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Kitchen Island Design - Drawers vs. Cabinets

momof4
last month
last modified: last month

We are in the design stage of remodeling our kitchen. The current kitchen does not have an island, but we will be adding one. We are debating whether to design the island with deep drawers or traditional cabinets (with traditional drawers above) or a combination. As designed without the island, the kitchen has one lower cabinet (part of a new appliance pantry).


Any feedback on the pros / cons of drawers vs. cabinets would be appreciated. Even better, please share your kitchen islands & what you love and/or hate about them.


Photo just as example. Our island will likely be 4' x 7' or 4' x 8'. Our island will not have a sink, microwave or any other built-in appliance.


Thank you!



Comments (36)

  • PRO
    BeverlyFLADeziner
    last month

    All my base cabinets are drawers. I am no longer willing to get on my knees to get something out of a cabinet, and having doors with slide-out shelves behind them are two actions instead of one and not worth the effort.

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  • momof4
    Original Author
    last month

    @BeverlyFLADeziner One concern I have about the drawers is taller appliances or kitchen items not fitting. Have you had that problem?

  • momof4
    Original Author
    last month

    @houssaon I am going back and forth on pull out drawers inside cabinets (which provides more flexibility if I have tall items) vs. drawers (my only concern is perhaps taller appliances not fitting.

  • anj_p
    last month

    Drawers. If you have a concern about tall drawer sides, get shorter drawer sides. If you have a concern about taller appliances - you should already be mapping out what you want to store and where, so you can designate appropriate drawer heights. I have pullouts and find them annoying (no option for drawers with my builder).

  • decoenthusiaste
    last month

    For more accessible storage you want drawers. Here's why...


  • Moore4
    last month

    Drawers, drawers, drawers. Every single time.

  • sushipup2
    last month

    Drawers. And not pullouts, either. Real drawers.

  • atananbaum
    last month

    We did mostly drawers, for all the reasons stated, but added one cabinet in the middle to break up the look as well as to accommodate taller items for storage,

  • chispa
    last month

    Drawers! No pullouts.

    What taller appliances are you worried about? Measure them and design a spot for them.

    The only thing I have that is tall is my heavy manual citrus juicer. I store it in my pantry ... but what I should have done was dumped it when we sold the house that had orange and lemon trees in the yard and moved to another state!

  • Kay P
    last month

    I prefer the drawers For tall items eig kitchen aid mixer we installed a pantry with pull out shelf’s

  • kchamousis
    last month

    Drawers!!! I had all pullouts in my old kitchen and the drawers in our new kitchen are just so much easier to use! It took me a while to figure out how best to put things away in them, but it's a choice that I'm 100% happy with. My taller appliances are in my pantry; our cabinet maker spaced the pullouts inside it so that I had one taller location on the bottom and it works out great. You can see EVERYTHING in your drawers. I have lots in the back of my drawers, but now I use those things as I know they are there. I don't think you would regret the decision.

  • judeslou
    last month

    We just replaced doors with drawers and I will never go back!

  • Buehl
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Drawers vs ROTS

    There quite a few threads out there discussing drawers vs roll-out tray shelves (ROTS,).

    Drawers for the vast majority of uses.


    Opening/Closing...Drawers require one movement to open/close

    • Open: pull open
    • Close: push closed.


    ROTS, on the other hand, require 2 or 3 motions plus waiting...

    • Open: move out of the way of the doors, open 1 or 2 doors, pull out ROTS
    • Close: push in ROTS, wait for it to close fully (so you don't ding the doors), close 1 or 2 doors


    Storage/sides...

    • Drawers have sides the height of the drawer opening. This prevents things from falling off the sides, either onto the floor or into the interior of the cabinet (on the sides). This means you can stack things w/o worrying about things falling as the sides will catch them. It also keeps things from extending out past the walls of the drawer so they don't get caught on the cabinet frame when opening the drawer (Note: Getting caught on the frame is not an issue w/frameless cabinets, just framed...which includes overlay & inset.)
    • ROTS have shallow sides, thus allowing things to fall off the sides and allowing things to hang over the sides of the shelf and get caught on the cabinet frame (which can result in nicks in your frame - experience speaking here!).


    Access...With drawers, you only have to open them far enough to get what you want. With ROTS, the doors almost always have to be opened all the way to get to even the contents in the front of the ROTS.


    Adjustability...

    Drawers are not adjustable to different heights inside the cabinet. OK, this is the one place where ROTS have the advantage. However, with planning and/or organizers you can do almost anything with them and store almost anything in them (dishes, glasses, etc.) ROTS have the advantage here in most cases. Most ROTS are adjustable, but not all are, so check w/your cabinetmaker.


