My Hunt for a Nice-Looking (and Shallow) Kitchen Cabinet (2024)


By Liza Corsillo, a senior writer at the Strategist covering kids’ toys and men’s style. She joined the Strategist in 2019. She is a former writer for GQ and an accomplished illustrator.

My Hunt for a Nice-Looking (and Shallow) Kitchen Cabinet (2)

The winning cabinet in its corner of our kitchen. Photo: Liza Corsillo

I am a renter, but if I owned my apartment I would tear everything out of the narrow galley kitchen and start from scratch. Instead, every once in a while I make some tiny change in an effort to maximize space and minimize the ick. When I moved in, my husband had been living in the apartment for several years and had set up two wooden Ikea carts on the wall opposite the sink, oven, and refrigerator to use as storage and counter space. The carts are functional and fit the space perfectly, but are not toddler-friendly and the open shelves always look cluttered and messy to me. So around the time my son turned 1, I started searching for an alternative. My criteria: something that was counter-height and comfortable for chopping, shallow, baby-proof-able (with doors to hide dangerous items, all of our clutter, and keep dust out), easy to keep clean, under $300 dollars, and attractive enough to make the whole space look better.

In the beginning I really struggled with what to call this type of product. When I searched for kitchen cabinets, I mostly found the sort of things geared towards contractors renovating a kitchen. This made me briefly consider ordering custom cabinets from Ikea with butcher-block-style counters on top. But if I was going to go that far, I figured my money would be better spent renovating the whole kitchen.

Then I started searching online for kitchen islands. They were freestanding and had convenient features like silverware drawers and paper towel roll holders. But all of them — including this very nice one from Crate and Barrel — ended up being too big for my space. The height is good, but it wasn’t shallow enough to fit in my kitchen and was a little too expensive for my budget. Plus it’s a little too modern farmhouse for my taste, but I loved the half moon stainless-steel drawer pulls, that it looks sturdy, and that it has a leaf you can pull up for extra counter space. When I went looking for something similar more in line with my budget, they all looked kind of cheap and leaned too cold and industrial-looking or like something from the set of a hokey cooking show.

After that, I played around with other search terms, trying “kitchen sideboard” and “counter height storage unit” and “bar cart with doors.” At this point I started to realize that there just aren’t that many freestanding counter-height kitchen cabinets, especially not ones slim enough for my kitchen. But there are a lot of slim metal storage cabinets with doors. These are often designed for use outdoors, because they are weatherproof, or to be used in kids’ rooms, offices, workshops, or garages, because they are durable and easy to wipe clean.

They also tend to come in more than just white, black, and brown. Mustard makes its metal lockers in three heights and 12 stylish colors. But the Midi locker, which is closest to what I was looking for, is too tall (43 inches) to make sense as a kitchen counter and the Lowdown is too low (28 inches).

I really like this outdoor storage cabinet from Ikea, and thought about buying two of them since they are so affordable. Fellow Strategist writer Emma Wartzman has one with the upper shelving unit on top in her apartment and loves it. But they’re also too short and I would have had to spend extra money on butcher blocks to add on top.

Discouraged, I had put my hunt on hold. But not too long after, the Wayfair “Way Days” sale reawakened my curiosity. That’s where I discovered that using the term “accent cabinet” would lead me to my prize. Unfortunately the decorative cut-outs on this cabinet got it vetoed by my husband.


This is the one I finally bought. It’s nearly identical to the above cabinet, but minus the cut-outs.And I have been smiling at it since assembling it (the whole process took around 45 minutes) and setting it up in our kitchen. I love how much stuff I can fit inside and how much more streamlined and airy the space looks now. It’s a bit higher than the Ikea carts, so not the perfect cutting and chopping height but I have used it (cutting board on top) to cut bread, fruit, cheese with no problems. It was incredibly easy to babyproof and came with anti-tip straps, so I am not worried about it falling on my son if he pulls too hard on the handles. Best of all, because it’s metal I can use it as an activity space for my son to play with letter and animal magnets while I cook or do dishes.

My Hunt for a Nice-Looking (and Shallow) Kitchen Cabinet (10)

My son playing with his Melissa and Doug alphabet magnets.

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My Hunt for a Nice-Looking (and Shallow) Kitchen Cabinet
My Hunt for a Nice-Looking (and Shallow) Kitchen Cabinet (2024)


What is the best paint to use on kitchen cabinets without sanding? ›

GF Milk Paint is incredibly high-quality acrylic paint with EXCELLENT adhesion (so good that you can even paint laminate cabinets with it). It has low VOCs and is incredibly durable, so it is a great choice for painting kitchen cabinets without sanding or priming.

