Kitchen Cabinet Trends: Custom Design To Maximize Your Storage Space

Yesterday I spoke broadly about kitchen cabinet trends – about the way design is headed, and elements you might want to consider incorporating into your own kitchen. But there’s one big trend that I think merits further discussion, and that’s the increasing tendency towards non-traditional storage.  When you think of “kitchen cabinets” what comes to mind is probably…a cabinet. A large space with a door that swings open and probably a shelf or two inside. But contemporary kitchens are doing away with this ultimately inefficient form of storage. Instead, homeowners are installing cabinets with storage features that are easier to use and more efficient.

Pull Out Pantries

Pull Out Style Pantries (by Curb Appeal Renovations)
Pull Out Style Pantries (by Curb Appeal Renovations)

It’s taken a long time for designers to realize it, but the fundamental design of traditional kitchen cabinets is flawed. Deep cabinets and pantries are invariably difficult to organize, and anything that gets shoved into the back often gets lost and forgotten. Swapping from a traditional pantry to a pull out pantry allows you to store the same amount of stuff in a much narrower space, and because pantries in this style pull all the way out, you can actually see everything you’ve got, making your storage useful all the way back to the wall. Better yet? When they’re closed, they blend perfectly with the rest of your cabinets.

Pull Out Shelves

Cabinets With Pull Out Shelves (by Innermost Cabinets)
Cabinets With Pull Out Shelves (by Innermost Cabinets)

In the same vein, many standard cabinets (as well as pantries) are turning their standard shelves into pull-out shelves that can be fully extended, allowing you better access to that stuff stuck in the back. If you’ve ever struggled to find the right pot or pan you maybe haven’t used in a while, that maybe got shoved into the back of your cupboards, you know how big a difference this can make. It’s a so-simple innovation, but for more and more homeowners traditional, fixed shelves are simply no longer sufficiently efficient.

Lazy Susans

Corner Cabinet With Lazy Susan (by Mary Porzelt of Boston Kitchen Designs)
Corner Cabinet With Lazy Susan (by Mary Porzelt of Boston Kitchen Designs)

The first time I saw a lazy susan built into a corner cabinet, my jaw hit the floor. I’d seen lazy susans before – heck, my gramma had two in her overhead cabinets that she used to store everyday spices and coffee fixings. But while small plastic lazy susans are a popular and inexpensive addition to overhead cabinetry, the more dramatic trend is building solid wood or metal versions directly into your cabinetry. For awkward corner cabinets especially, this makes use of some of the least convenient space in your kitchen, allowing the (sometimes-attached) door to swing easily out of the way, and less-often used appliances or Tupperware (or whatever) to rotate out to where you can easily see and reach them.

Shifting From Shelves To Drawers

Dish Storage Drawer (by Sawhill Custom Kitchens And Design Inc)
Dish Storage Drawer (by Sawhill Custom Kitchens And Design Inc)

In addition to transforming the insides of kitchen cabinets, many homeowners are doing away with some of their cabinetry entirely, replacing large, cumbersome cabinets with oversized drawers for storing plates, glasses, and cookware, as well as for keeping commonly used pantry items close on hand at a prep station. To keep plates and glasses from sliding around, these drawers are equipped with movable pegs that can adjust to the size of your plates to keep them secure, allowing you to store quite a few in a relatively small space. And because many of these cabinets are custom made, it’s easy to have drawers made to your specifications to store odd shaped items.

Hideaway Appliances

Appliance Storage Cabinets (by Tim Kriebel of Kriebel Design)
Appliance Storage Cabinets (by Tim Kriebel of Kriebel Design)

Camouflaging your major appliances with wood panels that match your cabinets is a major kitchen cabinet trend, but if you’re a big time cook with lots of small appliances, it doesn’t stop there. Many home chefs are opting to build special shelves or even an entirely separate prep space to store their mixer, food processor, blender, toaster, microwave, and so on, and keeping that space closed behind closet-style doors. This saves you from having to stow your appliances every time you use them, while keeping your counters clean and clutter-free.

Built In Trash Receptacles

Built In Trash Compost And Recycling Bins (by Affecting Spaces, photo by Steve Tsai)
Built In Trash, Compost, And Recycling Bins (by Affecting Spaces, photo by Steve Tsai)

If you live in an area with a rigorous recycling program, this is probably a kitchen cabinet trend you understand: having built-in containers for your trash and recycling. This can be something as a simple pull-out can stowed by your sink for food scraps, space for a trash compactor, or a whole cabinet devoted to hiding those big, ugly plastic blue and green recycling containers. Either way, it’s becoming increasingly important to take your trash (and where you’re going to put it) into consideration before you start building. Not only will this keep the most unsightly parts of your kitchen out of sight, it will make trash day easier, too.

Out In The Open Display

Kitchen Cabinets With Plate Rack Open Shelf And Glass Door Fronts (by Aquidneck Properties)
Kitchen Cabinets With Plate Rack Open Shelf And Glass Door Fronts (by Aquidneck Properties)

One of the major kitchen cabinet trends is a shift to simpler, homier design, and one of the hallmarks of that shift is that items previously stowed behind closed, solid doors are now being put out in the open. Plate rack cabinets – simple bars of wood used to hold large plates vertically in place – are perhaps my favorite example of this. Not only is it more convenient to put away and take down clean plates, but your favorite dinnerware doubles as decoration, adding a pop of color and personal flair. Also popular are built in bookshelves for cookbooks, wine racks or wine coolers, open shelves, and curio-style glass-fronted cabinets.

Alternative Door Design

Lift Up Kitchen Cabinets (by LDa Architecture And Interiors)
Lift Up Kitchen Cabinets (by LDa Architecture And Interiors)

Perhaps one of the most dazzlingly innovative and obvious new kitchen trends is overhead kitchen cabinet doors that open upwards (either lifting straight up or folding up like a garage door) rather than out. Why? Because it allows you to have multiple cabinets open at once without the doors bumping into each other, AND it allows you to wander around your kitchen with your cabinets open without repeatedly hitting yourself in the head. It’s a simple change (though admittedly one that takes a little getting used to) that makes it easier and more intuitive to use your kitchen.

For the first time, the sky is really the limit in terms of what you can do with your kitchen cabinet storage. More than ever, flexible, innovative options are available at reasonable prices, and it’s entirely possible to build your kitchen exactly the way you want it to be, whether your tastes are very modern or very traditional. What new kitchen cabinet storage features appeal the most to you? Are there any you have already, and if so, what do you think of them?