Upgrades Put Kitchen Cabinets to Work

Don't short-change yourself on kitchen cabinet upgrades. Options like upgraded drawers, shelves and custom sizing can help ensure your kitchen is functional as well as fabulous.
By: Jenny Nash


Rev-A-Shelf's appliance lift fits an existing base cabinets.

Rev-A-Shelf's appliance lift fits an existing base cabinets.

You've navigated the kitchen cabinet design minefield: the layout, the doors, the finishes and — gasp — the prices. Now you're ready to order the most expensive feature of your new kitchen — but wait! What options do you want? Lazy Susans, trash pullouts, full-extension glides? These things can make your kitchen more efficient and attractive, but they can also make it much more expensive. You need to really think about what options you will actually use, or regret not having, before you order your cabinets.

Add to What You've Got

Even if you're not starting your kitchen from scratch, you can upgrade your existing cabinets. Some cabinet manufacturers get many of their gadgets from companies such as Rev-a-Shelf or Haefele, which also sell directly to consumers. If you've longed for an appliance shelf that lifts a mixer or food processor from a cabinet to operating height, you can add one for about $100 to any full height base cabinet. Other upgrades like an in-drawer knife block (about $150) or cabinet door storage shelves (from $20-40) are great for organization and easy to install.


This in-drawer knife block by Rev-a-Shelf keeps knives and hands safe.

This in-drawer knife block by Rev-a-Shelf keeps knives and hands safe.

Check It Out

Cabinet upgrades vary in both cost and function depending on the manufacturer (or carpenter). If you've yet to choose your cabinetmaker, you may want to consider what accessories each offers before deciding. If you've already picked a cabinet source, then check out their accessory line-up. Some upgrades are practical, making your life easier, such as full-extension drawers, which come out all the way to let you use 100 percent of the drawer. Other upgrades are aesthetic, making your cabinets more beautiful, such as molding or a plate display rack.

One Woman's Story

For Carolyn Hegge of Middleton, Wis., both form and function were considerations. She and her husband, Jeff, chose DuraSupreme cabinets for the kitchen in their new home. One reason was that the company offers quarter-sawn oak, where the log is cut into quarters and then into boards. It shows off the grain and was often used in Mission and Arts and Crafts furniture. For Hegge, it was "purely an aesthetics issue." Her other upgrade choices, however, were purely practical.

She has full-extension glides in many of her drawers, and only regrets not putting them in all the drawers. Full-extension drawers slide completely out from the cabinet. They also are stronger and can handle a lot of weight, so you can store pots, pans and dishes in them. Hegge also has an appliance garage with an outlet inside to hide some appliances and other items as well. "Things like coffee filters and big bags of chips seem to find their way into it, too," she notes.

Hegge also opted for a 9-inch base cabinet that she "thought would be useless" but has turned out to be a workhorse for tray and cookie-sheet storage. "I wish that I had another one," she says.


KraftMaid also offers pullout pantries for extra food storage.

KraftMaid also offers pullout pantries for extra food storage.

The Other Side of the Story

There are several options for those 9-inch base cabinets, says Tom Stanley, president of Cabinet Solutions, a member of the SEN Design Group in the Chicago area. With shelves, they can hold a wealth of spices, which is particularly handy next to the oven. With taller shelves, you can store cooking oils and condiments. Stanley has gone even narrower with other base cabinets.

"For one client, we put 3-inch roll-out cabs on either side of the sink. One side has shelves for cleaning supplies and bottles of cleaner. On the other side, this client wanted somewhere her kitchen towels could dry without being out in the kitchen. We just put in bars at a couple different heights," says Stanley.


KraftMaid's storage solution line includes this pot organizer.

KraftMaid's storage solution line includes this pot organizer.

Another customer favorite are shelves that slide out from the cabinets. They're ideal for pots and pans because you can get to them without breaking your back. And Stanley says they've installed them as pet-feeding stations, too. When it's time for Fido's dinner, simply roll out the shelf.

Stanley says these full-extension slides are very popular, as are the slow-close drawers, which finish closing automatically — and slowly — once you start them on their way. He says a few companies now offer this function on cabinet doors as well and predicts the rest will follow.

Appliance garages with outlets are still popular, he says, and now even drawers and slide-outs are coming equipped with outlets for appliances. "There was a client who used his carving knife all the time, so we put an outlet in the drawer so he could keep his carving knife plugged in," says Stanley. "That's how crazy people are getting with saving movement and time."

A Sampling of What's Out There

Here are some of the accessories and upgrades now on the market. They vary by manufacturer and in price. These are expensive items, so do your research and choose carefully.

Dishes and Pans: A dish storage drawer can hold up to 150 pounds of weight and has pegs to keep stacked plates and bowls in place. Slide-out shelves are ideal for pots and pans, and a plate display rack looks charming in a period kitchen. These items range from $20-70 for simple pullouts to upwards of $300 for more elaborate pot caddies.

Storage: A lazy Susan or turntable is a rotating wheel set in the cabinet so you can easily reach everything; it is often used in corner cabinets. Toe-kick drawers are thin drawers set in the toe-kick area below the base cabinets. Other options include wine cabinets; a TV shelf; an appliance garage; skinny base cabinets (as thin as 3 inches); sliding wicker basket "drawers;" a trash pullout; drawer dividers; a knife-storing drawer; a hidden cutting board; pull-down bins; pantries; a tilt-down sink front (for storage); a breadbox drawer; a spice cabinet or pull-out; dividers for cabinets; and bottle pull-outs (tall, narrow open-sided drawers).

Pretty Things: Molding; "legs" for cabinet bases that make them look more like furniture; corbels; and custom appliance fronts and hood fronts.


Companies that can retrofit your existing cabinets:
Rev-a-Shelf, www.Rev-a-Shelf.com
Knape and Vogt, www.KnapeandVogt.com
Hafele, www.Hafele.com

Kitchen cabinet options and inspiration:
Wood-Mode, www.Wood-Mode.com
KraftMaid Cabinetry, www.KraftMaid.com
Merillat, www.Merillat.com

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