How Many Kitchen Units Do I Need? (Answered!)

Planning a new kitchen is fun! I know firsthand because we’re doing it at the time of writing. So how many units do we need?

The average US kitchen is between 100 and 200 square feet, and kitchen designers work towards the lower end of this scale when creating layouts. Therefore, a 100 square foot kitchen will need 12 cabinets, and a 200 square foot kitchen will require 24 cabinets.

Let’s explore the topic of how many kitchen units you need in greater detail, and discover more about how we can work this all out…

How Many Kitchen Units Do I Need?

How Many Cabinets Does the Average Kitchen Have?

The average US kitchen is between 100 and 200 square feet, and we’ve heard that kitchen designers tend to work towards the lower end of this scale when coming up with their designs. A 100 square foot kitchen has around 12 cabinets.

So, if you want an average figure to compare your kitchen (or future kitchen) with, let’s go with 12 cabinets.

How Many Cupboard Units Does a Kitchen Need?

You can actually work this out per person (and double it if you house a sporty college kid…). The basic calculation is simple: allow up to 18 cubic feet of dry storage space per person (in other words, just the cupboards or larder, not the refrigerator and freezer). The standard upright cupboard is 9 cubic feet, so you simply need 2 cupboard units per person in your household.

Occasionally you sure it suggested that this can be halved for kids. Two responses to that: kids will grow faster than you’ll want to replace your kitchen cabinets, and have you ever fed a kid? Or seen the size of a box of cereal? We reckon you should stick to two cabinets per person, regardless of age.

Space is another consideration, of course. If you have a large kitchen, you can have two cupboards per person plus extras. If space is tight, you might need to compromise; however, we’ll look at the benefits of upper cabinets in a minute and how these can really make a difference to a room with a small footprint.

How Many Feet of Kitchen Cabinets Do I Need?

The important measurement when it comes to kitchen storage is cubic feet. This tells you how much room you will have for storage inside the cupboard. Generally, kitchen cabinets are nice simple shapes, so working out the cubic footage should be easy!

Measure the length, width, and height of the cabinet unit (or read the brochure), then multiply these figures together. This will give you the cubic measurement. As we mentioned earlier, if you can, allow up to 18 cubic feet of kitchen storage per household resident.

If there’s just the two of you, this works out as just 4 standard-sized upright units (which are typically around 9 cubic feet). If you have three kids, you’ll need 45 cubic feet of storage (or 10 average units), and so on.

Of course, every kitchen and every chef is different. Your kids may have flown the nest, but you may still be the neighborhood’s go-to host! If you have family to stay regularly or simply love to cook, you may want to squeeze a few more units in.

How Many Upper Cabinets Should a Kitchen Have?

If you are short of space, upper cabinets are a great way of getting a bit more storage. If space is really tight, these can be included in your cubic feet calculation. So this might mean you only need one cabinet or several – it will depend on the extra cubic footage needed.

When you’re working out how many upper cabinets you need, there are a few things to take into account, like wall strength, window location, and sockets. You may also want to think about preparation space on the countertop (tall chefs on the whole do not like overhead cabinets!).

Of course, you may decide not to have upper cabinets at all. They have been a part of fitted kitchens for years; however, with the rise of rustic and vintage trends, open storage (designer speak for “shelves”) has become more popular.

These can look great and will show off your condiments, recipe books, and fancy bean pots. They’ll need cleaning, as objects left out in the kitchen can develop a stubborn layer of greasy dust.

The third option is to do away with any form of upper storage. If you don’t think you need the storage space, go for it. This makes the worktops seem light and airy, and you definitely won’t bang your head…

Are you installing the upper kitchen cabinets yourself? This short film from Lowe’s takes you through how to hang your upper kitchen cabinet units safely.

How Many Lower Cabinets Should a Kitchen Have?

As we mentioned earlier, the easiest calculation for how many cabinets you need is to allow 2 standard cabinet units per person. This is based on typical base unit measurements. 

Lower cabinets do most of the work in your kitchen, because not only do they give you spacious and accessible storage, they usually also provide the base for the kitchen counter.

So when you’re calculating your storage needs and how much floor space you have for units, remember to take the kitchen countertop into account. If you’re thinking of switching up two base units for one tall cupboard (same cubic feet, smaller footprint), check whether this will have too big an impact on your counter space.

How Many Drawers Should a Kitchen Have?

We think kitchen drawers are great – they’re soooo useful! There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule about how many drawers you need in a kitchen, so if you’re planning your storage from scratch, think about what you think would be better stored in a drawer, and take it from there.

With fitted kitchens, stacked units are a smart option, with a drawer above each cupboard (and a fake one below the sink). This means that every unit gives you a combination of storage.

Drawers are ideal for smaller items, like cooking and baking utensils or cutlery. Deeper drawers can be used for things like baking sheets, skillets, and pan lids. 

Drawers are a really practical option. You can easily reach everything because you pull out the drawer (compare this with the dark depths at the back of a cupboard…). This makes them a great choice if you struggle with a bad back.

So, there isn’t a clear answer to this, as it really depends on how much space you have, what style units you want, and how many smaller items you hope to store.

How many kitchen cabinets?

Conclusion: Kitchen Storage Checklist

When you’re planning your kitchen storage, what are the main things to take into consideration?

To round things up, here’s our handy checklist;

  • Allow around 9 cubic feet of storage per person in your household
  • If you want upper cabinets, think about headspace, wall strength and socket location as well as storage
  • Would you rather have shelves than upper cabinets? Don’t feel you have to load your kitchen up with cabinet units of this isn’t the look you want
  • What fits better in a drawer than a cupboard? Plan in some drawer space from the start
  • How much counter space do you need? Do you need a run of standard-height lower units to create the work surface?
  • What other storage do you need, for example pull-out shelving, slide-out boxes, cutlery dividers? Vertical dividers are a good way of storing chopping boards and baking sheets
  • What works for you ergonomically? If you think you’ll struggle to reach the back of a cupboard, think about having more drawers
  • If you’re not having a matching kitchen but are choosing separate units for a more rustic or vintage look, you’ll have to calculate space more carefully and per item of furniture
  • This is actually easily done: don’t get so carried away with calculating unit space that you forget to leave room for  the refrigerator and dishwasher!

I hope this all helps. As mentioned, we’re planning our new kitchen at the moment while our extension is being built – and it’s actually really good fun deciding how the layout will work and how much space we’ll need! 🙂