How to Work with Stock Cabinets and Sizes

How to Design a Kitchen with Stock Size Cabinets
Kitchen cabinets come in stock sizes because manufacturer’s can produce them more efficiently. Plywood and melamine come in 4-ft. widths, and 8 and 12-ft. lengths. So almost everything is designed around those dimensions.
Because manufacturers streamline their costs, you can use stock items and sizes to your advantage and save money in the process. Depending on the style you choose, many stock cabinets also come with multiple options. If you do need something specialized, you can order just that item from the local cabinetmaker, instead of paying to have your entire kitchen custom built.
Kitchen base cabinets are designed to accommodate a counter width of 24-inches. Wall cabinets are usually 12-inches deep. This rarely offers a major challenge. Widths are another issue. Manufacturers assume that your kitchen has even dimensions divisible by full 1-ft. increments. You just aren’t going to find anything that isn’t divisible by 6 inches. For this reason, sizes can sometimes be a challenge to work around. If the width of your kitchen is an odd measurement, it can be difficult to design a system that offers usable space.
So what is the best way to layout a kitchen design using stock cabinet sizes?
Draw up a detailed floor plan on 1/4-inch graph paper. The scale should be 1-inch = 1 foot. Indicate where every wall, window, door and open space is.
Ignore the current layout of cabinets, with the exception of the sink (unless you can afford to change the plumbing). You want to start as freshly as possible so that new ideas can come to you. Changing the wiring to the stove isn’t an insurmountable issue, so play around with its position.
Make paper in-scale cutouts of all the sizes of cabinets that are available. Mark the size on each cutout. Make multiple copies, so you can play around. At this point, you aren’t concerned with the height of the cabinets, just their width and depth on the floor plan. Also, create cutouts for the refrigerator and the stove.
Now, you need to consider a subset of rules that will make the layout of your base cabinets useable:
·          Never put a set of drawers in a corner. The space beside the drawers will be inaccessible. It’s better to put a cabinet with a blind opening in a corner so that you have access from both sides. If you can’t find cabinets with this option, removing a cabinet door on one side, and cutting out the side of the abutting cabinet so that the opening mirrors the door opening, makes space accessible. When you bolt the two cabinets together you will stabilize the altered cabinet.
·          Avoid placing your range in a corner, even if you will have counter space available on both sides. The cupboard beside the range will act like a black hole. Everything ends up in the back corner where you can’t reach it.
·          Avoid a cabinet that is narrower than 18-inches at a corner. I once planned a kitchen where I modified a 12-inch cabinet so it opened into the blind corner. The opening into the cabinet was too narrow for me to take advantage of the effort.
·          Make sure you have enough drawers included in your design. I once had a kitchen that had only three drawers. While I had a place to put my silverware, there was no place to put all my towels, mixing spoons, measuring cups, plastic wrap and other items that organize best in drawers, not shelves. My current kitchen has seven drawers, and I am very happy!
·          Take advantage, if you can, of stock corner cabinets with a lazy Susan. You will enjoy more efficient use of the corner.
·          Avoid putting the refrigerator next to the stove. It will drive your electric bill way up! And wear your refrigerator out faster.
Your goal is to create an efficient work triangle between the refrigerator, the sink and the stove. If you have to create the entire kitchen along one wall, avoid having the stove between the refrigerator and the sink.
Once you have laid out your base cabinets, drawing elevations will help you with planning the upper cabinets. An elevation is a drawing that shows the walls of the room in scale. You show where all the windows and doors are (width and height). Then you mark the height of all the base cabinets. When working with stock cabinets, this will be about 34-1/2”.
Now you need to mark the height and width of the tallest appliance in the kitchen, your refrigerator. Once you have done this you draw a line on your elevation where the bottom of the upper cabinets will fall. Most wall cabinets are installed 18” up from the counter top or 54” up from the floor. If you are short, though 16” works very well and makes it easier to use the second shelf.
Now, you have a visual idea of the space the upper cabinets will fall into. Upper cabinets are usually 12” deep so transfer that information to your floor plan by drawing a dotted line on the plan 12” from the wall wherever you intend to place a cabinet.
Make paper in-scale cutouts of all the sizes of cabinets that are available. You want to pay special attention to how the cabinets will look from the front. The reason you want to do this is so the vertical lines in the upper cabinets don’t clash with the lines in the bottom cabinets. The goal is to create a harmonious pattern. You can use a set of cabinets with narrow doors on the uppers and wider doors on the base cabinets. Just be systematically random or mirror the lines from below. A ratio of three upper to two bottom cabinets looks good.
About the Author:
When you are through playing around with your options, you will know which stock cabinets will fit into your design. Senior staff writer for, Alyssa Davis, offers design advice on decorating with abstract metal sculpture and fleur de lis wrought iron.
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