HOUSE: New Mexico #3

Building cabinet cubbies for extra storage.

DIY wood storage cubbies to fill gaps between cabinets and range

November 2019

When I shared the photos of the new lower cabinet, a few of you smarties wondered what I might do to fill in the remaining gap on either side of the range. The existing space is 43″ (to accomodate the 40″ width of a standard range in 1950), and while upgrading to a 36″ range instead of a 30″ (the contemporary standard) reduced the overall dead space from 13″ to only 7″, that’s still a full 3 ½″ (well, 3 ¼″ if you account for the necessary ¼″ clearance between the range and the cabinets) on each side. 6 ½″ of extra countertop is no joke in a small kitchen, and surely the space underneath could be used for some kind of storage!

If you’re wondering why I didn’t just shove the range all the way to the left and just have a wider cabinet built to go to its right, it’s because I’m not a monster. That would have meant the range would no longer be centered under the existing built-in shelf and upper cabinets. It would have thrown off the entire balance. Unthinkable!

Now, it’s not a revelation to fill gaps in cabinetry with storage cubbies for baking sheets and cutting boards, but I wanted to do it in a way that wouldn’t look like a fill-in. Because the range is freestanding (meaning the sides are finished, and the top doesn’t have a lip designed to overlap the countertop edge) and on legs, I thought that running a cubby all the way down to the floor—or even to the toe-kick—would look weird. It would have conflicted with the lower corners of the range. Also, I didn’t want to interfere with the proportions of the cabinets as they were designed.

After spending a lot of time holding up pieces of wood and pinching my lower lip thoughtfully, I decided that the best option was to build cubbies that maximized the available width, but were only tall enough to accommodate a standard 13×18″ cookie sheet turned on its side. I also thought they should be set back slightly from the front of the cabinets so as not to take away from the curved cabinet corners.

DIY wood storage cubbies to fill gaps between cabinets and range

And…cubbies! There’s nothing fancy going on here. I just used some basic pine project panels for the sides, and 1×4″ pine boards for the tops, bottoms, and back. Everything is the same thickness as the cabinets. It’s all held together with screws. Super simple. If you look verrrrrry closely at the cubby on the right, you can see that I drilled a hole in the side to line up with the hole in the cabinet so I’d be able to run the range cord through. I’m still patting myself on the back for remembering to do that before I permanently attached the cubbies to the cabinets. Well done, Dorfman!

DIY wood storage cubbies to fill gaps between cabinets and range

With the cubbies securely in place (again, nothing fancy here—I just used my handy Kreg pocket hole jig to make holes through the cubbies and into the cabinets so everything could be screwed together) and the range in position, I could see I needed to add a little something else to make it all come together visually. My favorite thing about these cabinets is how simply-built they are, and how everything looks handmade. I started thinking about what I could do to incorporate a handmade element of my own, and how I could introduce a distinctly New Mexico flourish.

Stepped motif inspiration, New Mexico

My mind immediately went to this stepped motif that’s seen all over New Mexico. Here it is on the corner brackets of a lovely set of shelves in artist Paul Baxendale’s Santa Fe studio at Field Studies Editions; on a door I spotted at a house on Santa Fe’s famous Canyon Road; and at the San Geronimo church at Taos Pueblo (photograph by Jennifer Yin).

DIY wood storage cubbies to fill gaps between cabinets and range

A couple of scrap 1x4s, a ruler, a pencil, a jigsaw, and about 20 minutes later, I had some cute little stepped doo-dads to add to the storage cubbies! I don’t know why it doesn’t occur to me to make stuff like this more often.

DIY wood storage cubbies to fill gaps between cabinets and range

DIY wood storage cubbies to fill gaps between cabinets and range

TA-DA!!! Could these storage cubbies BE any cuter??? No, they could not. This is the maximum amount of cuteness that can be achieved via cookie sheet and cutting board storage cubbies. And yes, both of my 13×18″ baking sheets and the mini sheet for my toaster oven fit in the left cubby, and my lesser-used-but-still-essential cutting boards fit in the one on the right. I lined the bottoms with self-adhesive cork to prevent scratching. Not only cute, but deeply satisfying.

