The next time you remodel your kitchen, you might want to do a budget for furniture along with the appliances, and that doesn’t mean just a table and chairs. Up until World War II, kitchen cabinetry in the United States consisted largely of individual cupboards and open shelving. In Europe today, freestanding cabinets in the kitchen are still common, while we have moved to a system of lower built-ins with countertops and upper cabinets with wood or glass doors.
As the song goes “Everything old is new again…” and that has started people rethinking not only how they want their cabinets to look – with many high end kitchen cabinet manufacturers opting for the look of furniture by making cabinets with feet and open spaces underneath – but some buyers are going a step further, back to the kitchen’s roots of yesteryear and choosing completely portable kitchen furniture.
The first free-standing kitchen cabinets were mass produced in 1928. Nicknamed “Hoosier cabinets” because of their Indiana origins, they were soon followed by dish and broom cabinets. After World War II, the single family housing boom started and portable cabinets lost their popularity. In 1956 Kemper Brothers was one of the first companies to begin production of built-in wood cabinets.
There are multiple reasons for the new interest in portable kitchen furniture. Some simply like the open aesthetics. It can also be a more affordable way to remodel if you’re not replacing all your cabinetry at once, since cabinets typically make up 35% of a kitchen remodel. Theoretically, you’re less locked into a particularly look, be it French Country or contemporary, if your pieces are portable, because of your ability to substitute pieces makes it much easier and less costly to change styles. Should your or your family’s needs change, reconfiguring your kitchen is also easier. Unlike yesteryear, freestanding units are available with all the specialty features like roll out trays and spice racks found in their stationary cousins.
The trade-off, of course, is counter space, which makes either an kitchen island or a large work table a must. Another disadvantage to freestanding units is the tip over risk, particularly if you have young children. L-brackets to fasten the pieces down are sometimes used to combat this problem.
If you had the opportunity and funds to remodel your kitchen, would you opt for freestanding furniture? Send me a comment and let me know!