Retrofitting supersusans in upper cabs--a (long) success story

bellsmomSeptember 15, 2012

I know I will try your patience with this long and picture laden post, but I really want to share this with you. It is the kind of thing I have found here when I had a problem and could not imagine an answer as we remodeled. Maybe someone will find this useful. I hope so.

When we remodeled our kitchen about a year ago, I asked that the upper cabs be 15'' deep. Since I prep on the island and seldom on the perimeter under the cabs, and since I am fairly short (5' 2'') the deeper wall cabs cause no inconvenience, and they are GREAT for storage.

I knew at the time that I was creating a monster in the corner though. Here is the way the old corner looked. Pretty, but it was a storage nightmare. Items stored at the back were more than 2 feet behind the items in the front. Impossible to reach without emptying the whole shelf.

I knew I wanted susans there, but the cabinet makers simply were not comfortable modifying them as I wanted. And I knew that, unlike base cabinets, it WAS possible to add susans to wall cabinets after the cabs were installed. So I waited. I had thought I could do this myself, but found that lifting the shelf and susan into place was beyond my strength, so this summer, a young contractor and I tackled the job.

There were three shelves, but I knew that after I modified them, I wanted four. I found a source for 24'' round Rev-a-shelf susans at less than $40 each and ordered 4 of them. I painted the edge so it would match the dark cherry cabs. They looked like this:

I wasn't happy with the small bearing under them, nor with the wasted vertical space. Each susan with its 2'' rim, bearings, mounting plate, and the shelf below it took 3'' of vertical space--so four of them would eat up 12'' in my 40'' cabinet! So we started cutting and replacing. We cut off one inch from the tops of the rim and a slice of the front edge to make a D-shaped instead of a round susan. We added a new, straight edge across the cut. (I was unable to find 24'' D-shaped susans anywhere. I had played with the idea of making the whole thing, but at less than $40 each, this seemed the better way.) Here are the cut off tops and the bearings and original crude turn table which we replaced or eliminated:

And here is a chopped and sectioned susan in position on the new shelf which we made to better use the vertical height provided by the more efficient bearings and the cut-down rim:

I know this is long, but I want to share what I can store on two different shelves in this corner susan. Bear with me.

Here is the front of the bottom shelf.

Storage is planned so that multiple identical items are arranged in front to back rows. Everything is accessible from the front. Here is the same shelf rotated about 45 degrees:

And rotated another 45 degrees or more:

All of the items on this shelf are used almost daily.

And one more shelf, This is the second one.

Front of shelf (I love teapots!)

Rotated about 1/3 of the way:

And rotated again:

Those big nested mixing bowls were space gobblers on any shelf or in any drawer before. I am not sure they would even fit in 12'' deep cabs. They are perfect here. Easy to reach and remove.

I plan to use the two upper shelves for ''dead'' or seasonal storage because I can reach them only with a ladder.

Here is a flash photo of the way the corner looks now. Forgive the ugly shadows the dimpled glass casts under a photo flash.

In summary: If you have limited storage space and every inch counts, consider 15'' deep uppers. If you do 15'' deep uppers, consider susans on the shelves. I strongly recommend retrofitting commercial susans or, better yet, having your cabinet maker custom make them to use every possible inch of vertical and horizontal space.

I like the new easy reach corner upper shelves a lot, but this holds SO much more that I would not change even if I could.

As a final image, I am going to post the bearings we used. I found them on Amazon. The shelves just coast with a slight spin. Brooks, my friend and budding contractor, was astonished at the difference they made:

I have had an immense amount of fun with this project. And playing with organizing the storage has only begun. Next stop is toe kick drawers!!

Thanks for looking. And thank you, GWers, for teaching me that almost anything I can imagine is possible--and then helping me imagine it!


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Wow, that's really an improvement! Amazing how much you can store on those now. I have the same set of Pyrex bowls and that looks like the perfect place for them to be easily accessible.

I can't wait for your toe-kick tutorial!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 10:25PM
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and I thought I could retrofit things!
I am very impressed. You had a vision and sure made it happen!

Great job.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 12:45AM
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thanks! This makes me want to try even though I don't have a diagonal corner cabinet :)

What was the secret to getting those shelves into the cabinet? Looks a bit like that ship in a bottle trick.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 12:45AM
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    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 1:12AM
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Wish I was a year later in my reno...this probably would have solved a HUGE problem for me. No matter, I know now in case there's a next time...