    Cost...Drawers, in my case were less expensive than ROTS. I have a 27" 3-drawer base and a 27" ROTS base cabinet (the only ROTS cab I have and that I regret) and the ROTS cab cost $140 more than the drawer base.



    Other comments...

    • Regardless of your decision on drawers vs ROTS, get full-extension...it's a must b/c it allows you full access to your drawers or ROTS!
    • Soft-close is also nice, but it's a "nice to have" not a "must" (although, soft-close does come standard in some cabinet lines like Omega Pinnacle & Dynasty as well as IKEA). Actually, I'm not sure I would recommend soft-close for ROTS b/c the slight delay in closing (as the drawer/tray is gently closed) means having to wait to close the door(s). [Experience speaking here again!]
    • I store just about any type of item you can think of in drawers...utensils, pots/pans, toaster, mixers, food processor, wraps & baggies, foils, extension cords & other electrical-related items, bread, linens, Tupperware, mixing bowls, tableware, junk (we all have a junk drawer somewhere!), cookie cutters/rolling pin/sifter, candles and other misc stuff... The list goes on!


    Corner Susans (if you have a corner) make great small appliance or pot & pan storage. They have "taller" storage space and everything is always in front for putting away or taking out (just rotate until the item is in front!).


    BTW...the only cabinet I regret getting is my Pet Center cabinet with ROTS...it's a pain and would have been much better if it had been a "trash pullout" type cabinet.


    The key to all of this is PLANNING your storage ahead of time. See the Kitchens Forum FAQ:


    As I mentioned before, drawers are the most useful for most storage needs. Note that you do not have to take the "standard" 3-drawer stack...you can also get a 2-drawer stack (taller storage) or a 4-drawer stack or perhaps even a 5-drawer stack for "shorter" storage such as foils, plastic bags, etc. (Check with your Kitchen Designer or cabinet salesperson to determine your options)

  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month

    @chispa - I gave my big juicer away when I moved from CA to PA. I have just a manual 1 cup juicer now. I do miss my oranges and lemons and grapefruit and tangerines!


  • momof4
    Original Author
    last month

    @atananbaum That looks really nice, thank you for the photo!

  • momof4
    Original Author
    last month

    @chispa I'm worried about things like tea pitchers, Kitchenaid Mixer, pancake grill, crockpots. We don't have a walk in pantry ( just a smaller 36" cabinet pantry) so I'm unable to store them in there. Might be adding an appliance pantry but would like flexibility in where to store things and how to use each cabinet.

  • momof4
    Original Author
    last month

    @kchamousis One thing I'm worried about are things sliding around. Visually, I like everything to be in its exact place. Do things roll / move / fall over as you pull out the drawers?

  • momof4
    Original Author
    last month

    @atananbaum Thank you so much, this was very helpful information!

  • mainenell
    last month

    In a previous kitchen I installed a double tier rev-a-shelf pullout with the bottom rollout attached to the door. I LOVED this set up because I had the height adjustability for tall things. Basically a drawer on the bottom and a roll out on top that the height could be adjusted on.

  • mcarroll16
    last month

    It's really smart that you are thinking through individual items right now. It's going to help you have a great kitchen! Some thoughts on storing the items you listed. Pitchers seem better placed in drawers to me. Drawers would allow you to use dividers or pegs in that keep each pitchen in place, so they don't bang into other things and break. Slightly different point for your pancake griddle. I would want to store my griddle vertically with some sort of tray divider, so it takes up the minimum space and doesn't get things stacked on top of it. A drawer lets you do that (or think about whether it would fit in a divided tray cabinet with your sheet pans). Stand mixer--do you really want to lift this in and out of a drawer or rollout? If so, plan really carefully for this one. You might need that drawer or rollout to have upgraded runners and drawer/runner bottom to handle the weight.

  • nycbluedevil_gw
    last month

    Gosh, I really can’t stand rollouts for the reason stated above. One of the worst aspects is that you are guaranteed to gouge your new cabinet door with the corner of the tray. And things falling over the sides is second. I was so happy to get rid of the rollouts when i redid my kitchen. i have just one lower cabinet—for trays. Maybe I missed it above but do you have a corner? If so, maybe a super susan or some other contraption for a corner cabinet could store the items you are worried about. Also, do you have some other nearby storage such as a laundry room where you could store some of those items?

