Cara Reedy is an Executive Assistant at CNN. We pretty much couldn't do anything without her.
Living in New York City has its challenges, not the least of which is apartment size. With these tiny apartments come teeny tiny kitchens - which are manageable if all the “cooking” you are going to do is make a bowl of cereal or an occasional pasta dish.
Every New York home cook has their own way of dealing with the space issue. Most kitchens are built using all the available vertical space. Mine is no exception. What seems high to most people is actually towering for me. I'm only 4'2".
To put it into perspective, the counters in my current apartment come to my shoulders. I have always had to use a stool, but this kitchen is sort of ridiculous. The bottoms of my top cabinets are at least five feet off the ground. My average height friends have difficulty in my kitchen.
Cooking has become an acrobatic exercise. To fix one meal you might see me climbing up on counters, leaning across the kitchen from my stool, so I don't have to climb up and down the stool every time I need to get to the sink. I use kitchen tongs to grab things off the top shelves all the while standing on a stool or kneeling on the counter. It sounds strange and it probably looks strange but at least I am burning off a few calories before I eat.
I also break one of the cardinal rules of cooking, I’m barefoot. I have to be or else I wouldn’t be able to climb and grip with my feet. Have you ever climbed down a ladder with a boiling pot of water? I have, I do it every day. How else would I get the water from my stove to the sink?
You’re probably thinking, “Why doesn’t she find an apartment with a better suited kitchen for her?” But really, unless I designed my own where would that be? So until I can afford to buy an apartment, I will be climbing, leaning and balancing my way through meal preparation.
Do you run up against any physical challenges in your home kitchen? Share your story below and we just might feature it in a future story.
(Hooray for being the 3rd person to comment on a >3-year-old article b/c it was linked to a recent one!)
I just had to say that I'm sure all of the people acting like smug jerks about their greater height (like they had more to do with it than any of us) are a lot less jolly about it when they have to deal with ever-decreasing space on commercial airlines! As a 5' tall shorty that's among the times I most appreciate being diminutive.
I'm 4'6" (have a proportional form of dwarfism), disabled because of severe arthritis, and use a wheelchair to get about when I leave my apartment. There is NO place in the US where it would be easy to find a kitchen that a little person would find comfortable. You would have to have custom work done. Now with respect to living in New York City as a person with dwarfism or a disability...
I have traveled to a number of major cities in the US and without a doubt, NYC is NOT a city that is what I would call disabled friendly. The public transit system is not accessible, and the paratransit system while better than it was is a disgrace. It's impossible to find accessible housing, the Mayor's office for People with disabilities is totally unresponsive, and it's became worse under Bloomberg. Don't know how DeBlasio will do. It's a shame that NYC doesn't have the will and pride to do better.
It also seems that Short Stature and Obesity are the last two things that people feel entitled to be cruel about. Most people In my neighborhood are wonderful (I live in Queen) but go into Manhattan, and there are some real unpleasant, cruel people.
Generally though, at least in my neighborhood, people are wonderful, and the good people make up for the bad most times.
Cara just read your essay and loved every word. I am surprised at all the comments about height on here. Thats not what I got from your essay. Its about difference and coming to terms with shame. The people who laugh and approach you with sexual comments are the real handicapped. I have a relative with one arm. It wasnt noticed until she sat down to dinner with her date. The date ended with him saying "im sorry can we just be friends" She replied "who needs friends like you" Needless to say she has a very full existence today , as you will . You dont need the gawkers, they need you to feel better about themselves. So I say F them . Thanks for being you.
This is very familiar. I'm a shortie and use a stool in the kitchen but still end up climbing on counters/stink/stove to reach the top shelves and stir large pots. My husband on the other hand is quite tall and uncomfortable leaning over the average height counters and stove for very long. We have quite the challenge now figuring out how to adapt our new kitchen so we're both comfortable.
At under 5 feet, I understand the challenges. The sarcasm in some of the comments reflective of a lack of understanding. Height isn't a state of mind that can be changed, it is an unchangeable physical trait. I've adapted by opening floor cabinets to give me a step up to reach things in above-counter cabinets. I bet everybody who has posted a sarcastic comment is tall enough to reach everything they need, and I hope they are tall enough to bump their head on the pots hanging on the ceiling rack I can't reach. That's a fair trade, right?
have you ever considered stilts?
