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21-22" countertops?

I have a weird old house with a kind of awkward kitchen layout (house was built in 1940, but kitchen was expanded and remodeled oddly in the 80s.) I would like to redo the kitchen in a few years, and I am actually looking at using Ikea chests of drawers as base cabinets (instead of their kitchen cabinets. I just prefer drawers down below, and I don't actually like ikea cabinet front options much.)Also there is an area where the run of 1980s cabinets is too wide for the wall and overlaps the door frame.

The problem is that the set of drawers I like (Hemnes) is only about 19.5" deep. Putting a counter on top with an overhang, I would end up with counters only about 21" deep. Do you think this is too shallow of a countertop to be workable?

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  1. i think it would look a little stunted. do you have uppers? also, what appliances do you have? how would they look with these lowers? most appliances are at least 24 inches deep. you know that ikea does have drawer options on their lower cabs, and that they are having their kitchen sale right now....you can also get other vendors to do the fronts for the ikea cabs. just a thought.

    2 Replies
    1. re: eLizard

      Yes, I am aware that Ikea has drawer units, but as I said, I do not like their fronts. Also their kitchen drawer units are expensive compared to the cabs, and very limited in sizes offered. I have played with the Ikea kitchen planner and the drawers don't fit into our kitchen very well. I also prefer the unfitted look to the built-in look.

      The only appliance that might be an issue is the range. I would probably do some kind of bump out right around the range, for that very reason. I will not have upper cabs in most of the kitchen, though one particular wall might accommodate some.

      Another reason I like the Hemnes is because it looks a lot like the house's original cabinetry.

      1. re: reptilegrrl

        i know you said you don't like the fronts. which is why i suggested that you can get fronts elsewhere. if size and configuration is a problem, that's a different issue. as for fitted versus unfitted, there are many options with respect to feet versus toe kicks that will make things look like furniture. but it sounds like you're sold on the hemnes. if you're good with a jutting range, no uppers, and short drawers as well as a kitchen that might look a little under scale, go for it.

    2. You have 2 options, you've identified one. Option 2 is to install blocking behind the cabinets to extend the depth of the cabinets to match a 24" counter. Whichever you choose depends on your desired look/cost.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ferret

        or three, get the drawer bases from ikea, and get a vendor to do fronts he likes.

        1. re: ferret

          ferret: this is the option that i chose when i redid my kitchen, years ago.
          gotta say that, looking back, i'm not too happy with the choice i made.
          when i consider how much of the floor space is taken up by the "dummy" blocking (which is a COMPLETE waste of the valuable/precious floor space), i am sorry i made the decision i did.
          should have had the boxes built to use ALL the space and simply use the doors/drawer fronts that i liked.
          this was the first time i ever rehabbed a kitchen and i guess a wrong decision like this qualifies as "the learning process." at least, visually, the kitchen looks good, but .. . .

          1. re: ferret

            I definitely don't want to move the cabs forward and have wasted space behind them. If that was an issue I might actually just take the backs off and make custom, deeper drawers.

            One reason I like the Hemnes drawers, I forgot to add, is that they looks a lot like the home's original cabinetry.

          2. So much depends on your layout and what other space is available. Appliances, such as the fridge and range could look a bit odd and under cabinet appliances like a dishwasher might have a space issue with only 19.5" depth, you would have to check the specifications of the appliance of your choice. I know there is room behind my dishwasher, but not sure just exactly how much and not all may be the same depth. If you block out, as ferret suggested you solve the appliance issue and the counter depth issue, but you will give up some floor space as mentioned by westside, but not all that much. I'd be more conderned about loosing the additional 2.5-3" of cabinet or drawer space. Most drawers are not full depth anyway and when you start making them shorter by another 3" or so, you are loosing a lot of potential storage. If you don't have an island or other area for rolling that is more than 21" deep, you may wish you had that other 3" of countertop.

            I think the suggestions about using a full depth cabinet with drawers and contract a cabinet maker for the fronts may be the best bet to get style and function.

            4 Replies
            1. re: mikie

              Less depth in the drawers is a concern, but upon consideration, drawers are so much more efficient in terms of storage space access that I don't think the 2-3 inches of space is much of a trade-off. So my main concern is the counter space.

              The plan does include an island, either a modified dresser/buffet or a stainless work table.

              I don't like Ikea's base cabs, I prefer the unfitted look.

              1. re: reptilegrrl

                One more option that comes to mind. We have "pull outs" behind cabinet doors. These are drawer boxes without the fancy fronts that are mounted on full extension ball bearing slides. I had some made for my daughter and the custom cabinet maker charged me $125 for 5 five good sized pull outs including the ball bearing slides (no installation charge). These are far more efficient than deep cabinets with shelves. Naturally, this will only work if you like the base cabenets with doors from Ikea. It could be less expensive than what you are currently considering. We have two cabinets, tall cabinets, with the pull outs in them, you loose very little space, depending on what type of door hinges and cabinet construction is used. I had a picture on my cell, but deleated it just a few days ago, sorry.

                1. re: mikie

                  If I were to buy base cabs from Ikea, why would I get pull-outs instead of just getting drawers? I cannot imagine it would be significantly less expensive.

                  1. re: reptilegrrl

                    i think it's just a different look is all. i have pullouts in some cabs with door fronts. and drawers in others. he's just giving you another option if you like drawers.

            2. I should add that a)there will be budget constraints, b)Yes I know Ikea makes base drawers, but I prefer the unfitted look, and c)this isn't meant to be my "dream kitchen", but one that is functional (hence my preference for drawers) and looks cute as well as somewhat true to the home's history.

