Easy Ways To Add Storage To A Small Kitchen (Part 3): Unconventional Cabinets

Making the most of a small kitchen often requires thinking outside the box – and by box, I mean outside the traditional kitchen cabinet. In Part 2 of this series, I talked a little bit about using pull out shelves and other cabinet organizers to help improve the efficiency of the cabinets you have, but today I want to take a look at unconventional cabinets that challenge the idea of what a kitchen cabinet is in the first place, in ways that can help you take your kitchen storage to the next level.

Pull out cabinets allow instant, easy access to items and help minimize clutter (by Old World Kitchens & Custom Cabinets, photo by Bob Young)
Pull out cabinets allow instant, easy access to items and help minimize clutter (by Old World Kitchens & Custom Cabinets, photo by Bob Young)

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Most kitchen cabinets are big and boxy – huge square spaces that are often under utilized. Well designed organizers can help make better use of these large spaces, but installing cabinets in different sizes and shapes is an even better way to maximize the efficiency and accessibility of your storage. Traditional kitchen cabinets more or less have to be lined up side to side at the top or base of your kitchen. But tall, thin, rectangular cabinets can be squeezed into small spaces that a traditional cabinet simply wouldn’t fit, like alongside a refrigerator, by the stove, and so on. The flexibility of these non-standard cabinets alone makes them an excellent choice for a small kitchen, because it makes it possible to add storage to spaces that just aren’t big enough for a full sized cabinet.

Slim pull out cabinets can fit in spaces that traditional cabinets can't, and are much more efficient for odd shaped items (by Dura Supreme Cabinetry)
Slim pull out cabinets can fit in spaces that traditional cabinets can’t, and are much more efficient for odd shaped items (by Dura Supreme Cabinetry)

But flexibility of size and shape isn’t the only advantage that pull out cabinets offer. Where a traditional cabinet usually features only a single, fixed shelf, a tall, thin, pull out cabinet will have many long shelves stacked on top of each other and mounted on full extension glides. As with many kitchen cabinet organizers, this lets you pull everything in the cabinet all the way out, letting you easily see everything inside and store items throughout the entire cabinet, from top to bottom and front to back. These types of cabinets range from something as small as a spice rack to as large as a full pantry, and make it possible to store more stuff not only in less space, but in space that would have otherwise been left empty.

Segmented drawers can store a full set of dinnerware in less space than a traditional cabinet, and keep individual pieces better sorted (by Dura Supreme Cabinetry)
Segmented drawers can store a full set of dinnerware in less space than a traditional cabinet, and keep individual pieces better sorted (by Dura Supreme Cabinetry)

Another increasingly popular option is to get rid of the traditional cabinets entirely and replace them with large, deep drawers. Like pull out cabinets, these are mounted on full extension glides, giving you easy access to the farthest back parts of the drawer and letting you store more items in less space than a traditional cabinet. One major perk of this design is that you can have drawers as wide or deep as you need them, arranged in whatever way is most convenient to the items you need to store. For example, one of the more popular types of drawers right now are designed with simple, moveable pegs in the bottom that allow you to section off the drawer to store dishes or glasses in different sizes and shapes. A set of dishes that might take up a full upper cabinet can easily be stacked in a single drawer, both saving space and making them easier to access and put away.

Stackable drawers make it easy to consolidate utensils and keep them better organized (by Richard Landon Design, photo by Roger Turk, Northlight Photography)
Stackable drawers make it easy to consolidate utensils and keep them better organized (by Richard Landon Design, photo by Roger Turk, Northlight Photography)

Deep drawers with multiple sliding layers are another unique and increasingly popular option. Though they’re only slightly taller than a traditional drawer, the sliding layers allow you to store significantly more items inside, and keep them much better organized. Typically this layout is used for utensils and cutlery – a layer for flatware, a layer for knives, and a layer for kitchen utensils, each of which has a built in divider (or knife block) that can be pulled out individually. Not only does this keep all your utensils very well sorted and in a single place, it consolidates two drawers and a knife block worth of stuff into a single slightly larger drawer.

Tall, thin cabinets and wide, deep drawers are both still fairly unconventional options, but they're fast becoming much more common (by Schwartz and Architecture, photo by Matthew Millman)
Tall, thin cabinets and wide, deep drawers are both still fairly unconventional options, but they’re fast becoming much more common (by Schwartz and Architecture, photo by Matthew Millman)

Of course, the major drawback for all of these non-standard cabinets is that, to get them, you have to replace at least some if not all of your existing cabinets, which can be quite expensive. That said, while organizers are much easier to install, pull out cabinets and modified drawer storage come out ahead in terms of ease of use. They’re easier to access (since opening the cabinet and pulling out the shelves is a single motion rather than two), and often better organized, since they’re designed from the ground up, rather than built to accommodate an existing space. Particularly in a small kitchen where space is at a premium, it can be worth the extra cost to have the cabinets custom made.

Custom fitting cabinetry to a small kitchen means being able to make the most of every inch of free space (by ATD Contracting Services Inc.)
Custom fitting cabinetry to a small kitchen means being able to make the most of every inch of free space (by ATD Contracting Services Inc.)

Really, that potential for customizability is the the biggest advantage of abandoning a traditional cabinet layout in favor of a combination of pull out cabinets and drawers. More and more, homeowners are realizing that kitchen storage isn’t one-size-fits-all, and storage that’s designed intuitively to fit the needs of the space is fast becoming a must-have feature for buyers. More than that, replacing traditional cabinets with custom ones makes it possible to fine tune them to your own personal needs: if there’s something you have a lot of, or use frequently, you can incorporate that into the base cabinet design so you’ll have ample storage space for those items exactly where you’ll be using them, rather than having to find a spot to put them in a bunch of standard cabinets. From spice racks to spare dishes to utensils, there are myriad options available to get the kind of storage that’s the most intuitive, efficient, and accessible for you personally – which is something traditional cabinets simply can’t offer.

But what do you think? Would you overhaul your kitchen cabinets for added storage space and usability? Let me know what you think in the comments below!