Kitchen cabinet design



Should you invest more in the kitchen cabinet design?

There is no end to the extras and upgrades that you can add to your basic kitchen design. These are the things that really drive up the cost. However there are some upgrades that are worth it and that you will enjoy having as long as you work in your kitchen. It's advised is to make sure you know exactly how much each extra item costs so you can determine if it is worth it to you or not.

When asking for a written quote for your new kitchen insist that the extras and upgrades are priced individually so you can decide if each one is worth it. You might like an open bookcase but will you still like it if it costs a large amount of money? It is much easier for the kitchen salesperson to give you one lump sum price but it will be easier for you to make choices if the quote is itemized.

Below you will find a few ideas for the kitchen cabinet upgrades that are worth implementing and a few ideas that may not be worth it.

Consider buying:

› Higher cabinets

If your kitchen ceiling is 8 ft you should invest in 36″ high upper cabinets (top of cabinets will be at 7 1/2 ft). This leaves room for a molding at the top for a finished look. The ceiling is never completely level but the cabinets will be, so trying to go to a taller cabinet tight to the ceiling will just accent the difference. You would probably never use the top shelf anyway. The 36″ upper gives you an extra shelf which can give you 1/3 more upper storage space. If you have a ceiling higher than 8 ft, you can go ahead and install 42″ uppers also with crown and still have enough room.

› Top crown molding

You really can’t appreciate how much more finished the kitchen will look with the crown until you see two identical kitchens, one with and one without top molding. Add the biggest crown you can afford in a simple style. Your budget and the style of the kitchen will dictate how detailed you can get with the moldings.

Cabinet crown moldings are attached to the top of the kitchen cabinets. You can also install ceiling crown molding which is installed in where the ceiling and wall meet. If you are installing both take time to select moldings that compliment each other so the effect will feel balanced.

› Extra top drawers

There are two ways of including drawers into the cabinets.

Top drawer construction includes a top standard height drawer above every door. This results in more drawers than might be needed and also reduces the space inside the doors of the cabinet. It is also more expensive to produce.

The other option is to use one or two banks of drawers of the same or different sizes. It may seem like a good idea to have lots of top drawers but think about what you would store in them. The height of a standard drawer only makes it useful for cutlery, smaller items, linen and spices. For most people four standard drawers would be sufficient. If you have a large enough kitchen you could go up to six or seven.

The other reason for full height doors is the look. Since some cabinets like corner cabinets and sink cabinets are best without a top drawer panel, you want to keep a continuous look and install full height doors adjacent to this section of the kitchen. Inserting a bank of drawers will look better with the full height doors. Just keep the line of the doors and drawers in mind when you look at the overall kitchen layout. You don’t want a top drawer cabinet beside a cabinet with full height doors. It will just not look as good as keeping the same lines going from one cabinet to the next.

› Base corner cabinet

It is always a challenge to make usable space out of the corners of the kitchen design. In a large kitchen it is not always necessary to maximize every inch of the cabinets but most kitchens are not huge. Upgrading to a hinged corner cabinet can give you a fully usable corner. Since there is a lot of wasted space around it and you have to search around for a place to put your item when you go into it. When something drops off the shelf it can be difficult to retrieve.

The same size corner base (usually about 36″ square against the wall) with a half depth shelf will give you lots of space and a good place to store pots and pans if you don’t have pot drawers. These cabinets usually have full height hinged doors. If you do not have enough room for the 36″ version, consider a blind corner instead since the doors could be too small for access in a smaller corner cabinet.

› Pot drawer cabinets

This should be the queen of kitchen cabinets! The pot drawers can store everything from dishes to food. Extended drawer glides will provide total access to all items and you can nest bowls and pots to double up on storage.

The only limitation is the height of some items like tall cereal boxes but these can be stored on their side. You will find it is money well spent including pot drawers in your new kitchen.

