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sail_away

No Upper Cabinets?

sail_away
7 years ago

Do you have few, or no, upper cabinets? I am thinking of doing that so I can have lots of windows and light on the sink wall of the kitchen. I plan on making up for the lost storage by having another wall with several full length pantry cabinets.


My question, though, is what do you do with your glasses and dishes? Do you find it just as convenient as putting them in an upper cabinet? And any pictures you might want to share would be a bonus! Thanks.

Comments (49)

  • funkycamper
    7 years ago

    No uppers, or very few, is becoming more common in kitchens. You can see a lot of them right here on Houzz or in some reveals here in GW Kitchens. I just removed all of mine although I do have one wall with some narrow open shelves. I love how much more spacious my small kitchen feels now. I keep my dishes and glasses in a lower cabinet drawer stack. Yes, very easy and convenient. Although some of that will depend on your layout and placement of sink/DW. If you would share a drawing of your layout with dimensions, you will get better and more specific feedback.

  • ediblekitchen
    7 years ago

    I love the look of no upper cabinets, or just a few., especially on an exterior wall. Interior walls are great for putting an expanse of floor to ceiling cabinets.

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  • huango
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I think I've posted my no uppers picture a million times.

    Be sure to bring your windows down to the countertop = love it!

    Amanda's no uppers


    I love glasses/dishes in drawers because my kids are short, and they unload the dishwashers.

    see this thread on glasses/dishes in drawers:

    dishes-and-glasses-in-drawers-pictures

  • sjhockeyfan325
    7 years ago

    I have upper cabinets, but I need them because I have a small kitchen. I would love to have no uppers for the looks. But I keep my dishes in drawers in the lower cabinets anyway - first, I'm relatively short, second, it's just convenient for everyone.

  • sail_away
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    Funkycamper, I have no plans to post at this time. I guess we are in the pre-planning stage? For a number of years we have discussed downsizing but weren't ready to act on it yet. Now we are the point where we either do so in the next two years or choose to stay where we are. There are advantages both ways. DH is inclined to drag his feet for a long time, but when an opportunity arises, he jumps in quickly. So I am trying to think about what I would like in a home and how we can achieve it. Otherwise, I'll just get swept along with DH when he's ready to make a move and might not have the opportunity to really think about things beforehand. I have some rough sketches detailing how I'd like to have the house, and particularly the kitchen, laid out, but that's it. There are too many variables right now to nail down a specific plan at this time. We may (1) purchase a lot and build, (2) find a fixer upper and renovate, or (3) stay where we are. We have made a decision that, if we are going to move out of this house, we will get started within the next two years. I am assuming that if we choose to move on we will, at the least, renovate the kitchen, so I'm thinking of what my priorities would be.

    Ediblekitchen, I, too love that look. Over ten years ago a friend renovated the large country kitchen in the house they had just built. She removed all upper cabinets, which I thought was sheer genius. I know I have to think practically first and whether a layout will work day-to-day, but we spend so much time in our kitchens that I think it's important to give attention to how it makes us feel as well. Open counters, a feeling of roominess, and lots of light sounds good to me. She now lives across the country from me, but I'll have to call her and ask how she organized her dishes, etc. I don't even know if she put them in drawers or in cabinets. (Off topic: This same friend chose at that time NOT to put in a dishwasher. Her reason was that she enjoyed having time in the evenings just to chat with her ten year-old daughter when one of them would wash and the other dry the dishes. She never regretted that decision, but her next home, when her daughter had graduated high school, did have a dishwasher.) Amanda, Thanks for the picture and the link. I love, love, love the look with the windows down to the counter and yours is particularly lovely. The link is interesting, but I didn't see any photos of glasses, which are one of my concerns.


    SJhockeyfan, I totally understand. I, too, need to keep my upper cabinets in my current kitchen. I had never thought of using all drawers for the base cabinets when I built my home, but some years ago I retrofitted my base cabinets with wooden pullouts and it has increased the efficiency and pleasure working in my kitchen so much!

