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Smart Kitchen Storage: Custom Cabinets

Have you been dreaming about an organized kitchen? Cabinets are an important part of any remodel. Not only the door style, wood species, or paint color but also how they function and keep you organized. Hear from Mountainwood Designer Vicki Enger on how she approaches getting the kitchen cabinet design just right by collaborating with our trade partner and clients, so their kitchen remodel solves their specific problems and creates a dedicated space for everything.

Vicki Enger Headshot
Mountainwood Homes Designer Vicki Enger


Where do you start in designing a kitchen remodel?

First, I like to ask our clients, ‘How do you use your kitchen? What are your expectations for your new space? What is it not doing for you today that you need and want from your space once it’s all done? You’re making this dream a reality.

When I meet with a client, it’s best when both homeowners are there – that’s the ideal situation. With both homeowners standing in the kitchen, we can establish the main thing. Another layer is determining what goes into the cabinets. That is more of an inventory thing along with the flow.

It always comes down to asking: Who is in the kitchen, and what are they doing?

Once you get that established, then you know where the appliances will get set. We want to identify the focal points, whether architectural or appliance-related and get those nailed down. Then you know if you are going to play it up or have them in the background. Sometimes it is obvious where the appliances will go. Sometimes people do not like to see the fridge right there; It is a monster appliance. Is that what you want to see? Do you want your appliance as a focal point?

cabinetry panel fridge
Cabinetry paneled refrigerator and pull-outs.

I also ask the question, who’s cooking? How many? One or two of you? Do you like to like being in the same space? Do you need to create zones? There are all these little things, and once you start to understand what you are doing in these places, then it comes together. With homeowners who don’t cook, these questions aren’t so pointed. When both people like to cook, or there are children, then the conversation gets very specific. The goal is often to get the microwave out of the space since the kids will use that appliance as a separate thing. Parents typically want the microwave by the fridge and out of the way.

People who love to cook need to have their things where they need them. If people are not into cooking as much, they are going to take our advice. They usually say, ‘I just want it set up right – from a cooking standpoint.’


In what order do you select materials?

Once the appliances and the plumbing fixtures are selected, I like to have the countertops chosen. People seem more specific when it comes to countertops. They say, ‘I like this or I don’t like this.’ This is helpful to get the general feel. Then, we go into the cabinetry meeting. The cabinet maker needs to know what appliances and plumbing fixtures were chosen so he can work on his part of the design. These selections set the traffic, flow, and placement of everything.  You can’t be talking about if we should place the range on another wall during the cabinetry meeting. That would be very inefficient.


What happens at the cabinetry design meeting?

At this meeting, we talk about the individual cabinet boxes and what goes in them. We go down the line and say what’s going to happen. While the plan is not set in stone before the cabinetry meeting, we generally don’t walk into this meeting with the entire layout of the kitchen up in the air. We also spend time looking at various cabinetry samples to determine the design direction.

clients selecting cabinets
Clients see various cabinet samples to determine what style they like.


How do you figure out where everything will go?

I ask clients if they have huge items. If they do, I will have them measure them. If they have a large serving platter, mixer, or small appliances, then we will find a place for those items. When we meet with Krieg, our cabinetry trade partner, we have a good idea of our clients’ items and can design the cabinets with those particular items in mind. If we know the clients have 12″ of cooking racks and cookie sheets, Krieg knows how many dividers to put in. I like to have an inventory list.

Cabinetry meeting with CAD on screen

What cabinetry options are there?

We discuss spice racks, stadium organizers in drawers, optimizers, and lazy Susans. The trash-pull out is practically the number one item clients want. An appliance garage is a personal thing to people. If they will use them enough, then it is worth it. You’re taking up counter depth, so you’re taking away that usable counter space. If you use a Vitamix every day, then it may be worth it. Many of our clients like the cookie sheet dividers either over the ovens or down below.

trash pull-out cabinet
Everyone’s favorite feature – the trash pull-out!


organized spice drawer
Keep the spice drawer organized.

Drawers are truly the rage. People are so tired of junk hiding and never knowing what’s back there. Or they are tired of getting on their hands and knees to pull something out. It’s not very organized. Pull-outs on full-extension glides hold a lot of weight. You can adjust to max out on the glide system. Clients love the idea of a pull-out to see everything.


Corners are a tricky place. Krieg explains how lazy Susans and optimizers work. People are uncomfortable with dead space and how to access it. These are the choices we help our clients make. When there is a U-shaped kitchen, you create two corners which are troublesome for people to make the space as usable as possible. We try to max it out as much as we can with an optimizer. Krieg works on that with us. We don’t want to have a space that is unreachable or unusable.


What’s in style – painted or stained cabinets?

Many clients know what they want. I am working with a client right now who knows she wants rift-cut white oak, but she’s willing to shift. It doesn’t have to be used everywhere. Another client has two bathrooms, and we’re going to paint the main bathroom vanity and stain the other. People are open to color and doing something more interesting. Being home for a year caused many people to look at the kitchen that looks all the same and wondering if they could have something a little different in there – especially in larger kitchens. Many of our clients are talking more about glass doors than they were before for display cabinets. Visually, you have to ask yourself, would you rather have things put away or out on display?


What rooms are people prioritizing right now?

There is more attention to cabinetry in laundry rooms and mudrooms lately. We see more clients want drop zones with docking drawers and organization. People still like hooks – they are popular. People are getting more purposeful with laundry storage like they are in their kitchen. They want to optimize the space well.

mud room bench seat with wall hooks
A mudroom/laundry room with bench seat and hooks houses shoes and coats as you walk out the door.


Kitchens are the heart of the home

Kitchens are more functional than they’ve ever been, but they’re also beautiful. That seemed to come about with the great room concept. It’s all out in the open. Every decade things get bigger, better, cooler, more functional, and friendly for the family. You can spend a significant amount of money on a kitchen remodel. After a certain point, the decorative choices and high-end options contribute to that. But the functionality is critical. And we help our clients do that at all investment levels. Whenever things feel out of control, we turn towards organization. It’s something that everybody can do. You can do little things to improve your space.



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