kitchens

Practical Gifts for The Kitchen!

It's that time of year again - time to spend/give/receive! If you are feeling bogged down at the idea of blind consumerism, it's a good idea to focus on practical and useful, yet also fun, gift ideas for your loved ones. As someone who loves to cook, I can attest to the fact that many of the products suggested in the following post from thekitcn.com are must haves for any cook's or baker's on your holiday gift list! I use my Wusthof knives, OXO locking tongs, OXO zester/grater, 10" cast iron skillet on a nearly daily basis! All the better if you can find a well seasoned cast iron skillet, measuring cups or vintage baking dish at a local thrift store!

15 Classic Gifts That'll Stand the Test of Time

 
Lisa Freedman
Nov 14, 2018
 

 

You don't want to see a loved one at Easter and find out that the [insert gift here] you got her for the holidays has since broken. That would be terrible, right? To keep that from happening, we've compiled this list of 15 classic gifts that will stand the test of time.

Every single of one of these items consistently rank among the best in reviews. They're also pretty essential for a well-rounded kitchen. And they're from top name brands. Buy something on this list and you can rest easy, knowing that almost nothing can go wrong with it. When the holiday season of 2045 rolls around, you'll still be hearing how great that gift from 2018 is holding up.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife, $150

This is as close to perfect as you can get when it comes to a good-quality chef's knife. Because it actually is perfect. It's balanced just right and the blade is well-rounded on the bottom to encourage the ideal rocking motion. The price is right in the middle of the road (not too cheap and not ridiculously expensive) and it's special enough to be a sweet gift.

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. OXO Good Grips 9-Inch Stainless Steel Locking Tongs, $12

A good pair of tongs become an extension of a home cook's hands. And these are good tongs. So good, in fact, that they'll give cooks more control than, say, a spatula or turner. They lock closed, have non-slip handles, boast sturdy scalloped grippers, and can go in the dishwasher. They also go in a stocking; get one for every stocking you need to stuff.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

3. Peugeot 7-Inch U'Select Pepper Mill, $45

Get this for your dad who always says yes to the waitress when she asks if anyone wants freshly ground pepper. Made in France, Peugeot is one of the best names in the pepper-grinding business. This model has easy-to-adjust settings to allow for all sorts of grinds (from fine to coarse), and a two-stage grinding process (the first step cracks the peppercorns and the second one grinds them) to result in the freshest and boldest flavor possible.

 

(Image credit: Amaozn)
 

4. Microplane Zester Grater, $13

The name Microplane has become synonymous with graters of all types because it really is the brand that matters the most. And this is one of their best, most important tools. It can turn hard cheeses into snow-like mountains, garlic into a paste, nutmeg into a powder, and more. Looking for a little host gift? Pair this with a wedge of Parm and you're all set.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

5. Emile Henry Rectangular Baking Dish, from $50

Also made in France (seriously, why is all the best kitchen stuff made in France?), this baker diffuses and retains heat better than most. Because it can withstand temps up to 520°F, it can go in the broiler and directly from the fridge or freezer to a hot oven.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

6. Lodge 10.25-Inch Cast Iron Skillet, $15

Okay, maybe we take that French thing back ... our all-time favorite cast iron skillet is made in the good ol' US of A. It comes pre-seasoned, which means it can be used as soon it's unwrapped, it cooks better than any other cast iron skillet out there, and it only gets better as it's used over time.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

7. OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Angled Measuring Cup Set, $20

The most ingenious measuring cups to have ever been invented, these are read from above instead of the side (although that is an option, too). This way, bakers can see how much they're pouring out while they're standing over the cup and they don't have to hunch over awkwardly. Get this set for anyone who bakes and maybe there will be some cookies in your future.

