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Usable space in 18" deep cabinet vs. 21" deep cabinet?

Posted by mshutterbug (My Page) on
Tue, Jun 4, 13 at 13:54

We are in the midst of completely remodeling our kitchen, and hubby is building the cabinets himself. (He built a new bank of cabinets in our last home to match the existing cabinetry, and did a great job, but this is the first time doing the entire kitchen!) Have been lurking here for a while (can't believe I never knew of this place before!).

Attached is the basic layout. The position of cooktop, ovens, refrigerator is already set. Now I'm trying to finalize the surrounding cabinets as well as decide on the island size and placement. Initially I'd planned for a 2 1/2 foot by 8 foot island, (33"x99" countertop including 1.5" overhang on three sides and a 21" cabinet underneath with a 10" overhang for stools).

I know this is not the recommended overhang, but hubby (who is 6') and I tried out a counter-height overhang of 10 inches recently and found it to be sufficient. In fact, I think we could go down to 9"...it would be tight for him, but still doable. Our main purpose of the seating is to have a place for the kids to sit and do homework or have a quick snack and chat with me while I'm working in the kitchen. It will not ever be a main eating area.

Anyways, that would give us 40" clearance on both sides of the island. Again, I know this is less than recommended, and I've read a lot of the posts debating this topic. I'm torn on this matter. We measured out the original 40" and it definitely felt too cramped on the side where the stools will go (which is also a main pathway from powder room, garage, and family room).

I'm petite and I think I could easily get by with 38" on the side with the sink and oven (the oven is the only part that gives me pause since that limits the amount of space I have to stand in front of it with door open. But I had hubby measure the space I take up while reaching into an oven LOL and I think 38" would work.) That would give me 42" on the other side, which is a main walkway. I still think a little more would be ideal, but I think we could do 42".

So if you've read all that, thanks! That brings me to my question... do I go with 21" deep cabinets in the island with a 10" seating overhang? Or do I drop it down to 18" deep cabinets. That could give me a 45" walkway on the main path and 38" for my working area in front of sink. Is an 18" cabinet (my plan is for it to be all drawers, which obviously will reduce the usable space, but not by as much as pull-out shelves I'd think) even be worth it?? How much actual usable space will that give me? I know that I could simplify this by just eliminating the seating entirely, but I very much need (want) a spot for the kids to be in the kitchen while I'm cooking.

I appreciate any feedback!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Usable space in 18" deep cabinet vs. 21" deep cabinet?

18" is actually nice and deep. Try measuring the largest items you'd like to store there. There may well be nothing that needs that depth. As it is, I guarantee you'll sometimes be on your knees pushing stuff this side and that to get at the items in the rear. :)


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RE: Usable space in 18" deep cabinet vs. 21" deep cabinet?

Thanks rosie :)
I wonder how much of the 18" depth is eaten up by the back of the drawer or pull out frame...? I'm thinking maybe it winds up being more like 16". I guess the biggest question I need to answer is what I'll be storing there :D


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RE: Usable space in 18" deep cabinet vs. 21" deep cabinet?

I measured my largest baking pan, so my cabinet was built 20" deep, with 16" overhang on the back (3x5 island). I'd rather have a narrower aisle (actually have 36-38"), and at least 14" overhang for seating.

I don't have drawers, just shelves for griddle, electric cookers, and large baking pans. If 18" deep cabinet is sufficient for you, I'd recommend using the extra space for overhang.


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RE: Usable space in 18" deep cabinet vs. 21" deep cabinet?

Thanks mama goose! Hmm... I may have to think about just doing shallow shelves instead of the pull out box or drawers that I had planned. I guess first I really need to decide what I'm going to store in it :) Maybe I'll do that tonight while I'm sitting up with my littlest (6 week old)....at least then I'll be doing something productive instead of wishing I were sleeping LOL!


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RE: Usable space in 18" deep cabinet vs. 21" deep cabinet?

Wow, you are brave, embarking on a kitchen remodel with a newborn. We moved across the country once, when our youngest was 8wks old, then did it again when she was 2. :[

I found this info on an older thread:

The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) recommends a minimum seating overhang (clear space) of:

Table-height seating (30" high): 18" overhang

Counter-height seating (36" high): 15" overhang

Bar-height seating (42" high): 12" overhang

What will the height of your island be?


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RE: Usable space in 18" deep cabinet vs. 21" deep cabinet?

Thanks mama goose! Yep, I've seen those, and I know most would say to adhere to them. (Counter-height btw). But honestly, we tested out a 10" CH overhang in a store and found it was fine. Hubby said it wouldn't be great for serious meals, but for just sitting there to chat while I cook. Who am I kidding? With 3 kids...2 of them being babies under the age of two, when do we ever have a leisurely chat while I prepare dinner :D

Seriously though, I think we can get by on 10" overhang, but I totally see what you're saying! I may try to eek out a little more, but I think the pathway behind that space will be more critical since it's a main walkway.

PS. Yes, I would NOT recommend a remodel with a newborn. lol. But we sold our house and bought a new one that required we gut and remodel large portions of it before moving in. (It was certainly livable before, but with what we wanted to do, it wouldn't have been during certain phases). So, we've been living with my parents for the past nearly 3 months. As soon as the bones of the kitchen are in we'll move in while hubby completes the rest of it.


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RE: Usable space in 18" deep cabinet vs. 21" deep cabin

  • Posted by rosie NE Georgia 7A/B (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 5, 13 at 7:59

One thing with a 10" overhang is that you're not saving aisle space because stool legs splay wider than the seats for stability. Your real usable aisle space is from the stool feet over, regardless of whether they're covered by counter or not. On the plus side, maybe you might as well create an overhang generous enough to tuck them all the way under? It'd not only be more comfortable but look a lot better and be safer.

Of course, it also means you need to choose and measure stools before making your decision.

These tradeoffs are all very personal decisions, but, knowing how much even shallow storage holds, mine would be to look to the cabinets for the extra inches needed to make this work. I purchased ready-made Ikea 12" drawers for the top row of a line of 12" deep bottoms, with shelves below, so I would imagine drawer and sliding shelf mechanisms are available in a number of depths.

If needed, I'd also plan storage for the Christmas dishes and the 3-element slow cooker used maybe twice a year, or whatever as needed, somewhere else in the house.

This post was edited by rosie on Wed, Jun 5, 13 at 8:13


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RE: Usable space in 18" deep cabinet vs. 21" deep cabinet?

Good points! Thanks rosie :)


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RE: Usable space in 18" deep cabinet vs. 21" deep cabinet?

I have an 18" deep message center. The interior of the upper drawers measures 14" and I find them really useful. The key I think is the full extension glides so that the entire depth is visable and easy to pull items out.

As for your overhang, I'd think seriously about it. It's not just seating there comfortably but having the chairs (or stools) and the legs intruding into your walkway if you are unable to fully tuck them under the counters. Most are made for deeper overhangs and if the overhang is narrower than recommended then they will stick out, esp. when someone is seated. The exceptions would be saddle stools. What do you think of those? With clearances so tight, I'd suggest choosing your island seating prior to installing the island and counters.


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RE: Usable space in 18" deep cabinet vs. 21" deep cabinet?

You may also want to consider counter stools on a pneumatic or swivel single center base. That way, no legs to trip up folks walking past. Hubby could install those soda fountain swivel stools.

Here is a link that might be useful: Counterstools for soda fountains


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