I am a kitchen and bath designer in Memphis. There are NKBA standards for heights and clearances in kitchens and baths to make things safe and accessible, but they apply to the average person and aren't always followed. Some older kitchens were very poorly planned. Today, there are solutions for everyone if you are planning to remodel or build a new home. A custom kitchen translates into "modified to fit the user's needs" and not necessarily "expensive". For those who need to adapt their current kitchen, there are solutions for that too! My advice is to consult a professional.
It's always struck me that cabinets should be redesigned to be semi-adjustable. How hard would it be to change the design so that the cabinets could be hung at different heights based on the height of the cook? (Many bookshelves have adjustable height shelves after all). Then you could just caulk up the edge for the new cook and be good to go. It seems to me this would add to the value of homes in the long term, as both the exceptionally short and the exceptionally tall would be able to mold things to their preference.
One solution that I have heard of is to build ramps infront of the lower cabnets. To be fair a boost of 1 1/2 feet would be about all you would need, The ramp or lift could be made of wood and sectional. Just use the 2X12 boards, you can then paint the boards to match the kitchen. I would recomend that each length be no longer than 1/4 of the kitchen. You can build them to suit the kitchen and then you would be comfortable. The reason why I recomend that you only make a few is so that they can be easily removed. Anytime you are in a new kitchen you can then get the ramps resized. You may not get contractors willing to accomidate you by redesigning the kitchen but building some lifts, maybe even adjustable lifts should be a much easier task. Hope it goes well.
i don't have any problems in my kitchen. i'm 5'5" and my husband is 6'3". i do have to climb the counter tops from time to time if i can't reach something but i mostly keep things where i can reach them.
Why not have a portable platform which locks into place. It can be very dangerous on that stool or even a ladder. The platform will give you more room to moove about.
It can be a pain in the booty at 6'0" woman trying to wash a big load of dishes, but that's about the only complaint I have in the kitchen. The counters are just a wee bit lower than average so I bend more than is comfortable if I'm spending a lot of time washing/chopping/whatever.
Wahhh, I'm a midget!
Go out to eat if you can't use your kitchen. Geez! Who cares!
gee,way to be a complete f**ker
Insensitive moron! Can you honestly say there isn't anything about yourself that is less than perfect? Weight? Hairline? Penis size? Lie to yourself if you want, but I know there's something wrong with you, personality to say the least.
I'll bet a stage carpenter could make an excellent free-standing platform and stairs for you. You'd have to remove the lower cabinet doors to make them accessible under the platform, but that won't hurt them a bit. I hate the thought of anyone on a stool with boiling water. My uncle was 4'3" and didn't even use the upper cabinets in his kitchen, but he was a simple survival cook.
i'm 5'4" and i use bbq tongs to get things off the top shelf in my kitchen. no worries... i love my step stools. :) now, carrying boiling water down a ladder does worry me a bit... were i short like the author i'd have a plan in place to help with height issues in my home. raised floor coming up!
Seriously? We've run out of whining about ife's challenges (ethnicity, socio-economic status, religion, etc) to the point that we're now discussing height? Wow ... what next ... how rough life can be when you have size 12 feet?
Nope, next up is "how rough life can be when you have such a horrible attitude." You're the star.
I'm 6' 5", and I also have the opposite problem. I like to cook where my wife doesn't, and cooking and doing all the dishes every night is not easy when you have to lean over or squat to do everything. In our next home, I'd like to customize the kitchen a little bit accordingly.
On a side note, back in the 50s or 60s my grandfather built an addition onto a house for a married Little Person couple (coincidentally, their name was "Little"). They wanted everything from the ceiling to the door sizes scaled down to suit them. Grampa said it was a pain in the butt working on it and he bonked his head countless times (he was about 6' 4"), but he took a lot of pride in being able to give them what they asked for, and the Littles absolutely loved it.
Cute story! :-)
Just another reason to leave the cesspool that is New York City. Lived there and hated it. People spend tens of thousands of dollars to live there and they are just giving their money away to walk down trash and urine filled streets. I recommend everyone in NYC move somewher else. Problem solved!
I'm so not a cook, but hats off to you if you are! Interesting and unique perspective of challenges you have while cooking. Even more reason as to why I'm not so eager to jump into the kitchen! :)
Interesting dilemma for certain. When I remodeled our kitchen, I gave it a lift kit on the counters as the wife and i are both taller, 5 8 and 6 1.
