Smart Cabinet Solutions for a Small Kitchen

Kitchens / January 4th, 2011
Cabinets from Brookhaven give our small kitchen substance
Cabinets from Brookhaven give our small kitchen substance, plenty of storage and classic style.

This newly renovated New York kitchen may be compact, but thanks to a super-efficient space plan by kitchen designer, Dave Burcher, along with the storage-enhancing features of its new cabinets from Brookhaven it’s incredibly functional and beautiful, too.

Dave has much to say about the finer points of good-quality cabinets, particularly with respect to making the most of a small kitchen with smart, space-saving solutions. We asked him to share his top small-space, value-added cabinet and storage ideas. Here’s what he had to say:

1. Start by carefully considering layout and construction. This galley kitchen was converted into a U-shaped layout to gain a narrow slice of extra counter space at the dead end along with base cabinets to conceal our trash and recycling bins. To accommodate this arrangement, Dave needed to add filler panels along the sides of these shallow cabinets to allow the doors to open without damaging the adjacent cabinets with their handles. “When you have three walls of cabinets that intersect, you need to be cognizant of how drawers and doors open as well as the depth of the door and range handles so that you allow enough clearance for all of the elements to work the way they should,” Dave says. The same holds true for the clearance of other elements, such as refrigerator doors and light fixtures, he says.

2. Look for places to steal space from. “You might have tall ceilings, where you can create a bump-out with a panel, or you might incorporate a lazy Susan to gain usable area in a corner cabinet,” he said. In this kitchen, he made use of what had been an open area above the overhead cabinets on one side by extending cabinets to the ceiling.

3. Define logical storage zones. “You should have a clear idea of where things are stored with zones for things like baking dishes, cookie sheets, and pans,” he says. Dave also likes including a bank of deep drawers for odd-size items and an old-fashioned full-depth base cabinet with adjustable shelves for bulky items.

4. Choose the highest quality cabinets you can afford. Cabinets are the costliest part of a kitchen, “so you want to be sure they’ll last,” said Dave. The Sausalito cabinets here are from the more affordable Brookhaven line made by the Pennsylvania-based manufacturer Wood-Mode. But like the premium Wood-Mode cabinets, they’re made to order, their doors are made of sustainably harvested maple, they feature soft-close hinges and drawers and they have a lifetime warranty, so they’re a value option with substance. Here, wider rails and stiles on the doors give them more presence and make them look more modern, which requires a premium for the upgraded doors. But Dave says the painted recessed panel style is the most preferred style in the New York area, so the timeless cabinets should enhance the apartment’s resale value, too.

5. Consider frameless customizable cabinets. Cabinets are made with either framed or frameless construction. Both are great, but in small kitchens frameless cabinets allow a little more usable space inside the box and more room to get large objects inside. If you choose cabinets that can be custom made, you’ll also be able to take full advantage of the space in your kitchen. “We like to approach kitchen design like a dressmaker approaches a wedding dress,” says Dave. “The flexibility of made-to-order cabinets allows us to tailor a solution for each client that’s custom-made just for them.”

6. Incorporate extras that enhance function. “Drawer trays with dividers, roll-out shelves, concealed trash-bin storage and a tilt tray at the sink for sponges are practical storage features,” says Dave. “You want a space that’s adaptable, not one with a lot of whiz-bang features that lock you into one arrangement.” Dave also believes that you shouldn’t go overboard trying to max out every square inch of space in a small kitchen if it’s not practical. “It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes you have to trade a hollow for a flat plane, or lose a little cabinet area to gain counter space,” he says. The unused corner cabinet area beneath the extra slab of counter space next to the range is a case in point.

7. Choose a skilled cabinet installer. “I’ve seen beautiful cabinets butchered by a bad installation,” Dave says. “If you spend a lot of money on cabinets, you don’t want them to look like they cost a fraction of what you paid because the installer did a poor job.” John Loffredo, owner of Sure Fit Designs, did the installation here. While John installs cabinets, he says every kitchen project has some kind of on-site adjustments that need to be made.

To find out about other projects by Dave Burcher, design director of InHouse Kitchen Bath Home, visit his company’s Web site. To see more of the Wood-Mode/Brookhaven lines of cabinets visit its site. And to contact John LoFreddo at Sure Fit Designs email him at

Roll-out shelves Brookhaven
Roll-out shelves in our Brookhaven cabinets make access to pots and pans very easy. The door and drawer handles, as well as the blue casserole and saucepan are gifts from Ikea.
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3 Replies to “Smart Cabinet Solutions for a Small Kitchen”

  1. I loved the 1 to 7 major points of selecting kitchen cabinets. This outline of topics made it easier for me to understand the features involved and how to organize the process.

    1. Glad this list was helpful Merriam. My neighbor stopped after we finished our kitchen and was glad to get a summary in kitchen planning before she follows through with her kitchen reno, too.

  2. I emailed your blog the other week to find out how much you paid for your kitchen. I’m on a budget and I would love to find out – even a range. If you don’t want to post this you can send me an email direct to my email listed above. It would really help me to start pricing my new kitchen out. Plus I just read about Dave Burcher in New York Magazine.

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