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Before Sydney-based Vellum Interiors founder Alexandra Gourlay-Craig entered the picture, the only place to put silverware-slash-utensils in her client’s sad U-shaped kitchen was a set of desk drawers from IKEA. “There wasn’t even space for a full-size refrigerator, only a bar one,” she recalls. Because of the apartment’s small size, there wasn’t room to change the configuration too much (taking down a partial wall dividing it from the dining space helped), but optimizing organization was something in her control. “I really had to think about clever ways to cram in as much practical storage as possible,” says Gourlay-Craig, who worked with Jim Wilson Constructions on the remodel. Cue the bifold upper cabinet doors. 

One of the things the designer had to give up during the renovation was a full-height pantry (it would make the layout feel overcrowded), so the cupboards above the cooktop had to step in as a catchall for dry goods, spices, and snacks. Key to it all: The garagelike door fronts open upward—not outward—taking full advantage of the room’s vertical space. “It also means that when there’s more than one person in the kitchen, you’re less likely to hit someone on the head with an open door,” notes Gourlay-Craig. She loves the style so much, she has them in her own tiny kitchen. 

Pantry Perfection

Yes, you can put drawers inside your upper cabinets. The ones here hold everyday items and are about 55 inches from the floor, so they’re still easy to access. The system allows you to store smaller jars that have the tendency to topple over when stacked in a tall shelf nook. Because the doors have a variable stop, meaning they don’t swing up all the way up and out of reach, they’re easy to close once you’ve got what you need. 

Two-Tone Illusion

u shaped kitchen
built in fridge

At the time of the reno, the clients had recently returned from a vacation in Byron Bay and wanted to bring in some of that luxe, barefoot feel to their home—hence the hit of aqua (Dulux’s Mt Aspiring paint color). By relegating the darker hue to the lower cabinets and keeping the uppers white, Gourlay-Craig made the ceilings look like they are higher than they really are. 

Corner Store

Ensuring no inch went left unused, the designer outfitted the tricky corner cabinets with genius pull-outs that bring bulky pots and pans to the forefront in one fell swoop. Psst: Selecting narrow appliances freed up a ton of room in the kitchen, too.