From the flooring to the countertops and curtains, everything seemed to feature an eye-catching hue. Some traditions are best left in the past, of course, but if you’ve been yearning to cook in a space with more personality, in a room that recalls a bygone era, these tips can help you design the retro kitchen of your dreams.

Colors
What’s the best color scheme for a retro kitchen? That depends. You can hark back to the 1950s by channeling the most popular colors of those long-ago days, bold turquoise and red. Or for a look that says “The Sixties,” choose mustard and avocado—colors that some are still trying to forget, not bring back. In the kitchen pictured, designers Kevin Fischer and Charlotte Cooney, of Alice Design/Domestic Arts, chose pale yellow and tomato-red, a combination that recalls the early 20th century; builders Hammer & Hand brought their vision to life. Since there are so many paint colors available today, a great way to narrow the field is to look at pictures of kitchens from the era you’re trying to re-create, and see what strikes your fancy.

Related: 10 Design Essentials for a Retro Kitchen 

Surfaces
Though somewhat quaint-seeming now, surfaces like linoleum flooring and laminate countertops were once considered state-of-the-art. Fortunately, both remain in production and are readily available online or at your local home center. As popular in the past as they are today, simple white tiles are another classic, worthy of consideration no matter time period you’re using as a guide. After all, the goal isn’t to create a perfectly accurate, museum-quality historical reproduction. Rather, it’s to borrow the best from the past in pursuit of a design that, instead of being hopelessly outdated, looks forward as much as it looks back.

Retro Kitchen - Cabinetry

Photo: Mitchell Snyder Photography

Cabinetry
White, ivory, or beige cabinetry works well in most retro kitchens, regardless of the paint colors applied elsewhere in the space. Glass-front cabinets are another option with old-fashioned appeal, made all the more persuasive when filled with colorful china or glassware that dates to the era that the room is trying to evoke. Yet another way to achieve a vintage look is by painting cabinetry to match the room’s overall color scheme.

Hardware
Replacing cabinet knobs and drawer pulls ranks as one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to add period detail. While many sources stock new hardware that resembles older designs, some people enjoy the thrill of the hunt, searching for authentic examples in flea markets and architectural salvage yards.

Sink and Faucet
Homeowners are spoiled for choice when it comes to fixtures that mimic yesterday’s styles. For instance, apron-front sinks are enjoying renewed popularity and work superbly in spaces modeled on the early 20th century. In a 1970s-themed kitchen, a stainless steel undermount model pairs nicely with a colorful laminate counter. Faucets, meanwhile, range from those with long, arching necks to boxy designs perfect for kitchens mimicking the postwar period.

Related: 10 Design Essentials for a Retro Kitchen 

Lighting
Most older kitchens sported an overhead light in a style that complemented the room. Depending on the era, that fixture might have been a milk-glass pendant or a sleekly sculptural ceiling light. Some people opt for a reproduction, while others scour salvage shops near and far in pursuit of the genuine article.

Retro Kitchen - Appliances

Photo: Mitchell Snyder Photography

Appliances
To get your hands on period-appropriate appliances, you basically have two options. One is to buy new models whose designs are steeped in nostalgia. The other is to search for refurbished relics. Stoves with porcelain exteriors in white, red, soft blue, or even pink have undeniable appeal, but such treasures can be difficult (or quite costly) to obtain. A compromise would be to choose standard modern appliances with the simplest possible silhouettes.

Accessories
The little things make such a big difference in identifying a space as belonging to this or that time period. A colorful set of dishes or glassware, for instance, can be displayed as a focal point, while vintage tablecloths, curtains, clocks, or telephones (or new designs that resemble older models) further enhance the illusion. On the walls, consider hanging colorful collectibles like fruit-crate labels and recipe booklets, or artwork that dates back to the era that you’ve selected as the inspiration for your retro kitchen.

 


Bob Vila Radio: Farmhouse Sinks

Farmhouse sinks, whose style harkens back to the 19th century, are enjoying a revival, with more models being offered than ever before.

Farmhouse sinks, also known as apron-front sinks, are a country kitchen staple. These distinctive vessels have an exposed front that sits above, not behind, the base cabinet. Common in early 19th-century kitchens, the farmhouse sink has enjoyed renewed popularity over the past decade, which has spurred manufacturers to offer a greater range of models, materials, and options than ever before.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FARMHOUSE SINKS or read the text below:

Farmhouse Sink

Photo: houzz.com

The popularity of farmhouse sinks isn’t just a matter of aesthetics. Their deep basin comfortably accommodates large pans and helps cut down on splashes. Because the sink sits far forward, the user doesn’t need to bend down as much. And thanks to the style’s appeal, apron-front sinks now come in both single- and double-bowl models with a range of options.