    Does anyone have information or links about dividers or other inserts for drawers to keep dishes and glasses organized and safe? I'd love to see what people do with their glasses. Also, are larger drawers better than smaller for dishes? I was worried about the weight of putting my dishes in one large (i.e., 36") drawer and thought I should divide it into two 18" drawers. Obviously, one larger would be a more efficient use of space, but what about the stress it puts on the larger drawer?

    Thanks everyone for your help.


  • huango
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My glass drawer:

    - to maximize storage and for minimal movement, I use a liner and I alternate my pint glasses

    Amanda's glasses

    I don't use dividers for my dishes/glasses. They pretty much stay where I put them.

    My dish drawers are only 24" and I wish they were 30" or bigger.

    I think 36" would be great.

    Note: one GWebber did do 42" and she had weight problem, so her solution was to add a slimmer depth drawer on top of the current 42" drawer.

    a2gemini's broken 42" wide drawers

    a2gemini's fix for 42" wide drawer

  • sjhockeyfan325
    7 years ago

    I don't keep my glasses in drawers, but I can tell you that dividers are absolutely unnecessary for dishes. I do have all my dishes in one 35" drawer and it IS heavy -- we keep the large soup bowls in a different drawer because we don't use them often and are afraid they will stress the hardware. You do need the heavy duty glides for the dishes drawer, and remember to add the weight of the drawer to the weight of the dishes to figure out the maximum you can store.

  • rococogurl
    7 years ago

    No uppers. I do have plate racks. My glassware is stored in one of the pantry cupboards. As are dishes. The newest kitchen style is without uppers.


  • lisa_a
    7 years ago

    My currently-being-remodeled kitchen will have only 2 uppers: one between oven/MW column and tall cab, and one between fridge and window. The cook top wall won't have any uppers, only a hood. The latter was the best option because we didn't want to reduce the width of the existing window nor did we want to end up with a relatively narrow counter to the left of the cook top, which is what we would have ended up with if we'd centered the cook top and hood on that wall. We could have gone with a wide cab to the left and a narrow cab to the right of the hood but DH likes symmetry.

    Before I absolutely committed to this, though, I made sure that I had plenty of storage where I needed it. I pulled everything out of my cabs, noted their measurements and what
    should be grouped together and where and organized my cabs on paper. The glasses will go in the upper cab between window and fridge; dishware will be in a drawer in the island across the aisle. I don't think I could have managed with so few uppers without my walk-in pantry and additional cabinetry on the oven wall.

    No photos for you yet but look for my reveal thread in 5-6 weeks' time (kitchen will be done sooner but I want to get carpet replaced before I post pics).

  • funkycamper
    7 years ago

    My every day glasses are in a drawer with just a slightly-cushioned shelf-liner on the bottom of it. The drawer has good glides so they don't tip over. The shorter glasses are stacked. They don't move around at all. The drawer is next to the fridge for convenience, just a few steps from DW.


    My ever day dishes are just stacked in another drawer. I'll probably put some of the shelf-liner at the bottom of it eventually but it hasn't been a problem not having anything in there. The don't slide around or, if they do, it's minimal. Again, I think good, smooth drawer hardware is key. Drawer is next to sink and DW.


    Mugs, travel mugs, dessert plates, more bowls, and larger drinking containers with lids for smoothies and taking water for the day are in my beverage/snack center on a shelf.

    Take heed and follow Lisa_a's advice about measuring to ensure you have adequate and convenient storage before you've removed your uppers. Like Lisa, I couldn't have done it without my large laundry/pantry room and if I hadn't added a peninsula.

  • sail_away
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    Wow! Thanks everyone for being so helpful. I didn't realize I was following a trend that is now popular---I just started thinking what I would ideally like in a kitchen. Of course, I'm realistic enough to realize that would I might IDEALLY like and what will work out REALISTICALLY may not match exactly. We may even just stay where we are and I will need to keep my upper cabinets, which wouldn't be that bad. My current kitchen has some flaws, but I've learned to work around them and improve what I can.

