Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen

Cabinets Arrive: The Fun Begins!
Part 6 of the
FoodWine's Kitchen Remodel

by Kate Heyhoe


After weeks of demolition, drywalling and painting, the finished walls of our soon-to-be renovated home were a welcome sight. Finally, it all started to seem real.

But what really put the icing on the cake was the arrival of the Thomasville cabinets—12 wall cabinets, 10 base cabinets, 5 tall cabinets, 2 dozen roll-out trays, plus various pieces of molding and filler. (See photos 6 A & B.)

I also ordered some "bells and whistles"—specialty cabinets to increase the overall kitchen functionality, and a few purely aesthetic pieces. These include:

"EZ Reach" Corner Wall Cabinet—Making the most of corner cabinet space can be difficult. You can install an angled corner cabinet with a single door placed at a 45 degree angle, but reaching into the back and side shelves of such a cabinet requires long arms and some strategic contortions. Thomasville offers a great solution in their Deep Wall Easy Reach cabinet: it features a bi-fold door that opens to a full 170 degrees. The cabinet is not as deep as their angled style, but the space itself is more accessible, and hence more usable—items don't get lost or pushed way back in the recesses. (See photo 6C.)

"EZ Reach" Corner Base Cabinet—This cabinet features the same type of bi-fold door described above, and it also contains a "Super Susan": two rotating shelves made from 3/4-inch hardwood (plastic shelves are available for a lesser cost). I've got a 36-inch model in one corner, and a 33-inch version at the corner of the peninsula. One stores my flours, baking powder, cornmeal and such, and the other houses dry goods like beans, rice and grains, dried fruits and dried chiles.

Pots-and-Pan Drawers—For the cookware I use most, I chose pots and pan drawers—deep, wide drawers large enough to hold stockpots, colanders and hefty saucepans and fryers. Another option is double-door cabinets with deep roll-out trays (which I installed for my less frequently used cookware) but getting inside them requires two hands in a five-step motion: 1) open the cabinet doors, 2) pull out the tray, 3) grab the item, 4) slide the tray back, then 5) close the doors. with a pots-and-pans drawer I simply pull out the drawer, grab the pot, and push the drawer back in (sometimes with my knee, if my hands are full.) (See photo 6D.)


Thomasville's tall
pantry cabinets
come as one unit—you'll
need some muscle
to move them.

Roll-Out Trays—(See photos 6E & F.) Whether you're buying new cabinetry or revamping old cabinets, do yourself a favor and invest in roll-out trays. They offer easy access to the space normally wasted in the rear of the cabinets. Thomasville cabinets offer roll-out trays (2-1/2 and 4-1/2 inches deep) for their base and tall cabinets. They come with adjustable spacers that help create a snug and smooth fit inside each cabinet. To update old cabinets, look for roll-out hardware, including runners and baskets, at home improvement stores.

Tall Cabinets—With so much countertop area on my peninsula, I could afford to turn the old kitchen into a butler's pantry with a full wall of 95-inch tall cabinets for storage. (See photo 6G.) Opposite them sit a mix of tall pantry cabinets, wall cabinets and base cabinets supporting a 5-foot countertop. (See photo 6H.) I used roll-out trays (both shallow and deep) in every opportunity. This area stores canned goods, linens, wine, dinnerware, serving bowls, and small appliances.

Tip: Custom-Wiring for Appliances—Before installing tall cabinets, consider wiring electrical outlets inside them. Within one of my tall cabinets, I created a roll-out breakfast station, complete with toaster, breads, breakfast dishes and utensils. The toaster plugs into an outlet in the rear of the cabinet. I've added electricity in other tall cabinets, plugging in my KitchenAid stand mixer, my mini-processor, and blender, so the appliances are not only instantly functional but the roll-out trays act as pull-out workstations—freeing up valuable counterspace. The gap between the cabinet rear wall and the trays leaves plenty of room to run a power strip from a lower outlet to an upper tray, and you can turn the strip's power button off when not in use. (See photo 6I.)

Glass Cabinet Doors—Use glass doors to lighten up a kitchen; all wood doors can look heavy and blocky. The cabinets over my sink and above the butler's pantry countertop feature mullion doors with clear glass; inside each cabinet I installed a small, dimmable halogen light. Clear glass is not for everyone—it shows every piece of clutter, fingerprint or smudge. But it highlights my collection of global goodies beautifully. If you want a glass look with more diffusion, Thomasville offers opaque and textured glass doors in ribbed, icicle, wire grid, and woven patterns as well. (See photo 6H.)

Valances—As a decorative touch, I installed gently arching valances over the sink and over the butler's pantry countertop. They soften the hard angles of the cabinets and reinforce the archway between the porch room and the kitchen. The valances also hide the small halogen lights mounted under the cabinets. (See photo 6H.)

Light Rail—If you're mounting undercabinet lights on frameless cabinets as I did, you'll need to hide them with moldings known as "light rail." Thomasville offers several styles of light rail. To offset the more detailed crown molding on my cabinets, I selected a simpler style of angled light rail (See photo 6-H.)

