It seems like a lot of kitchen designs end up with some leftover space. The solution to this is to install a small base cabinet, filling the area and providing a base for the countertop to sit on. But just what can you do with those narrow cabinets? They’re not really big enough for any but the smallest pots and pans to fit in, let alone most bakeware. Nor are they very good for stocking boxed or canned foods. But these cabinets aren’t totally useless. There are some good things you can do with them.
Basically, I’m talking about a nine inch base cabinet here; although the things I’m going to talk about will work for any small cabinet. Just for clarity, when I say a nine inch cabinet, that’s the overall width of the unit. By the time you take out the space used up by the face frame, the door opening is only six inches.
But that’s still usable space. If your kitchen is anything like mine, you need every bit of space you have. I never seem to have enough cabinet space for everything in my kitchen, no matter what I do. So, while that nine inches may not seem like much, to me, it’s valuable.
I’m a big fan of slide-out units in kitchens, mostly because I don’t enjoy crawling around on the floor, just so that I can gain access to what is inside the bottom of the cabinet. While you do lose a little storage space from the slide out unit, if you make them yourself, you can minimize this lost space by the judicious choice of material thickness. You can also help make up for some of that loss by using these narrow cabinets, which most people will just complain about.
Use it for Sheets
One of the easiest things to store in a nine inch base cabinet is cookie sheets, cutting boards, pizza pans and other flat items. While it is possible to store them in there, without doing anything to the cabinet, that means that everything is going to be falling over, not exactly what I would call an ideal situation. I like my cabinets organized, and that includes a cabinet that’s only 9 inches wide.
A simple divider, made of a piece of luan plywood, as shown in the drawing above, can make that space much more usable for storing your cookie sheets and cutting boards. I’ve selected luan, so as to not use up a lot of the cabinet space. At only ¼” thick, the laun won’t be wasting a lot of space. Since it is just going to be a vertical divider, it really doesn’t need any structural strength.
To make it possible to attach the divider, I’ve decided to attach two ¾” square strips of wood. These were ripped from a 1”x 4” on the table saw. You want to make sure you use knot-free wood for this or at least a knot-free section of the wood, as the knots would probably make it break. It is possible to buy wood that is already cut like this, essentially square dowels, but it is considerably more expensive.
I would recommend gluing these strips to the luan and nailing them with short brads, to hold it together until the glue dries. It would be helpful to drill and countersink the wood strips, before installing them, so that you can have those clearance holds in place for the installation screws to go though.
Use it for Spices
If your narrow cabinet happens to be close to the stove, it can be a great place for spices. There are actually pull-out units you can buy, which will fit in a cabinet like this, and can be used as s spice rack.
This unit is made out of 3/4” dimensional lumber or cabinet grade plywood. If you decide to make it out of plywood, you can use thinner material, such as ½”. The three trays are identical and made from three pieces, a base and the two sides. These are then sandwiched between the two end pieces.
To install the unit, use a single, underneath drawer slide. A heavy-duty one would be best, even though you don’t need a lot of weight capacity, because the heavy-duty one would be more rigid. That would prevent the unit from having a lot of wobble. A simple drawer pull on the front face will make it easy to pull the unit out when you need access.
Ideally, you want to mount the unit so that the front edge sits inside the door opening, when the door is closed. However, if your door is inset or it uses European flush-mount hinges, you can’t do that. In that case, you’ll need to attach some alignment blocks to the inside of the door frame, on either side of the unit, to ensure that it is properly aligned with the opening, when sitting idle.
The other thing you’re going to have to do with this unit is to provide some skids on the inside of the cabinet edges, so that the unit doesn’t get scratched up, going in and out through the cabinet door. I would recommend taking some pieces of thin plastic strips, such as 1/16” thick polystyrene sheets and gluing them to the inside edges of the cabinet door.
Use Cabinet Organizers
Another option, which requires less work, is to install ready-made, slide-out cabinet organizers. You can find a variety of these at your local home improvement center or online. These units are available for:
- Produce bins
- Hanging trash bags
- Wire-mesh “open” drawers
Regardless of the kind that you use, having them as slide-out units make is much easier to make use of this space, as the contents will be readily accessible. Since narrow cabinets of this sort are difficult to gain access too, adding these provides much easier access to the items stored in the cabinet, than just stacking things inside.