How many kitchen cabinets should you have?

When designing or remodeling a kitchen, one of the most important decisions is determining the right number of cabinets. The ideal number of cabinets depends on several factors, including the size of your kitchen, your storage needs, and your budget. While there is no universal rule for how many cabinets you need, most kitchen designers recommend having at least 10-12 base cabinets and 8-10 wall cabinets as a starting point for an average-sized kitchen.

Calculate Your Base Cabinet Needs

Base cabinets, which sit on the floor, typically come in widths ranging from 9 to 48 inches. Common widths are 12, 15, 18, 24, 30, 36, and 42 inches. To determine how many you need, start by measuring the total linear feet of wall space you want to fill with lower cabinets. For example, if you have 16 linear feet of space along the walls, and you want to use standard 36-inch wide base cabinets, you would need 16/3 = 5 cabinets. Round up or down depending on how fully you want to utilize the space.

Some guidelines for determining base cabinet numbers based on kitchen size:

  • Small kitchen (under 150 sq.ft.) – 4-6 base cabinets
  • Medium kitchen (150-350 sq.ft.) – 8-12 base cabinets
  • Large kitchen (over 350 sq.ft.) – 12-16 base cabinets

Remember to account for appliance garages, blind corner cabinets, and any other specialty cabinetry in your calculations. It’s better to have too many cabinets than not enough – extra storage is almost never a bad thing in a kitchen!

Calculate Your Wall Cabinet Needs

Wall cabinets are mounted above countertops to maximize vertical storage space. Standard widths for wall cabinets range from 12 to 48 inches, with common sizes being 12, 15, 18, 24, 30, and 36 inches. To determine the number of wall cabinets needed:

  1. Measure the total linear feet of wall space above your countertops that you want to use for cabinets.
  2. Decide on a standard cabinet width – 30 or 36 inches are common choices.
  3. Divide your total linear feet by the cabinet width to get the estimated number of cabinets needed.

Some general cabinet number guidelines based on kitchen size:

  • Small kitchen – 4-8 wall cabinets
  • Medium kitchen – 8-12 wall cabinets
  • Large kitchen – 10-16 wall cabinets

Remember to account for any soffits, windows, or other areas that will disrupt your wall cabinet layout when calculating. It’s better to round up and have unused space than to underestimate and end up with not enough storage.

Factor In Your Storage Needs

The calculations above provide estimates based on typical kitchen sizes, but you should tailor the numbers to your specific storage requirements. Consider the following when determining your ideal cabinet count:

  • Dish storage: If you entertain often or have a large family, add a few extra wall cabinets for dishes.
  • Pantry items: Do you want a pantry cabinet or two for dry goods storage? Add these in.
  • Small appliances: Allow space for appliance garages to hide small appliances if desired.
  • Cooking tools: Avid home cooks may want more base cabinets for pots, pans, and extras.
  • Serving ware: Extra wall cabinets allow room to stash serving platters, bowls, etc.

Make a list of everything you need to store in the kitchen and translate that to estimated cabinet numbers needed. It’s better to overestimate than run short on storage.

Consider Blind Corner Cabinets

If your kitchen layout includes blind corners (which occur when perpendicular cabinet runs meet in the corner), you may need to subtract 1-2 cabinets to allow space for specialty blind corner cabinets. These specialized corner cabinets maximize tricky angled space with features like lazy susans or diagonal doors.

Account for Ample Countertop Space

When determining your cabinet layout, be sure to leave adequate countertop working space. As a general rule, aim for:

  • At least 36-48 inches of run between countertop ends
  • At least 15 inches of countertop space on each side of a sink or stove
  • At least 24 inches of landing area where countertops turn or change direction

This means you may need to subtract a few base cabinets to allow for this countertop space. The exact measurements will depend on your kitchen work triangle design.

Consider Your Kitchen Layout

Your kitchen layout will impact the specific cabinet configurations needed. For example:

  • Galley kitchens may need more wall cabinets and fewer base cabinets.
  • Island layouts allow you to supplement perimeter cabinetry with storage in the island.
  • U-shaped kitchens provide even more flexibility to customize your mix of wall and base cabinets.

Work within your kitchen footprint to maximize storage while maintaining accessibility and functionality.

Factor in Your Budget

Cabinets are a significant portion of your total kitchen remodel cost. As a rough estimate, you should budget:

  • $100 – $300 per linear foot for semi-custom cabinets
  • $300 – $500+ per linear foot for custom cabinets

Multiplying your estimated linear footage of cabinets by the price per foot gives you an idea of the potential cabinet budget. From there, you can adjust your cabinet quantities if needed to fit your budget.