On the downside, these sinks have a higher price tag and less selection than the more common drop-in styles. Because of their shape and considerable weight, they usually require additional support and a specially designed base cabinet. But this situation is changing: Due to such innovations as shallower bowls and overmount designs, it’s easier than ever to retrofit an apron-front sink. In addition, the introduction of clean-lined stainless steel models has made this highly coveted style appropriate for even sleekly modern interiors, with nary a cow in sight.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Pot Fillers

Read on to learn why you ought to consider including a handy pot filler as part of your next kitchen remodeling project.

If you’re planning a kitchen remodel, one feature to consider adding is a pot filler. These handy fixtures are basically additional cold water faucets installed right over the stove, making it easier and safer to fill large pots.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON POT FILLERS or read the text below:

Pot Fillers

Photo: shutterstock.com

Even if your sink isn’t far from the stove, it’s still a chore to fill a large pot and haul it over to the burners. Water weighs eight pounds per gallon, so even a two-gallon pot can weigh almost 20 pounds when full. With a pot filler mounted above your range, you just extend the fixture out from the wall and fill your pot while it’s sitting right on the burner.

You’ll probably want to coordinate your pot filler with your sink’s faucet. Many manufacturers create matching or complementary styles to go with their faucet sets. Be sure to measure carefully before choosing a pot filler—the arm needs to clear the top of your range without hitting the cabinet above it, and you don’t want it mounted so high that water splashes out of the pot when you fill it.

Pot fillers do require a new supply line, and the fixtures themselves can be pricey, so this is not an inexpensive addition. Still, as part of a larger remodel, the cost is usually not prohibitive, and once you’ve had one, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Clearing the Counters

Kitchen countertops are notorious catch-alls for household clutter. Take back those surfaces with smart space planning and new ideas for better organization.

Over time, kitchen countertops can get cluttered with junk, which not only makes the kitchen look sloppy but also disrupts meal preparation. It’s time to take back your counters!

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CLEARING THE COUNTERS or read the text below:

Clearing Counters

Photo: shutterstock.com

First, open up storage space in your cabinets and drawers by getting rid of items you never use. If you don’t yet have a junk drawer, move things around to create one—it’s great for stashing phone chargers, twist-ties, pens and other kitchen miscellany.

Next, gather any paperwork in the kitchen. Toss or file away what you can, then consider using a wall-mounted file for paperwork that cycles through your kitchen (takeout menus, notices from the kids’ school, incoming mail and appliance manuals).

Clean up that tangle of chargers by investing in one of the many products that stow devices neatly while they’re charging, or check online for some smart DIY ideas.

Now it’s time for the nitty-gritty: If any appliances on the counter don’t get used at least once a week, banish them to a cabinet or the basement. Figure out ways to move other kitchen implements up into a cabinet or onto a wall. A rod mounted near the stove is convenient for hanging cooking utensils; a wall-mounted magnetic strip will get that knife block off the countertop; and a pot rack can keep those frequently used pans off the countertop or stove.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Cure a Smelly Garbage Disposal

If there's an unpleasant stench wafting from your garbage disposal, it's time to give it a good cleaning. Here's how to get rid of stinky food residue in your disposal.

Photo: shutterstock.com

There’s no denying the convenience of the garbage disposal: It simplifies so many of the activities that take place in the kitchen. Frequent use of the appliance, however, can sometimes lead to foul odors. If you’ve noticed a not-so-pleasing scent emanating from yours, don’t worry—it’s nothing permanent. Getting rid of a garbage disposal smell is by no means an arduous task. In fact, you probably have everything you need for it in your pantry, and the job won’t take more than 10 minutes.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Scrub brush or dish wand
- Dish soap
- Ice
- Kosher salt
- Lemon peels

STEP 1
Start by dabbing about a tablespoon of dish soap onto your choice of either a scrub brush or dish wand. Scrub the visible portion of the garbage disposal, paying special attention to the seam where the disposal flange meets the sink basin. Small particles have the tendency to linger there, and even mold can sometimes grow.

