Getting a New Kitchen? Here Are the Five Things I Like Best About Mine

A large stainless steel kitchen sink with a woodsy view out the window. Photo by BF Newhall

We spend a lot of time at the kitchen sink, so it’s nice to have a window. It looks pristine, but it’s home to more microbes than a flushed toilet. Photo by BF Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

My two kids are about to set up housekeeping with their very significant significant others. My son and his brand new wife are thinking of trading in their townhouse for a house. My daughter and her boyfriend are looking for an apartment together. Among other things, they will be looking at kitchens.

I’d like to tell them what to look for. I’ve got so many ideas, really good ones, on the subject of kitchens.

The sweaty ladies in my Zumba class, however, have advised me to keep my kitchen wisdom to myself, shrewd and wonderful and hard-earned and rich with life experience though it is.

I’m taking their advice. I’m going to write about the five handiest features in my kitchen as your friendly, helpful blogger — and not as the family matriarch passing along her superb kitchen organizing ideas to four young folks who will surely do it all wrong if they don’t listen to her.

1. Go for a window over the sink.

Whether you’re the cook or the dishwasher, the sink is where you’ll spend the most time. Make it a place that connects you to the outside world. If it can’t be a window, try for a view into the dining or living area.

2. Opt for one large single sink.

Don’t get one of those awkward double sinks. If you’ve got one big sink, the entire greasy broiler pan will fit right into it for an overnight soak: nice and neat, no greasy water slopping onto the

A large stainless steel kitchen sink big enough to hold a broiler pan, cleaning tools and a vase being filled with water. Photo by BF Newhall

Big enough to hold the broiler pan — and fill a vase with water. Photo by BF Newhall

kitchen counter. And you’ll still have lots of space left over at the opposite end of the sink for scrubbing a pot or filling a vase with water.

Now that meats and poultry are so often contaminated with bacteria, the old two-sink solution doesn’t make much sense to me anymore. The kitchen sink is one of the dirtiest places in the house. Filling one with water to wash dishes or fruits and vegetables just doesn’t feel safe. Besides, who wants to dig the gunk out of the drain basket of the sink that has no garbage disposal? If you want to wash dishes by hand, two wash tubs will fit handily into your one large sink.

Baby bonus: a baby bathtub will fit right into a big sink, and the baby will be at the right height for both his safety and yours – just in case there’s a baby in your future. (Is there?)

3. Get one of those pull-out trash can drawers.

We love ours. When Jon is cooking or I’m doing the dishes, we pull the drawer out and keep it

Two trash cans in a pull-out kitchen drawer. Photo by BF Newhall

At our house one can holds food scraps for composting; the other takes the recyclables. What little actual trash we produce goes in a mini can under the sink. Photo by BF Newhall

open while we work. This makes it easy to scrape dinner plates or pitch avocado pits right into the can.

With a trash can drawer, you don’t have to open the under-sink cupboard door (when your hands are wet or messy) to pull out the trash can every time something needs throwing away. When the cooking or clean-up is over, the trash drawer closes and the mess disappears. (This feature was suggested by our designer at Custom Kitchens in Oakland, CA, when we remodeled in 2000.)

A cupboard over a refrigerator with vertical slats for storing platters, trays and cookie sheets. Photo by BF Newhall

Our refrigerator is nearly six feet tall, but the space above it is  accessible. Photo by BF Newhall

4. Use that useless space.

This one’s my favorite tip.You can make use of that impractical, unreachable space over the refrigerator by installing vertical shelving. Use it for cookie sheets, platters and serving trays. No more hunting around for a

A woman's hand reaches for a cookie sheet in a high cupboard with vertical slats. Photo by BF Newhall

I’m short, but I can easily reach the trays and platters without a stepstool. Photo by BF Newhall

stepstool to get access to that space. No more trying to pull one pot or platter out from under another while standing on your tip toes. Even short folks like me can safely pull out a heavy tray with one hand and grab it from below with the other. (I got this idea from my short mother-in-law.)

5. Plan ahead for a decorative bar.

Before the granite or tile or sheet rock is applied to the wall behind your new stove top, have the contractor put in some plywood behind it. When the wall is finished – and before the

A stainless steel bar mounted over a ceramic cooktop holds a Tonala platter. Photo by BF Newhall

The stainless steel bar over our cooktop is mounted securely enough to hold a treasured Tonala platter from Mexico. Photo by BF Newhall

contractor departs – have the carpenters drill through the wall and into the plywood to securely install a decorative rod, from which you can then hang cooking utensils, an interesting plate or a cooktop-safe wall hanging.

Any questions, kids?

Japanese anemones and asters arranged in a glass vase on a granite counter. Photo by BF Newhall

The glass vase, filled now with water, holds Japanese anemones and asters from our garden. Photo by BF Newhall



  1. Fran Goldman says:

    Hi Barbara,
    So glad I took a chance and asked for the Architectural Digest yesterday. I have already forwarded your
    Blog to a writer friend of mine in Capitola. Loved the article on daughter who doesn’t call. We both have
    one of those. Born and raised in Oakland, I believe I remember your name from the Trib! Those were
    the days! Loved your article on kitchen tips…I will be following you…
    Fran Goldman

    • Barbara Falconer Newhall says:

      Fran, Thank you for tuning in. I loved writing those Oakland Tribune columns about my kids when they were little, and I have to admit I enjoy re-reading them because they really bring back memories. The Trib permits me to post some of them, so you’ll see one on this site from time to time. Good luck with your kitchen; kitchen remodels always take way longer than you want them to, but we still enjoy ours hugely years later. I’m now eying our upstairs, which could use a second bathroom . . .

      • Fran Goldman says:

        We’re you happy with custom kitchens…I am considering using them but seems a little

        • Barbara Falconer Newhall says:

          Yes, we were very happy with Custom Kitchens. Our impression at the time was that they were on the pricey side. But the design and execution (with a few quibbles) of our kitchen is still very pleasing 13 years later.

  2. Jean MacGillis says:

    Great kitchen tips! I like having one large sink because it fits everything. I also have a small disposal sink as part of the same unit., which comes in handy. As for disinfecting this disgusting giant petrie dish, nothing beats Clorox Cleanup, which is basically chlorine bleach.

  3. I’m one of those sweaty zumba ladies and I love your kitchen tips and would welcome more (just sayin’)!

    • Barbara Falconer Newhall says:

      Sweaty Lady, I actually have some more kitchen tips. But first, a bunch of photos and thoughts on China from our two-week blitz tour. B

  4. Connie Arnos Dugger says:

    Thanks for these wonderful tips…….

  5. Barbara, I like your tips! We are inching towards a kitchen remodel… so I’m taking notes from all sources.


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