    Amanda, Thanks again for the photo and links. I put my glasses in the cupboard exactly as you do. They also have larger rim than bottom, so it just seems more efficient (and more pleasing to the eye, too). I appreciate the warning message about overloading a large drawer and making sure to have the correct hardware to carry the load. I've saved those threads as PDF files on my computer so I will have easy access in the future. I also did some Google searches after my last post and found a number of older posts on Gardenweb about how and what to store in drawers. I also saved a number of those posts on my computer (PDF) for reference. I did find some helpful photos in those as well.

    SJhockey, Good to know that dividers are optional. I can see that adding up to a lot of money if they had to be used for each thing you're storing.

    Rococogurl, Do your pantry cabinets have pull outs? That would marry the convenience of drawers with maybe a little better height for dishes and glasses.

    Lisa-A, In my rough sketches I also have an upper cabinet between the oven-microwave cabinet and refrigerator. It just seems that it would balance things out. Other than that, the only cabinets above counter top level would be the full length pantry cabinets. I will look forward to seeing your reveal!


    Funkycamper, Thanks for the photos. Do you think the lining is important? Probably worth putting in just in case it helps. I will definitely get out the tape measure (and scales) when/if this goes forward. What size are your drawers? They seem to hold a lot, yet they look smaller than 36".


    Starcraft, I've never felt the need for soft close, but I can see where it would help under these circumstances. Maybe also consider a comparison of the added cost for the soft close versus the dividers. I had forgotten about that photo of the silverware drawer, but I totally love it! Must have to have custom cabinets, though, to get a top drawer that deep.

  • rmtdoug
    7 years ago

    StarCraft - We have always stored our silverware that way, but my wife always liked them on the counter in cups. When I had to replace our countertop on a temporary basis, I built this insert to tide us over until I remodel. There are eight bays at 45 degrees and the larger space at the bottom fits the knife block. It sort of works. Sometimes more than one piece of silverware comes out when you grab one. I think the angle really needs to be 60 degrees or more to keep the silverware in place.


  • funkycamper
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Edited to add: @rmtdoug - That is a beautiful temporary cabinet. And very clever utensil storage!

    I just use a regular utensil holder. It works fine for us. No need for a deep top drawer although that deep one is pretty cool.

    My drawers are only 21". They're not big enough to worry about the weight. The hardware (I have no idea the brand) slides nicely. I don't have soft-close. If I had kids, I can see where that might be a nice option so the don't slam the drawers closed.

    I don't think the drawer liner is mandatory but I do think it might keep things from sliding a bit. Since I store the glasses top down, I think it might protect the rims from chipping. It's just cheap stuff from The Dollar Store, cut to fit. It's not glued down or anything. Easy to take out and clean, if needed.In the 4-drawer, 21" wide stack I have (top to bottom):

    1. Eating utensils, serving pieces, and things like butter knives, cheese spreaders and such
    2. A 10 piece set of Corelle dinnerware (plates, salad plates, bowls) plus a few of the deeper bowls you saw in the photo
    3. Another set of daily dishes (the ones in the photo). 8 place settings of plates, salad plates and bowls plus a few more of those deeper bowls. The deep bowls stack too high to have in the same drawer.
    4. The bottom drawer is deeper and has some of my serving bowls, platters that go with the everyday dishes. Not my finer items which are in the dining room buffet along with the good china. And a few other odds and ends.

    Hope that helps!

  • Allison0704
    7 years ago

    I don't have any traditional uppers, but I do have a hutch that has an upper with 2 doors with a double plate rack in the center. I keep dishes in the cupboard next to fridge. It's as deep as fridge so it holds a lot. Mugs and various vintage pieces are kept in coffee station (another hutch) drawers. That hutch is between kitchen and laundry room.

    I have art on either side the range hood - Love. My kitchen


  • sail_away
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    Allison, Although you described it very well, your words still didn't do justice to your beautiful kitchen! It's a work of art, yet I suspect a very well functioning one as well. Love the hutch and the island---and everything else!

