why Italian kitchens make me happy

my wonderful Italian drying rack

Let me just start by saying that, despite the incredible food they produce, Italian kitchens are not known for being beautiful, necessarily, or even particularly user-friendly.  Oftentimes kitchens here in Sicily will be outfitted with small, shallow sinks (a pet peeve of my husband’s) and very little counter space.


Italian kitchens have at least one design feature going for them that I have never seen elsewhere.  It’s called the drying rack over the sink.  It looks just like a regular kitchen cabinet, but when you open the cupboard doors, you see a beautifully hidden away set of drying racks for your dishes.  No dishes strewn all over counters on dish towels, no unsightly dish racks on the draining board, no pots left in the sink to dry.  It’s pure genius!  Thus far there has been an over-sink drying rack in every kitchen I’ve seen in Italy, even in tiny cottages in the Dolomites

But I’ve never seen this feature in any other kitchen in the world.  Why?  Do you have any theories?  My personal theory as to why this hasn’t caught on in the States is:

a) dishwashing machines exist there and

b) every American kitchen is designed with a window over the sink. 

But why a window over the sink?  Do you ever look out the window while you’re washing dishes?

(See some more photos of our kitchen here and here.)

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21 Responses to why Italian kitchens make me happy

  1. Jenn Killmer November 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    Wouldn’t that be a wonderful feature in American apartments! There are few windows above sinks in apartment buildings. I wish I had this feature in my kitchen now!

    … Maybe if Ikea starts to market an over-the-sink rack, it’ll sweep the States ;)

  2. Jess November 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    We went to visit my parents in Rio and they have moved into a condo near the beach since I moved out. Well their kitchen as this absolutely wonderful feature too :)Enjoy it in Italy and maybe you can add it to your kitchen in future homes :)

  3. Kim November 6, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    hmmm…except a window over the sink has been a must have for me in every apartment or house i have ever lived in….but this is a way cool idea….

  4. Di November 6, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    I have a window over my sink and regularly look out when washing the dishes…..but I also love the idea of the draining rack cupboard. I will admit that I have also seen one in my friend’s apartment in Seville, Spain and that she also has a dishwasher.

    • Becca November 7, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

      Lucky… your friend has both! I could sure use a dishwasher around here most nights… and I’m not talking about myself or Elliott!

  5. Erika November 6, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    Wow, that’s Jonathan’s kitchen dream.

  6. I Lelli November 6, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    we are so happy Becca that italian kitchens make you happy ….

    xoxo Lelli, italian family


  7. Hope November 6, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    What an incredible idea! This would be a perfect feature in apartments.

  8. Carrie November 6, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    That is a very unique and cool feature!

  9. Kelly November 6, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    We had one at the center where I worked in Marseille, though the story there was that it was an import from our Finnish director… so apparently they’re popular in Finland as well!

    • Becca November 7, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

      Kelly, Finland has so much figured out (like reindeer steaks… best steak I’ve ever had) that this doesn’t surprise me. We actually did buy these racks at IKEA, who carries them here, but does not carry them in the States. Funny, no?

  10. PoppyG November 7, 2012 at 6:44 am #

    Sicilian kitchens are particularly sharp…Pai

  11. ~julee~ November 7, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    Great idea! I do sometimes look out my window when I’m doing dishes. :)

  12. Anna Hegdahl November 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    We have an over-the-sink rack here in New Delhi, India, but it is made of aluminum and is definitely not secreted away behind cupboard doors. We also dry all of our dishes before putting them up there, for some strange reason.

  13. Stacie November 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    I agree with Hope that it would be a great feature in apartments. But I LOVE my kitchen window. I’m hoping to get a flower box set up outside its ledge to grow herbs. I can just open my window and pick fresh herbs! (The trouble with that is my cat likes to sit outside on the ledge and peek into the kitchen, to let me know it’s time for me to let him in the house. He has me so well-trained.)

    The feature I liked about German homes is that there are light switches for the porch light inside the house and OUTSIDE the front door. That way if you’re out until late, and you forgot to turn on the porch light, you’re not stuck in the dark trying to get the house key into the door. Now THAT is a genius idea to me! :)

    • Becca November 7, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

      Stacie, this is so true about the herbs. We had herbs in our windowsill over our sink in D.C. and I loved them. I guess having such a multi-functional space over your sink makes it worth it, no matter what’s there. :-)

      And wow about the light switches outside in Germany! That’s totally brilliant! We could definitely use one here…

  14. Anna November 7, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    brilliant!! I really really love that idea. :)

  15. Diane Cacciato November 7, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    “Italian kitchens are not known for being beautiful, necessarily, or even particularly user-friendly.” Isn’t that the truth! My husband and I spent most of last summer looking for a house to buy in Cianciana (AG). So many of the houses had kitchens that were so small or so inefficient that I wanted to turn around and walk out without seeing the rest of the house. Finally we found a house – tall, 4 stories, with the kitchen on the top floor. And the kitchen is huge! About 50 square metres. The upper cabinets and tile are both left over from the 70s but they are in good shape so we kept them. The counters, lower cabinets and the appliances are all being replaced. The kitchen opens onto a lovely terrazza. I can’t wait until it is all done, we are back in Sicily and we can start having people over for dinner!

  16. Lauren Ashley November 8, 2012 at 5:32 am #

    This is an amazing idea! We don’t have a dish washer (SF apartment living). We do have a window over the sink though, and I must say I do stare out of it while I wash up.

  17. Veronica May 7, 2023 at 2:55 pm #

    This is a wonderful practical idea no need to put away dishes. I dislike dish drainers so this is an answer to one of my pet peeves

  18. trediinteriors April 5, 2024 at 9:38 pm #

    Discover the allure of Italian kitchens and unlock the secret to culinary bliss! Dive into Becca Garber’s captivating exploration of why Italian kitchens exude happiness and inspiration. From timeless design to the rich culinary heritage, this insightful piece will leave you craving more. Indulge in the essence of Italy and let its magic transform your cooking experience. Explore now and elevate your kitchen journey with a touch of Italian charm!

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