Connie's Corner

Tips from Waypoint's award-winning designer
January 31, 2011

The Art of Stacking Cabinets


Stacking cabinets is one way to add variety to a design and create truly personal rooms for your clients. Stacked cabinets also add height to kitchen cabinets in a room with tall ceilings and they create interesting arrangements in any room in the home. But like most things in design, there are tips to making the process easier. Here are some of my favorites:

Get your calculator out

When it comes to stacking cabinets, the calculator is your best friend. Even after all the years I have spent designing, I always have a calculator handy. Understanding the total overall height of your stack is particularly important if you are matching heights to tall cabinets.

Hiding Seams

Seams are an inevitable part of stacking cabinets.  However, when handled correctly, they can conceal the seam and even be an enhancement instead of an eyesore. Here are a couple of ways to handle seams:

  • Mid Molding with stacking cabinetsIf you prefer Furniture Ends (FE option) for your cabinetry, Use a mid-molding (see drawing) to add detail and feature the stack. Personally, I never try to apply molding on top of the seam. To me it appears as though you are trying to hide something and then there is always the pesky end grain of the molding to deal with. Mid-molding with mitered corners is the smoother way to handle the transition. It appears purposeful and is quite beautiful. You can use detailed molding or something with a plain profile like our new Finished Solid Stock (FSS) for more contemporary designs. Of course when you do this, there are two seams (lower cabinet to mid-molding and mid molding to upper cabinet) instead of one. Have the installer make sure the joints are tight before installing.
  • If you choose standard construction with ¼” reveals, skip the mid-molding and order 3/16” skins, usually a Tall End Panel (TEP84 or TEP96) trimmed and applied to the exposed ends of the cabinets. Often one panel can be split lengthwise to cover more than one exposed end. The 1/16” difference between the reveal and the skin ensures that the raw edge of the skin will be hidden behind the frame. If you want a flush look, have the installer pad-out the 1/16” difference with silicone sealant.

A couple of more tips

  • Seams on the front of the cabinet frames will still be visible in either scenario but minimal if a Full Overlay door style is chosen.
  • And, if you want to add Decorator Matching Doors to either method, match them to the size of the cabinet doors for the best look.

Stacking Works in Other Rooms in the Home Too

Waypoint style 513S in Cherry Spice featuring stacked cabinets used in a beverage barWe think of stacking primarily for wall cabinets in kitchens but there are lots of other ways to use this design technique. This entertainment center was made by stacking two Wine Storage Cabinets (WSC1818) over a 36” wide wall cabinet (W3612). The whole unit is pulled forward and blocked to be flush with the base cabinet.

A four inch high platform was built to support the cabinetry. If you had your calculator and our spec book out, you’d find that this arrangement is ¼” short of the adjacent 34 ½” high base cabinets. This was concealed with a small piece of filler and the overhang of the countertop makes it all but imperceptible. Generally, I adjust for height difference at the top of the stack and keep the lower line flush.

Of course you can stack cabinets of any size but have you ever heard of the rule of the golden ratio? It is based on the Fibonacci Series of numbers which are created by adding the two previous numbers together to get the next number (i.e. 1,2,3,5,8,13 etc.). When you divide the larger number by the one to its immediate left, you get a number close to 1.62. For example, 13, divided by 8 =1.625. The Fibonacci numbers are the basis of the golden ratio and some say the Parthenon was constructed using this philosophy. Having said that, I discovered that the best heights of standard wall cabinets to stack are 18” and 30” (30” divided by 18” =1.66).

If you want to really dig into this, begin by seeing what Wikipedia has to say about the Golden Ratio . To do that click here. To me design is as much about mathematics as it is about aesthetics.  When teaching kitchen and bath design students, I often reminded them of the importance of the technical end of the business. In other words, you can always make a technically correct kitchen beautiful but you can’t always make a beautiful kitchen technically correct.

I also wrote about stacked cabinets in this week’s consumer version of the blog. It features some other photos and ideas. If you want to read it click here.  Have a great day everyone!

Connie Edwards CKD, CBD, Waypoint Living Spaces