 

(Image credit: Williams Sonoma)

8. Staub Cast-Iron Round Cocotte, from $160 at Williams Sonoma

One more French thing! We've always recommended Staub Dutch Ovens, but a few months ago, we got to take a trip to the factory to see how these babies get made and now we're even more enamored of them. So much work and care goes into each pot! (It takes about a week to make each pot and more than 20 workers play a part in every one!) So while the price is a tad high, we totally understand why. Plus, Staub really does have some of the best cooking results compared to other enameled cast iron pieces.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

9. John Boos Maple Wood Edge Grain Reversible Cutting Board, $134

One of the things that separate beginner cooks from avid home cooks, we think, is their cutting board. Whereas, say, college students might be more likely to use a plastic one, serious home cooks have a substantial wooden cutting board that can sit out on the counter like a badge of honor. Get this 24- by 18-inch board for anyone who's hoping to feel more like an adult in 2019.

 

(Image credit: ThermoWorks)

10. ThermoPop, $34 at ThermoWorks

Nearly every professional chef will agree that a meat thermometer is one of the most crucial kitchen tools. And they'll almost always suggest the ThermoPop, too. Not only is it incredibly accurate, but it's also super responsive and easy to operate. Plus, it comes in nine fun colors, so you can make the gift feel a little more personal.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

11. Vollrath Wear-Ever Half-Size Sheet Pans, $27 for two

We can not say enough good things about these sheet pans. (So we're just going to keep writing about them.) They don't warp or discolor, and veggies roast just as well as chicken breasts on them. Chances are, the home cook in your life is annoyed by her sheet pans but she's never going to break down and buy herself some new ones. So that's where you come in.

Related: These Are Our Editors' Favorite Baking Sheets

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

12. Duralex Picardie Glasses, $20 for six

Maybe we should have retitled this gift guide All the Kitchen Things to Buy Your Francophile friends! These made-in-France glasses make the perfect juice, water, or wine glasses. Bonus: The price is right and they'll look great in any kind of kitchen.

 

(Image credit: Williams Sonoma)

13. Goldtouch Nonstick 4-Piece Bakeware Set, $80 at Williams Sonoma

For the baker in your life, this Williams Sonoma set includes four of the most key pieces. The pieces are made of commercial-grade aluminized steel, which distributes heat quickly and evenly, and have a ceramic-based coating to ensure easy release every single time.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

14. GIR 11-Inch Spatula, $13

It's hard to love a spatula (or any other inanimate object) more than we love this one. Unlike other spatulas, which have a scraper attached to a handle, the GIR is just one piece of silicone so there's no place for gunk to hide. It's perfectly bendy (read: not too bendy!) to scrape a bowl of every last bit of batter. And it comes in 13 bright colors. Gift it on its own or pair it with a cookbook or anything else on this list for a more substantial present.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

15. Cuisinart 6-Quart Multi-Cooker, $118

This small appliance consistently tops editors' lists of best slow cookers. (A few of us at Kitchn also have it and swear by it.) The Instant Pot may be super trendy, but this slow cooker has been a top seller for a while now. Translation: Your loved one will still want to use this even once America's moved on to the next new gadget.

 

The Must Have Organization Item for any Home

Over the years that we have been together, my husband and I have now renovated or created 4 kitchens. Two in New York, and two in Northampton. As people who both love to cook, we have come to understand what our kitchen "must have" list includes. This has changed and expanded with time and experience. For us, one small, but important detail in a kitchen is a magnetic knife rack. We love having access to our knife collection - without having to rifle through drawers. We also love our knives and like to display them. (#kitchengeek). I was excited to come across this article in Apartment Therapy yesterday, outlining some fantastic uses for this wonderful item. Who knew that our favorite kitchen secret had so many practical uses? 

11 Uses for Magnetic Knife Racks You're Probably Overlooking

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Dabney Frake
May 17, 2018
 
(Image credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion)
 

I'm prepared to say that 85% of U.S. citizens have one of these magnetic knife holders hanging somewhere in their kitchen (that's a totally made up number btw), and the other 15% should get on board. And then 100% of us should look for other places to mount them in our homes, because these simple little strips are good for so much more than just knives. Here's a whole bunch of ways they make organizing easy.

