Perfect Fit

As many kitchen and bath designers know, certain storage challenges can feel like being asked to fit a square peg into a round hole. After all, it should be no problem at all to fit the newest appliances and accessories around corner cabinets while still adhering to the design theme and increasing countertop space, right?

But, according to kitchen designers interviewed by Kitchen & Bath Design News, those who take on these challenges will find it not only satisfying creatively, but potentially lucrative, as well.

In order to do this, of course, kitchen designers need to first understand how these challenges arise, says Kater Rahmberg, CKD and co-owner of Littleton, MA-based Homestead Kitchens.

“Storage needs depend on the house,” she explains. “Older homes tend to be smaller, so there is more of an issue of gaining every inch of space. Newer homes tend to be larger, so it's not [such] an issue.”

To that end, Michael Teipen, CMKBD for Greenwood, IN-based Kitchens by Teipen, Inc. believes that kitchen designers would do well to always be upfront and honest with their clients. He explains: “Creative storage solutions come from the client understanding the space limitations, and you [as the designer] saying, ‘We can’t do this, but we can do you this for you.’”

Rahmberg interjects: “Indeed, some clients will opt to give up something in order to gain more storage. We have a client right now who wants a separate double oven and a 36" cooktop. We can fit it in, but she has to give something up
in return.”

Jay Clements, ASID, CKD and president for Millbrae, CA-based Kitchens, Baths & Cabinets, Inc. offers this suggestion: “Give clients choices, and show them how storage aids and fittings work. For instance, kitchen designers can show photos from finished projects or take a client to a past client’s home to see how these items are used in everyday living.”

To that end, Bonnie C. Settle, interior designer for Atlanta, GA-based Cornerstone Design, Inc., notes that corner areas are critical parts of the equation – especially as clients continue to crave larger appliances that eat up a lot of available space.

“The goal is to give the space its maximum storage potential, but not conflict with the flow of the appliance’s door openings, whether it is [for] a range or refrigerator,” she points out.

Clements summarizes: “I try to include the basic storage or organizational items as well as more unique ideas in my plans. We can always delete these or add some fittings later when the client has moved in and started using
the kitchen.”

Bryan Reiss, CKD, CBD and v.p./sales and design for John’s Island, SC-based Cabinet Concepts offers: “Everybody’s looking for [unusual] inserts. People are looking for more of a ‘wow’ factor, like pegboard systems and base cabinet drawers.”

Reiss notes that he is seeing a switch to drawers and new corner units that maximize the space and don’t allow things to fall off.
“They’re looking for the alternative to the roll-out shelf, such as customized drawers for pots and pans,” he offers.

He quickly adds: “We’re finding that we need to cater to the size and shape of each individual’s pots and pans and how they are cooking in the kitchen.”

Settle adds that kitchen designs may be at risk of losing wall space for wall cabinets if too many windows – which take up a lot of space – are installed.

“The key is to discover hidden spaces that can be used effectively, because every client says that they do not want to waste any space,” Teipen advises.

He adds: “[The purpose is to] turn your challenges into something unique, and give the client something that he/she has never had before.”


Clear communication and interaction with the client is the main boon to improved storage solutions, and subsequently, increased revenue.

“Ask a lot of questions at the beginning of the design stage and listen to what the client’s needs are because not everyone shops at Costco and needs a large pantry cabinet,” says Rahmberg.

In fact, Rahmberg notes that her firm will draw on elevations where things would be stored.

As she explains, it not only makes the clients think more about where they are going to put things, but also might lead them to think of something else that they might like in their design.

Put another way: The clients upsells themselves.

She continues: “We also label [at the beginning of the design process] each cabinet so they know where the dishes should be stored, or where the oven mitts should be stored in the kitchen.”

Clements adds: “Thinking creatively about tight spaces is critical. You must also know how your client shops, stores and lives.”

“Having access to different products [is key],” Rahmberg agrees. “So is problem-solving, and making sure everything adds up.”

To that end, Teipen suggests that kitchen designers give clients a price range and allow them to balance the ‘cost-value’ ratio.

“Often, the benefit will be more than what the cost might be,” he points out.

Rahmberg agrees: “Give the client a lot of different options. And try to showcase them so people can see how the items will benefit them [in the end].”

Indeed, she notes that her staff will also try to factor in the items that will accommodate their needs.

“If that adds to the price, great,” she says. “We usually include accessories in the price [anyway], and, if we need to, we can always take them out later.”


Of course, the need to utilize space affords kitchen designers ample design options, says Settle.

“These situations require the designer to be in a creative solution mindset and realize there are not limits in design,” she offers.
She continues: “A difficult design problem usually creates a great design, and enables the designer to present and sell a creative and functional solution.”

Rahmberg agrees: “People will sometimes think about making the dining room and the kitchen one large room to accommodate some of their wishes.

Therefore, we will knock down the wall between the kitchen and the dining room because people tend to do their dining rooms once or twice a year.”

She adds: “Most houses also have a separate mudroom, so you don’t have to incorporate an area for coats and schoolbags.”

However, Clements offers this caveat: “Knowing sizes and products will make your client’s life easier, as will measuring carefully to make sure inserts fit.”

