Kitchen & Bath: Cabinet Upgrades
Good ideas are frequently left unexplored and unexploited in a
typical kitchen installation, whether in a new home or a
remodel. Even if the workmanship is technically flawless, the
new kitchen is often less than it could and should be, in both
form and function. As a kitchen design professional, it's my
job to provide clients with creative and practical options that
maximize the room's potential.
Much of every kitchen's working potential lies in the cabinet
doors and drawers. Efficiently planned cabinet interiors can do
wonders for a small space and even eliminate redundant or
While some upgrades do cost extra (but justifiable) money,
there are several that can make tremendous improvements in the
overall look and function of a kitchen without necessarily
adding to the expense.
Because they're at eye level, wall cabinets are more important
visually than base cabinets, so plan accordingly. Wall cabinets
don't always have to match the base cabinets width for width.
It's better to consider how the wall cabinets will be used and
allow form to follow function (below).
Stagger the heights of cabinets symmetrically on either side
of a range hood or window, or center a taller, deeper upper
cabinet between shorter adjacent ones to create a focal
Mix colors and tones.
Consider ordering wall cabinets in a different stain color from
the base cabinets (see
Bath, 2/02). Adding a second tone to the cabinet color
scheme is a great way to add visual interest without affecting
the budget. For example, base cabinets could be several shades
darker than the wall cabinets, and the wall cabinets could be
finished with a crown molding that matches the tone of the base
cabinets, uniting the overall color scheme.
Deeper base cabinets at the
sink or range help define work areas and orient the eye,
accentuating the plan (below).
Cabinet companies may modify the depth of a standard cabinet
box for a small upcharge, or you can build a standard base out
from the wall and cover the gap with the countertop. I like to
use angled fillers on either side of the cabinet to return the
face line to the standard 24-inch depth. Added benefits of the
extra inches include ease of installing some of the pro-style
range tops, especially if there's also a pop-up downdraft
behind, and elimination of that tight, hard-to-clean space
behind the sink controls.
Eye-catching knobs and
pulls. Sleek, upscale hardware can lift the look of a
stock cabinet a couple of notches. Choose a style and finish
that reflect the theme of the kitchen design, like polished
brass on dark wood for a formal traditional look, or ceramic in
a farmhouse kitchen. Brushed nickel or steel is currently a
popular finish for appliances, plumbing fixtures, and cabinet
hardware. Mix styles; for example, use decorative pulls on
glass-front cabinets and plain pulls on others (below).
Open shelves help lighten
the visual monotony of a long march of cabinet doors and
optimize storage where door swing may be a problem, as in a
narrow aisle or a tight corner adjacent to a doorway or window
Appliance panels. Disguising
appliances to look like the cabinets is a strong design trend.
Most new appliance trim kits accept a 1/4-inch-thick
wood-veneer panel, a common cabinet line accessory
Bring on the wine. A wine
rack incorporated into a cabinet run is a stylish and
relatively inexpensive addition (below).
Racks can measure as little as 6 inches wide and make a nice
alternative to a wide vertical filler. Wider racks serve the
same visual function as open shelf units, breaking the monotony
of a long cabinet run. For clients who prefer not to advertise
their good taste, give the bottles a dedicated deep drawer