I beleive someone else mentioned a raised floor, which could be accomplished relatively cheaply to gain 4 inches anyhow, there are 4 inch toe kicks on nearly all kitchen cabinets, some home depot 2×4's layed down with half inch sheeting would at least get you up 4 more inches to make the counters/sink stove more usable. Cheap piece of linolium glued on and it still looks half decent too. not sure of the sq footage, but sounds small, i bet it could be hammered together for under 300 with lino, then pulled when you move out being this is a rental.
Spill something right out of the oven, slosh a boiling pot, or drop a hot pot or pan on your foot–you'll know why immediately. Accidents happen even to the most careful cooks. Triple the chances of these things happening if there are kids underfoot when you're cooking.
Pshh, you all have it easy, at 6'10" fitting into anything is a challenge. I sleep diagonally in my bed, my head touches the roof of my car, I bang my knees constantly on desks at school, and I need to duck through EVERY standard sized doorway. Like the author of this post, a custom-built home would be necessary for me to be truly comfortable.
Not to mention the unwanted attention I get for my height. I've realized that excessive height is the one physical attribute people feel obliged to comment on... Do you know how many times a day I get asked if I play basketball? I went to a party last week and stopped counting after 12 times in an hour.
So you little people who wish you had some extra inches, there are days when I truly envy you.
Hey, in this economy it's nothing to be ashamed of to be a SHORT ORDER COOK. :-)
Why in all the world are you not supposed to cook barefoot?!
Hot stuff & sharp implements. I've learned the hard way.
My biggest challenge in the kitchen: when our black labrador decides to lay in the middle of our galley type kitchen while I am cooking and going back and forth between counters : )
Ah, yes, the galley kitchen. My dog is small, but she still gets underfoot occasionally when I have hot food in hand.
I'm 4'10" and my boyfriend is only 5'3" and we have to climb on our counters all the time! Well, I usually get him to help. So he does most of the climbing. I can't reach our cabinet handles. Thank goodness I can barely reach the bottom of the door to open it that way. I use cooking untencils to slide cans off cabinets shelves and off the top of the fridge. One day we'll have a dream kitchen with everything suited to us. But then I'm sure we'll have children who are 6 ft tall! That would be our luck. :)
At 5'1 i also have trouble reaching everything in my kitchen. My counters and cabinets are normal height off the ground, cooking for me is a challenge, seeing into a mixer or even looking into a tall pot. I know that when i move into another house i am going to remember to customize my cabinets and counters to make cooking less of an exercise
I'm 5'6", and so much of my kitchen feels like wasted space because the cabinets are so stinkin' high. Seriously, who really uses the cabinets over the fridge? And then there are the super deep low ones that are only accessible by laying on your stomach and reaching in.
For the writer of the original story, I hope you can find some aspiring architecture student, or even an apprentice carpenter, that can perhaps help you with a redesign. I'm certain that was not your intent in writing this, but people don't always know of a need for their services until it slaps them in the face.
if you can't lower the cabinets, raise the floor! quicker, easier, and less expensive!. the kick space at the bottom of your cabinets is empty so create a box that fits under your cabinest that fits the floor space in the kitchen. then build a nice set of mini stairs that are mobile. that would be safer than climbing stools and dealing with hot water. the best part? you take the floor with you. nothing is attached!
I love my 4'10" wife who has most of these same issues when she cooks, so early on in our marriage I started doing most of the cooking. This arrangement works well for us since I'm usually home from work before she is, and I also enjoy cooking far more than she ever has. On the other hand, she's more handy with tools than I am, so she does most of the household repairs and home improvement tasks. When we were first married, there were some jokes from family and friends about her with the toolbox and me in the kitchen, but nowadays I don't think anyone cares or thinks twice about it. After 36 years, this arrangement suits us just fine. Besides I think we'd terrify our kids if she started cooking, or saw me with tools in hand.
The article says that Cara works barefoot in the kitchen, but the photo shows a person wearing shoes. Matching photo would have had more impact. :)
Ok Rex Ryan.
Am I supposed to care?
This is news worthy because...........
YES! Bring on the hounds!
Bahaha. What you were waiting for. :)
@memitim, that sucks..But I agree with the last part.
I am 4'10" and 63 years old. I was at the tallest 4'11". I have shrunk and it is really noticeable now that I am older. I have come to the point in my life where it is not a good idea to climb on cabinets so I utilize my son (6'3") and my husband (6'2") a lot! I am thankful for the height I do have. I did not realize there were many people out there in the same boat as me. I know a portion of what you have to deal with on a daily basis. I have yet to find a kitchen I am comfortable in because of not being able to reach everything.