(You know what else these cubbies mean? It’s time to measure for countertops! Yesssssssss.)

Kitchen recap:
It’s time to meet the kitchen!
Kitchen planning!
Kitchen cabinets: Prep + painting.
Painting and stenciling the kitchen floor.
Kitchen countertop demolition.
Painting the kitchen’s steel casement window.
Let’s add some cabinets!

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  • Reply Fiona April 22, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    It’s just lovely.

    • Anna Dorfman April 23, 2020 at 10:08 am

      Thank you, Fiona! ❤️

  • Reply Kate F. April 22, 2020 at 3:44 pm

    Gasp!!! These are SO CUTE and also so practical! I’d love to have something like this; the only practical baking sheet storage in my kitchen is the dreaded drawer under the oven. (And no, it’s not a broiler!) So annoying and noisy to deal with. I store my cutting boards in the corner of the counter, upright, with a very good simple bookend to keep them from slithering down. I felt very pleased with myself when I figured that one out!

    • Anna Dorfman April 23, 2020 at 10:10 am

      My previous kitchens have all had the not-a-broiler storage drawer thing, and even thought they’re annoying (you always need the one on the bottom, for some reason) and noisy, I didn’t realize how much I would miss not having one! I figured out pretty quickly that storing my baking sheets inside the oven is not awesome—especially since I kept forgetting they were in there when I turned the oven on to preheat. Argh!

  • Reply Richmal April 22, 2020 at 3:54 pm

    Super cute, the ‘doo-dads’ really finish them off and connect them to the existing units and the house.

    • Marianne April 22, 2020 at 6:11 pm

      Love those cubbies and the nod to New Mexico architecture!

    • Maria April 23, 2020 at 12:09 pm

      These are really cute!! You should see what Christine McConnell in youtube has done in her kitchen. Totally different style from yours. But is another example of how you can customize your space and make it truly unique. Plus I wouldn’t be mad if it inspired you to be in youtube.

    • Barbara April 25, 2020 at 6:43 am

      Love how the decoration on the cubbies works with the floor pattern!

  • Reply Megan April 22, 2020 at 4:03 pm

    I love this so much.

  • Reply Brenda April 22, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    finished with flourishes AND cork-lined, no less

    • Anna Dorfman April 23, 2020 at 10:11 am

      Lining things with cork is an instant life improvement!!

  • Reply katie April 22, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    i am TRULY obsessed with this. everything about it. easier to clean the floor down there… the additional storage… the little doo-dads that are so fantastically new mexico-vibey. I cannot handle!!!

    • Anna Dorfman April 23, 2020 at 10:15 am

      I love being able to get into all the crevices with the vacuum and the mop!!

  • Reply Annie April 22, 2020 at 4:54 pm

    I don’t know how to say this without sousing cheesy, but this, is delightful. So charming AD, brava.

    • Anna Dorfman April 23, 2020 at 10:19 am

      Thank you, Annie!!

  • Reply paula mills April 22, 2020 at 5:20 pm

    That little extra added detail was PERFECT! Aren’t you a clever girl?

  • Reply Melissa April 22, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    “… it’s because I’m not a monster.” Great addition, both utility and design!

  • Reply Kelly M April 22, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    Not gonna lie. As I read and saw the cubbies, I thought ‘Yep, good idea. Smart storage solution. Uh-huh.’ Then I see the stepped doo-dads and thought ‘This is expletive brilliant!’ They totally make the cubbies look like they were meant to be there…and could have always been there. You have the eye Anna!

    • Anna Dorfman April 23, 2020 at 11:11 am

      “The cubbies look like they were meant to be there” is the BEST compliment! Thank you. I really wanted this to turn out looking like they were always part of the house.

  • Reply Eileen April 22, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    Beyond perfect!

  • Reply NBrody April 22, 2020 at 6:21 pm

    Way to go!! I wondered what would happen here and you totally exceeded my expectations!!

