4 Considerations for Great Kitchen Cabinets

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Of the hundreds of rooms I’ve designed over the years, I have to say that kitchens are my favorite. I’ve already covered designing the perfect floorplan, so now it’s time for the fun stuff.

The kitchen is a room that blends fun, family, and function, and it’s also the room that puts storage front-and-center — which is pretty weird when you think about it. For both usability and aesthetic reasons, cabinets are what’s going to make or break your design.

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  1. Bold color vs. Clean white.

You all know that I will always tell you to go big and bold with color, no matter the room. But some people love the traditional white cabinet to keep things feeling clean and calm. That’s why I love a blue kitchen, which offers bold color but seems cool and relaxed. If you go with more neutral colors, or even woods, think of other ways to bring color and creativity into the design, with interesting shapes and lighting. One of my favorite ways to bring in excitement is with hardware. Your handles don’t all have to match; a mix of sizes and shapes can add some unexpected flair.

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  1. Open shelving vs. Hiding it all

I have about five million things in my cabinets, so the idea of glass-front cabinets or open shelving just isn’t going to work for me. But if you’re one of those organized people who wants to put your matching serveware on display, then they’re a beautiful option. Note that you’ll then be designing inside the cabinets, too, and you should add artistic elements and mix colors and patterns so that it all looks purposeful. You might also consider painting the interiors of your glass cabinets a contrasting color. (Maybe blue.)

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  1. Doors vs. Drawers

Good news! You can have both. In general, the rule is to go with doors at or above eye level, and drawers anywhere below. Heavy pots, storage containers, and anything utilitarian goes in the drawers, and the stackable stuff goes high (just don’t stack it so high that it’s hard to lift). The more often you use something, the closer you should keep it to the place you use it. This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people forget this when they start loading up their cabinets.

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  1. Hidden appliances vs. Stainless steel showroom

Except for my Lacanche range oven and stove (which I’m so obsessed with that I designed my kitchen around it) there are no appliances on view in my kitchen. Everything including the dishwasher, refrigerator, microwave, and trashcans are hidden behind cabinets, which helps me to keep everything looking neat and tidy. This approach takes a little more time and planning than just screwing your appliances to the hookups, but 14 years later I’m still glad I put the time and energy into this. If you don’t want to go that far, consider storage options to conceal small countertop appliances, or at least make sure they’re attractive. A red toaster might liven up those white cabinets, for instance.

Your kitchen is the soul of your home. If you put in effort now, then you can enjoy it for the next 10, 20, or 30 years.

Make it fun. Make it functional. Make it you.

If you got to redesign your kitchen today, what’s the biggest thing you’d change? What’s the one thing you wouldn’t?


Mary Spalding is a Nashville based interior designer with over 30 years of experience. She has overseen countless home revitalizations, renovations, and restorations. She can be reached with your projects and ideas at mary@spaldingway.com.

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