              This is our starter home, and in maybe 3-5 years (whenever the next housing slump comes along) we plan to buy another one and use this one as a rental property.

              1. I've read the posts with interest and note that you prefer the 'unfitted' look for your kitchen. Have you given thought to having an actual unfitted kitchen? There is no law stating that counters et al must be built-in. An Irish dresser or two (depending on size) and something usable for counter space might fit the bill for you. Adding shelving units such as bookcases, if necessary, could be repurposed later on when you move to your more permanent house. Currently, in my office I have a farmhouse table for my desk but in previous iterrations, it has been my main kitchen counter.

                Today, I have mostly drawers for storage in the (fitted) kitchen. I prefer them to cupboards where I must scrounge. When we were building this house, one of the cabinetmakers refused to make the kitchen design I wanted saying "It will look like bedroom dresser drawers", this in reference to a 12 ft long peninsula with drawers underneath. Someone else with more vision made this and I have loved it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Sherri

                  Well, an unfitted kitchen is basically what I am thinking of doing with the Hemnes pieces. If you mean buying actual unfitted kitchen furnishings, I am in the US and the very few companies making these are custom cabinetmakers and their cabinets are VERY expensive. Outside of my budget for sure.

                  The bizarre configuration of the kitchen (I want to at some point pull the original plans for our house if I can, because I just can't figure out how these rooms happened!) makes an Irish dresser unlikely, though there are a few places I could add shelving if necessary. To further complicate things, the washer and dryer are in the kitchen as well.

                  If Ikea was still making the old Varde unfitted kitchen set I would just buy that, because I think it's very functional and perfectly good for a rental. Unfortunately they have discontinued most of those pieces.

                  This is the very best layout I've come up with using Ikea's kitchen planner. Getting this layout involves removing a partial wall (non-load-bearing, but remaining from before kitchen was expanded) and some walls that were at some point framed in around the water heater (I don't know why, because it was in almost the same place before.)

                  At the bottom of the photo is the doorway into the kitchen from the dining room. No door. Top, is a doorway with door. This used to be the back door of the house, now it leads to an addition. Clockwise from there are doors to an office and door to a pantry (original to house.)

                  Not apparent in diagram is that the windows on left side are of uneven heights. Also, on left side, near door, cabinets need to be deeper than Ikea's option of 12", but not a full 25" because that overlaps the door frame (which is what the current cabinets do and it looks sloppy and ugly.)

                  You see what I'm up against? Heh. This layout would involve moving gas and water lines and drains.

                2. My advice would be to look at a local cabinet shop for their 'builder's grade' factory made cabinets. This would cost less than Ikea, and they'd be real cabinets, not RTA kits.

                  A cabinet shop can do the unfitted look for you, the deep drawers, the correct depth. There are many affordable cabinet lines that are made in America; Marsh, Merillat, Quality, Kitchen Kompact, etc. Just do a Google search for builder's or stock cabinets in your area.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: kitchengardengal

                    kitchengardengal is giving you great advice.

                    Since this is your "starter home", I'm assuming you are coming out of the typical apartment with NO counter space. Shallow counters are something you will hate as much as short drawers/cabinets.

                    Builder grade cabinets will make YOU much happier and will be appreciated by future renters. They will be the correct height and depth with the cabinet fronts you want at a comparable cost to prepackaged RTA cabinets that weren't built for YOUR kitchen.

                    1. re: Sid Post

                      We bought the house in 2010. Because of the bad 80s expansion, it has about 4 linear feet of counter space, period, in spite of being an large room.

                      We cannot afford custom cabinetry.

                      I think we are going to buy a Hemnes dresser to use as an island for a bit and I will get to find out how I like the depth of the top

                    2. re: kitchengardengal

                      Thanks for that suggestion! I just did a search and it looks like a stock cabinet base drawer unit would be about twice as much as a base drawer unit from Ikea. Maybe I can find something less expensive when the time comes.

                    3. Here's one other consideration as you contemplate using chests in place of cabinets -- will the hardware on the chests be able to handle the weight of whatever you're planning on keeping in the drawers? I'm thinking about the things I presently have stored in my kitchen drawers -- heavy Le Creuset pieces, heavy copper cookware, stacked glass and ceramic bowls... I don't think chests of drawers are designed to accommodate that amount of weight, so opening and closing the drawers could be a struggle that leads to breakage.

                      As for the depth of the countertops -- I think 21" is really too shallow. And, to the list of manufacturers of affordable stock cabinets that kitchengardengal mentioned, I'd add Bertch. We recently put in two new bathroom vanities made by Bertch, and I was very pleased with the quality, styles, price and the choices of wood and stained finishes they offered.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: CindyJ

                        Weight of materials is definitely something to consider. So yes, all these things are on my mind, and will be taken into account, but I really just wanted to know people's opinions on the idea of shallow counters, not on all my other kitchen desires and decisions. Thanks :)

                      2. I wouldn't tolerate such shallow countertops in a kitchen, myself. Especially since you state "it has about 4 linear feet of counter space, period".

                        But (thankfully!) I wouldn't have to live with it. Why don't you try blocking off that depth on what you do have and working with it for a few weeks?

                        If you plan to be renting it out that soon (3-4 years) you may want to consider taking that into account...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Enso

                          Enso, it has about 4 linear feet NOW, which is one reason I want to renovate. It will, obviously, have more post-renovation. That is kind of the point.