Wednesday, September 23, 2009

de-Sign Of The Times: Cabinets Expand at the Waistline

It's not your imagination and you are not alone.

Across the world homemakers are failing to neatly close their cabinet doors on their newly purchased dinnerware and scratching their heads about it. Cabinetmakers here and abroad are reprogramming their CNC machines to create cabinet boxes that accomodate today's "generously sized" dinnerware.

"Tabletop" trends influence cabinet design in other ways. Displaying family china and heirlooms, while still practiced, is not the end-all it was in the past, and entertaining guests is a more casual affair. According to Drew Chernoy, owner of Clementine’s Kitchen in Del Rey, CA, buyers 20 to 30 years ago were ‘collectors’ or ‘nesters,’ and had in mind different uses for each of their sets of dishes, platters, glassware and flatware. They had the ‘holiday dishes,’ the ‘summer garden party,’ etc. Some of these were more ‘formal.’ This related to their life growing up or their vision of the eating experience in their life to come. Having the ‘good dishes’ on their wedding registry further reinforced this. The underlying change is that having lots of sets of dishes and entertaining pieces, glasses, etc., just is not that important anymore to the more recent generations”(The Gourmet Retailer).

The tableware cabinet buyers are looking to store today is casual, durable and best of all, stackable. And it is growing in size. A typical dinner plate once measured 9 inches across but a trip to Crate and Barrel finds popular styles ranging from 10.5 inches up to the 11.5 inch Classic Century style (right). The product description states "Originally designed in 1952 by world-renowned designer Eva Zeisel...Dinner plate has been enlarged for today's lifestyle".

Pottery Barn offers their popular Sausalito style with dinner plates spanning 12 inches! When does a plate become a "platter"?!

This explains why dishes are boldly peeking out from upper cabinets and homeowners are having to find more creative ways to accomodate their everyday dinnerware. Custom Cabinetmaker Craig Mannhalter of Metolius Woodworks in Sisters, Oregon has retooled and increased the standard depth of uppers over the past 20 years. Fieldstone Cabinetry representative, Jeff Ptacek CKD, agrees that while the standard depth is still 12 inches, they are seeing increased requests for 13-15 inch custom depths.

Need to retrofit an existing kitchen?
  • Consider replacing some upper cabinetry with decorative open shelving.
  • Store dishes in drawers. Deep drawers at a comfortable reach work best.
  • Replace shelves in standard base cabinets with roll-outs (available at Lowes).
Planning a new kitchen?
  • Make a pre-decision about where you will store your everyday dishes. With your dish measurements in hand, have a clear discussion with your cabinet supplier about the interior clearances for uppers.
  • Consider incorporating decorative open shelving in your design for flexible storage.

On the other hand, mega-sized dishware can mean 50% more plate to pile food on, which translates into more waste and more waist. What if we instead stock up on today's "generously sized" salad plates (8 to 10 inches) for use as dinner plates? I'm wondering, since we are the consumers influencing the retail trends, if perhaps we could "stir things up". Ha!
Maybe instead of "letting out" our cabinets we should put our dishes on a diet. Better still, maybe if our dishes were on a diet, we wouldn't be.

Then no one would have to come unhinged (so to speak!).


  1. Funny but you could be on to something. We tend to dish out portions that look pleasing on the plate and an extra inch or two of plate could be the reason many have an extra inch or two around the waistline. I vote for smaller plates rather than larger cabinets. Great post, thanks!

  2. In all fairness, another concept is that we are using these bigger plates because we don't serve meals in "courses" very often... in our family the salad often shares plate space with the entree (and the dressing runs wherever it wants). Portion control. That's the ticket!

  3. Unfortunately, I've had so many problems with my Sausalito plates cracking I am going to replace them with a more durable set of dinnerware. Also, Pottery Barn discontinued my color.

  4. I can imagine your frustration! Our dishware has to stand up to my young daughter's not-so-gentle way of unloading the dishwasher :)

  5. Wholesale cabinets are a great option for homeowners who are looking for a quick way to update their home before the holidays.


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