Break These 5 Outdated Kitchen Cabinet Rules in 2023

Kitchen cabinets play a major functional and aesthetic role in any kitchen design. But often, many well-intentioned kitchen cabinet ideas can make a space feel outdated and boring.

Fortunately, there are several outdated kitchen cabinet rules that can easily be broken to breathe new life into your kitchen! By rethinking your approach to cabinets, you can create a kitchen that feels fresh, modern and optimized for how you cook and live.

Rule #1: Installing Bulky Upper Wall Cabinets

Upper wall kitchen cabinets have been a staple in kitchen design for decades. Traditionally, the walls of most kitchens are lined with rows of upper cabinets for storage. But this once-popular look can make kitchens feel small, outdated and visually overwhelming.

The bulkiness of a wall full of upper cabinets can make a kitchen feel closed off and cluttered. It hides architectural details and makes the space feel smaller. Plus, the upper cabinets are inconvenient to reach unless you use a step stool.

Instead of defaulting to upper cabinets, consider omitting some or all of them. Removing upper cabinets creates a more open, airy look with clean lines. It highlights other architectural elements of the kitchen, like pretty windows, exposed bricks or accent walls. The visual impact immediately feels cleaner and more spacious.

the new kitchen cabinet rules

Alternatives to Upper Cabinets

  • Paint an accent wall in a bold color
  • Display art, wallpaper or an architectural feature
  • Add open shelving for display items
  • Increase lower cabinetry for more accessible storage

Removing all upper cabinets may not be feasible for everyone’s storage needs. But carefully evaluating how you use your existing upper cabinet space can allow you to remove some of them. Supplement remaining storage needs with other solutions like freestanding pantry units or additional counter-height lower cabinets.

Rule #2: Keeping a Stationary Kitchen Island

The kitchen island has become a staple for many modern kitchens. Often positioned in the center of the workspace, kitchen islands provide extra countertop area, storage and seating.

Traditionally, most kitchen islands are a permanent fixed fixture. But opting for an island on lockable casters instead provides unique benefits.

A mobile kitchen island can simply be wheeled around the kitchen as needed. It can be moved to clean hard-to-reach areas with ease. Having the flexibility to reposition the island allows you to rearrange your workflow when tackling large tasks or while entertaining.

Pros of a Movable IslandCons of a Movable Island
  • Allows flexible room rearrangement
  • Can be moved for easy cleaning access
  • Multi-use for dining, prepping, seating
  • Locking wheels required for stability
  • May drift on uneven floors

Movable islands now come in many styles, from industrial metal designs on heavy-duty casters to rustic wood islands with wheels. A mobile island can suit any aesthetic while adding versatility.

Rule #3: All White Kitchens

For years, one of the most popular kitchen trends has been the pristine, all-white kitchen. This look gives off an airy vibe and helps small kitchens appear larger than they are. But for some, an all-white kitchen starts to feel clinical and boring.

One way to breathe new life into an all-white kitchen is by incorporating bold, dark colors. Navy blue kitchen cabinets make a dramatic statement and add a touch of nautical flair. Charcoal gray or black cabinets and accents feel lush and sophisticated. Deep green gives off an earthy vibe, while eggplant purple adds a punch of vibrancy.

Tips for Adding Dark Colors

  • Paint lower cabinets a bold color
  • Choose a dark island for contrast
  • Add a color focal point with a dark backsplash
  • Opt for black hardware and fixtures

Going for an all-dark kitchen may feel too overwhelming for some. But adding pops of black, navy or dark green can help turn a boring white kitchen into one with character. Try just painting the lower cabinets a dark color to create an elegant two-tone look. Or use just one wall or the kitchen island to test out a dramatic dark color.

Rule #4: Too Much Cabinetry

Most kitchen designs emphasize maximizing cabinetry and storage. It’s common to see kitchens with cabinetry pushed into every possible space, from floor to ceiling.

But if the entire perimeter is crowded with cabinets, the kitchen starts to feel cramped and cluttered. Too much cabinetry leaves little room for open counter space to work. It also limits room for kitchen islands, eating areas and appliances.

Instead of defaulting to continuous cabinets, think strategically about storage. Focus cabinets only on spaces that need it, like near the oven, sink and refrigerator. Supplement additional storage with other solutions:

Alternatives to Wall-to-Wall Cabinets

  • Floating open shelves
  • Pantry cabinets and hutches
  • Kitchen carts with storage bins
  • Wall-mounted pot racks and rails
  • Appliance garages for small countertop appliances

Creative cabinetry alternatives help prevent a crowded kitchen while still offering storage solutions. Use interior design tricks like wainscoting panels or open shelving to break up expanses of cabinetry for a lighter look. Focus cabinets around major appliances, while utilizing other areas for additional open counters and a streamlined appearance.

Rule #5: Just Using Task Lighting

Proper kitchen lighting serves the important function of brightly illuminating cooking areas. Task lighting under cabinets or recessed lighting over key work zones helps combat kitchen shadows.

But many kitchen lighting schemes start and stop with only functional task lighting. While critical for kitchen safety and visibility, task lighting alone can leave a kitchen looking clinical and uninspired.

Beyond ample task lighting, consider fun accent and decorative lighting. For example:

  • Hanging pendant lights over a kitchen island
  • Rope lighting under upper cabinets as an accent
  • Vintage-style picture lights over a butler’s pantry
  • Sconces flanking a decorative shelf display

Layering your task lighting with eye-catching fixtures helps add style. Accent lighting casts a warm glow and highlights specific zones. Adjustable lighting also allows changing the ambience from a bright work setting to a dimmer, cozier dining space.

Tips for Stylish Kitchen Lighting

  • Use dimmers to control brightness
  • Choose pendant lights in various heights
  • Opt for LED lighting for efficiency
  • Highlight architectural details with directional lighting

The right mix of task and accent lighting can take your kitchen from drab and clinical to stunning. Don’t be afraid to have fun and use lighting to showcase your unique style!

Kitchen cabinet design traditions serve a purpose, but many are worth rethinking in 2023. Break out of the all-white upper cabinet mold to create a kitchen uniquely tailored for your needs and preferences.

Get creative with movable islands, bold colors, reduced cabinetry and stylish lighting. Rethinking outdated kitchen cabinet rules results in a finished space you’ll adore spending time in and showing off.

You can make a kitchen that looks fresh while still being functional with some design tricks. Dare to think beyond the basics to a kitchen that reflects your own style and brings you joy.

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