Well done! Looks great and clearly stores a tonne of stuff! Very clever.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 1:35AM
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Putting the shelves in was a minor logical problem at first. Then it was just a matter of muscle.
The open area of the door is about 39''.
The shelves are about 26'' from side to side, therefore needing 28'' or so of clearance to go in and angle down to flat.
The susans are 24'' in diameter.
Everything fits if it is done in the right order.

1. Brooks (budding contractor and muscular enabler) attached the first susan to the bottom of the cabinet.
2. Next he put the shelves in one by one, laying them on top of the first susan.
3. Then he attached a susan to the top shelf in the stack and raised it temporarily to the very top of the cabinet,
4. The next susan was attached and raised as high as possible under the top one.
5. The last susan was attached and then the shelf was placed in its position above the bottom susan.
6. Next the susan above it (next to the top) was dropped to its position.
7. And finally, the top susan was lowered to its final position.

I could not have done this. The shelves plus susans were HEAVY and the opening meant putting them in at an awkward angle. Brooks was wonderful and patient when we had to adjust a shelf or two.

Not really hard, but not really easy, either.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 9:48AM
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Deedles, Thanks. I am eager to try the toe kick drawers. I really think it won't be hard.
Scrappy25, I posted the install process above.
Catmom and mmhmmgood, Thanks. It was a fun project.
CEFreeman, from you that compliment means a lot. Isn't it fun to solve a problem? I love that AHA moment.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 11:35AM
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WOW...totally impressed. Is there a way to "save" these forum posts for future reference?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 2:47PM
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I am very pleased you found the info useful. Thanks for the comment.

Yes, you can save a post two ways that I know of:
1. To the right of your name in the post above you will see the word Clippings and the scissors logo. Click on ''clip this post'' and the post will be stored in your GW clippings file.
2. Also, you can highlight the address at the top of the page on your browser window and use your browser to SAVE AS , chose Web Document, and save it in a folder on your hard drive.


    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 3:13PM
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Thanks for documenting that successful project for posterity! Way to go.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 5:06PM
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Wow! Nice job - and I thought I was creative using basic susan's in the upper shelves - might have to go for a retrofit!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 9:44PM
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What a great idea! I love how strong they are by being placed right on the shelf! Plus, things won't get "lost" by falling down the sides:)

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 10:23PM
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a2gemini, I'd love to see pics if you decide to retrofit!
mjher1, the only places things might actually fall off these susans are the two corners, and then the shelf will catch them and I can reach them. Otherwise, not gonna happen.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 7:06AM
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Sandra, thank you for the very detailed instructions! Very clever way of working around that narrow doorway. Brooks sounds wonderful to have as a handyman. You wouldn't happen to be near Baltimore by chance would you?

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 12:05PM
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Nope, I am in southern Indiana across from Louisville, Ky. Too far for Brooks to commute. I would recommend him if he were close enough to you!!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 12:07PM
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Bellsmom, Thanks for filling me in on how to save "clippings". It worked for this tech-challenged granny!
Also, I'm a frequent traveler through your neck of the woods (I-64 from St. Louis to Charleston, glad when they reopened the bridge!) I may have to scoop Brooks up and bring him home with me next time I'm through there!! ;)

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 5:21PM
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Bell - currently I put Copco susans in the the top 2 shelves - it will be awhile until I try the retrofit -but when I retire.....

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 7:20PM
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A correction to original post: the susans as they come from Rev-a-shelf are 3'' deep. Plus a shelf and they are nearly 4'' deep. We cut this by about 1 1/2'', so the depth of my susans plus turntable and shelf is a bit more than 2 1/2''.

We are less than 10 minutes from I64 in a lovely rural area of the ''Knobs'' overlooking Louisville. Wanna stop by for coffee and a scone next trip? But you can't have Brooks.

When you do try the retrofit on the bottom shelves, you will love them. Wonderful to bring everything around so that I am nose to nose with it. Nothing gets lost, nothing has to be moved to access something else.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 4:06PM
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Will let you know when I give it a try - but work schedule is crazy - hope to retire soon!

Bells - just turned down a potential job in Louisville! I would have "commuted" long distance!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 9:11PM
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Sandra, I was just rereading this post because I have evil plans for a particular cabinet.

I was wondering if you'd attempted to put in toe kicks yet? I have this in mind for 4 different cabinets. I hesitate because I don't know the clips to order. I want to be able to push it with my toe and have it come out, but able to push it in again with my toe. Hence the name, right? TOE kick !

