Smart use of space is a goal in most homes, but the space between the upper cabinets and countertops is precious. You need to plug in the mixer, keep the iPad close to follow that recipe you discovered online, and be able to grab the cumin and chili powder.
Never mind square feet — inches matter here.
And now there are attractive and innovative ways to free up counter space and make the most of every inch, whether you’re remodeling or just updating.
Among the options are smartphone and tablet docks, backsplash storage systems and power strips that can add receptacles, lighting and other items.
“With all our clients, increased counter space is usually their primary interest,” said kitchen designer Carol Lindell, owner of Design Centers International in Charlotte
Clutter steals space, so she sometimes tucks a power strip under cabinets or under the lips of islands to provide power where it’s needed, eliminating tangles of cords.
Other times she might place the power strips against the wall under the back edge of the upper cabinets, then add LED lights beneath the front edge.
Hiding the power outlets up under cabinets means you won’t have wall plates breaking up the backsplash area. Suddenly, the residents have got a clean surface for the glass or metal tiles they’ve had their eyes on.
What you can try
These are examples of under-cabinet systems that can bring style, function and options for customization:
-- adorne Under-Cabinet Lighting System: This new product from Legrand includes LED lighting and power outlets, flip-down docks for tablets and smartphones and cables for recharging. There’s a speaker, too.
You can choose linear lighting bars or individual pucks. The system is available in a style that can be plugged in or one that is hard-wired to your home’s electric system.
Some components can be ordered from Lowes.com. The basic 27-inch track is $99.98, a dimmable LED light bar is $54.98 and a puck light is $44.98. The tablet cradle is $19.98, while the mobile phone dock is $14.98
There’s an online tool at www.legrand.us that helps you measure your kitchen space and design the system you want. A retail locator can be found at www.adornemyhome.com.
-- Backsplash Storage System: The designs from Hafele America Co., a German company, feature a bar that mounts to the backsplash just beneath the upper cabinets.
Individual storage components — made of plated steel in nickel matte finish — hang from the bar and can be moved and rearranged. You can get a sleek European look along with the spice rack and knife block.
Bars are available in four lengths, priced from about $70 to $110 at www.kitchensource.com, one of Hafele’s online retailers. The multipurpose shelf is $105; cookbook holder, $120; spice rack, $127; knife holder and block, $135; wine bottle and glass holder, $143.
You can download a kitchen idea book at www.hafele.com/us.
-- Angled Power Strip: Standard lengths for these systems from Task Lighting are from 9 to 72 inches in brushed nickel, black, brown and white finishes. Get up to two receptacles for the shortest and eight for the longest. Custom sizes and tamper-resistant models in designer colors also are available at www.tasklighting.com.
You’ll also find the Angled Power Strips online. The 24-inch strip is about $200; the 48-inch model, $275.
Powering dead zones
Lighting and gadgets: Have a long talk with your electrician, says Carol Lindell, kitchen designer. You must have appropriate power if you want to add receptacles and ultimately flip on several countertop appliances simultaneously. Also, you might need to accommodate transformers or drivers for LED lighting. Will those lights be dimmable? That’s another issue.
A TV or other electronic component installed under a cabinet needs to flip up out of the way and rotate for convenience, Lindell says. Look for a separate place to permanently mount a tablet; it can be used to operate music, lights and other systems. Usually that’s in a niche a few steps away from the main cooking area.
Use strip lighting for long runs of countertop and puck lights for specific work spaces, Lindell says. LED lights don’t generate much heat and last a long time, while xenon can be less expensive. Pay attention to the quality of light. You don’t want it too blue or yellow.