Cabinet Ideas to Boost Your Kitchen Storage

Here’s how to max out your cook space from corner unit to pantry cabinet

Kitchen cabinetsLaura and Matthew’s kitchen renovation in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Cabinets typically represent a hefty chunk of your kitchen budget—hovering around 30%—so you want to choose carefully. The design you select not only sets the overall style of the room, but also helps to maintain its organization and order. So, how to get all the puzzle pieces—including pull-out shelves and kitchen islands—to fit scoring you the most storage and, hence, efficiency? Consider these factors:

Configurations that magnify storage

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Base cabinets may vary by width and height, but you are still limited by how tall you want your countertop to be. Wall cabinets can go all the way to the ceiling, utilizing even the topmost inches for infrequently used bulk items like paper towels. Combine and arrange the units according to how you operate in your kitchen and what tools or features you use most often. Deep drawers for pots and pans should go near the stove. Shallower drawers for utensils belong with the prep area, along with maybe a pullout cabinet for trash or recycling, and dishes and glassware near the dishwasher—all to minimize steps. Islands are a great place to stow cookware; be sure to allow for clearance of doors and drawers that must be pulled out. You might want to put open shelves on the ends to make way for drawer space in the middle and to avoid doors that can jut out into traffic paths.

The advantage of stock versus semi-custom

Stock cabinets either come pre-made or require assembly. You can expect a good but limited range of sizes. Semi-custom units offer more choice of dimensions to provide a more exacting fit on your wall space. Semi-custom units typically change in 1-inch increments versus stock’s 3 inches, so there’s less risk of wasted space in a run of cabinets along a wall if you are willing to spend more. Of course, custom cabinets let you get the exact widths you want but expect to wait as much as 10 weeks for shipment versus five to six for semi-custom, and a week or longer for stock. You’ll also pay a heftier price for your one-of-a-kind choices. Read more on pre-fabricated and custom cabinets and how they compare to stock items.

Organize from the Inside Out

While planning the configuration of storage, think about internal organization, too. Drawers handle deep pieces like pasta pots and asparagus steamers, and you can access them with the pull of a knob. Alternatively, slide-out metal shelves will let you stow a variety of items in one super-size cabinet, but they can be less-space efficient insofar as they require you to first open a door, and then give up as much as 4 to 6 inches inside to allow for the shelves’ outer frame and rolling mechanism. Think carefully about what you want to put there and how often you need to get at it before making a decision. Your contractor or design build team can be thought partners in planning your cabinet upgrade. 

Special features for versatility and efficiency

Inside your cabinets and drawers, you can add optional features that keep the contents tidy and super accessible, such as: organizational inserts for tools and knives; narrow pull out pantry shelves; slats for cookie pans and trays; and even a spring-loaded shelf that swings up and out to lift, say, a heavy mixer. And don’t let that dead space behind the corner cabinet go to waste. Many manufacturers offer Lazy Susans that spin around with the touch of a finger to access the contents on rear shelves. Look, too, for adjustable hooks to hang cookware vertically, so there’s no need to drag everything out to get to that one pesky pot. Some manufacturers offer lighting inside the cabinet box to help locate contents. If you haven’t specified internal organizing features when you ordered the cabinets, you can add them later with metal stacking shelves or hooks found at a home center.

Interested in a deeper dive into the different types of kitchen cabinets: stock, pre-fabricated, custom, and high-end? Here’s an example of an Ikea kitchen and a custom kitchen.

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