Cabinets, Countertops, Shelving, And Storage

EFFICIENT STORAGE CREATES ORDER IN THE HOME. Carefully placing everyday and rarely used items is important throughout the house, whether it’s in the kitchen, garage, laundry room, or your closets. Whatever you need to store and wherever you need to store it, easy access and organization are keys to well-run working and living spaces. Certain areas of the house, such as the kitchen, bathroom, and closets, are constantly in use. In these spaces good organization and easy access is essential. Tennis rackets, seasonal clothing, golf clubs, and air hockey games may go through cycles of use. They need to be more accessible at some times than at others. Here’s how to make storage decisions:

• Take an inventory of your belongings. What items do you need access to every day? Once a week? Once a month? Never, but for sentimental reasons you just can’t bear to see them go? Also take into account the needs of different family members.

• Review your lifestyle and the patterns of use and movement that make up your daily life. Do you have room to pursue ongoing projects and hobbies? Do all the cleaning supplies fall to the floor when you open the utility closet ? Do you even have a utility closet?

• Tour your house and take a hard look at the existing storage areas. Are they big enough? Deep enough? Easy to access? Then look around for underused areas that could potentially become storage with a little carpentry or a trip to a home center or a store that specializes in storage solutions.

Storage Solutions Are Big Business - Home centers, hardware stores, discount chains, and even antiques shops are into storage solutions in a big way. Other stores specialize in every conceivable type of off-the-shelf storage you can imagine. Of course, some types of storage can only be custom-made, such as built-to-order kitchen cabinetry or built-in bookshelves and closets, or even additions to your living space. But it's worth a shopping trip or two to see what's available ready-made before you decide to start swinging a hammer. Here’s a room-by-room look at storage issues and solutions:

Kitchens. Cabinets are the storage unit of choice in kitchens. But while they're wide and deep, a large volume of useful space is lost in the rear. Sliding and staggered shelving, door racks, lazy Susans, tilt-out bins, drawer dividers, and pullout trays with dividers make maximum use of space.

Bathrooms. Adequate storage in most bathrooms is nonexistent, partly because most bathrooms are too small to accommodate storage areas. One area of opportunity is the medicine cabinet. Consider installing the largest readymade unit you can fit or have one custom-made to the room specifications. Install the largest vanity you can and add rolling trays as well as interior shelving. Home centers and discount chains offer a multitude of ready-made storage solutions for small bathrooms.

Closets. Custom shelving and rods with storage for folded and hanging clothes, as well as shoes, can be supplemented with a wide variety of flexible wire closet products that are easily customized and installed.

Living spaces. Foyers, hallways, and living, dining, and family rooms lend themselves to built-in closets, bookcases, and entertainment units. Also consider furniture to enclose televisions and stereo equipment.

Laundry rooms. Stacking washers and dryers maximize laundry room space, as do cabinets with pullout or pull-down ironing boards. Consider stacked recycling bins on sliders and wire containers for supplies. Open cubicles and cabinets work well for holding items that are in transition from one part of the house to another.

Garages and basements. Consider open shelving, hooks to suspend bicycles and tools, workbenches with pegboard wall attachments for tools and materials, rolling containers, and plastic storage boxes that stack. Ready-to-assemble wardrobes provide storage for seasonal clothing.

Cabinet and countertop basics

Cabinets come in a wide variety of shapes, finishes, and styles. Like cars or appliances, quality and durability are about what you see and what you don’t.

WHAT YOU DON’T SEE. All cabinets are boxes made of either medium-density fiberboard (MDF), particleboard, or plywood. MDF and particleboard are made of ground wood pressed with glue into sheets. The ground wood is larger in particleboard than in MDF, making it somewhat stronger. Plywood is made of thin sheets of wood glued together so that the grain in one layer is perpendicular to the grain in the next, making it the strongest of the three choices. It’s also the most water-resistant and the most expensive.

WHAT YOU DO SEE. MDF is often covered with a smooth, white or wood-grained resin called melamine. It’s a cheap, cleanable finish, but not as durable as similar-looking laminates— thicker sheets of plastic glued in place. MDF, plywood, and particleboard can be veneered, and once they are, it’s hard to tell them apart. You’ll probably have to ask to find out, but don’t take “solid wood” for an answer. Technically, all three are “solid wood,” as is a board made of one piece of solid wood.

You’ll hear a lot of talk about framed versus fameless cabinets. The difference is more important to the person building the cabinets than it is to the person buying them. Once installed, both are equally durable. Frameless cabinets are easier to build; thus, they cost somewhat less. Keeping frameless cabinets square during installation is fussier than it is with framed cabinets. The hardware on frameless cabinets lets you adjust the position of the doors, making it easier to align the tops of the doors than it is on a framed cabinet. Most cabinets, including custom-built, are frameless these days, as are almost any off-the-shelf systems.

FRAMELESS CABINETS, sometimes called European-style, lack face frames. Contemporary-looking cabinets are almost guaranteed to be frameless, and more styles have become available as frameless cabinets have gained popularity. Most framed and frameless cabinets look virtually alike.

FRAMED CABINETS have openings that are completely surrounded by face frames made of vertical stiles and horizontal rails. Door hinges are attached directly to these frames. This is the classic cabinetmaker's approach to construction, and most framed cabinets are traditional-looking.

Breaking the cabinet code - If you look through a catalog of kitchen cabinets, you'll find all sorts of codes, such as BBD1824D3, used for description. So once you know what you want, how do you crack the ordering code? First, you need to know that two elements are standard and don't appear at all. Wall cabinets are always 12 inches deep. Base cabinets are always 34 1/2inches high. So this is how the code BBD1824D3 breaks down:

The first character denotes the general type: W=wall; T=tall; B=base; V=vanity; D=desk. (B)

The next one or two characters refer to the specific type of cabinet: BB=blind base; BC=blind corner; BD=base with drawers; C=corner. (BD)

The next two digits are the unit's width in inches. (18)

The next two digits are either the height of a wall cabinet or, in this case, the depth of a base cabinet. (24)

The last one or two characters identify anything nonstandard about the unit. D=diagonal corner unit; GD=glass doors; D3=three drawers. (D3)

An R or an L anywhere in the code would indicate the location of the door hinges.

So BBD1824D3 is a 3-drawer base cabinet measuring 18 inches wide, 34 1/2 inches high, and 24 inches deep.

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