Standard Cabinet Dimensions

While customization is one benefit of new cabinets, most manufacturers follow general size conventions. Knowing standard cabinet dimensions helps when planning your kitchen layout.

Cabinet Type Typical Widths Standard Heights Standard Depths
Base Cabinets 9″ – 48″ (in 3″ increments) 34.5″ 24″
Wall Cabinets 12″ – 48″ (in 3″ increments) 30″, 36″ 12″, 13.5″, 15″

Some variance exists among manufacturers, but these dimensions represent the most common options.

Tall Cabinets Provide Extra Storage

In addition to standard base and wall cabinets, you can add tall cabinets for increased storage. Common tall cabinet options include:

  • Pantry cabinets: Tall and deep for storing food items and small appliances. Widths from 24-36″.
  • Refrigerator cabinets: Same dimensions as pantry cabinets but fitted with either shelves or a refrigerator unit.
  • Utility cabinets: Typically 12-18″ wide for storing cleaning supplies and other items.

Tall cabinets run from the countertop to the ceiling. They can be extremely useful for maximizing vertical storage space in a kitchen.

Mix and Match Cabinet Depths

Another customization option is combining different cabinet depths in one kitchen. For example:

  • Use deeper 12″ or 15″ depth wall cabinets up top for dishes and serving ware.
  • Opt for shallower 9″ depth wall cabinets near the ceiling for a lighter look.
  • Vary base cabinet depths for visual interest.

Just be mindful that combining depths can affect your kitchen workflow. Maintain consistency along key countertop appliance spaces.

Optimize Corner Cabinet Storage

Take advantage of hard-to-reach corner cabinet space with features like:

  • Lazy susans: Rotating shelves bring items out within reach.
  • Angled cabinet doors: Provide access to the cabinet’s depth.
  • Roll-out shelves: Pull contents out more easily.
  • Blind corner pull-outs: Make the interior space fully accessible.

Consider including a combination of regular and specialized corner cabinets to really make use of difficult corners.

Include Drawers for Ease of Access

Don’t overlook the importance of drawers in your kitchen cabinet plan! Drawers provide easy access to contents compared to traditional cabinet doors. Recommendations for drawer quantity include:

  • At least 2-3 drawers near the fridge for produce storage.
  • Drawers near the sink and dishwasher for utensil access.
  • Spice drawer organizers in base cabinets by the cooking area.
  • Multiple wider drawers for pot and pan storage.

You can customize the size and configuration of drawers when ordering new cabinets. Optimize this flexible storage feature.

Include Wastebasket Slide-Outs

Another clever organizational feature to consider is built-in wastebasket cabinet pull-outs. These allow you to easily remove and replace trash bags when needed. Dedicated wastebasket storage also keeps your cans out of sight.

Don’t Overlook Door Storage

Take advantage of the back of cabinet doors with storage additions like:

  • Spice racks
  • Towel bars
  • Small shelf ledges
  • Cutlery holders

This out-of-sight space is perfect for stashing essentials you use every day. Just don’t overload the doors to the point they become heavy and unstable.

Include Open Shelving for Display

While most kitchen items benefit from enclosed cabinet storage, a few open shelves mixed in can provide aesthetic appeal. Display your prettiest cookware, serveware or barware. Just be selective – open shelves collect dust quickly.

Consider Glass Front Cabinets

Glass-front cabinet inserts allow you to create a showstopping display while keeping contents clean and dust-free. This is an especially elegant choice for dish storage. Just beware glass cabinet doors show all clutter and mess inside!

Add Under Cabinet Lighting

Good kitchen lighting is crucial, and under cabinet lighting is essential for providing task lighting across countertops and illuminating dark corners. Options include:

  • Wired LED light strips
  • Plug-in LED strips
  • Puck lights

Combine overhead, cabinet, and pendant lighting for a well-lit kitchen that meets all your cooking and prep needs.


Deciding on the ideal number of cabinets requires careful consideration of your kitchen size, layout, workflow, storage needs and style preferences. While 10-12 base cabinets and 8-10 wall cabinets is the general recommendation for an average kitchen, be sure to tailor numbers to your unique space. Account for specialty storage features like corner solutions, drawers, and organizational pull-outs. Mix cabinet heights, widths, and depths for visual appeal and ergonomic function. With good planning and customization, your new kitchen cabinets will maximize storage and aesthetics for years to come.

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