Unreachable Cabinet Spaces: an Elusive Black Hole

The most popular home remodeling projects are kitchens and bathrooms, according to surveys from the National Association of Home Builders. Homeowners want to improve areas of their home that will give them the greatest return upon resale, but will also benefit them in the meantime. With kitchen remodeling, cabinets are one of the features that people want to change most.

Older cabinets were not primarily designed for function or accessibility, but for style. They had many “dead” spaces that defied access. The shelves were too high or too low or were unreachable black holes in corners. Newer, accessible cabinet designs remedy this with an “Optimum Reach Zone” or ORZ. This zone is between 20” off the floor to 44” high and 20” deep and was defined by gerontologist Margaret Wylde. Within this area, people are better able to see and reach the items contained there.

Cabinets come in three types; stock (ready-made), semi-custom (can be modified), and custom (totally made to the customer’s specifications). Custom cabinet makers who are also in tune with accessibility requirements advise having deep undercounter drawers instead of lower cabinets. Drawers pull out without having doors in the way and can contain heavy items that should not be stored over the counter (heavy plates, bowls, platters, etc.). There are now fancy pull-out spice racks and even under-cabinet pantries, wine cabinets and refrigerator/freezer spaces. Lower cabinets can also have pull-out shelving, but the doors can get in the way and the user has to stoop more to access the contents.

Upper cabinets should not extend to the ceiling. If they do, then the upper shelves will be inaccessible. Shelves should only be used if they can be reached without a step-stool (a huge fall hazard). The bank of upper cabinets can be lowered to 12” to 15” above counter height instead of the standard 18”. This makes the stored items much more reachable, especially for shorter people. The depth of upper cabinets is also very important. People can only visualize and reach items on more shallow shelves (about 10” or less). Open shelves or glass-doored cabinets can improve visibility of items.

Separate pantries or kitchen islands may add more storage space. Make sure all drawers have full extension hardware to reach back spaces. Slide out pantries are most accessible. There are some with fold-out storage or storage on both sides for better visualization and reach. Lazy Susan cabinet shelving and hardware are an answer to the blind corner where two sets of cabinets come together. There are now elaborate systems built to make this area more accessible. Old style Lazy Susans had rotating round shelves. Newer ones have pull out or fold-out hardware for getting to all stored items. Kitchen items that are seldom-used or only for holidays or entertaining can be placed higher (or lower) than everyday items. Most often used items should be within easy sight and reach.

The kitchen is an area where homeowners and their families spend much of their time. Having a well-organized and accessible space will make cooking chores easier and more enjoyable. The professional organizers at The Move Makers can re-organize your kitchen and line your shelves. Call today and make an appointment for an expert to come and transform this important part of your home.