The One Thing in My Rental Kitchen That Doesn’t Infuriate Me

updated Feb 24, 2021
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Credit: Dabney Frake

When I was pregnant with our son, my husband, Matt, and I searched high and low for the perfect apartment. There was the one that was awesome but way too expensive, the one that was right in our price range but made me burst into tears in the car after we took a tour (hormones!), and the one where the person who was supposed to show us the apartment pretended not to be home even though we could see him peeking out the window! With only a couple of weeks left in our lease, Matt took to Craigslist to see what was out there and stumbled upon a gem: an apartment in a three-story Victorian house with views of the Hudson River and charming vintage details, including high ceilings, cut-glass doorknobs, and triangle windows on the third floor. The only sticking point? The kitchen.

As is the case with lots of old houses that are chopped up to make apartments, the space was never meant to be a kitchen. Some vintage (but not in a charming way … more like a ’70s way) cabinets line one wall, there are two sizable posts in the room, it’s as dark as a cave despite seven (!!!) recessed lights in the ceiling, and the sink is inexplicably located in a countertop that’s open to the living room so any overspray splashes onto the floor by the TV.

But in the midst of this darkness (really, truly, it’s VERY dim in there!) is a bright spot: a shelf under the cabinets near the stove. A few years ago, Matt’s aunt was replacing her mahogany deck and he grabbed a few boards from the scrap heap for home projects. One of those scraps became this magical shelf. On the top are our most-used spices, stored in matching peanut butter jars. (We eat A LOT of peanut butter and also buy spices in bulk.) And in a stroke of genius, he screwed some small hardware store hooks into the bottom and front of the plank for hanging measuring cups and spoons.

Credit: Nina Elder

I love to bake, so measuring cups and spoons are frequently used items in our kitchen. In our previous apartment, there was a lot of grumbling on my part when I tried to pry the measuring cups out of a drawer and I was always fumbling with the measuring spoons. Why do they always come lashed together with that flimsy metal ring? It didn’t take long for me to toss the ring, but then there was a high probability that I’d lose a measuring spoon — or three. But with the hooks, each measuring cup and spoon has its own little spot, so I can grab what I need quickly. We hang them in volume order (so satisfying!), making it easy to scan the shelf to see if the 1-cup measure is clean before you need it to measure the flour.

Credit: Nina Elder

I like this tip because, even if you don’t have a reclaimed shelf, you can likely add similar hooks somewhere in your kitchen. Maybe to the bottom of your upper cabinets? Or the side of an already-there shelf? The holes they leave behind are minimal, so your landlord can’t be too mad (or you can leave the hooks for a pay-it-forward kind of gesture!).

We’ve now been in this apartment for about six-and-a-half years. The kitchen is still dim, the sink hasn’t been moved, and the cabinets haven’t been replaced. But every day those little gold hooks on the shelf make me smile. Thanks, Matt.

How do you store your measuring cups and spoons?