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting
    last month

    IMO drawers whereever you can and I love a true pullot pantry or two for food and all small appliances that do not fit in a drawer. No rollouts ever and just for us could you show us your kitchen layout. I am always interested in designs thta never had an isalnd and how the designer mananged to put one in that large. I store my mixer on my counter I really don't like the cabinet mixer stands that pull up and the mixer can be a pretty color for an accent. FYI my toaster, waffle maker and rice cooker are in a drawer we use them alot. BTW when I design a kitchen there are two things I start with all the appliances and all the storage needs and cabinets salespeople are not kitchen designers . Get an independant KD who works for you not on commission for a cabinet company. That is why I would love to see the plan. BTW now I aslo want the appliances to be delivered and sitting in the garage since delivery and availability are still huge issues

  • kchamousis
    last month

    Momof4…I bought a shelf liner from Costco that does a pretty good job of keeping things where they should be. I also found some 1/2” deep drawer dividers that I really like so that gives things their own space. I wanted things to stay where they were put! I only have a small pantry area also, but my cabinet guy assured me that the lower drawers inside it would hold a good amount of weight. I’ve had no problem with them at all. I had to plan out what went where and I had to replan a couple drawers but in the end I’m really pleased with the choice and wouldn’t go back on it. Oh I also have a lot of clear rectangular holders inside my pantry. Gives me a way to give things their own space.

  • dan1888
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Tea pitchers and a kitchenaid mixer can each be stored on its side. The mixer is 9" with the bowl when on its side. Another option is a two drawer cabinet with one drawer large enough in height to store pitchers and the mixer upright. And make all the drawers at least 36" or 42" and even 48" wide when possible. The interior usable dimension is up to 4" less.

    In an island you can get deeper drawers. Blum has a 30" slide set with soft close. 150lb. capacity. https://www.woodworkerexpress.com/blum-30in-tandem-plus-blumotion-569-hd-full-ext-drawer-slide-5-8-drawer.html

  • Helen
    last month

    I have a mixture of both drawers and pullouts behind doors.


    I think it really depends on what you are storing and how often you access the contents.


    For pots and cookware and storage containers, nothing beats drawers.


    I don't find it inconvenient to access my roll out stuff because it is either food or items that I am not using that frequently so it is no big deal to open the door and access something on the roll out.


    Also it is actually easier to find things (or some things) with a roll out because you can visually spot things from the side versus only from the top. When I was configuring the interiors of my cabinets I was given a lot of options in terms of how high the sides of the roll outs would be as well as the materials used for the sides as one option was plexiglass so items would be more visible.


    Think about what you are storing. It is hugely convenient to access cookware and plastic containers and my salad bowl with one flick of a finger in a drawer. It is fine that my pantry items, my ice tea maker and other stuff needs to be accessed with two motions - open door and either pull out rollout or take something which is visible without rolling out.

  • vinmarks
    last month

    I've got all drawers except sink bases. Would never have it any other way.

  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month

    Just sharing a few thoughts.


    My last kitchen had one flaw, the refrigerator should have been moved to where the pantry was located and additional cabinets/counter added to the back wall, but even as is, it was a great kitchen to work in. You could have 5 people in the kitchen working and not run over each other.


    It was not huge, but it had an 8'x3' peninsula that was open to the family room.


    My sister has a much larger kitchen than my last kitchen, and it has an 8'x4' island, but when we have 5 people working in the kitchen you are constantly having to get by someone and the work triangle is broken by the island. Don't get me wrong - it is a nice kitchen, but even my sister says if she was building again she would rethink the large central island.


    Not a perfect diagram, but close:



    The 6' area between the counters really made a huge difference (I think my sister has 48", but it could be 42 - I would need to measure to be sure.


    I also loved that the little kids could be on one of the stools working from the opposite side of the counter without being in the kitchen.


    I don't have a full kitchen view of my sister's kitchen.


    One thing my sister has that I think is genius is a pass through appliance garage between the pantry and the kitchen. The backsplash on the one area of her kitchen is actually hidden doors. The counter top goes through and into the pantry.


    I do have pictures of this:






  • anj_p
    last month

    I honestly can't conceive of a scenario where I would say "Shoot, I wish I had spec'd ROTS instead of these drawers." I don't see the benefit of low sides when we're talking about base cabinet ROTS. I have them - I still look at everything from the top. Maybe if the cabinet was only 12" wide or something it might be harder to pull stuff up but mine are all 36". I've had them for only a few months and have banged the inside of my cabinet doors multiple times. We have knotty alder, too, so every ding shows. Thankfully I have pared down my kitchen significantly, only keeping the things I use (2 SS saute pans, a stock pot, 3 cast-iron skillets, a dutch oven, a 2 qt pot, a pasta pot, a wok, and 3 nonstick pans) so I'm not rummaging through piles of stuff to get what I need.

