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Dream Kitchens 2012: Smarter Storage

Drawers that light up, cabinets that open with the touch of a finger, and other clever solutions.

Electric cabinets like these by Blum are “the wave of the future,” says a designer. Photograph courtesy of Blum.

With more gadgets and appliances than ever, kitchens with smart and attractive storage space are in demand. “The desire to keep the countertops clean—we hear that again and again,” says Jerry Levine, founder of Levine Group Architects & Builders.

Most creative storage options on the market focus on making cabinets and drawers easier to open and navigate. Homeowners can find everything from interior lighting to units that flip up or drop down with the touch of a finger.

But Anthony “Ankie” Barnes of Barnes Vanze Architects cautions that you don’t have to pack your kitchen full just because storage options have improved. Before remodeling, he suggests considering the way you cook and entertain: “There are only a core number of things you really need close at hand. You don’t always need that crab pot or Grandma’s casserole dish right next to the stove.”

Here are seven creative storage solutions for your kitchen.

Electric Cabinets

Designers are abuzz about Blum’s Servo-Drive cabinets and drawers, which are electrically powered and opened by tapping the cabinet door or slightly pulling the handle. “These seem to be the wave of the future,” says designer Jennifer Gilmer, who likes their clean look and ease of access. The electrical hardware makes these systems pricier; Gilmer says you should estimate adding 20 to 40 percent to your cabinet budget.

Come-to-You Cabinets

Reaching up into a wall cabinet can be a hassle at best, dangerous at worst. Why not let the contents come to you? Shannon Kadwell of Anthony Wilder Design Build sees increasing interest in a cabinet that uses a hydraulic system to descend to an accessible level when touched or pulled. It’s particularly useful for people who are handicapped or who have arthritis.

Let There Be Light

Refrigerators are lit so you can easily search their contents, so why aren’t cabinets and drawers? Designers love the new LED lighting technology that illuminates cabinet interiors, either automatically when a door or drawer is opened or with a switch when you need it. For glass cabinets, a dimmer can be added to create an ambient glow even when the doors are closed. Gilmer recommends the prewired system by Premier Custom-Built, which requires only a single electrical outlet to illuminate all the cabinets.

Kick Drawers

Typically, floor-level drawers are reserved for the space under the stove and are used to stash oven racks and baking sheets. But designers have started adding them below cabinets and islands, too. They can be a good spot to store appliance manuals, specialty tools, and other infrequently used items.

Pull-Out Spice Racks

Hunting for spices on a shelf can take up precious time when you’re cooking. “People buy lazy Susans, but you still end up going through the spice search,” says Levine. Many cabinetmakers offer a solution: double-sided racks that pull out from the wall and vertically store containers, making your collection easily navigable.

Flip-Up Doors

Tired of opening a cabinet door and then nearly banging your head on it two minutes later? To fix this common problem, designers are gravitating toward “flip-up” cabinets, which swing up and out of your way. Levine likes to match them with roll-out shelves, which can provide easy access to anything from pots and pans to appliances and pantry items.

Blind-Corner Correction

Traditionally, corner cabinets were outfitted with carousels, but they can easily become cluttered and inefficient. There are now clever solutions, including pull-out shelves that make it easier to take advantage of a corner. One by Häfele features two sets of baskets: a front set that pulls out and swivels 90 degrees and a back set that simultaneously moves forward.

Explore More Dream Kitchens ››

This article appears in the October 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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