My sister and her husband renovated and moved into an adorable house earlier this year and I’m not gonna lie—when I helped her move in, I was totally drooling over the kitchen. The idea of customizing a space to suit your unique needs? Yes, please! When I moved into my apartment, I was in a major life transition (and on a tight budget) and barely had any time to even think about what I needed! I knew I wanted a gas stove and a dishwasher, but that was about as far as the list went. NYC sets the bar pretty low in terms of kitchens, so even though it was small, I was mostly just thankful to find a place I liked with a functional kitchen. I could overlook that one of the cabinets was…melted on the bottom.

I painted the kitchen orange to add some life and made friends with my step ladder. Vertical storage has been my best friend, and choosing good quality appliances when I had to replace them has made every day feel like a little upgrade. Sure, it’s tiny, but I love my tiny kitchen because it’s mine, and I’ve learned to make it work.

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Earlier this month,  HelloFresh, in conjunction with real estate brokerage company Redfin, released data on millennial homebuyers’ kitchen preferences and cooking habits when buying a home. Millennials now make up the largest percentage of homebuyers (go us!), and it turns out, cooking at home is “in.”

35 percent of millennials who either own a home or are likely to purchase in the next few years say that the kitchen is the most important room in a home, second only to the living room (37%). More than half (53%) say that a new house starts to feel like a home when they cook their first meal there. The findings also revealed that about three-quarters of millennial homebuyers (76%) are cooking or preparing meals at home at least once a day and nearly half (47%) would like to cook more at home.

“We see a trend in millennials purchasing homes, settling into new routines, and beginning new traditions – which cooking, and time spent in the kitchen play a huge role in,” says Claudia Sidoti, Head Chef and Recipe Developer at HelloFresh. “As a chef, it’s exciting to see that millennials are not only enthusiastic about cooking, but that the kitchen is still considered the centerpiece of the home.”

The top three features among millennial buyers surveyed were

  • a dishwasher (67%)
  • pantry or storage (65%)
  • a big island (64%)

and home entertaining features have been increasing in popularity, such as:

  • Breakfast Bar

  • Double Oven

  • Outdoor Kitchen

  • Wine Fridge

But what to do if you don’t have a dream kitchen? Here, Sidoti answers my questions.

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HelloFresh Head Chef and Recipe Developer, Claudia Sidoti. Photo Credit: Sue Kwon.

Jess: How can the setup of your kitchen impact how often you cook?

Claudia: Keeping an organized kitchen is key, otherwise it can quickly become the messiest room in the house! We all know how it goes — dishes pile up in the sink, surfaces get dirty, junk drawers accumulate, and the fridge can become filled with food that goes bad before you even have the chance to use it. Having a kitchen with as little clutter as possible will make you want to spend more time in there. Creating space and a layout that’s conducive to cooking will also be a motivator to get cooking. Some tips: When it comes to keeping your kitchen clean and organized, clean as you go! If you save it all until you’re finished cooking, you’ll end up with a chaotic counter and extra work waiting for you once you’re done eating. If you put ingredients away and clear and clean dishes step by step, you’ll be able to focus on enjoying your meal with the view of clean kitchen. Also, like your closet, do a seasonal decluttering of your counters and kitchen gadgets and tools. You’d be surprised how much you accumulate that you really don’t need.

 

Jess: What are some key features someone should prioritize in the kitchen when they’re looking to buy or rent a home?

Claudia: Counter space, storage space, and pantry flow. I’m not big on appliances as a deal breaker, because I think you can always upgrade when the time is right! That being said, you’ll always need good surface areas — storage and a floor plan that flows. It’s like a good foundation and from there you can always add on.

 

Jess: How can someone set up things like pots/pans, utensils, plates, etc. to make cooking and clean-up easier?

Claudia:  

  • Lids for pots and pans can be annoying — depending on the size of your kitchen, I like  adjustable lid racks that sit inside a cabinet to keep things in order! Having them all visible makes it easier to find everything you need to start cooking.

  • Spice Racks are another area where clutter can really build up. There are many options out there for spices for various kitchen setups. These are a few of my favorites: Spice rack drawer liner and 2-Tier Spice Tower

  • Larger Kitchen Utensils (spatulas, ladles, whisks, etc.) can take up a lot of space and often don’t sit properly in drawers. Thankfully there are some great solutions like carousel racks and wall racks to minimize clutter and setup for easier access.

 

Jess: Do you have any tips for helping someone decide what to keep on the counter vs storing out of sight?

Counter space is valuable real estate, so I recommend only keeping out the items you use frequently. Wall racks are a great way to create efficiencies here so you still have easy access without having to take up space. There are appliances like the classic KitchenAid Mixer or a that can double as a decorative item and add a pop of color to your kitchen.

 

Jess For someone with a very small kitchen that lacks some of the most popular amenities, any tips to make their life easier and encourage them to cook more?

Claudia: A food processor is one of the most underutilized kitchen appliances that has way more uses than meets the eye! Most people only use it when they think they have a lot of chopping, but it’s actually great for so much more – everything from making salad dressing to puréeing soup, mixing pie dough or cookie dough, and of course chopping anything. Another tip is to buy a cart on wheels to add extra counter space and you can move it if need be.

What’s on your Dream Kitchen wish list? 

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