What is the best paint for kitchen cabinets? ›

There are many types of paint to choose from, but the best paint for kitchen cabinets is semi-gloss, gloss or satin.

How can I make my cabinets look nice? ›

21 Ways to Redo Your Kitchen Cabinets
  1. Reface Your Kitchen Cabinets. Photo via @reborncabinets. ...
  2. Consider Fresh Cabinet Stain. Photo via @cabinetjoint. ...
  3. Add a Pop of Color. ...
  4. Mix & Match Two-Toned Colors. ...
  5. Try Updating Cabinet Hardware. ...
  6. Make the Most of Your Cabinet Doors. ...
  7. Try Open Shelving. ...
  8. Or Replace Doors with Glass Panes.
Apr 2, 2024

What type of Sherwin Williams paint is best for kitchen cabinets? ›

Tip: When choosing a paint for your kitchen cabinet update, we recommend a durable option like Emerald® Urethane Trim Enamel that can withstand the wear and tear of frequently used and cleaned areas. Tip: Gently roll over any overlapping brush marks or paint drips to smooth the surface.

What do professional painters use to paint kitchen cabinets? ›

Kitchen cabinets are painted in industrial settings with industrial-grade paints and equipment that sprays the paint onto the wood surface with high velocity. It is usually lacquer or enamel-type oil-based paint and it might have undergone an additional curing process.

What is the best clear coat for painted kitchen cabinets? ›

Polyurethane. Polyurethane is a popular clear coat known for its durability, water resistance, and protective properties. It is available in both oil-based and water-based formulas. Oil-based polyurethane tends to have a slight amber tone, while water-based options remain clear.

What is the most popular color for kitchen cabinets? ›

Many design experts swear that Simply White by Benjamin Moore is their go-to paint color for kitchen cabinetry. And we don't disagree, as this warm white can cozy up even the most sterile, cold kitchen layouts.

What paint roller gives the smoothest finish on cabinets? ›

DIY enthusiasts and professionals have grown fond of using high-density foam rollers. This makes them a great choice is their ability to provide a flawless, smooth surface, making them ideal for use on cabinets and furniture.

What is the best color to paint old kitchen cabinets? ›

Some good neutral colors for kitchen cabinets include light gray, dark gray, or greige (a mix of gray and beige). These neutrals will help ground your space and give you freedom to incorporate more playful colors via accessories and appliances.

What color kitchen cabinets make it look bigger? ›

Go with Light Colors

Light colors are more reflective than dark colors and they will make your kitchen appear bigger as well as more open and airy. Light blues, greens, or pale yellows are other great colors to make your space look larger than life.

How do you beautify kitchen cabinets? ›

10 Kitchen Cabinet Makeover Ideas
  1. Paint Kitchen Cabinets. ...
  2. Reface Kitchen Cabinets. ...
  3. Install a Pull-Out Cabinet Shelf. ...
  4. Put in Undercabinet Lighting. ...
  5. Build a Butcher Block Island. ...
  6. Build a Sideboard. ...
  7. Build a Window Seat. ...
  8. Add a Plate Rack.

What is the best color for timeless kitchen cabinets? ›

A light beech, warm cherry, or dark walnut in a suitable stain should lend a timeless look to your kitchen. Bamboo is another excellent choice for modern kitchens, and hickory has a rustic aesthetic.

What paint do pros use for cabinets? ›

We usually use professional-grade lacquer because it has a lovely, silky-smooth feel to it, and is what cabinet manufacturers use. We think it's the best paint for cabinets, hands-down (although there are some great pro-level water-based options as well).

What is the toughest paint for kitchen cabinets? ›

Oil-based paints: These also have a strong binder, which makes this category the hardest, most durable paint choice for cabinets, Mothershead says.

What is the most durable way to paint kitchen cabinets? ›

But any high-quality paint—enamel-based paint or latex paint—should work well and will be durable enough for the daily wear and tear as well as routine kitchen cleaning. Keep in mind that a gloss or semigloss is likely to stand up better to cleaning and scratches and will provide the most durable finish.

What paint does not require sanding? ›

Chalk based paint is a water-based paint with a very flat finish that has excellent adhesion. The adhesion is so good, in fact, that chalk paint requires very little prep beforehand and generally does not require sanding or priming your piece.

Do you really need to sand cabinets before painting? ›

Once your cabinets are clean and dry, use a 100 or 150-grit sandpaper to roughen up the surface of the cabinets. Cabinet paint won't adhere properly to a smooth or shiny surface. You don't need to completely remove the prior finish, just rough up the surface enough to give the primer something to stick to.


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