Pull-Out Wastebasket Drawer—This single feature, strategically placed, makes my kitchen so much more efficient. The 18-inch wide base cabinet contains a pull-out drawer with two wastebaskets: I use the rear one for recycling materials and the forward one for regular trash. It sits right next to my main chopping area, so as I prep and chop, I simply deposit food scraps right into the open drawer's wastebasket, keeping my countertop clean and uncluttered. (See photo 6- J.)

Crown Moldings—Get familiar with the various types and combinations. Stacked moldings add rich detail, but you may prefer a simpler crown finish. We chose to stack three pieces of molding because the cabinetry doors were simple enough to handle the extra detail, and the pitched ceiling was tall enough to absorb the extra height. The Thomasville Cabinetry line offers many options for molding. Frankly, I was overwhelmed by the choices, so I spent time looking at the moldings used in the Home Depot showrooms. I even took snapshots of various styles and combinations to review at home. These came in handy for showing my contractor exactly how I wanted the crown moldings to look. In the end, we stacked together single bead molding, dentil edging, and topped them off with angled crown molding for a rich, elegant look. (See photo 6K.)

Crown Molding Tips: How the crown molding finishes—especially where it meets up with the side of a stacked cabinet—requires some thought and planning. For instance, if the molding has a cabinet wall it can die straight into, all is fine. But when the cabinet doors are flush and on the same plane, the molding will stick out a few inches, so it needs to wrap back into the cabinet at a 45 or 90 degree turn. (See photo 6K.) Cabinet doors that are next to a molding that sticks out can only open 90 degrees, so make sure the door doesn't need to open more fully than that (bi-fold doors open up as much as 170 degrees). You may need to set the door hinge on the opposite side to allow for interference from a crown molding.

Another tip: Before you decide on the moldings, make sure your installer, whether it be a carpenter or contractor, has the skills to install moldings. Angled miter cuts can be tricky, as can stacking the moldings. Narrow pieces may split when nailed, so glue may be necessary in some places. Also, be sure to order enough molding to account for the angled miter cuts, the unusable short pieces, and long places where you'll need full lengths of molding.

End panels—Another purely aesthetic feature is the use of end panel doors. The exterior sides of cabinets are naturally plain and flat. To add richness and detail, place a matching door as an end panel on wall and base cabinets. (See photo 6K.)

Fillers strips—Don't underestimate the value of a few strips of filler. In our remodeled kitchen, the original walls aren't always straight. My contractor strategically trimmed a piece of tall filler to snugly fit between the uneven wall and the straight and plumb side of a tall cabinet. Without it, we would have seen an ugly gap in some places. Filler also helps add a bit more comfort space in certain functional areas. For instance, we added a half-inch of filler on either side of the Maytag dishwasher. Visually it looks better and it's especially valuable because the dishwasher sets next to the door handle of a lazy susan. The filler simply gives your hand more room when opening up the door. Wider strips of filler on either side of a refrigerator can also give the area an expensive 'built-in' look at a fraction of the cost. Note: Plain filler strips are unobtrusive, blending in with the cabinets. But you can also order more decorative filler, such as fluted or beaded filler, or insert some columns with spiral, bead or flute motifs.

Handle Hardware—In my new kitchen, I've placed knobs on the drawers and doors I use most, and pull-style handles on the heavy pots and pans drawers and on the tall cabinet doors. In the more active kitchen areas, I prefer knobs to pulls. Even if my hands are dirty or wet, I can still open a drawer or a cabinet door if it has a knob as a handle. I leverage the knob with my wrist or forearm, pressing on top or under the knob and pulling outward. Drawer pulls are harder to maneuver: you definitely need a hand or at least a finger to loop through the pull. All this may sound nuts, but sometimes a cook in the kitchen simply doesn't have a free hand—or a clean hand—to spare.

Hardware Tip: Pick your handles like your knives—All sorts of designs for knobs and pulls exist, but some of them sacrifice comfort for fashion. Select a cabinet handle the same way you would a knife: hold it in your hand as if you were using it. Are the edges smooth? Do your fingers wrap comfortably around it? Is it sturdy enough to get the job done—especially on the most frequently used drawers or heavier doors? The brushed nickel knobs and the pulls in my kitchen feel great. The backs of the pulls are slightly contoured to fit fingers wrapping around them—a small detail that makes a world of difference when you use something every day.

Finally, consider turning an extra cabinet into a rolling cart. Add lockable casters on bottom and a butcher block surface on top, then use an end-panel door to finish off the back side. This is a handy way to add more cabinetry to a kitchen if you don't have space for built-ins. and a portable chopping block easily brings the cook out of the kitchen and into the patio, backyard or dining room.


Part 7: Countertops: It's a Material World
PLUS: Survival Recipes, Phase 3

Kate Heyhoe


FoodWine's Kitchen Remodel Series
(with Survival Recipes)


Copyright © 2001, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.


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This page created March 2001