  • Reply Geninne April 22, 2020 at 6:27 pm

    Cutest cubbies EVURRRR

    • Anna Dorfman April 23, 2020 at 11:11 am

      Thank you for the ongoing moral support while I embarked on this project!!

  • Reply Laura April 22, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    This is so charming! Pulling in vernacular graphics on the fly? – my head is exploding with admiration.

  • Reply H April 22, 2020 at 7:07 pm

    This is really charming. I love the idea of taking motifs from the surrounding architecture and repeating them in small ways. It reminds me of something I read about machine learning – pictures of cities were fed into it and it identified Paris hallmarks like metal balconies. All those small details add up to a distinctive style.

  • Reply Margaret Pycherek April 22, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    Yeah, now I want to rip out my whole kitchen and start over. Thanks, Anna. 😉 (Also…you should consider interior design, no joke. I’ve loved your style from Brooklyn to Newburgh to here.)

    • Anna Dorfman April 23, 2020 at 11:13 am

      I could never design interiors for other people. I’m too inflexible when it comes to other people’s opinions!! I’d have to make everyone sign an agreement to let me to whatever I want, no questions asked, and to also be fine with me changing my mind 100 times along the way. 😉

  • Reply KarenJ April 22, 2020 at 7:49 pm

    OMG! I saw the cubbies and went meh yeah I guess those will work from a functional standpoint (stifled yawn) and then you added the doo dads and my mind is officially blown! ❤️ Friggin genius you are

    • Anna Dorfman April 23, 2020 at 11:14 am


  • Reply Ryann April 22, 2020 at 8:12 pm

    As someone who has been reading your blog and Daniels since, I don’t know 2008ish, I can honestly say I’ve never disliked anything you have done. Today, in 2020, my blog consumption has shifted to iPad rather than cubicle internet work distraction, and I now always scroll through and look at photos first, THEN read. At first I was like, oh gosh, I hate it, what the?? Then I saw the stair step detail pieces, proving you are always right and I’m sorry for the moment I doubted you. Absolutely love the clever and design thoughtful addition =) (Then of course I went on to read it and it was a fabulous post as always).

    Is anyone else at the edge of their seat about the counters though…..? Dying.

    • Anna Dorfman April 23, 2020 at 11:15 am

      Hahahahahaha!! I’m sorry for the rollercoaster of emotions!!

  • Reply Judi April 22, 2020 at 9:57 pm

    Oh, STOP. Anna, this is ridiculously awesome. To the point where I now want to sell our house with its exactly-as-I-designed-it-IKEA-kitchen-with-all-lower-drawers-and-an-induction-cooktop and find a new house to renovate…a house with a kitchen that needs CUBBIES. CUBBIES. GENIUS. (And yes, an off-center range would have been unthinkable. Because the arrow-like protrusion on the built-in shelf POINTING TO THE RANGE is just TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. Thank you for keeping our standards high, and my overuse of capital letters intact.)

    Now I don’t want to do any client work tomorrow. I just want to sit around whispering “CUBBIES” like I’m a weird Harry Potter character.

    • Anna Dorfman April 23, 2020 at 11:16 am

      A couple of people who shall remain nameless actually suggested moving the range off-center for the sake of making this whole thing easier, and I was aghast. AGHAST!

    • Karen April 23, 2020 at 11:20 am

      Love this so much. A sweet reminder that a little thing can make a huge difference. I wonder if we may see more of this pattern as more home reno is revealed.

  • Reply Amber April 22, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    Love, love this solution. It looks so ‘finished’ and in keeping with the style of your house. I’ve always wondered this about ranges that are on higher legs… how do you clean the floor underneath? Is it easy to pull out? And now you have floor space under the cubbies to clean too. (Sorry, been spending too much time cleaning while in quarantine.)

    • Anna Dorfman April 23, 2020 at 11:18 am

      Hmmm. I haven’t needed to pull the range out since I tiled the backsplash, but I’d imagine putting felt sliders under the feet would make it very easy to pull in and out. As for cleaning, it couldn’t be easier. It’s just like vacuuming/mopping under any piece of raised furniture. It’s a full 6″ off the floor.