He continues: “It is important for kitchen designers to know where pipes are or where water filters and instant hot water dispensers will be placed. After all, no one wants to take returns on storage aids, especially if they’ve been already cut to fit.”

“We’ve done some custom-designed pull-outs for paper towel holders and stainless steel bins where we’ve incorporated bins inside of it, as well as some custom pull-out roll storage for aluminum foil and plastic wraps,” says Reiss.

“[Ultimately], people are looking for the luxuries that will set them apart,” he adds.

Leslie Lomont-Relayson, designer for New Orleans, LA-based Cabinets by Design adds: “I will combine specialty cabinets to create a different storage piece. I will also retrofit storage options into standard cabinets and stack them around a structural element, or on top of each other.”

“Strive [for] a layout that not only solves a spatial issue, but also adds something that enhances the overall design,” Settle concludes.


The pantry is rich with creative storage solutions – and design ideas – those interviewed agree.

“I am finding in our kitchens that people want to have more pantry storage – but they don’t want it to look like a pantry. They want the pantry to become like a piece of furniture,” says Teipen.

Rahmberg agrees, adding that people are opening the kitchen up into other areas of the house “because the want it to look more like furniture and less utilitarian.”

“They’re probably not gaining space; rather, they’re gaining more functional storage with canned storage racks on the door
or pull-outs,” she observes.

Teipen cites a recent project as an example of this trend.

“It was a very large kitchen, and it had a small 36" piece of furniture that the client called her ‘buffet,’ ” he describes. “She needed storage, so I tried to make it resemble furniture.”

Teipen notes that he made the cabinets more massive by raising them. This eliminated the toe space, he says.

“We then used a large baseboard on each end and then added glass and a cupola on top of it,” he adds.

The end result created “more [space] to store dishes and glasses, as well as [space] to show off pieces of art,” he describes.

Rahmberg notes that her firm occasionally does walk-in pantries, but adds that “a lot of people have a butler’s pantry, which is great for extra storage.”

She continues: “We are also finding that people want us to remove the family closet and replace that with cabinetry.”

“The other thing I have done with pantries is invert the doors,” says Teipen. “This way, the small doors that are normally at the top of the pantry will be at the bottom.”

This means that items can still be stored at the bottom, but the doors will align with the base cabinets instead of standing up, he explains.

“Instead of looking like a bulky cabinet, they blend in, or are more [tucked] into the design,” he adds.

To that end, he offers additional pantry design tips.

“In a small kitchen, I will make the wall cabinets 15" deep. This depth is a 25% increase on the storage from a 12" to a 15". Or, put a different way, you usually put three rows of glass in, but now you can fit four rows of glasses.”

“Being able to break up the space into different sections, so that everything is visible, really helps in the pantry,” Rahmberg suggests.

Teipen adds: “Pantries have a lot of upselling opportunities. We’ll implement different ideas and make it personalized for the client. This shows ‘Mrs. Client’ that you’ve listened to her; which should also help you with referrals.”

Lomont-Relayson concludes: “If it is a good design, even small spaces like the pantry or mudroom should be able to evolve and grow with them, using them.”


Of course, one of the main “upselling” opportunities is through accessories, Clements notes.

“I usually include the basics in every kitchen – tray dividers, cutlery inserts, spice inserts or door spice racks, and drawer knife blocks,” he explains.

Lomont-Relayson adds: “Additional storage options, such as drawer accessories, dividers, organizers, roll-outs or pantry units are all areas to add sales.”

Clements notes: “Other areas like the TV/entertainment cabinets need specialized tape/CD/DVD inserts and equipment fittings.”

“We include a standard [set] of accessories and locate them where they make the most sense, like vertical storage for cookie sheets near the oven,” says Rahmberg.

Designers also mention the advantage of storage systems that create a feeling of quality, such as soft-close systems that not only minimize noise, but also create a good feeling when the user shuts the door or drawer.

Rahmberg cites well-placed storage, such as a spice racks near the cooktop, as a popular request among clients.

Reiss offers another perspective: “A roll-out shelf is going to price point much lower than a German engineered-type of cabinet system [that has greater functionality]. Those units are pricey [but add value to the project for the consumer]. Therefore, there is a huge advantage to moving somebody into those types of items, both [for the consumer’s benefit and because of the greater profit it brings in].”

“However, a major disadvantage is the service. The more moving parts you have, the more likely you are to have a service call,” he notes.

Of course, designers need to remain cognizant of the fact that clients may be faced with deciding between the newest appliance (or accessory) versus the storage space that they may crave.

Teipen explains: “[If this situation occurs] I will take a chair, or some three-dimensional device, and I will literally tell them that ‘this is what you have, and this is what you’re going to have if we do what you want.’ The idea is to engage them in the solution.”

“Some items are very expensive or take up space needed to fit basic storage cabinets, so there is definitely a trade-off between function versus storage and price,” adds Clements.

Teipen summarizes: “I am a firm believer that if you build it, they will come. People [need to] see it, and they need to hear from us because we areeducators. We need to tell them what is out there and what is available.” KBDN