8 Clever Organizing Ideas I Learned from Looking at Julia Child’s Kitchen

updated Aug 15, 2022
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If Julia Child is known for one thing, it’s her kitchen pegboard. Maybe that booming, infectious laugh, too. Oh! And being a pioneer of fearless home cooking in America. Okay, so it’s impossible to name just one thing.

The woman was, and is, a national treasure. In honor of her would-be birthday today, I’m celebrating her top-notch organizational skills — because in addition to all those great culinary lessons she taught, she also (maybe even unknowingly) passed along lots of organizing ideas.

I’ve studied plenty of photographs of Julia’s kitchen, as well as read stories about how she arranged her cooking space. One of my favorite takeaways is that Julia’s home kitchen was seriously dated, with old cabinets and decor. She didn’t have one of those newly renovated, tricked-out spaces that famous chefs have these days. But she made her kitchen work and focused on one really important thing: functionality.

So, if you’re light years away from a glossy kitchen redo, you’re in luck: You can still create a Julia-inspired kitchen that works for you, with the help of these eight organizing ideas.

Credit: Getty Images / Larry French / Stringer

1. Hang your magnetic knife strips vertically.

Every magnetic knife strip I’ve ever had has been affixed to the wall in an east-west orientation. But I’ve noticed that Julia’s knife racks always run north-south. This absolutely blew my mind. When the rack is vertical, the knives are stored horizontally — making it easier and safer to grab them from the wall. This is brilliant, and so obvious. I’m shocked that most knife racks aren’t situated like this.

2. Label everything.

This one might be a product of Julia’s professional training: It’s hard to miss the fact that everything in her kitchen was labeled — including crocks, tins, and more. I’ve worked in restaurant kitchens and noticed a similar tendency to over-label, but it’s a good habit to be in. Labels make cooking much easier and way less frustrating. Also, there’s no need to buy a fancy label maker: A strip of masking tape and a marker will do the trick.

3. Turn your kitchen table into extra prep space.

We’re conditioned to stand at the counter for peeling, chopping, and slicing. But if you have limited space, tired legs, an aching back, or all three, do what Julia often did and do your prep work at the table. To make this really work for you, be sure your kitchen chairs are actually comfortable — and add a cushion if you need to. 

4. Sort utensils into (a lot of) storage crocks.

Many home cooks, including myself, shove all of their utensils into one overstuffed crock. But you can have a zillion crocks, like Julia, if that’s what it takes to store your tools efficiently. Do what Julia did and keep all of your whisks in one, spatulas in another, and wooden utensils in yet another. (You can even label each one, like Julia did!) This way, you can grab what you need (and only what you need), when you need it. For the tools you rarely use, drawer storage is a good option.

5. Use your stovetop for added storage.

According to this article, the famous chef rarely used her stove’s grill-top burner. Instead, she repurposed it with a custom-made cover and used that surface for extra utensil storage. If you have burners that you rarely use (because most adults have a favorite burner), you can make your own burner covers to increase counter space. (Just be sure not to accidentally turn on the burner!) Or, here’s an even simpler storage solution: If you have a large Dutch oven that doesn’t fit elegantly into your cabinets, just keep it on a back burner. It doubles as decor!

6. Keep dried goods in pull-out bins.

I love Julia’s creative solution or dried goods and miscellaneous pantry items: She kept commonly used flours, baking items, and alliums (like garlic and onions) in clear pull-out bins, sort of like these. This trick keeps your food supply in one place and quickly allows you to take stock of what’s running low.

7. Get a drying rack that works with your sink.

Julia had a dish draining area built into her kitchen sink. You can easily do the next best thing and get a roll-up, over-the-sink dryer. Set it up and the dishes will drain right into the sink and you’ll save precious counter space.

Credit: Getty Images / Larry French / Stringer

8. Install a pegboard.

And finally, a pegboard is infinitely customizable, which allows you to arrange your pots, pans, skillets, and utensils in a configuration that works for you. Julia’s husband, Paul, stenciled outlines of the pans on her pegboard, so they always went back in the right place. I’d avoid doing that, so I could change things up as I acquire new tools. To recreate this look in your home, you can build one yourself, or go for a more finished design with a customizable IKEA option.

Has Julia Child inspired your kitchen’s organization? Share your tips with us in the comments.