The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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Reusing Kitchen Cabinets in a New Kitchen Design

BEFORE KITCHEN PLANReusing kitchen cabinets to create a new kitchen design is both a real challenge and extremely gratifying. I've done it, albeit in an experimental way in a previous personal kitchen. In my case, it was an opportunity to try out some design ideas and at the same time hold us over until we were ready for the big remodel down the road. Here is a reader's question on the topic of reusing kitchen cabinetry:

"I read the article on reusing cabinets and there are some great tips there. You mention the fact that reusing cabinets in a new configuration can be difficult but didn't elaborate further. That is exactly what I am trying to do but need some expert advice!

I am in desperate need of a new layout in our kitchen, but our cabinets are in great shape. I have played around with the design and think I have something that will work. I am not a "handy" person so I was hoping to get some pointers on what to look at to determine if the existing cabinets could still be recycled in the new layout.

Do you have any advice on what I should do to detemine if the new kitchen design will allow for reuse of our cabinets? Or is this a project I need to get a contractor in on now to ensure they can physically do it?



Thanks for writing! The word that describes reusing kitchen cabinetry is: "puzzle." Finding the right configuration for a brand new design using existing cabinetry can be done, but it will entail very open thinking, meaning that you need to be open to new design ideas, new and different ways to add storage into your kitchen to supplement your existing cabinetry, and a good dose of positive thinking.

You will need to draw the room to scale and then the puzzle begins. An open mind will allow you to experiment with a variety of configurations. There is no absolute way to find "the" right solution. Trial and error and positive "play" in a relaxed setting is how you will find your design solutions.

Of course, you should consider where your existing cabinetry offers the best access near certain appliances and work centers. Narrow drawer cabinets will be useful near the refrigerator or sink. Wider drawer banks or cabinets with doors will be useful near the cooking area.

Watch for the size and proportion of doors and drawers. For sections which you will need to fill in with new cabinetry, do not attempt to match a new color with the old; it most likely will not work - instead, select a painted finish in a new area of the kitchen that makes sense and balances well with surrounding cabinetry.

A trained eye knows how to configure different sizes and proportions of cabinetry. My advice would be to find a local kitchen design professional who can help you on a consultation, or hourly fee, basis at least to get you a head start.

Filling in with metro shelving, curtains and furniture pieces can result in a very interesting kitchen, one which could be super chic in that bohemian/modern sort of way. I know this is true because my reused kitchen cabinetry, once transformed, was published in a national shelter magazine ... thus, the positive thinking! 


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Reader Comments (5)

What a great topic, Susan! This is a topic that does come up, especially in this economy. The retro-fit can be very challenging. It's always helpful to have a handyman/woman around who may be able to make minor alterations that could make all the difference.

Thanks for the tip! Kitchens are considered the most important and certainly most used room in the house. It should functional as well as a point of pride.

June 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterC. Marshall

This is a great idea! An awesome way to take what is probably a less than ideal situation and make it into a very stylish look that feels intentional.


July 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark

That really is a good idea to save some money on design. However If I was to spend money to redo my kitchen I think that I would end up being disappointed that I didn't get new modern cabinets. However after reading this I probably would end up trying to donate my old cabinets to Habitat for Humanity so they could perhaps reuse them.

July 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTVid

I think reusing kitchen cabinets is a great example of relying more on your imagination than wallet - and I mean that in a good way. A VERY good way. Anybody can whip out a credit card and solve any design problem, but folks like you who can take previously hideous materials and transform them into an entirely different look are, well, superhuman. Thanks for giving me some ideas for my own kitchen!

July 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

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