Contemporary Kitchen Design revolves around open concept layouts.

In the last half of the 20th Century, Kitchen Designers began knocking down the walls that enclosed the kitchen to open it up to the rest of the living space.

Soon there was also a trend to “bring the outside in”. Because of this we saw more and larger windows incorporated into Kitchen Designs.

Next we saw designers replacing upper cabinetry with a few floating shelves to produce specific display areas in the Kitchen.

Another emerging trend in Kitchen Design has been the elimination of all upper cabinetry for a minimalist look.

At the same time we are cooking more and adding items to our kitchens!

Now more than ever, the Professional Kitchen Designer needs to get creative with storage.

Here is why:

  • The removal of the wall between the Kitchen and the Dining Room eliminated the china hutch
  • The addition of more window area in the Kitchen reduced the number of traditional upper cabinets
  • Floating shelves are used for curating display vignettes more than actual usable day to day storage
  • Minimal Kitchen Designs with no upper storage offers no opportunity for storage above counter level
  • Consumers are storing more items in their kitchens now then ever

The solution is not to store Kitchen items in the basement or the garage. The Professional Kitchen Designer needs to get creative!

Let’s look at how the Kitchen Designer can creatively replace the “lost” storage Contemporary Kitchens are experiencing.

Optimizing Base Cabinet Storage

Optimizing base cabinet storage is the first thing the Kitchen Designer needs to do when upper cabinetry is reduced or eliminated.

The standard kitchen cabinet consisting of an upper drawer and doors with a single shelf is not very efficient storage. Avoid this type of cabinet in your Kitchen Designs.

At a minimum all of the base cabinetry should include rollout shelves or be drawers.

Accessorizing base cabinetry for specific storage to meet your client’s needs is also a design solution that should be employed.

The base cabinetry in the contemporary Kitchen needs to work extra hard!

Sneak in Some Storage

With the majority of contemporary Kitchens including an island, explore where you might be able to sneak in some storage.

The back of the island or under the island eating bar are two places to do this.

You may also want to look at unique wall space areas within the great room for additional storage.

The wall adjacent to a stairwell could be an opportunity to include much needed storage in an open concept space.

Maximize Upper Cabinet Storage

With minimal upper storage, the upper cabinetry that does remain needs to be maximized.

Something as simple as adding an extra shelf can increase the storage capacity of a standard upper cabinet.

Bringing upper cabinetry down to the countertop is another way to maximize the storage capacity of minimal upper cabinets.

This solution also provides great accessibility to storage by most users of the kitchen.

Include Tall Storage

Strategically placed tall storage can replace the lack of upper storage in a contemporary Kitchen.

Shallow 12″ deep pantry units are an ideal replacement for upper storage.

Being the same depth as a standard upper cabinet they are the perfect upper storage replacement.

Standard 24″ deep tall storage cabinets can also be used to replace the lack of upper storage.

A wall of tall units incorporating appliances and storage can be the perfect compliment to minimal Kitchen Design.

Design a Hutch Cabinet

Designing a contemporary hutch is a solution that can replace storage lost in an open concept design.

Instead of a free standing piece of furniture, a built-in unit can be customized to maximize storage capacity.

Even a small wall space can be utilized for custom storage.

Remember that 12″ deep cabinets can be utilized in custom hutch design, which can be a great solution if space is at a premium.

Utilize a Walk-in Pantry

A room off the Kitchen dedicated to storage can be the perfect compliment to a contemporary Kitchen with no upper cabinet storage.

A traditional walk-in pantry with open shelves for food storage is a popular route to go.

Depending on your client’s storage needs you could plan a walk-in pantry to house items such as dishes.

This would be the perfect solution for a client that entertains a lot.

Specify a Butler’s Pantry

The Butler’s Pantry was traditionally a room placed between the dining room and the kitchen, used as a service area for formal dinner parties.

In contemporary design this room can be a nook off the open concept kitchen that is used primarily for storage.

It is also perfect as a staging area for large parties or even a quick snack zone for the kids.

It will often have cabinetry that matches the main kitchen so that it works with the overall feel of the open space.

Creative Solutions

When the wall between the dining room and the Kitchen is removed, this can be an opportunity to get creative.

In the traditional white Kitchen above, double entry glass door cabinets were installed to still keep the space feeling open but to also provide storage.

The bonus is that dishes stored there can be accessed from both “rooms”.

In the second example a tall storage unit was used to separate the two rooms and to support floating shelves for display.

This set up provides some separation between these two areas but still provides that open feeling homeowners desire.

Sometimes taking inspiration from the past can provide a contemporary solution.

This Unfitted Kitchen design employed furniture pieces to build a kitchen to meet the client’s specific needs.

As you can see there are ways to make up for lost storage in an open concept contemporary Kitchen Design.

I hope this inspires you to come up with solutions to meet your client’s unique storage needs when the design of the room has eliminated traditional solutions.

I would love to hear how you tackle this in your Kitchen Designs. Please leave me a comment below.

For more tips on functional Kitchen Design you can check out past blog posts here under “The Science of Design” or subscribe to the VESTA Blog.

Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.

Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

2 Comments on “Replacing Lost Storage in Contemporary Kitchen Design

  1. OMG! That walk-in dish pantry! Love it!! Brilliant!

    • Isn’t it!!! I snapped that pick at EuroCucina in Milan several years ago. It is my dream walk-in pantry!

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