  • mushcreek
    7 years ago

    We don't have uppers in our nearly-finished kitchen. This a small-medium kitchen in a modest house. We have 32 drawers and a vertical 'drawer' for baking sheets. As you can see, there is only one wall that could have uppers. The only cabinets with doors are under the sinks. I used toe-kick drawers for more room, and built some drawer-within-a drawer to get more space for smaller items.




  • Allison0704
    7 years ago

    Thank you, Sail Away!

    Mushcreek, your kitchen is going to be wonderful. Love all the windows! Is the toe kick part of the drawer you show pulled out? I like that idea better than the normal, shallow toe kick drawers.


  • mushcreek
    7 years ago

    Yes, the toe kick is incorporated into all of the bottom drawers, making them 11" deep instead of 7". It leaves a shallower area in the front of the drawer, but I plan to put galley rails so small items can sit on top of the shallow area without falling into the deeper part. Everything we own fits in the bottom drawers except our KitchenAid mixer, and that is too heavy to move around, so we just leave it out.


  • rococogurl
    7 years ago

    Half pullout half stationery shelves in the pantry cab. Top 2 are fixed, bottom 2 pull out. But if I did it again is have all pull outs. I put grippy ikea liner in there and nothing moves

  • sail_away
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Mushcat, As you know, I love your kitchen. I have just one quick question. What is the depth of the drawer within a drawer---I'm talking about the drawer you added on top, if that makes sense?

    Rococogurl, Don't you love those pull-out pantry shelves? I have one full length pantry. It is designed with a small cabinet with door on top and then four pull-outs in the main tall area of the pantry. After living here awhile, we actually ordered two more pull-out shelves and installed them in the pantry cabinet. It seemed that there was a lot of wasted space in the pantry, since not everything I store in there is tall and fills the space between the pull-outs. Since adding a couple more pull-out shelves, I love the pantry cabinet even more!

    If I remember correctly, the following link is where we got the extra pull-out shelves. We also bought some for our two base cabinets that install directly on the shelf, and that has maximized our use of that space as well. If you still wish your top two shelves were pull-outs, you could retrofit them.

    Click here to see where I think we got our pull-out shelves

  • mushcreek
    7 years ago

    The double drawers are built on the same 7" drawers that I have 16 of. Without the double drawer, it is 7" deep; with the double, each half is about 3" deep. I used full extension slides on the drawer and the inner drawer, so with the main drawer fully out, you can push the inner drawer all the way back for full access to the underneath. They work well, but I need to add rubber bumpers to the back of the inner drawers, as the bang when you go to close them. You do lose 2-1/2" of width on the inner drawer.


  • rococogurl
    7 years ago

    That's a great source sail_away. I will bookmark it! Thanks so much.


  • sail_away
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    Thank you, Mushcreek for providing that information. You are always so helpful in providing the extra details that are useful, even if I didn't specifically ask (i.e., needing to add rubber bumpers).

  • greasetrap
    7 years ago

    Most of our cabinets are going around windows, so we only have room for 2 upper cabinets in our renovation. I've never been completely happy about this, as bending over seems to be more difficult the older I get. I hadn't run across the drawer idea before and it's too late to change our cabinet order. I did specify roll-out shelves in 3 of our cabinets though, to make it easier to get at heavy things. Would it make sense to ask for more roll-out shelves?

  • sail_away
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    Greasetap, There are others more knowledgeable than I am about kitchen design, but I can say that we eventually placed roll-outs in ALL of our base cabinets and I love it! You do lose a bit of the width of the cabinet, but that is more than compensated by the ease of accessing things in your base cabinets and also the fact that the cabinets are better organized with the roll-outs. I don't know what the up-charge is for ordering them with your cabinets. If the price is too much, you could do what we did and add them yourself later. But if you have the budget to allow getting more roll-outs now, I personally would do so.

