Choosing Useful Kitchen Cabinet Features
Kitchen cabinets have so many add-on features from which to choose, the decision can be daunting. Some features are available only on more expensive cabinets, but most are available as an upgrade to whatever cabinets you choose. We'll explain here many of the most common features and their benefits.
Drawer slides are the mechanical system by which drawers open and close. The most basic drawer slide is to just allow the drawer to slide on the wood of the cabinet or on plastic guides to reduce friction. Next up from there are slides that mount to the bottom right and left edges of the drawer box. They have a roller which fits into a track mounted to the cabinet. Improvements upon this include full extension drawer slides which allow the drawer to open all the way, giving better access to the back of the drawer. Another upgrade are self-closing slides which return the drawer to a fully closed position when you give it a shove. Hidden drawer slides mount under the drawer box making them invisible. Finally, are slides which are rated for heavier loads or which provide ultra-smooth gliding action when opened and closed.
Lazy susan turntables are circular platforms that mount inside cabinets and can be spun to bring items from the back of the cabinet to the front. They are most commonly used in corner cabinets. Corner cabinets are too deep to easily reach the back. A large lazy susan enables you to efficiently store and retrieve items in these large cabinets. Definitely a good way to minimize wasted storage space in large corner cabinets.
Self closing doors are a great way to keep a kitchen looking neat. Gently close the door and once it gets to the last few inches it pulls itself tightly closed. This style hinge has a positive lock to snap them closed with the aid of a spring or similar mechanism. It also reduces the noise of doors being slammed closed. Another benefit of European hinges is that they are self-closing. Overall a nice way to keep the kitchen looking neat and now frequently a standard feature.
Self closing drawers are a nice feature to keep your kitchen looking neat. Give a drawer a quick push and it will gently and quietly close all the way. Standard drawers usually require a firm shove to close and may result in a noisy bang as they slam shut. While self-closing drawers are usually still an upgrade and may seem a small detail, we think it worthwhile because of the convenience.
Appliance garages typically bring the upper cabinet all the way down to the countertop and create a nook for storing appliances. They are called garages because of the roll-up doors which resemble a garage door. This handy feature enables you to keep small appliances convenient to where they will be used while avoiding the visual clutter. Corner cabinets are a good place for this option because the space is often wasted and provides a fair amount of storage space.
European style hinges are a cabinet door hinge that mounts entirely inside the cabinet, hidden from view. This hinge is a popular choice for modern style cabinets and particularly important when clean lines are the goal. These hinges are popular with manufacturers and are commonly standard on some cabinets. Another benefit of this style hinge is self-closing.
Silverware organizers can be built right into the drawer. The advantage is that they typically take up the entire drawer. With an added organizer, there is often wasted space around the organizer. However, we don't like the lack of flexibility with built-ins. Furthermore, they get a regular pounding from silverware being dropped in and removed. We prefer being able to swap in a new organizer every few years.
Pull out spice cabinets and drawers. These can be placed in upper or lower cabinets and some manufacturers offer drawers hidden in the stove surround. These can be nice because they are built for the scale that spices come in, unless you buy bulk products. Bulk packaged spices do not fit, but you can transfer them to smaller containers for daily use. While these seem like a good idea, they lack flexibility and some of the space may prove to be less than easy to access. It is best to see a real example of what you will be getting to make sure all the space will really be usable for you in your kitchen. Another consideration, there are plenty of after-market organizers that can be added later that may better suit your specific needs..
Pull out shelves found in bottom cabinets may be the single best improvement in cabinet technology in the last 50 years. Open a base cabinet door and pull the shelf all the way out to select what you need. Before these handy shelves, you might have to get on your hands and knees to reach to the far back to get that fancy platter you hardly ever use. Now you can save strain and get that platter out for dinners other than special occasions. Highly recommended.
Drawer pegs are showing up more often in cabinets in the United States. The bottom of the drawer has a grid of holes into which you can place heavy-duty pegs. These pegs allow you to create niches for dishes or pans and helps to keep things from moving around. This is particularly useful with dishes stored in lower drawers or pull-out shelves. The pegs also keep dishes from banging into each other and thus reducing the risk of chipping.
Plate shelves are an open section in the cabinetry with wooden dowels spaced to create niches for individual plates. This is an efficient way to store plates and protect them from damage. It puts the plates on display, but only from the edge view. Depending upon construction, plates may need to be dry before racking them to avoid water damage to the cabinet. Plate racks are more a style preference than a practical feature. If you like the look, go for it.
Wine racks are available for upper or lower cabinets. They replace a single cabinet with diagonal supports to create a grid to store bottles on their sides. These are often suggested for upper cabinets, however the problem is that heat rises and storing wine in a hot kitchen, up where the heat is, really isn't a good idea. A better location is to store them in a lower cabinet, such as in a island or other lesser used cabinet space. Kitchen cabinet space is usually at a premium and so giving up an entire cabinet to store wine may not be the best use of space. Wine refrigerators are also very popular and may be a better choice than storing wine in a rack.
Swing out pantries are large cabinets, roughly the size of a refrigerator. They feature interior shelves that swing out to make the contents more easily accessible. Instead of large shelves of a standard pantry cabinet, where things at the back can be difficult to see or reach, multiple small shelves maximize the ease of finding and reaching pantry items. The idea is to maximize the use of space, while keeping everything in sight. One drawback is that access requires a few extra seconds to open the outer door, swing out the shelf and then returning the shelf and closing the door. Another drawback is that shelves may not be well suited for large items and bulk items. Overall, we find the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. We recommend seeing the actual cabinet in person for a critical assessment of whether it will work for you.
Walk-in pantries are less of a cabinet feature and more a kitchen feature. If you have the opportunity to design in a walk-in pantry, the benefits far exceed the storage capacity of cabinets that might be used in the same space. The versatility of shelving options and storage solutions make walk-in pantries a boon for storage. Bulk items like cases of water and soda, multi-packs of food, paper towels and pet food just don't fit well in standard cabinets. Walk-in pantries, ideally, face into the kitchen, but don't rule out the possibility of converting a nearby closet or other space. Even a small pantry will reduce the storage burden on your kitchen cabinets, and frees space for the storage of dishes, glassware, cookware and regularly used cooking supplies.