Kitchen Base Cabinets: Doors vs Drawers

July 4, 2013 by  
Filed under On Life and Living

Kitchen Base Cabinets - Doors vs DrawersSome of our decisions are just a product of what we’ve seen around us.  Assumptions are made without even realizing that we having a choice.

When planning our kitchen, we put a lot of thought into cabinet and countertop color, appliances, and layout.  Some choices were initially overlooked.  One such choice was the design of (most of) the base cabinets.


Two initial Must-Haves

There were two base cabinets that were essential in our design.

  • Garbage can roll-out next to the sink (read more here)
  • Lazy susan in the corner

These two were essential to eliminate some frustration with our current kitchen.

The current garbage can is located at the end of a row of cabinets.  This location (6 feet away from the sink) was both inconvenient and an eyesore.

Lazy Susan PicThe second biggest source of frustration is our current corner cabinet.  It can best be described as a “blind elbow” cabinet.  One must bend down and reach to the left to access items in the back.

Poorly designed cabinets house all of the “junk” that isn’t used much.  The “blind elbow” cabinet is currently a dumping ground for items we almost never use.  It is a place for the random pie plates and fondue accessories that we forget we even own.  The bending and reaching required to access items is a deterrent to ever using anything housed in the corner.

Replacing this cabinet with a lazy susan is a key improvement.  The lazy susan allows items in the back corner to spin all the way out of the front of the cabinet.  Items can be accessed by standing and spinning.  The two-tiered design of this cabinet also prevents clutter.  It simply does not accommodate the mountain of pans and bowls that make their home in the “blind elbow” corner right now.


The Rest of the Cabinets

The two cabinets mentioned above might be defined as “specialty cabinets”.  They each serve a unique purpose in a unique location.

These two cabinets have a front face that appears to be more of a “door” than a “drawer”.  Putting doors on the rest of the base cabinets would make perfect sense.  After all, our friends and family have doors on all of their base cabinets.

Doors and shelves work great on the upper cabinets, but do they really suit our needs down below?  Consider how your lower cabinets attract serving dishes, tupperware, and the like.  It only takes a moment to realize that large base cabinets turn into a storage locker for mismatched and unwanted items.

Cabinet doors give the illusion of a lot of space, but how often does one really reach all the way to the back?  Does anyone store any important items back there?  Yes, adding a few roll-outs makes it easier to access everything… however wouldn’t it be easier to eliminate the doors and change the two-step rollout into a one-step drawer.

Drawers allow the items to be pulled out into the footprint of the kitchen.  They are not large, cavernous spaces that attract junk and clutter.  Pots, pans, and small appliances can be stored and accessed without having to move or stack items.  A kitchen with strategically placed drawers eliminates the need to bend over or fumble through a pile of clutter.

People who suffer from back pain or have limited mobility benefit even more from choosing drawers.  They allow cooking and cleaning to be done with a minimal amount of bending and reaching.

The convenience of base cabinet drawers is the main reason they are superior to base cabinet doors.  They allow a most if not all kitchen accessories to be stored and retrieved easily.  The top two drawers on the bottom cabinets can be accessed with a slight bend and reach, and the bottom drawers can be opened with a deeper bend and reach.


Replace Doors & Upgrade to Drawers

In any remodel, it is important to consider all of the options.  In our remodel, major questions included:

  • the best way to place cabinets around the refrigerator
  • making sure that all cabinet doors would have room to open
  • whether or not to add a few inches of countertop at the end of our run of cabinets

Specifying the exact layout of the cabinets and appliances is the most difficult task in renovating a kitchen, but choices in cabinets and finishes can make just as big a difference in cooking ease and enjoyment.

When we began considering our design, the assumption was that we would do the layout and make sure all the cabinet doors opened properly.  Once base cabinet drawers were introduced into the plan, their efficiency and usefulness made them a must-have option.


Not a Handicapped Kitchen, an Everyone Kitchen 

Our entire kitchen will be accessible to anyone, regardless of their level of mobility.  It has been designed to accommodate anyone who has trouble bending or reaching.  The best part is that the kitchen looks and functions perfectly for the rest of us.  One would never guess that it was originally designed for a person who had suffered a stroke.

Our drawer bases put everything within reach for every kitchen task.  They work perfectly for our family and will be a pleasant surprise for any guest cooks that frequent our kitchen.  If you’re looking at a remodeling project, consider adding base drawers to your design.  You won’t be disappointed!


Read more about our kitchen design project:

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2 Responses to “Kitchen Base Cabinets: Doors vs Drawers”
  1. wanda says:

    Thank you!! I have been designing a remodel for my parents kitchen and trying to “sell” them on the whole “drawer vs cabinet”…..idea. You have very sucintly explained my thoughts. Hope you enjoy your kitchen!

  2. Lou says:

    Thanks so much for this explanation of lower drawers in the kitchen. I have a variety of injuries along the length of my spine so my “bend and reach” is more “squat and see if it’s at the front of the cabinet”

    We’re moving to a house with lower drawers instead of cabinets and I was wondering if they’d be easier or tougher. Thank you for writing about your planning process for an empowering kitchen.

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