  • Reply SRS April 22, 2020 at 10:27 pm

    Amazingly charming and very practical!!!

  • Reply Claudia April 23, 2020 at 1:14 am

    Practical and cute, always a winning combination!

  • Reply M April 23, 2020 at 3:12 am

    The stepped cubbies are everything. The steps totally make them.
    And “because I’m not a monster” – yes! (from someone who also recognises and appreciates centeredness).

  • Reply Jemma April 23, 2020 at 4:10 am

    Its official, you are a design genius. This might be the cutest thing you have ever made!

  • Reply Danielle April 23, 2020 at 8:39 am

    So cute! And agreed, the perfect amount of cuteness!
    Thank you for the suggestion of self-adhesive cork liner. I’ve been attempting to use felt rounds to ‘stick’ to the bottom of some pull out baskets I use for onion storage in my kitchen and no surprise, they don’t stick very well and constantly fall off. Cork adhesive to the rescue!

    • Anna Dorfman April 23, 2020 at 11:21 am

      The only downside to cork lining is that you can’t really wash it, but it’s very easy to vacuum. It’s also fine to blot it clean with a damp sponge if needed! I’ve tried a few brands, and the Con-Tact kind I linked to is definitely the best in terms of non-lifting at the edges/corners.

  • Reply Bernadette April 23, 2020 at 11:29 am

    Brilliant and practical, great job!

  • Reply Kimberly April 23, 2020 at 12:20 pm

    Love this – practical and special.

  • Reply Scott C April 23, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    Cripes and criminy! I Love those cubbies!

  • Reply Lori April 23, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    Oh, I love it! So impactful and doesn’t break the bank!

  • Reply gigi April 24, 2020 at 6:32 am

    I must have missed something. You extended the upper cabinet, but then did he make new doors since you used the upper doors for the lower cabinet? The cabinets and all that you have done look great. Thank you for posting.

    • Anna Dorfman April 24, 2020 at 6:35 am

      Yes, extending the uppers meant new doors had to be made. I mentioned it in the last post, but I hadn’t hung them at that point.

  • Reply Rachel April 24, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    The cubbies are super smart, but the doo-dads make them smart AND adorable! They have so much character and look like they have been there forever!

  • Reply Molly Vigo April 24, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    So practical! So tidy! So well-suited for this space!

    Are you planning to repeat the stepped motif anywhere else in the kitchen (e.g. the shelf above the stove)?

    • Anna Dorfman April 24, 2020 at 2:12 pm

      No plans like that for the time being, no. I think just this little bit is enough—the shelf above the stove has its own thing going on already 🙂

  • Reply Dana April 25, 2020 at 7:10 am

    This is all looking SO GOOD!

  • Reply RebeccaNYC April 25, 2020 at 7:58 am

    Are you kidding me? this is simply genius, and I need to copy this for my tiny tiny NYC apt that has a stupid space next to the stove that is currently just housing the little step stool needed to reach the upper cabinet. gaaaaahhhh!!! so smart

  • Reply Laura C April 28, 2020 at 6:22 am


  • Reply Molly April 29, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    Endlessly cute!

  • Reply katie May 18, 2020 at 11:27 am

    Cute! I’m curious, how did you attach the decorative pieces to the cabinets? Screws seem like they would be too big and rip it apart. Brad nails? Glue?

    • Anna Dorfman May 18, 2020 at 11:50 am

      I used long, thin steel screws through the inside of the cabinet (I drilled pilot holes first). Dowels and glue would’ve worked great, but I don’t have the right kind of bit.

  • Reply PAPPEL May 25, 2020 at 3:44 pm

    So happy to see you blogging again. Love your kitchen. I love all SW architecture. And your kitchen cabinets are my favorite style. You can totally design the home my hubs and I are planning to bill (we live in southern CA). I will totally give you total control.

  • Reply Sadie March 9, 2021 at 10:50 am

    Okay, the more posts I look at, the more obsessed with your style I become! Those little cubbies are so smart and so cute! You are giving me so many ideas for our cabinet refinishing project we’re about to take on!

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