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The #1 item in kitchen cabinets

This is a bit misleading, because it’s the #1 item that are must-have for my area of Northern California for the “homeowner-who-isn’t-planning-to-move-soon.”  If you are not seeing this in your area and you are a) a homeowner who is planning to live in your home for a long time and/or b) a contractor or home builder or real estate agent whose demographic is a), read on:

THE #1 ITEM: DRAWERS WITH SOFT-CLOSE HINGES

Really, drawers have been around since the 1980s; the self-closing (and silent) drawer glides for about a decade. But up until a few years ago, they had always been options, or an add-on. Neither one has been a standard. That is, that the default of every kitchen should be one with drawers, not cupboards, and that said drawers should also close quietly by themselves.

This wasn’t always the case. Credit goes to online and TV. What we’ve also seen is a trickle down from luxury design. As the items become more popular, the costs drop due to increasing volume. As the manufacturers and cabinet makers become more experienced, they find ways to shorten the labor and time.

Why drawers instead of roll-out shelves hidden behind a door? Drawers are a three-step system. Open the drawer, take out the pot, close the drawer. Roll-out shelves are a five-step system. Open the doors (and make sure that they’re open to 90-degrees or more, otherwise the roll-out will hit the door(s)), pull out the roll-out, take out the pot, push the roll-out back into the cabinet, close the doors.

Details to consider:

  • Drawers in a framed inset cabinet like above (see the railing between the drawers?) aren’t tall enough for stock pots or taller items. They’re about 8″ high, if that, and lost additional height when drawer glide design changed from side-mount to undermount. If you’re planning on inset cabinets, I might suggest a cabinet or pantry elsewhere in the kitchen with interior roll-out shelves for the taller items.
  • Do not use the self-closing glides if there are physical challenges, such as arthritis or nerve damage. The self-closers act a bit like a suction on a freezer door and the extra force required for the opening can be agony for those afflicted.
  • If you’re impatient like me, do NOT put self-closing hardware on roll-out shelves. You can’t close the door until the roll-outs are inside the cabinet, and it feels like glaciers move faster. Your mileage may vary.
  • Test the capability of the self-closing glides. The manufacturer, Blum, has been the standard for mid-level and luxury homes for some time, although there are others of various quality and function. The lower-end hardware can be really a struggle to open. They should do what their title says: Glide.

THE THREE LEVELS OF DESIGN

Entry-level and starter homes: Depending on your part of the country, I’m still seeing cupboards with a bank or two of drawers. In the newer homes, we might see some self-closing drawer hardware, although it’s usually not Blum. These items are both options. For homeowners, if this is your starter home that you plan on spending the next decade or two of your life, strongly consider adding at least drawers to your kitchen, if not the self-close glides.

Mid-range homes: For the younger homeowners, the self-closing hardware is almost considered standard. Many watch the TV shows and the internet which show all the high-end items. Both items are still options on many home-builder’s lists, but if I was planning a mid-range home and my clients were trailing Boomers or Gen-Y, I wouldn’t dare design a kitchen without drawers and have an option for self-closing hardware.

Luxury homes: If you don’t have both of these options, I can’t recommend them enough. Blum may or may not be the default; there could be custom-made drawer hardware or other names that aren’t branded. Other options that are almost standard are lighted interiors, custom partitions, and touch openers.  Drawer boxes are also upscale – metal or fine wood or glass.

Custom drawers

That is, if you’re a homeowner who loves cooking . If your home is uber-luxury, those items may not be as desired as you may never actually step foot inside the kitchen except to check in on the chef or caterers. There are different criteria for planning a kitchen where there may be a flurry of people catering for 6-60 people.

Until next time,

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Comments

  1. Hi Kelly, I love your blog and have been following your posts for some time. You have some great ideas and I love this one about customized dividers. You are right, soft close hinges are a must in most of our designs these days. Thanks for sharing your ideas! A fellow kitchen designer in New Jersey.

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