  • mabeldingeldine
    7 years ago

    I just ordered cabinets for a kitchen reno. We will have only one upper cabinet as part of a pantry cabinet set-up. I am using ROTs and drawers in every cabinet except the corner cabinet. I found HomeChef's recent thread about her Scherr's cabinets very reassuring that I will have enough storage.HomeChefs drawer reveal ;)

  • funkycamper
    7 years ago

    Even better than roll-outs is all drawers. They hold more than roll-outs. I know it doesn't make sense that they do because they fill the same space but you can really do help you organize better and they are even more accessible than roll-outs. Of course, drawers are also more expensive. Unless your budget just really can't handle the extra cost of drawers, use them instead of roll-outs.

  • mabeldingeldine
    7 years ago

    In this instance, I followed form over function, and picked ROTs so that I would have a uniform row of cabinets along the most visible wall of the kitchen. I will have drawers in the island. I'm going for a modern vibe on the cheap.

  • cpartist
    7 years ago

    My only concern about all drawers over upper cabinets is for those of us who are um getting on in years. I wonder about the ease of bending over all the time especially into the lower drawers. Now granted anything past the first shelf on the upper cabinets isn't easy for a short person like myself either, but what's the thoughts on that?

  • Suzi AKA DesertDance So CA Zone 9b
    7 years ago

    We bought this house with views. Too many windows. The view out the kitchen is less than spectacular (faces the road and the neighbor across the street's bad landscaping), and we had no place for upper cabinets. The lowers have soft close drawers, but I really wish one entire end didn't have so many windows. I store the stuff that would have been in the uppers in the old cabinets we put in the garage kept from the reno.


  • oasisowner
    7 years ago

    I like the look of no uppers, but don't know if I would like the function; as I get older I find it harder to bend down than to reach up.

  • funkycamper
    7 years ago

    I figure the more you bend, the longer you will be able to bend. Or squat. Of course, a back injury is a different issue than simply not being active enough. Anyway, whenever I get something out of a lower drawer, I practice a squat or two. It is actually more back healthy, too.

  • amg765
    7 years ago

    Barring specific injuries it's much more ergonomic to pick up something heavy-ish from a drawer (squatting, not bending) than to pull it out of a cabinet above shoulder level. And yes, everything that funkycamper said. (Don't even get me started on comfort height toilets...)

    I would do no uppers if I could but due to space I have to have two.

  • sjhockeyfan325
    7 years ago

    My back and legs are a lot stronger than my shoulders, so I vote for drawers over uppers!

  • lisa_a
    7 years ago

    What sjhockeyfan wrote. The other concern about uppers is that our ability to maintain our balance generally decreases as we age. Climbing on a step stool to reach something up high in an upper cabinet could lead to a fall.

  • mushcreek
    7 years ago

    My mother is 89, and uses a walker to get around. She gave up putting anything in the uppers years ago. She doesn't seem to have trouble getting to things down below. They do have some nice pull-down mechanisms now, though. I watched This Old House where they were building homes for injured Veterans, and a guy in a wheelchair could access the stuff in the uppers with such a system in place.


  • K C !
    6 years ago

    Funkycamper, I'm laughing because I do squats when getting stuff in lower cabinets, too! And static squats when I'm filling water tanks or something at the fridge. My husband looks at me like I'm nuts. I'm all for keeping bendy.

    Our kitchen will only have two upper cabinets flanking a fridge (the ones that sit on the counter), along with a pantry wall. The range/sink wall will have two windows and no uppers. I'm very excited to open it up!

  • lisa_a
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I priced those out, mushcreek. Talk about your sticker shock! But if one had no other options, then it's definitely worth doing but I decided to pass.

    Love your kitchen, btw. Can't wait to see your reveal.

  • PRO
    Lars/J. Robert Scott
    6 years ago

    I would never want to get dishes out of a lower drawer - I hate lower cabinets, even if they have drawers, and I would never give up upper cabinets, even though they are dangerous during earthquakes (unless they have childproof locks). I do not mind getting on a stool/stair to reach the very top of my upper cabinets, but I seriously do mind getting near the floor to get something from the bottom drawers. I only put things in lower cabinets that I do not use very much, and I would never consider buying a house without upper kitchen cabinets.

