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Make Kitchen Cabinets Work for You

Alternatives to hard-to-reach wall cabinets, hard-to-open doors and uncomfortable counters

Most people never complain that their kitchen has too much storage space. It seems that no matter how much cabinet space you have, you’ll eventually find a sufficient quantity of pots and cooking gadgets to fill it. It’s also true that sometimes this storage space is useless because it’s so difficult to reach. Here’s a storage tip: Place frequently used tableware, cookware and food within easy reach, and store everything else on higher shelves.

Cabinet Height

In a universal kitchen, upper cabinets are hung on commercial brackets so that height adjustments can be made at a later date. Isn’t that smart? The standard cabinet height is 18 to 24 inches (46 to 61 cm) from the countertop, but a 15-inch (38 cm) height makes the second shelf easier to reach for a person of average height while still allowing ample room for countertop appliances, such as microwaves, toasters and most blenders.

Cabinet Design

If you’re replacing your cabinets as part of your universal design update, keep accessibility as your main criterion, both in terms of the cabinets’ design and the way they’re mounted on the wall. There are many cabinet designs and arrangements that can fulfill this goal with style. In general, however, frameless cabinets provide more storage space for small kitchens.

Cabinet doors can be a mixture of wood and glass (making it easy to see what’s on the shelves), or in some cases the doors are removed altogether, making it much easier to reach into the cabinets. This can also be aesthetically pleasing — but only if the cabinets showcase

well-organized tableware. (If you choose the open option, you’ll need an adequate range-hood fan to make sure grease from the kitchen air is removed and doesn’t collect on the dishes.) Another nice feature is touch magnetic latches that allow you to open cabinet doors using minimal strength. If you’re using nonmagnetic latches, colorful C-handles are the best choice because they are easy to grasp. Another practical option is a knife hinge; this allows cabinet doors to be folded back flush (at 180°), eliminating the need to duck when the doors are open.

Mobile shelving is a good choice, too: It’s adaptable and brings hard-to reach items to your fingertips. You can purchase pull-down shelving, available in 24- and 36-inch (61 and 91.5 cm) widths, for your upper cabinets. In your lower cabinets, pullout shelves and drawers on full extension glides, lazy Susans, and pop-up shelves for appliances can expand usable storage space and reduce bending and reaching toward the back of the shelf.

'Revitalizing Your Home' by Rosemary Bakker (book cover)

Rosemary Bakker is the author of the AARP Guide to Revitalizing Your Home, which is available through Barnes & Noble. Ms. Bakker holds a master of science degree in gerontology and is a certified interior designer.

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