AGeek, if you're a woman, 5'5" is actually just above average. Well over half of the women I know are 5'5" and shorter.
I'm 6'7" and while I don't have problems reaching anything in my kitchen, I can tell you it sucks to hit your elbow on the shower ceiling, or run head first into a ceiling fan, or discovering the hard way why they have padding above the door on a bus. Everyone has challenges, that's what makes us unique.
How about installing a raised floor for your kitchen? Sure, it wouldn't be as dramatic as ladders and boiling water, but it seems a lot safer than leaning from a ladder.
false floor, awesome idea! I'm in a wheelchair and we did something similar in our garage when we installed the ramps to enter the house. We basically have a "deck" inside the garage that goes to a ramp in one side of the garage. When we sell the house, the deck and ramp can be disassembled and moved if the new owners no longer want or need ramp access
I know this probably doesnt seem like such a big deal... but I'm a soldier in the Army stationed at Guantanamo bay. The biggest problem I have in the kitchen is the fact that I share it with 5 other guys. I have 1 full shelf to myself for my food, and we have communal pots & pans (which NEVER seem to be cleaned properly). Dinnertimes are usually a mess because there are at least 2 people trying to cook at the same time, and usually someone is using the pot or pan you need already.
cool your in the army i wish i could but my parents wint let me
One reason I'm still single. Can't stand someone else in my kitchen–and I don't even cook that much! Dirty dishes that someone else supposedly "washed" are one of my pet peeves.
Try being 8 foot tall and cook, pssh..
It works both ways. I am 6'4" and I used to get back trouble when I worked in a restaurant from bending and stooping to get things off countertops all the time.
I feel yeah man. 6'7" and *not skinny* does not a happy kitchen dweller make.
I'm adding this to my list of "why to never even consider a move to New York, no matter what." At 4'2", you're right, unless you have something custom put together, you're not going to have any luck with proper cabinet/countertop dimensions for you. My wife is 4'10", we have standard cabinets, and she uses either a step-stool, or me to get things down.
Yours cabinets/countertops don't actually sound like they're all that much out of the ordinary, maybe I'm reading it wrong. typically the countertop is about 3' off the ground, bottom of top cabinets are about 5½' off the ground (if you have 8' ceilings.) Either way, good luck getting to that point of owning so that you can do what you want with your kitchen. When you do, get a stovetop built into your counter (so that you don't have a full range at normal height sandwiched between shorter cabinets, and a separate oven built in at whatever height you prefer. Its probably going to be expensive though, because you're going to need custom-built cabinets.
I don't have a problem. I believe in the old motto, "Keep your kitchen clean. Eat out." :)
I feel ya! I'm 4'10", and live in a NYC apartment. We had to build shelves since there wasn't enough cabinet space, and the only way to go was up. I have a stool and a step ladder, and one of those long grabby things that you used to see in the super market to get stuff down. I have climbed on the sink, counter and even the stove (I know, not smart, but it was off at the time) I almost fell out the kitchen window once straddling the sink and the window sill trying to get the mini chopper out of the cabinet. I then decided to use a knife and waited until my husband got home so he could move it to a lower shelf.
At 5'5", I'm at the lower end of the "normal height" spectrum. Standard-height counters are *still* awful to work at for any length of time. My dream is to have a kitchen designed to fit *me*, without having to care about resale value.
If you're a woman, 5'5" is actually just above average. Well over half of the women I know are 5'5" and shorter.
Nope, I'm male. My wife isn't much over 5'.
And here I felt like it was an inconvenience to need my husband (or trusty step ladder) to get things out of the tops of my cabinets at 5'6". I will never complain about that again. I will complain about the ceramic tile floor in the kitchen. Thank goodness I work for an industrial supply company and got some anti-fatigue mats for cost.
I love the anti-fatigue mats. Plus the step ladder doesn't slip on them.
im female 5'3, the average height of women and i can reach everything in my kitchen fine even the high up items
@f–How do you do that??? I'm 5'4" and have to tiptoe to get things off the top shelves of my cabinets, and contractors have told me my cabinets were installed too low! I also finally bought a step ladder for each level of my home–long overdue. Really, I think body type has a lot to do with it. If you have longer arms than average, you can reach things better even if you're short. If you're tall and have really long legs, you have to bend over more to reach countertops.