Anyway, how are you handling this?

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 8:54PM
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Nope, haven't done toe kick drawers yet. I do want them. I could really use the space.

Right now I am putting susans (at least 12 of them) in the back corners of the big walk in pantry. This is a pretty easy project, really. Today I took the Christmas tree down --a real tree, rapidly approaching needle-lessness.
Then I cut out two 17'' inch circles, screwed them to bearings, and got them in place. THAT was easy peasy.

But the toe kick drawers are still in line. Not sure I will try to use a system that opens with a push. I think I will use those flat horizontal pulls that install across the top edge of a drawer. I won't be opening them often, so bending down to open them shouldn't be a problem. Pretty sure they WILL close with a kick though! :-)

Not next in line, though. Next is another easy project: making some sliding drawer-thingees that will sit on top of the flatware drawers to slide back and forth and make use of the wasted two or three three inches of vertical space in the those drawers.

You know how it goes. Just playing.

Enjoy your projects!!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 1:27AM
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ooooOoooo I like that idea.
My drawers, though completely fill the cabinet openings. Hmm..

I'm thinking of retrofitting a top drawer to hold paper towels. I really like that idea.

Is it Breezy that has that great pantry or Bee? (I'm not certain they're secretly not the same person, they have such beautiful kitchens!) I want to do lazy Susans in the corner of the pantry like, well, like I'm linking.

I was thinking about Pie Susans, but I think my shelves will only be about 6" deep on the left, making an L to the right, where I can make them as much as 18" deep. The one side of the pie would stick out too far. In my head, I probably have to make the either just plain round, or D like yours. I'll figger it out.

Today I'm (doing absolutely nothing but drinking espresso, refreshing Kitchens, eating Reese's and a vat of Mac 'n cheese I made yesterday) going to work on the remaining doors in my MBR. Someday I have to consider hardware.

Geeze. It's always something, isn't it?

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 9:08AM
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Forgot the picture.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 9:09AM
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Yup, I love that picture --though I would have made the susans at least an inch bigger in diameter and maybe more so they snugged close to the posts.

I can't do mine like that, though, because the posts are in the front corner. In one of those flashes of imbecility, I thought I could use pie cut susans around the post. DUH. It wouldn't even START to turn. But I can get nearly 17'' diameter susans in those dead corners, which will be a huge improvement over the unreachable depths behind the post.

I just thought of something. In corner shelves like those pictured with no center post, if the susans are made as large as possible and then D cut in a straight line from post to post, access to the contents would be better because protruding shelves above and below would not obscure a rotated shelf. I REALLY wish I didn't have those corner posts!!

Anyway, this is an EASY project. Just cut a plywood circle, screw in 4 screws to attach the bearing, and it's done--except for your fav. chore, painting. But there is no need to paint the bottom, and I'll put cushy cupboards lining on the top, so only the edges need painting.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 9:59AM
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I like this.
Now I just have to build the shelves.
Thanks from saving me from my own imbecility, 'cause I sure wudda done the same thing.
D shelves make the most sense. Take up less space while moving around other stuff in the pantry, too.

Oh, it's so nice someone else has done this first -- or is at least thinking about it!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 10:19AM
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CEFreeman, these should work for toe kick drawers. I just got a new Lee Valley hardware catalog and remembered seeing them there.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lee Valley toe kick latches

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 12:36AM
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I haven't done the toe kick drawers yet, but the susans (all 14 of them!) are in the corners of the pantry. Not painted yet because I was impatient to see how they worked out. They were inexpensive because I used bearings that cost about $6 each and cut the turntables myself from 1/2'' plywood. They are 16'' diameter.

Maybe the toe kick drawers are next.

Nancy--I am afraid these push-to-open latches would be a problem in the toe kick. Every time one's foot hit the thing, it would open. I personally plan to just use a flat, over the top edge pull. Inconspicuous and not gonna open accidentally.

This post was edited by Bellsmom on Wed, Feb 20, 13 at 8:57

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 8:08AM
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I like the kick-it idea. You might be right, Bellsmom, but where I plan them isn't some place I normally stand, so I don't think it'll matter for me.

Nancy, I just got the same catalog (probably) and will go through it. I've logged over 50 hours this last week of scanning documents for my divorce. No time to enjoy my hardware catalogues. (Never been a girly-girl, I guess! :)

Thx for the idea!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 10:53AM
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