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The Rational Remodel - Part Two (Cabinet Mechanics)


In Part One, I said one of the considerations in whether or not to remodel the kitchen below would depend upon whether or not if would be possible to achieve significant increases in storage or “useable” storage. My meaning in the latter case is closer to “User-friendly” storage. There are many aspects of traditional cabinetry design that can make it difficult or even extremely difficult to access items that are being stored.

Existing Kitchen Floorplan.jpg

The cabinetry in this kitchen is a “framed” construction (see drawing below):

framed cabinet.jpeg

The illustration shows very clearly the center stile (support) that is to be found in the center of any wall or base cabinet that is 30” or wider.

This center obstruction is not “user-friendly”. The cabinets in the current kitchen are what might be referred to as “builder-grade”. This is most easily recognized by the fact that the shelf depth is 10.5” and the thickness is only ½” (usually a vinyl wrap instead of melamine)and often bows (see photo below).


When looking at new cabinetry, this owner will be considering a euro or frameless construction (see drawing below):

euro cabinet.jpeg

The reason for this is three-fold. First there will be no center supports to block access, second there will be no horizontal supports below drawers that restrict drawer height and can catch the top of your hand when reaching deep. Finally, the cabinet line to be considered is semi-custom and offers a standard shelf depth of 12” (this means your larger sets of plates will fit), the shelves will be stronger (3/4” plywood) and the cabinetry can be ordered in more accommodating configurations.

This kitchen has a several common examples of cabinetry configurations that we can all recognize as “unfriendly”. The first is the wall cabinet above the refrigerator (See Photo below):


This configuration has three common problems. The first is that it has been installed 19” back from the front face of the refrigerator doors. The only way to access this cabinet is to use a stepladder. The second problem is that when installed to the rear it invites use of the space in front of the cabinet (atop the refrigerator). This makes getting access even more problematic. The third problem with this cabinet is its height off the floor. In order to clear most refrigerators, these cabinets have to be set about 70-72” above the finished floor (AFF). So, even if the cabinet face were aligned with the face of the refrigerator doors, it is still at a height that makes access difficult for most people.

The cabinet shown below is referred to as a “blind corner” cabinet. Although not the reason for its moniker, it could easily be called that because you are almost blind when getting down on your knees and trying to reach to the back to get something that you really can’t see.


Here’s another view (doesn’t help does it?)


This cabinet shares a problem that is found in most production-grade base cabinets and that is the half-depth of the shelf (see below).


This configuration suffers from the same issues as the blind corner, just not as severe. This shelf is not adjustable. Its placement leaves you realizing that the main function of the front upper quadrant is to store “air”.

Where you find a blind base cabinet you usually find the same configuration above (see below).


Of the previous cabinets shown, this is the easiest to access but you still find yourself taking items out to get to those at the rear and then putting back the items that you just took out.

To keep things in perspective, this kitchen is reasonable workable but some of the cabinet configurations are create an inherent dysfunction. Kitchen design at the production level is always driven by cost and that often comes down to how the designer can fill the space allotted with the fewest number of cabinets. Fewer boxes = lower cost.

In the Part Three, “Kitchen Metrics” we’ll run the numbers of the existing and new designs to determine the changes in actual as well as useable storage.

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