    I have my storage containers on one rollout and despise it. It's better than a cabinet but OMG would it be so much better in a drawer.

    I wouldn't put a kitchenaid mixer in a base cabinet or base drawer regardless so that's a moot point. Mine lives in the pantry. You could easily design your pantry to hold items like this. Look up larder pantries.

    Pitchers seem better suited in upper cabinets to me, unless you are making tea on a daily basis I suppose. I have that stuff in my top cabinets requiring a step ladder to reach.

    Crock pot is in the cabinet above the fridge. I suppose it could go in a drawer as well, but I don't see a difference with storing that appliance in a drawer vs ro.

    ROTS are better than fixed shelves. But otherwise....

    Drawers all day. Easy question.

  • PRO
    Kristin Petro Interiors, Inc.
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I design with both drawers and ROTs in base cabinets. I include ROTs almost exclusively in full-height door cabinets and they are included specifically for small appliances or heavy bowls. I believe that heavier appliances like crockpots and mixers are easier to maneuver out of a pulled out shallow ROT and there is less risk of damage to a drawer front from moving these appliances in and out. It's easier to view and sort stacked items in a shallow ROT. I like that you can adjust the height to your specific storage needs to maximize the capacity of the cabinet. I also think aesthetically it looks better to break up some of the drawer fronts with full-height cabinet doors.

    Massive Modern Island · More Info


  • amateurdeziner
    last month

    I have all drawers except for the sink cabinet. Drawers provide quite a bit of storage. In one drawer I have a 6 quart crockpot, a blender, a toaster, a hand mixer, and a cookbook.
    I remodeled my kitchen when I was in my 50’s…I am now in my late 60’s. I love not having to bend over to retrieve or search for something.
    I don’t think you’ll regret having drawers.

  • PRO
    Diana Bier Interiors, LLC
    last month

    It all depends on what you have to store. When I redid my kitchen a few years ago, I took stock of everything I had and decided where to store it for ease of access. I have mostly drawers, and especially love the 36" wide drawers below my rangetop for pots, pans and lids. Lemans units in two corners, which I much prefer to lazy susans. Narrow tall units for storing baking pans, cookie sheets and cutting boards. I do have two ROTS (out of 10 lower cabinets) for seldom used items, since I wanted to vary the look a bit. Just got a Kitchenaid stand mixer that stays on the counter top. That thing is so heavy if I put it in a pantry or cabinet I'd probably never use it! But I have a very large kitchen with a lot of counter space. I also have a tall cabinet over my ovens that stores small appliances like juicer, blender, scale, popcorn popper, and other items I use only occasionally like large roasting pans.

    The key takeaway is what you are doing--thinking of this ahead of time and really planning it out before you order the cabinets.

  • vinmarks
    last month

    @Jennifer Hogan a large central island can work very well if the kitchen is designed correctly. Your sisters was not.

  • kchamousis
    last month

    Momof4 … I use a lot of these dividers and plastic trays like in the pictures in my drawers and pantry. They help give everything a place and help keep things where I want them. I am far more organized that way. I will say though that it was a challenge to find them with Covid shortages going on. So if u want to use things like this don’t wait til your kitchen is all finished or you’ll make 20 trips to the store like I did. The really nice thing about drawers is you now can use the things in the back!! I rarely did when they were in pull outs. Now the whole space is usable and once u get things where u want, it’s far more practical.

  • kandrewspa
    last month

    I moved to a house two years ago with an older kitchen full of pull-out shelves. Every one of the cabinet doors has been damaged on the interior by hitting the edge of the pull-outs. The previous owner actually afixed metal to the inside of some of the doors to stop the damage. Before I remodel this kitchen I am going think about everything I have and the best way and location to store it. It's time consuming, but I don't see how else you can end up with your perfect kitchen. Of course my perfect kitchen is not necessarily someone else's perfect kitchen. And we can't all achieve perfection as there are physical limitations. :-)

  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month
    last modified: last month

    @vinmarks - I wasn't saying they can't work, I was pointing out the difference of having a really wide aisle or open space vs the more narrow aisle when you have a central island. Just food for thought for someone designing their kitchen.

    From my point of view, coming from a large family and often cooking/canning/baking with 4 or 5 other women, the 4' aisle is problematic. It is even more problematic when they are aging and some may use walkers or canes. The 6' space between counters works better, but to have that with a central island requires a massive amount of space. I personally prefer a perimeter island or peninsula.

    I would be interested in knowing how you would have designed the kitchen with a central island and not have the restricted aisle size.