 
(Image credit: Design Sponge)

Install a magnetic knife rack inside a big cabinet, as seen on Design Sponge. It's a great way to keep track of smaller items and reduce visual clutter.

 

(Image credit: Regina Yunghans)

Regina solved one of life's little annoying problems with one of these: Where and how to store food processor attachments. This is such a clever idea for keeping sharp blades safe and out of the way.

 
(Image credit: IKEA)

IKEA, no surprise, has a lot of clever ideas on how to use them. Mount a magnetic knife rack (or two) next to the door—either vertically or horizontally—to hold keys and other important reminders before you head out the door.

 

(Image credit: Amelia Lawrence)

Amelia created a version to display photographs, memos, and other important items. A store-bought strip would work just as nicely if you don't want to take the time to DIY.

 
(Image credit: Amazon)

Install a holder inside your bathroom drawers to keep all those little hair accessories and grooming supplies in one place and within reach. This one from Amazon isn't currently available, but there are other nice wooden options for under $30.

 

(Image credit: Local Kitchen Blog)

If you aren't using the underside of your kitchen cabinets, you're missing valuable storage real estate. Mount your knives upside down, as spotted over on Local Kitchen's blog, and the strip's slim profile takes up very little room and tucks out of sight.

 

 

(Image credit: Crate & Barrel Kids)

From Crate & Barrel Kids comes this storage-meets-art idea for hanging toy race cars. Not only does it give you a place to keep all those loose ankle-sprainers, but it makes for some very fun and dramatic decor.

(Image credit: IKEA)

After cleaning your paint brushes, IKEA suggests you squeeze the water from the bristles and attach them to the magnetic strip to dry. It's a great way to keep your counters clear and clutter-free. (Although, note that it's better to store paintbrushes upside down...)

 
(Image credit: Blu Kat Kraft)

Great under-the-cabinet idea: Put some magnets on the lids of your spice jars, then attach them to knife strips mounted there. These clear options let you see what you've got, so simply unscrew the jar when you need it.

(Image credit: The Cavender Diary)

Have a garage, or a spot to work on projects? Hang a couple of these racks for loose bits, screwdrivers and other tools. This amazing set up is courtesy of the Cavender Diary.

(Image credit: Armelle)

And here's the adult version. Armelle organized her closet and decked out the back of the door with all sorts of storage solutions, including a magnet for her scissors and punches.

Apartment Therapy supports our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations to improve life at home. You support us through our independently chosen links, many of which earn us a commission.
 

Design Elements for Modern Homebuyers

As realtors, we are first-hand witnesses to the changing tides of desirable home design elements for home buyers. Seven years ago, when I became a realtor: granite and poured concrete were all the rage for kitchen counters, everyone seemed to be looking for an open concept living space, flat yards bested yards with any slope, and stainless appliances were a must-have. It's interesting to see preferences for certain types of layouts, paint colors, building materials, design elements and landscaping choices ebb and flow over time. I even notice that my personal preferences change, depending upon what I'm seeing more of. I've grown to love marble in kitchens and baths, but I can imagine that, over time, I might tire of their stark whiteness and required maintenance.

The following article from my favorite home and design blog, Apartment Therapy, talks about *modern* homebuyer preferences. While the Northampton area isn't overflowing with Sub Zero or Viking appliances, per se, I agree that the other elements of this article hold true.

 

What Modern Homebuyers Are Looking For (Hint: It's NOT Granite Countertops)

Brittney Morgan
Oct 25, 2017
 
(Image credit: Emma Fiala)
 
When looking at homes, we all have our own preferences for different home features—one person might want a huge, modern kitchen and another might not care about the kitchen as much as they care about having walk-in closets. But which features are most commonly used as selling points for homes?