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
When you run the kitchen faucet while operating the garbage disposal, its housing never completely fills with water. That’s normal. But if your garbage disposal has begun to smell, it can be a huge help to give the guts of the appliance a good soak. Here’s how to do it: Plug the drain in your sink, fill the basin about halfway with water, and then add a bit of dish soap (or vinegar, a natural cleaner). Next, unplug the drain and activate the garbage disposal. Doing so propels the soapy water through the housing, rinsing off its hidden nooks and crannies.

STEP 3
Even after the bath you gave the garbage disposal in Step 2, there may still be slimy residue left inside the appliance. To dislodge it, you need to go only as far as the spice rack: As it happens, kosher salt can be an effective abrasive cleaner. Pour a large cup of ice cubes into the garbage disposal, switch on the appliance, then add one-half cup of the salt. Together, the ice and salt should combine to grind away what remains of the odor-causing residue.

By now, the garbage disposal smell that had been bothering you should be gone. If you’ve got an extra lemon lying around, why not imbue the kitchen with a fresh citrus scent by simply grinding a few peels through the appliance?

Preventing Bad Smells
Although it’s easy enough to eliminate a garbage disposal smell, prevention is perhaps the best cure. Bear in mind these simple guidelines, and you’ll cut down on the accumulated food residue in the disposal that causes the foul odors in the first place. First, remember to use the disposal only for the organic materials it was designed to handle. Also, try to keep fibrous vegetables—for example, celery—and starchy foods like potatoes out of there. Meanwhile, don’t be hesitant to put eggshells and small fruit pits through the machine, as they actually go a long way toward cleaning its blades. Finally, dispel persistent particles from within the housing by always running the machine for five seconds longer than you think is strictly necessary.

With regular care and a bit of extra attention on occasion, your garbage disposal can be a boon to your everyday life without becoming a stinky inconvenience.


Bob Vila Radio: Banquettes

In an awkwardly shaped or small-size space, banquettes are casual dining spots perfectly suited for breakfast and snack time.

Banquette seating has a nostalgic charm that may remind you of your favorite diner or that cozy spot in your grandmother’s kitchen. But banquettes have more to offer than nice memories—they’re also smart space-savers. Is a banquette right for your kitchen? Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Listen to BOB VILA ON BANQUETTES or read the text below:

Kitchen Banquettes

Photo: kentkitchenworks.com

Banquettes are great for providing seating in areas that are too tight for a traditional table and chairs. They make good casual dining spots and are perfectly suited for breakfasts and snack time (that’s why they’re so common in eat-in kitchens). And banquettes excel at making the most of awkward corners or alcoves, transforming these potentially wasted spaces into functional, welcoming dining nooks.

A banquette isn’t the best choice, however, for large families, particularly in homes that lack a more formal dining space. Bench-style seating means disruption every time someone needs to get up for a glass of milk or another piece of bread. And while banquette benches are fun seating for kids, they can be tough for older family members to negotiate.

Finally, it can be difficult to keep the bench clean. If you opt for a banquette, you may want to invest in a table that can be rolled in and out for easier access to those crumb-littered corners of the banquette.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Pantry Storage

Ready-made and do-it-yourself organization solutions help you ensure that even in a well-stocked pantry, you can always find what you're looking for.

A well-stocked pantry is key to planning and preparing meals efficiently. But even if you keep loads of ingredients on hand, they won’t do you any good if you can’t find them. Here are a few tips on keeping your pantry items organized, visible, and easily accessible.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON PANTRY STORAGE or read the text below:

Pantry Storage

Photo: shutterstock.com

The first step is to get rid of stale or expired items—and anything else that you don’t think anyone in your household will ever eat. Next, if possible, completely clear out your pantry shelves, clean them off, and start organizing. Make collections of like items—for example, soups and other canned goods, or pastas, legumes, and grains. As you restock your pantry, you’ll want to keep these groups together, making sure you can see every item.

Fortunately, there are plenty of products (and DIY solutions) oout there to help you organize a pantry. Among the handiest are undershelf baskets, which add storage space and keep frequently used items accessible. Lazy Susans can help with accessibility but in small pantries, they can be inefficient space hogs. Stair step-style shelf organizers help keep soups and other canned goods readily visible; you can DIY your own by using lengths of wood. Finally, consider storing grains, cereals, and other bulk items in clear plastic stackable containers. They use space efficiently and let you see what you’ve got.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.