Someone I know quite well once threw a coffee cup in the general direction of a wall. This was done, obviously, while she was in a temporary pique of some kind.
Throwing the cup provided a wonderful release of tension, she found. Then she discovered that she had actually thrown the cup, which broke, into her spice rack. Many spice bottles shattered. And she realized, once this whole thing got rolling, that the spice rack was located directly above the toaster, which was now full of shards of glass, nutmeg, oregano and paprika. (She hit the middle of the alphabet.) For a long time afterward the toast smelled like some weird kind of stew.
The only lesson here is that if you have a tendency to throw things, don't locate the spice rack (a) where it can be hit or (b) over the toaster.
Where should you put your spices? First of all, a spice rack located on a wall probably isn't ideal, if only for the sake of the spices and herbs that will be stored there. The herbs are actually more perishable than the spices. But all herbs and spices should ideally be stored away from heat and light. The trick is finding somewhere that's within easy reach of the stove, where they are often used, but not near heat.
If a classical wooden spice rack fits into your kitchen style, you'll have no trouble finding one. Hardware and department and kitchenware stores all carry them. A brighter alternative is the plastic version made by Copco, which comes in primary colors. The spice bottles, which come with the set, slip into square spaces arranged on the diagonal. They are stored with their tops out, and come with labels to go on the tops.
But there are other ways of storing spices and herbs that make more practical sense.
A drawer is dark and cool, assuming it's not next to the dishwasher or the stove. But if you just stand the spices up in the drawer you can't tell what's what since their tops are up, and they rattle around and move in the night so that you can't find what you need.
I saw a nice solution to this at Williams-Sonoma. It's a wooden holder -- for 12 bottles that come with the set -- that has nice little ledges on the sides so that you can easily lift the whole rack out when you're cooking. Twelve bottles may not be enough for you, but it's a start and you can always buy more than one set. The set comes with labels to stick on the tops of the bottles and costs a bit over $30. That's a lot of money for a 12-bottle spice rack, but it's attractive and it does work.
Another good drawer solution has to be installed when the drawer is installed. Some cabinet manufacturers make drawers that come with dividers. These dividers are slanted so that the spices lie on the diagonal and you can read their labels. If you're doing a kitchen over, this might be the best spice-storage solution for you, since you can store a whole drawer-full of bottles this way if need be.
Kitchenware manufacturers have recently come out with a series a storage systems that are installed under the top cabinets.
One new product, by Kitchenetics, may be a nice solution. It's a rack that can be installed under a shelf inside a cabinet, or under the top cabinet itself. The most interesting thing about it is that it rotates at the touch of a button (you'll need four "D" batteries), in either direction, so that the spices parade before your eyes. And it holds 22 bottles, which come with the set. It's also attractive, being plain white. Labels come with the set and it costs about $40.
There are other versions of under-cabinet spice-and-herb storage as well, all intended to make use of previously unused space. These tend to have aesthetic problems -- they're often made of not-particularly-attractive plastic. They will probably not work for you if you have under-cabinet lights, either.
One is a relatively flat tray that pulls down and out to reveal several little ledges only wide enough to hold spice tins (not bottles). When this rack is folded up, however, it's nearly invisible. Another version is basically a bin large enough to hold a dozen or so bottles. This bin is not attractive. Look for these under-cabinet storage things in hardware stores.
Another solution -- and one that many people who cook a lot use -- is a lazy susan kept in a closed cabinet. That way the spices and herbs are away from heat and light but within easy sight and reach. Lazy susans, some of which come with two shelves, are available mainly in plastic or hard rubber and can be found in hardware, variety, department and some kitchenware stores. This is the cheapest, most efficient solution for people who use lots of spices and herbs. If you keep it in an upper cabinet, the spices and herbs are always at eye level.
There are also some on-the-counter spice racks that might work for you if you need to be able to see things. There is an attractive light wood arrangement that holds the spices top-out. The whole thing rotates so that you can easily get to any one of the other three sides. Keep in mind that spices and herbs stored this way will be in the light. These are available at kitchenware and department stores.
And finally, here are two more ideas, both of them unusual but very workable. La Cuisine in Alexandria has some good-looking, well-made little wooden spice boxes. These come with tops and are available in various sizes. They can be stacked on top of one another and, unless you have a scrupulously high-tech kitchen, actually add to the beauty of the place as well as providing storage space for your spices and herbs.
Finally, an ingenious solution to the storage problem and one that makes infinite sense: in the home of an Indian-food cook I saw several thalis -- round stainless steel trays with little round stainless steel cups that fit inside. Normally used to serve Indian food, this cook used the little cups to store spices and herbs. The cups are wide enough so that a measuring spoon can easily be dipped in.
Her thalis had covers to protect the spices and herbs from dirt and other contamination. The thali arrangement is not only practical -- she just lifts the whole tray off its shelf when she's ready to use it -- but also beautiful. Seeing the colors and textures side by side make you want to immediately rush to the stove and begin cooking.