Trulia pulled data from homes for sale on the site over the past year to see what design features are most popular for listers, pitting different features against each other. While some trends and design staples unsurprisingly won out—looking at you, subway tile and hardwood floors—others didn't necessarily come out on top, and some were just plain missing (seriously, no mention of granite countertops? I'm shocked!).

Here's how the most popular design features fared against each other.

Marble Countertops vs. Quartz Countertops

The Winner: Quartz countertops—they're more expensive up front, but marble countertops require more maintenance by comparison, which can add up.

Soaking Tubs vs. Claw Foot Tubs

The Winner: Soaking tubs. Claw foot tubs may seem more luxurious, but soaking tubs were far more popular according to the data.

Hardwood Floors vs. Carpet

The Winner: Hardwood floors. According to Trulia, real estate agents frequently see a strong preference for hardwood floors from clients, because they're easier to clean and long-lasting.

Basketweave Tile vs. Subway Tile

The Winner: Subway tile—although Trulia admits the numbers for each were so close, it's nearly a toss-up.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

White Cabinets vs. Dark Cabinets

The Winner: White cabinets, and real estate agents point out that lighter, brighter cabinets can make a kitchen look bigger.

Sub-Zero Appliances vs. Viking Appliances

The Winner: Sub-Zero appliances—although, like the tile style toss-up, Viking appliances were just barely behind.

Bay Windows vs. Floor-to-Ceiling Windows

The Winner: Bay windows. Another close call, but bay windows were still the more popular selling point.

Electric Stoves vs. Gas Stoves

The Winner: Gas stoves—while they're more expensive initially, they save money in the long run as gas in general is less expensive than electricity. Gas stoves were far more popular than electric stoves among listings.

 

 

Great Items to Spruce up Your Kitchen and Home!

Recently we've been drooling over recipes and home decor ideas from the Food52.com website. If you are a homeowner who enjoys unique decor and kitchen items, or someone who loves to cook, it's a great website to peruse! 

As we have written in previous posts, it's not always necessary to completely overhaul or renovate a home in need of some cosmetic updates. You can do a lot with paint, wallpaper and decor to give your home, or rooms within your home, an updated and fresh appearance. This recent post shows four gorgeous new patterns of "easy on, easy off" adhesive wallpaper. What a great way to transform a room with one accent wall and no long term commitment!

Easy On Easy Off Wallpaper from Food52.com

Photo by James Ransom "Hojos Cubanos" pictured above

 

A statement item, such the Mediterranean Vinyl Kitchen Mat can help brighten up a monochromatic space. It looks like Mediterranean tile, and provides cushioning in high traffic areas such as the kitchen where tend to spend a lot of time on your feet. A small investment to help freshen a well-used area in your home. 

Looks as if we are going to be indoors for longer than we hoped this winter, given the recent No'r-Easter "Stella" who just dumped a bunch of snow on Northampton and the Northeast. These wire plant stands are perfect for bringing your indoor/outdoor plants in for the winter - while creating a lovely indoor garden scene, vs. a cluttered-looking corner of the house.

And for the DIY person in your life, here is a great selection of gifts from the Food52 online store. One example is:

Pictured above is the DIY deluxe Hot Sauce kit

 

 Just some helpful hints from your friendly, neighborhood real estate agency, Maple and Main Realty in Florence MA : )

Are Smaller Kitchens The Wave of the Future?

I recently put together a comparative market analysis for homeowners in Northampton who are hoping to sell their home in the spring market. Their ranch-style house has 3 modest bedrooms (yet with a small en suite master bath) a relatively small eat in kitchen, some nice open common living spaces and a lovely back yard. I was struck by the functionality of their small, yet streamlined kitchen. I'm always impressed by friends and clients who have the vision to create beautiful and functional small spaces within their homes. We realtors are seeing a trend towards buyers (generally speaking) seeking homes that aren't overwhelmingly spacious. With more modest-sized homes comes smaller rooms, including the kitchen.

