How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space

How could this happen? Who did this? The cabinet in my kitchen with the tiniest opening—a mere 7.5 inches wide—was the cabinet that had the largest amount of storage space inside of it. I’d like to speak with the person who designed my kitchen.

This post is the second in a series on how I’m improving my small, non-functional kitchen on a budget. Since I can’t afford a complete kitchen overhaul, I’m keeping the majority of my lower cabinets, but the runt of the litter recently underwent a little surgery, and that’s what this post is about. More specifically, I’m sharing how I made access easier to the large, dead-space corner cabinet in my kitchen.

Here’s what I started with. The cabinets are actually sturdy and in good shape so I’m keeping as many as is practical. They’re just not functional and not all that attractive. The 80’s are alive and well in my cabinets.

How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

You can see how much space is inside this cabinet, but the opening is so tiny that it’s difficult to fit anything in it. I had a mountain of stuff piled in there.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I wanted to cut out part of the board to the left of the opening to make it bigger, but I knew it would be impossible to make a nice cut with a jig saw–especially in oak. And my original plan was to then install a stationary shelf to put a basket on, and leave the cabinet open.

So I consulted my super-smart carpenter brother, Mike about my dilemma. He suggested removing that board entirely, cutting it down to a smaller size, and then replacing it with the factory cut edge showing.

You can see here that it’s a separate piece.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here’s what the piece looked like from the inside of the cabinet.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

He told me in order to remove the board, I’d have to hit it like a carpenter, not a painter (I just happen to be a painter). He said I’d have to hit it hard. Real hard. So I prepared myself for battle.

First I carefully removed the stile with a jig saw.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Next I took a 2 x 4, put it against the cabinet and took a mighty swing. The hammer bounced off that board like a soccer ball, and I laughed so hard I nearly passed out. I tried again and again…and again. Honestly, my brother had way too much faith in me on this one.

So I carefully took my jig saw, and cut as far as I could along the top and bottom of the board. I couldn’t cut through the entire length of the board because my stove was in the way of the saw. After cutting as far as I could, I decided enough was enough, and gave that board a Ninja kick that I’m confident would have impressed Jackie Chan.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Finally!

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I cut out the remaining dowel rods that held the piece in place, and sanded them smooth.

How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I decided to replace the board from hell with the smallest board that I could, but being sure to leave enough clearance around the oven door for pull-out shelves. I changed my mind about the stationary shelf. A woman’s prerogative.

So I used a 1 x 3 in the space.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

This was my first opportunity to use my new Kregg Jig K5 for drilling the pocket holes in the 1 x 3. Now if I decide to change the cabinet again someday, all I have to do is unscrew the piece instead of risking a fractured foot.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here’s the piece installed. I planned to paint my cabinets white, so I didn’t have to worry about wood types matching. I’ll be filling the grain on the oak before I paint so they’ll look the same after painting.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here’s a side view looking through the stove handle showing proper clearance for the pull outs.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I whipped up this simple shelf for the inside of the cabinet. It’ll be tucked in to the left of the opening, and will sit beside the pull-out shelves.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Fast forwarding here, I built a simple box for the first pull out drawer. I used the hardware from the original drawer and scrap wood I had on hand.

How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I tried the first one out before making the second one. It was a good thing, as the first one didn’t fit the opening and I had to disassemble it and make it smaller. Ugh. Here’s drawer number two. There was a pull out drawer in this cabinet originally, so I was also able to use the hardware from that one too. I just had to build a new  drawer the right size for the opening.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Since the hardware for the pullouts wasn’t white, I had to spray paint it so it would blend in better. The photo is of the drawer upside down.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I had this dentil molding leftover from an old project, and had just enough to use as decorative face plates for the pull outs.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

For your amusement, here’s an ugly picture of the cabinets after I filled the grain prior to painting.

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Now it’s starting to look like something!

Here’s the much more functional cabinet. It’s not any bigger than it was before, but with the added shelf unit inside, the larger opening and the pull out drawers, it just makes life easier.

How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

 How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

Here are some before and after photos.

How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

In case you missed the original peninsula re-do which was the start of this makeover, here are before and afters of that too. (See peninsula tutorial here.)

 photo IMG_6775.jpg How to Improve Access to Dead Kitchen Cabinet Space/HomeStagingBloomingtonIL

I’ve got many steps left on this makeover—making a wooden counter top and cutting down another one until I can afford new ones, building open shelving, replacing the current 30″upper cabinets with taller 42″ ones, adding trim and hardware, having a few doors drilled for hidden hinges and more. Baby steps.

This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Journeyman Painter and Certified Home Stager /Redesigner. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.