News & Politics

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

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

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

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.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.