How to maximize kitchen cabinet storage and style

Jennifer Noonan | Improvement Center Columnist | March 4, 2016

wood kitchen cabinetsThe kitchen is considered the hub of most homes. It's where meals are prepared and lingered over. It's where homework's done, bills are caught up on, and late night chats take place over hot cocoa… or something stronger. When a kitchen is efficiently designed, we spend less time "working" in it, and more time enjoying the people who live with in it. If your cabinet storage is lacking, you don't necessarily need to remodel. Try implementing some of these creative cabinet ideas to elevate both storage and style in your kitchen.

Ideas for maximizing space in lower cabinets

Base cabinets are the workhorse of kitchen cabinetry. They hold the heavy and heavily used stuff -- pots and pans, everyday utensils, and small appliances. Get the most out of their form and functionality.

Reface or paint

As with clothing, styles in kitchens come and go. Quality cabinets can last much longer than any design trend. If your kitchen cabinets are still functional, but their finish seems dated, you can renew them by refacing them, rather than renovating the entire room. Refacing is a process whereby the frames of the existing cabinets are covered with a thin veneer, doors and drawers are replaced to match, and hinges and hardware bring it all together for a new look. It costs about half of what it does to replace cabinets, and takes less time. If your kitchen layout already works for you, it's a great option. A professional specializing in cabinet refacing can help you achieve a new look.

Painted finishes are still on trend in kitchen design. You can update your kitchen cabinets for less if you already like the profile of your doors and drawers, but just want a new color scheme. Transform your kitchen's look by painting the cabinets and swapping out hardware. It's not a small job, but can be accomplished by an ambitious DIYer. Or you can hire a professional contractor to do it for you.


It's all well and good for kitchen cabinets to look pretty on the outside. What's just as important is how efficiently they store your stuff on the inside. Even if your cabinets aren't custom, you can customize your kitchen with after market organizing goodies. Pull-out drawers, recycling centers, lazy susans, and more are all available and easy to install yourself.

How to organize your upper cabinets

Upper cabinets are at eye level, where you store frequently used items like glassware and plates. But because of their location and visibility, you also have an opportunity to push beyond their functionality and let them be the star of your kitchen decor.

Blow the doors off

Open shelving has been a popular trend in kitchen design for the last several years. Keep your cabinets, but get the look of open shelves by simply taking the doors off. Your dishes can serve as a decorative display, injecting color and patterns into the room. With everything in view, you'll be inspired to keep it organized. Don't love the open shelving feel? Swap your cabinet doors out for some with glass inserts, and you'll get a similar effect, but still protect your dishes from dust.

Let it all hang out

Remember how revolutionary the space-saver microwave was? Hanging that appliance under upper cabinets immediately relieved crowded counter tops. Now, all manner of appliances come in space-saving options, including coffee makers and toaster ovens. But you can utilize the space under upper cabinets for both storage and decorative purposes. Knives can be hidden in a swiveling block anchored under the cabinet, or they can be displayed on a magnetic strip on the back splash wall. Show off stemware and wine bottles in racks installed under upper cabinets. How about a hanging spice organizer? The options are limitless.

Creatively use the space above the cabinets

Anyone who has lived with a small kitchen knows you must use ALL the space you have -- especially the vertical space. The space above your kitchen cabinets is a potential storage boon. Don't waste an inch. Pretty baskets or bins on top of cabinets can store seasonal dishes and linens, infrequently used appliances, and bulk purchased items like paper products. Even if your kitchen is spacious, that above-the-cabinet real estate is valuable. It's the perfect place to display a pottery or glass collection, or to draw the eye up to for vivid exhibit of art or decor.

You don't need to remodel your whole kitchen just because the cabinets feel dull and disorganized. Implement some of these creative ideas and you'll get a new perspective on your old kitchen cabinets.

About the Author

A confessed DIY junkie, Jennifer writes about home improvement, gardening, upcycling, and all things do-it-yourself. She lives in Delaware with her husband and daughters, where she is ardently teaching the next generation how to use power tools.