Kitchen Cabinets Designing
THE FIRST STEP IS TO CONSIDER HOW YOU USE YOUR KITCHEN AND KITCHEN CABINETS:
- How many people are in your household who use the kitchen cabinets? The answer to
this question will determine how much use your kitchen cabinets get, and how much
traffic there is likely to be in the kitchen at any one time.
- Do two or more cooks typically work at the same time? If so, you may want
extra counter space in your kitchen cabinets and/or an extra sink.
- Do you entertain frequently - and do you typically have formal or informal
gatherings? If you entertain a lot, you may want to open up the kitchen/living
room area into a great room that lets you be part of the party while you're
- What other activities commonly occur in the kitchen? Some houses have a
laundry closet in the kitchen. Some people want a wet bar, a breakfast bar or
even a desk for writing or computer work included in their kitchen cabinets.
- Do you have any special kitchen cabinets needs? Is a user exceptionally short or tall, and
uncomfortable working at standard-height counters for long periods of time? Do
you have a disabled or elderly household member who may have special needs?
This, obviously, is not a complete list of the general considerations in kitchen cabinets planning - the list is nearly infinite. But before you begin
designing, think about who uses the kitchen and how they use it.
Next, think about the features and kitchen cabinets you want, for example
- Do you need an island (and have room for it), a peninsula or a breakfast
nook included in your kitchen cabinets?
- Would you fill a pantry?
- Would you rather have a stainless steel sink or enameled cast iron?
- Do you use a microwave for major cooking or just to heat up cups of tea?
- Do you prefer cooking with gas or electricity?
- Do you want a combination oven-and-range or a cooktop with a wall oven?
- Do you use enough small appliances that you could use an appliance garage
in your kitchen cabinets to store them?
The fewer structural and mechanical changes you make, the less you'll spend.
But that doesn't mean that all those changes cost a lot of money. You'll need
the advice of licensed professionals to make final decisions, but you can at
least get a rough idea of how much extra major changes would cost by answering
the following questions:
- Is the wall you want to move a load-bearing wall? Load-bearing walls
support the structure of the house, and moving them is a complex job for a
professional. Typically, an interior load-bearing wall runs the length of the
house, at about the center of the structure.
- What rooms are directly above and below the kitchen cabinets? If the rooms above
and below are finished, it'll be a lot more difficult to reroute plumbing
pipes, heating ducts and electrical wires.
- Does your new design require that you move existing doors and/or windows?
If so, this makes the job more difficult, because exterior walls are always
The next step - and the most fun - is to think about style. Chances
are, you've seen kitchen cabinets that you like, in magazines, friends' homes, etc.
The first question to ask is whether the style you like best will fit with
your home. You may have loved European kitchen cabinets in the magazine, but they
might not look as good in your Queen Anne Victorian.
Also, consider what kind of color changes you'd like to make - and whether
your ideal colors would necessitate buying new appliances. When you choose
colors, think of them in relation to surrounding rooms and try to find colors
that complement the rest of the house.
Finally, consider your budget and any other remodeling that you might want
to do. Sometimes, related projects are easier and cheaper when done at the
same time as the kitchen.
Most kitchens are designed around four work centers:
- THE CLEANUP CENTER around the sink should have at least 18" to 30" on one
side, and 48" to 54" on the other, to allow enough room to stack dishes, pans
and utensils. Always plan for at least 12" between the sink and the nearest
corner, measured from the front of the counter.
- THE COOKING CENTER around the range requires 12" minimum on one side of
the range, and 15" to 24" on the other side, again with 12" minimum to the
nearest corner. Microwaves and built-in ovens should have at least 15" to 18"
counter space on the right side (assuming the door is hinged on the left
- THE STORAGE CENTER around the refrigerator needs 15" to 18" on the handle
side of the refrigerator, to set food.
- THE MIXING/PREPARATION CENTER should be handy to pans, bowls and utensils,
and should consist of at least 42" to 84" of free counter space.
If space permits, some designers also include a serving center - another
36" to 84" of free counter space to set bowls and pans.
As you design, you'll also want to plan for the following minimum
clearances so you'll have room to work:
- There should be at least a 42" clearance from the front edge of the
counter top to the nearest table or island.
- Leave at least 20" from the front edge of the dishwasher door (when open)
to the nearest obstruction, so you'll have room to load and unload.
- Plan for at least 26" between the kitchen work area and the nearest
- Allow 36" between the nearest obstruction and an eating table, so there is
room to pull a chair away from the table.
Kitchen layouts are based on a concept called the work triangle. The work
triangle consists of imaginary lines that connect the refrigerator, the range
and the sink. For maximum comfort and efficiency, the three legs of the work
triangle should total between 23 and 26 feet.
There are four basic kitchen layouts. The one-wall or galley, the corridor,
the L-shaped and the U-shaped. There are, of course, a nearly infinite variety
of layouts, but most are based on these four.
Kitchen Cabinet designs can also be divided into basic types. Assuming that you're
considering modular (pre-manufactured) kitchen cabinets rather than custom, the widths
will run in 3" increments from 9" up through 36". The standard height of a
base cabinet is 34 1/2", and the standard depth is 24".
Wall cabinets are 12" deep (except for specialty kitchen cabinets designed to be
installed over the refrigerator), and come in the same 3" increments. Standard
heights are 12", 15" 18", 30", and 36". Wall cabinets are installed so the
bottom of the cabinet is 54" above the floor (about 18" above the countertop).
The height you select should depend on your ceiling height and how tall you
are - there's no point in buying tall kitchen cabinets that reach to the ceiling if
you can't get up to get items in and out of the top shelves.
There are four basic types of base cabinets:
- A standard base has one drawer, with a door and shelves below.
- A drawer base has three or four stacked drawers.
- A sink base is open below, with a door below a single false drawer front.
In some brands, the drawer front tilts out to provide storage for sponges and
- A corner base fits in a corner. It may have a lazy susan inside or
Naturally, there are a wide range of variations on these four basic styles.
Wall cabinets generally have doors and shelves inside, although lazy
susan corner kitchen cabinet designs are also available, as well as a wide range of specialty
kitchen cabinets that may offer built-in appliance garages, stemware holders and other
features. Special wall kitchen cabinets are also made for microwave.