    I care more about storage than I do about sight lines in the kitchen. I'm very focused when I am cooking, and I do not need distractions from other rooms. I also like to keep smells and odors contained within the kitchen and not have them travel to other rooms, especially when I cook on the grill and set off the smoke alarms. If I had doors to my kitchen, I would close them. I had pocket doors to my kitchen in Venice, and that was perfect because I could close it off when I wanted to. I hate kitchens that invade living rooms - I like separation.

  • artemis_ma
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    For me, I am tall and I have a bad back. I absolutely LOATHE the cabinets in my current home because I only have one decent-sized upper cabinet. For ergonomic reasons alone, my future home will have lots of decent upper cabinets, and I will make sure there is enough outside light from one direction to keep me happy that way. (As for the people exercising by doing squats to reach stuff in lower cabinets -- I have a seriously bum knee that will NEVER again squat!) PS; all those awful lower cabinets (in my back-breaking opinion) will have roll outs, unlike my current home. These spaces will hold both seldom-used, as well as oversized objects.

  • greasetrap
    6 years ago

    I think funkycamper makes a very good point. As much as I dislike bending over as I get older, the more I need to do it and learn proper technique. My wife always squats when she gets things from the lower cabinets, while I just bend over - which probably will lead to a back injury at some point.

  • artemis_ma
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    greasetrap, my bad back has nothing to do with not squatting or my bum knee. Um, the knee and not-squatting has everything to do with helping friends move -- and when the big macho males didn't show up, I helped lug the dryer and washer out to the pickup truck. Unfortunately, being taller than the guy moving (thus my being the person going down the steps first, and backwards), who was on the other end of the washer, I backed up into the bed of the pickup truck full pace... I am glad I didn't drop the thing!!! (Both of our feet could have been crushed.) I chipped the knee - top of tibia, actually, (and walked around for three or four days before deciding something was REALLY wrong), and it has never healed up properly. Just thought you might need some clarification here before you assume anything about squatting, who can, who cannot, and etc.

  • Suzi AKA DesertDance So CA Zone 9b
    6 years ago

    I like balance in all things. Sorry about your bad back. That makes it really tough on you. I personally have both drawers in the bottom (which I love), and upper cabinets which I also love. Balance, baby!


  • greasetrap
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Artemis, I wasn't addressing anyone specifically when I made my comments. I was just saying that, many people (myself included) try to avoid squatting as we get older, but in fact what we need is to squat more and improve our technique to protect our backs. My grandfather spent the last few years of his life bent over, because he wouldn't exercise those muscles that needed strengthening.

    If you'll notice, I had made an earlier comment that I wasn't completely happy that I'll need to bend over more with our new kitchen layout. My second comment was just acknowledging funkycamper's point that bending over more may be just what I need as I age. I certainly recognize that this doesn't apply to every situation though. I hope your knee improves.

  • cpartist
    6 years ago

    greasetrap from experience, definitely learn to squat over bending over. that's how I wound up with a herniated disc and to tell the truth, I'd rather go through childbirth again than be in the pain I was in with the herniated disc.

  • greasetrap
    6 years ago

    Cpartist, I totally agree. I spent 3 months getting physical therapy after injuring a disc while trying to move an elliptical machine in the basement. It wasn't a fun experience. Which may be why our new lower cabinets may be good for me - even though I'll hate them.

  • funkycamper
    6 years ago

    I could barely walk for almost a year due to a back injury. Yup, the year from Hell. Squats, flexibility, and other exercises to keep the core and pelvic girdle strong are important for everybody. I never want to have mobility issues again and will do what I can to maintain full movement until they carry me out of my house in a box. Hopefully just after I've finished a delicious meal and dessert I've prepared in my great GW-designed kitchen! :)

  • lisa_a
    6 years ago

    I'm taking Pilates classes to improve core strength, flexibility and balance (I have an inner ear disease, balance is a biggie for me, hence my preference for drawers over upper cabs). I have the same hope as you, fc; I hope to stay put in this house until I absolutely have to move. Like the image of that happening after a good meal. =)

    Sorry to hear so many of you have had back issues.