Local design writer, Debra Jo Immergut, recently wrote the following article for the Boston Globe, describing how to design a functional and great looking compact kitchen. As we move towards becoming a culture that is ever more mindful of waste, hyperconsumerism and keeping a check on our carbon footprint, the trend towards smaller kitchens may become more popular.

 

Great design ideas for small kitchens

Advice from the experts on creating a tasteful and organized kitchen when you're short on space.


The new 21st-century kitchen is less focused on square footage and more on a general sense of openness, flow, and functionality.

By Debra Jo Immergut GLOBE CORRESPONDENT FEBRUARY 19, 2016


For the last decade or two, the dream kitchen has been bulking up. Peruse popular home-centric websites, and you'll see marble-topped islands big enough to merit their own coordinates on Google Maps, ranges with sufficient burner capacity to launch small rockets, and cavernous fridges that could double as bunkers. Yes, some people have kitchens on steroids. And some -- urban dwellers, tiny-house revolutionaries, and countless homeowners who simply live less large -- don't. The good news: The small-kitchen crowd needn't feel deprived. When designed for maximum efficiency and style, a more modest kitchen might even be considered the next big thing.

"The kitchen is ever increasing in importance," said Treff LaFleche, principal of LDa Architecture & Interiors in Cambridge, "but the space being dedicated to it is changing dramatically." The new 21st-century kitchen is less focused on square footage and more on a general sense of openness, flow, and functionality, he said -- it's less about a huge footprint and more about "serving as the heart of the home."


A few years down the road, a compact kitchen area may even be an attractive selling point. "Boomers are the ones with the money right now, but their millennial children are driving a move toward efficiency and sustainability," said Bill Darcy, CEO of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, a trade group of manufacturers and designers. Smaller spaces fit the lifestyle of a generation more encumbered with student debt and less enamored with sprawling dream homes, Darcy said.

To make a small kitchen work, owners should plan a savvy layout and opt for simple aesthetics, said New York designer Young Huh, who sat recently on a trend-spotting panel for the association. "You have to make the most of your choices," Huh noted. One upside to remaking a tiny space: You might be able to splurge here and there. "You can really go for it and choose a beautiful floor tile, because it's not so expensive to order a small amount," she noted.

So forget the vast culinary palaces of the Internet. Instead, make the cleverest possible use of the space you've got. But first, arm yourself with these strategies from kitchen-design geniuses.

Tailor it to fit

A slatted shelf unit hangs over the sink; it air-dries and stores dishes in the same spot.
MATT DELPHENICH ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY

A slatted shelf unit hangs over the sink; it air-dries and stores dishes in the same spot.

Even the tiniest space can be extremely functional if it's been fine-tuned to suit a family's daily routines. "Kitchens are very personal," said designer Emily Pinney, principal of Pinney Designs and owner of Cambridge boutique Syd + Sam. For example, "If your kids are always running in for drinks and snacks, maybe you need a refrigerator drawer that's really usable," Pinney said, noting that kitchen design should "be about what you really need in your life."

Creative solutions define the kitchen Charlestown's Bunker Workshop designed for an in-law apartment in Duxbury. The occupants wanted a dish-drying rack similar to ones they'd seen in Italy, so interior architect Chris Greenawalt devised a slatted shelf unit to hang over the sink; it air-dries and stores dishes in the same spot. A deep-green glass backsplash protects the wall from stray droplets and serves as a focal point for the all-white kitchen.


The couple made other requests for the space: They hoped for a kitchen island, a spot to sit and watch their grandkids play in the yard, and a full-size dining table. "We built a low, wheeled desk in front of the window where they could sit and have a glass of wine," Greenawalt said. The ingenious desk can then open into a table and double as an island work space.

