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7 Artful Storage Ideas to Steal from Chef David Tanis’s Low-Cost Kitchen

Chef David Tanis New York Kitchen Photos by Heidi's Bridge

Of course we love a good tricked-out, state-of-the-art kitchen built from scratch, but there’s something about less-than-ideal older kitchens retrofitted with creative, budget-minded storage solutions that tickles us. Chef David Tanis’s kitchen in the East Village falls into this latter category—it has few built-in cabinets and practically no counter space—and it’s a perfect example of how simple ingenuity can transform a quirky configuration into a hardworking space. Here are seven storage takeaways from his kitchen.

N.B.: To learn more about the author of David Tanis Market Cooking and his kitchen, see Chef David Tanis’s Low-Tech, Economical, and Beautifully Soulful Kitchen in the East Village.

Photography and styling for Remodelista by Heidi’s Bridge.

1. Elevate low-cost finds.

It’s not surprising that Ikea shows up in this kitchen. We all know the store has great values. What is surprising is how Tanis upgrades the mass-market pieces. Here’s our favorite hack from his kitchen.

Chef David Tanis New York Kitchen Photos by Heidi's Bridge
Above: David and his partner, Randal Breski, found the Ikea shelving on the street and mounted it atop two vintage wooden blocks, literally and figuratively elevating the shelves. Their collection of vintage and newer handmade ceramic pieces nicely offsets the shelves’ modern lines.

2. Move furniture into the kitchen.

An easy solution to little-t0-no cabinets in the kitchen: Move in storage furniture that’s usually meant for dining and living rooms—think hutches, buffets, sideboards, and the like.

Chef David Tanis New York Kitchen Photos by Heidi's Bridge
Above: A freestanding vintage Ethan Allen dresser painted black serves as storage for spices, linens, and more.
Chef David Tanis New York Kitchen Photos by Heidi's Bridge
Above: A closeup of the spice drawer inside the dresser. Tanis stores his spice jars upside down so that the contents are visible, thus eliminating the need for labels.
Chef David Tanis New York Kitchen Photos by Heidi's Bridge
Above: A Japanese tansu chest holds additional tableware and jars of home-pickled vegetables.

3. Put wheels on it.

Tanis and his partner’s apartment is composed of just two 20-by-20-foot rooms. When they have guests over, they can quickly reconfigure the kitchen thanks to a rolling kitchen island. “Casual dinner in the kitchen is on stools, maximum four people,” he says. “The island is on wheels and easy to move, which is great for opening up the space when needed.”

Chef David Tanis New York Kitchen Photos by Heidi's Bridge
Above: Tanis added a cantilevered butcher block top to extend the work surface of the Crate & Barrel island. For something similar, consider the Belmont White Kitchen Island from Crate & Barrel ($499) with an added set of Four Casters; $26.
Chef David Tanis New York Kitchen Photos by Heidi's Bridge
Above: Tanis stores mixing bowls and cutting boards on an industrial-style stainless steel restaurant cart with butcher block top.

4. Use storage as display.

If you walk into any commercial kitchen, you’ll notice that nearly everything a cook needs—pots, pans, utensils, knives—are stored out in the open, either hanging from walls, resting on open shelves, or corralled into containers on counters. Tanis’s personal kitchen is no different.

Chef David Tanis New York Kitchen Photos by Heidi's Bridge
Above: An array of low-tech tools: The double egg spoon is by Sicilian master blacksmith Angelo Garro of Renaissance Forge in San Francisco (see the single version at The Legendary Egg Spoon of Alice Waters and Fanny Singer, Easter Edition).

5. Go low-tech.

Small appliances and high-tech gadgets are oftentimes the main culprits when it comes to kitchen clutter. Tanis doesn’t have to make room for them simply because he doesn’t own very many. “I’m really a mortar and pestle person—you saw my collection. I avoid using electric appliances, if at all possible. An electric spice mill can be handy, though, and a blender is useful. Why anyone would use a garlic press is baffling,” he says.

Chef David Tanis New York Kitchen Photos by Heidi's Bridge
Above: David’s lineup of old-fashioned kitchen implements includes a stainless steel Stovetop Toaster, his grandmother’s potato masher, a Rok Presso Manual Espresso Maker, a wooden-handled whisk, and a vintage marble mortar and pestle.
Chef David Tanis New York Kitchen Photos by Heidi's Bridge
Above: Another thing he doesn’t have to make room for—a huge refrigerator. Tanis got used to living with an under-counter refrigerator while living in Paris, and he hasn’t looked back. “We usually shop at the farmer’s market four days a week, but there always seems to be something needed daily from some other source, like the butcher, fishmonger, and supermarket,” he says.

6. Create stations.

Life is easier when you have everything you need in reach. Tanis stores his tools out in the open, grouping like with like: He has a knife station, a cooking utensils area, and a spot just for his cutting boards. Having dedicated stations makes both cooking and cleaning up a breeze.

Chef David Tanis New York Kitchen Photos by Heidi's Bridge
Above. A copper tray perched on a lazy susan corrals essentials.

7. Find creative solutions.

This is what gives a kitchen soul, we believe: finding creative solutions to your storage needs.

Chef David Tanis New York Kitchen Photos by Heidi's Bridge
Above: Tanis stores paper towels on a vintage brass meat pounder.
Chef David Tanis New York Kitchen Photos by Heidi's Bridge
Above: “We built the bookcases out of cinder blocks and lengths of wood boards,” says Tanis, who likes to store some herbs and spices inside one of those blocks.

More clever kitchen storage lessons ahead:

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