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As a serial renovator and avid cook, I’ve learned there are certain truths when it comes to designing a kitchen. Perhaps most importantly, knives need to live where you can easily see and grab them. Your knives are your number-one, most indispensable kitchen tool. So they can’t be hidden in a drawer where they’re bound to get nicked or dulled or, worse, cut a harried, hurried cook reaching for one in a jiffy. Knife blocks, on the other hand, can take up so much valuable counter real estate. So what to do?
See, I’ve been renovating various kitchens for several years now, and without even realizing it, I’ve been — without fail — buying one thing every single time. It started with my first house, where there was only a tiny sliver of counter space next to the stove and my husband and I wanted the knives in easy reach. We mounted a magnetic knife bar behind the stove, where we’d painted a blackboard backsplash. When we bought a triplex in Detroit to fix up and rent two of the flats on Airbnb, neither had counter space near the cooking area, so again the racks made perfect sense.
By the time I did a total renovation of the Victorian my husband and I bought, wall-mounted knife racks were as much a part of the automatic-buy list as faucets and appliances. Even if we’d had more than a small stretch of butcher block by the range, I’d have still bought one, just because I was so used to having knives in arm’s reach. As a food writer for my local paper, I’ve had a slew of chefs in and out of my kitchen cooking up a storm for articles. Watching them grab the knives on my handy magnetic strip validates that decision every time.
My carriage house Airbnb — a late-1800s former stable with zero counters, cabinets, or drawers — just a cool antique factory cart by the stove and a vintage farmhouse sink with porcelain washboard — also got one. It’s here where I learned how to branch out from cutlery and add hooks for hanging utensils and other tools, such as measuring cups and a pot holder.
But it’s not just about saving space. Keeping knives on display also motivates me to take care of them. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say — but looking at them daily prompts me to take them for sharpening regularly, and to wipe down and keep clean my prized carbon stainless knife I brought home from the wonderland that is E. Dehillerin in Paris.
So when my best friend and I launched a hospitality venture by buying a small apartment building where we’re renovating and furnishing the flats, I knew my shopping list like the back of my hand. Part of our spiel in marketing these places is thinking of every single detail someone needs when they move in — the idea being that they unpack their suitcase and have everything they need. These spaces range from 250 to 450 square feet, so every inch is vital. And one thing is for certain: If I weren’t on auto-pilot with buying a magnetic knife rack, well, I’m not not sure these kitchens would be as functional as they are!
Where do you keep your knives? Tell us in the comments below.