Ellen Silverman
Ellen Silverman

Twenty years ago or so, I designed a kitchen for a space I thought I’d be in forever. I had cabinets made in a Shaker style that I hoped could walk the line between classic and modern for a long time, and bought myself a restaurant stove. Ten years later, life changed, and I had to leave that space. Having designed the cabinets and seen them installed, I knew that they were basically boxes bolted to the wall. So I took them with me, and reconfigured them on-the-cheap for the smaller space I was moving into. The cabinets that could not fit on the kitchen wall became freestanding furniture.

Ellen Silverman
Ellen Silverman

All it takes is a little imagination to try pushing to cabinets together and putting a thick wood board or slab of stone across the top to make them seem like one, or stand them on a plinth of legs…or visualizing them in other rooms, in other ways…

Ellen Silverman
Ellen Silverman

Now I’m contemplating another move, to a hopefully permanent (ha!) place, and plan to take my cabinets with me. I’m re-imagining them in the new space, contemplating painting them a dark chalk gray…changing the counter tops…replacing the hood with a sleeker one…easy moves that can change the whole look.

Ellen Silverman

I look back and see the lessons I learned about kitchen cabinets:

…That well-made cabinets with an enduring design will last decades, and for that reason, might be economical…

…That, as Pascal Anson noted, the cabinets themselves can be cheap; you’re only seeing the doors…(and as he showed, even the doors can be cheap if you’re clever)…

…That wooden doors can be painted for a cheap change of the look or mood…

…That a kitchen can actually be moved pretty easily…

…That some kitchen cabinets can also be used as freestanding furniture…

…(one little one made a perfect bathroom cabinet!)

Related posts: Pascal Anson on (Cheap) Kitchen Cabinets

P.S.: Kitchen Cabinets (Cheap + Unique)

Strategy: Cool Un)Plywood Storage Cabinets

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7 replies on “kitchen cabinets as furniture

  1. I have lived in Italy for 20 some years now – in Europe houses, apartments, etc. generally do not come with pre-installed kitchens and so the modular kitchen has been a way of life since shortly after WWII I’d venture to say – with Salvarani being one of the first companies to produce modular kitchens. Today Scavolini (and it upscale Ernestomeda) lead the market, along with names like Berloni, Lube, etc.

    Ikea has picked up on the modular kitchen idea – I currently have an Ikea modular kitchen – the possibilities are endless

  2. Thank you for this comment and the names of the companies. I see that many of them are expanding into the US market. I think Ikea does a great job, and have seen great configurations and innovations on the basic materials: inexpensive cabinets with interest countertop…even the handles and pulls can make a difference in the look.

  3. I like the way your mind works. In a sense, though, you have been anticipated by Henry David Thoreau, who wrote, “When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices.”

  4. That is a truly wonderful quote. “…It is never too late to give up our prejudices.” …which can be about anything. Thanks a million.

  5. The designs shown here are beautiful. Today I enjoyed listening to your segment on “The Splendid Table” and the suggestions for using kitchen cabinets in a variety of ways and combining different designs to create a unique, personal look in one’s kitchen. Another option, which is earth-friendly and benefits a good cause, is to purchase cabinets from Habitat for Humanity home stores. Most Habitat chapters have stores which sell used and new building supplies, hardware, and furniture at deep discounts because the items have been donated specifically for resale. It’s possible to pick up all kinds of cabinets at very inexpensive prices.

  6. Thank you for reminding us of this terrific resource! It is a TERRIFIC way to buy cabinets and building supplies (and a great place to donate them as well). We hope to do a post on Habitat for Humanity Home Stores in the future.

  7. I have to say that I don’t usually think of cabinets as something to improve the overall look of a room. To me it’s just somewhere to put your stuff. But looking at the pictures here even if the cabinets are all white and very simple they bring something in the room and they don’t look just functional but they bring all the stuff together, make them accentuate things somewhat.

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