Keep cabinetry streamlined

McMansion-dwellers may splash out on ornate cabinetry and crown molding, say designers, but in a small kitchen, it's best to keep it simple. "Go for a really good rhythm -- a line of cabinetry that's as clean and unbroken as possible," Huh said. If flat-panel styles are too contemporary, she said, Shaker is an ideal traditional alternative.

Consider covering appliances with panels to match your cabinetry: "It makes the refrigerator door disappear," said Huh, "and makes the kitchen look larger." Hardware, too, should be as simple as possible, designers say -- or go without it, opting instead for touch-latch doors. Portsmouth, N.H.-based designer Patty Kennedy found the paneling principle at work in a New York City kitchen she helped style for a photo shoot; the walls, refrigerator, and cabinets were covered with anigre, an African hardwood, lending a seamless finish to a potentially awkward nook.

Let there be light

In tight quarters, generously sized windows and pass-throughs can make a huge difference, as can white or neutral color schemes. "I'm a big believer in bigger windows that sit right down to the countertop, opening up to daylight and the outside," said Pinney, who loves their effect in a white-on-white Back Bay apartment she designed. Even a tiny over-the-sink window can be enlarged to make a confined space appear more spacious, she noted.

Sticking to the same materials and a neutral color works best in a diminutive space, "so your eye can focus and it's not all over the map," Pinney said. In the Back Bay kitchen, she used white Calcutta marble on the counters and white marble mosaic on the adjoining backsplashes, adding just enough visual interest while maintaining a restrained, unified scheme.

Choose small appliances



In this Cambridge kitchen, the fridge was placed below the counter.
GREG PREMRU PHOTOGRAPHY

In this Cambridge kitchen, the fridge was placed below the counter.

As alluring as those blazingly powerful six- or eight-burner ranges may be, they're often not a great fit for many households. "I'm trying to get clients to consider using smaller appliances," Greenawalt said. "The way most people shop is changing, and the way we cook is changing as well." For smaller spaces, he prefers a separate wall oven and stovetop to avoid breaking up the counter lines.

LDa's LaFleche does see more homeowners moving away from "that whole trend of the giant Sub-Zero refrigerators" and shifting toward "right-sizing their cooking and buying fresh." To that end, he often recommends small refrigerator drawers dedicated to produce or dairy that are closer to prep and cooking areas. In a small but inviting Cambridge galley kitchen, LaFleche specified an under-the-counter fridge, plus a smooth glass-topped stove and separate wall ovens.

Go vertical

MATT DELPHENICH ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Outfitted with pegboard accessories from the local hardware store, the aligator board in this kitchen serves as custom storage for kitchen utensils and other small gadgets.

Before moving her operations to Portsmouth, Kennedy worked for years designing interiors for the cramped confines of New York City apartments, where she learned that "every space needed to serve a double or triple function." She advises owners of compact kitchens to squeeze maximum utility out of vertical spaces. She works with high-end materials, but in her own New Hampshire kitchen, she devoted a narrow wall to her pot collection, hanging them from inexpensive IKEA racks. ("I'm a big IKEA fan -- they just get it.")

Greenawalt used a similar strategy in a loft apartment in Boston's Leather District. In lieu of a traditional backsplash, he installed panels of bright red perforated metal ("It's called AlligatorBoard, and people usually use it to hang tools in their garages," he said). Outfitted with pegboard accessories from the local hardware store, it serves as custom storage for kitchen utensils and other small gadgets.

Most important, LaFleche said, is to think hard about what you actually need to store. "We're seeing the reverse trend from the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s, when the goal was to put everything in the kitchen." He advises clients to divide gear into categories and keep items that might be used only every few weeks or months elsewhere: "They might move out to the closet or the hallway." Besides, if you're truly into cooking, he suggested, "the only thing you might really want is a set of knives."

And, on a related note, if you're truly just into eating, the only thing you might really want is a set of takeout menus -- and happily, those take almost no space to store.


Debra Jo Immergut is a Massachusetts-based design writer. Connect with her on Twitter @debraimmergut or send comments to Address@globe.com.