I guess I should have mentioned that I have cabinets that go to the ceiling (approx. 8'). Without go-go gadget arms, there's no way a woman at my height could reach the top shelf. My 6'0" husband needs to get the step ladder out to get to the back of the top shelves in the cabinets.
I'm only an inch taller standing at 4'3" and everything you wrote in this article is exactly what I do. Its normal to see me climbing on the counter and grabbing something out of the cupboards in my kitchen. And it is a workout climbing up and down on the counters to grab something. I also use kitchen tongs and they have become very handy for grabbing things out of the cupboards.
I am 4'5", and my tongs are also used for everything! They work great!
Kudos to you! Im a female @ 6'0 and I am @ the opposite end of the spectrum b/c I need my kitchens to be taller than usual. Washing dishes or cooking on the stove hurts my back b/c of how I have to lean.
I love tall women and like to help out around the kitchen. When can we meet?
you sly dog, you! heh heh heh!!
At 6'0", if you have to bend and lean in a normal height kitchen, you're doing something wrong...
Amen! I'm a 6' guy and I love to cook. I never have any problems in my kitchen "bending and leaning." I can reach the top shelf just fine and I have no problem squatting down to pull things out of the lower cabinets. However, the center of gravity is different for women than for men...
I am 5'8", female. In the last home in which we lived, the kitchen sink and bathroom basins were so low that it did cause problems with my back. I had to rest my elbows on the edge of the bathroom basin to lean over to brush my teeth. If I didn't, the splatter went everywhere because of the distance. :)
Now we live in a home apparently designed for taller folks. The sinks are perfect. There is a cubby in the bathroom however that is so high that it cannot be reached, even using my tallest stepladder. No way I am going to lug in a ladder from the garage!
So really it is about how the house is designed. So give it a rest already, Adam.
I'm with you on the need for taller counter tops! My husband is 6'4" and my daughter and I are both 5'10". I end up with an aching back just cooking and doing the dishes.
you should try it at 6'4". for me the bottom, just off the floor, shelf of my kitchen is basically unused. Holding only the big, rarely used things. I love to cook, but at the end of the day my back is killing me having to stoop under the stove hood to get in close to the food, or standing in this awaked slouch to wash the dishes. It has got to the point that I use a stool to sit and wash dishes with.
Even at 5'1" I have trouble in our kitchen sometimes. I'm actually about ready to reorganize our kitchen so that I can reach what we use most without having to get the stepladder out. My mother is completely blind, so that makes cooking even more interesting for her. She had a scare around Christmas when she thought she caught a dish on fire. She could feel the heat and smelled burning, but couldn't tell if there were flames. Thankfully it was just extremely well-done ham & bean soup. The firemen got a kick out of her and passed on her dinner offer. :)
My goodness, I just can't imagine. And I complain about my little kitchen that I can easily get to everything and can SEE everything.
how? I"m 5'2 and it's not tough at all.
Different kitchens are different sizes...don't be a tool!
I'm 5'4" and I can't reach my top cupboards. I also have arthritis so climbing a stool is hard for me. therefore, I don't even use the very top shelves I can't reach.
Years ago I had a girlfriend that barely made 5 feet. When she was looking for an apartment she saw a nice one designed by a contractor. But it was built with his family in mind, and the father and all three of his sons were over six feet tall. The kitchen cabinets were well out of reach of Karen; she had to pass.
I have trouble too- I'm 4'11" and things are not made for my height. I actually had to special order a front door with a peep hole that I could look through. The contractor who built my house refused to build the cabinets lower, though, because if we ended up passing on the house they wouldn't be able to sell it like that. Sometimes even if you own your place there's nothing you can do.
LP , If you own the house now have someone re-hang your cabinets. There are ways around every obsticle.
Short women rule....makes us tall men feel needed :)
I AM 4 11" I NOW LIKE BEING SHORT... I WILL BE CLIMBING UP ON THE RAIL IN FRONT OF THE MILK OR EGGS DISPLAY TRYING TO REACH EVERYTHING... IT SURE HAS SHOWED ME YOU LEARN TO ADAPT TO WHAT YOU RE GIVEN!!
I understand the feeling. I'm 5'1" and our kitchen is high. I sometime have to stand on a small step stool to cut vegetables. I climb on anything possible (counter, stool, ladder) to get to the shelves. I am the shortest one in the family and the tallest person is 6'5. He's complaining its too short/low.
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