› Deep upper and fridge panel

With a standard depth upper cabinet above the fridge the sides and top of the fridge are exposed. This does not look bad if the sides match the front of the fridge. However if you only want the door of the fridge exposed you will need to upgrade to a deep cabinet above the fridge and one or two full height panels to support it. Every manufacturer has their version but most are a 24″ deep upper cabinet and a 5/8″ panel in the same finish as the cabinets.

The important thing is to know exactly how deep your fridge is without the door as the door should not be recessed. This measurement plus about and inch is how deep the panel should be. If not you will still have a few inches of the side of the fridge stick out which defeats the purpose of the upgrade. You do not need to purchase a counter depth fridge if you can cover the sides with the panels. The upper cabinet can be pulled forward to be flush with the front of the panels. If you have a wall on one side you will only need one panel. This upgrade will cost more but you will be able to purchase a less expensive fridge since you do not need counter depth or matching side panels.

Most likely will not be needed:

› Extra trim

There are many other decorative trim elements such as fluted base columns, fancy under cabinet valance trim, legs and corner posts and onlay designs. These can add a lot of money to your basic design and do not add to the functionality of your new kitchen. Consider these only if you have a generous budget or if they are integral to your design vision.

› Glass door inserts

The important thing to remember about glass door cabinets is that they are meant to showcase what you store in them. Think about what you want to look at behind the glass doors and where you would store those items in your new kitchen. Unless your cabinets have matching dishes neatly stacked you might not want to have glass doors at all. However, there are options to clear glass. Obscure, reeded or leaded glass inserts are available in many different patterns. You can also install shirred or flat fabric behind the plain glass doors and change it up when you need an update. If you install glass doors you will have to upgrade the cabinet so the inside matches the outside. You can also paint or wallpaper the inside of the cabinet to create and accent color.

› Lighting inside glass door cabinets

To accent a display cabinet you do need lighting installed in the top of the cabinet. However there are limitations. You will definitely need glass shelves or the light will not go through to the bottom items. Only transparent items such as glasses will let the light shine through onto the lower shelves. The lighting may be irritating to your eyes if it is visible from a seated position so ensure the light source is hidden.

If there is space above the cabinets you will be able to install the lighting yourself after installation as long as the wiring and switch is in place. If your cabinets are tight against a bulkhead or closing in by molding it would be necessary to have the lighting installed by the cabinet company.

› Under cabinet valance

If you want to install accent lighting under the cabinets you will need to hide the light fixtures with valance trim. This must be the same material as the cabinets for a unified look. If you are planning on installing the lighting after the kitchen is installed, have the valance installed with the kitchen. Unless you are an experienced trim carpenter it will be less expensive and look better to have it done professionally.

› Custom matching hood

The effect of this item is obvious and it will be something you either hate or love. Usually a very expensive upgrade. There are many versions and shapes available. You will need to purchase a custom fan kit to install inside the hood and those are also expensive for a decent quality. Again, this upgrade may be worth it if your dream kitchen is built around it and your budget will allow the extravagance.

›  Top corner angle cabinet

This might be a good upgrade depending on how you use it. If you could only see what is in the very front of the cabinet, get some step inserts for this cabinet so you can see all the items in the space. The blind corner cabinet has difficult to reach space in the back but we all have items we rarely use and the front of this cabinet is at least easily accessible. The standard square corner configuration is also more in keeping with a contemporary design.

In model homes and kitchen showrooms many times they show a glass door on a angled corner cabinet. This might have a nice look in display kitchen but in the real world it would be a great waste of space to use this corner cabinet as display since it is probably right in the center of your work area. If you want glass doors consider a cabinet that would store glasses or dishes instead.


› Open shelves

If you like the look of dishes and other items on open display then open shelves will definitely work for you. The placement can be difficult since you want to balance the open space with the closed door cabinets. If you have an open shelf on one side of the window it looks best with the same size open shelf on the other side as well. Place the shelf between closed cabinets for the best look, or use only open shelves on one side of the kitchen.

The open shelving will cost more since the cabinets need to be made of the same material and finish as the cabinet doors. Another thing to add to your budget!