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Back to the Future: Freestanding Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets today typically consist of fixed wall and base cabinets. These have finished fronts and sides, but any side that is not visible is often unfinished. This includes most of the sides, as the cabinets join end-to-end, leaving just one side on each end exposed. They also stand on their own legs, so they are seldom fixed to the floor.

Freestanding cabinets are different, as all sides, including the back, are finished. Popular during the 1950s, it has since made a comeback as more people are looking back to the past to improve their future. Here are some interesting things about freestanding cabinets.

A history of kitchen cabinets

Prior to World War II, all kitchen cabinets were freestanding. People would make or buy freestanding cabinets and place them in different areas of the kitchen. The only fixed type of cabinet would be the one that held the sink, as the plumbing is not movable.

Wraparound metal cabinets became popular in the 1940 because the technology and materials were readily available due to wartime activities. This made it easy to produce postwar, much easier than making freestanding cabinets as these were made by hand and usually with wood. In other words, it was just more practical to make and buy this type of cabinets, so freestanding kitchen cabinets slowly and quietly faded from the picture.
By the 1950s, metal cabinets were no longer affordable, so homeowners began to choose mass-produced and affordable stock cabinets. They began to take more control over the design of their kitchens, and this meant readymade cabinets installed by contractors.

The old is now new

Freestanding cabinets were popular back in the day because it was convenient. When it was no longer so, new styles came into fashion. As kitchens became bigger, and homeowners more interested in everything retro, freestanding cabinets became more desirable.

In fact, freestanding cabinets are highly functional. Kitchen islands, for instance, are typically freestanding, and provide a lot of badly needed additional storage. Some homeowners even put kitchen islands to better use, putting in either the primary or secondary sink or cook top as well as additional workspace and eating area. Saving space and adding storage are always good ideas.

Don’t think that fixed cabinets are on their way out, however. Wall and base cabinets are still pretty much part of the modern kitchen, especially kitchens that do not have the space for freestanding cabinets on the perimeters. That said, freestanding cabinets still have its place, and cabinetmakers make it their business to have freestanding cabinets in various configurations available to clients. Since these are no longer handmade, they are much more affordable, and a definite choice many homeowners can make.

Freestanding cabinets do still tend to cost a bit more because the materials are ready for a show-ready finish on all sides. This is why many freestanding cabinets have solid wood on all sides, although laminated plywood and particleboard are also acceptable.
Should you choose freestanding cabinets for your kitchen? Consider the pros and cons.


Freestanding cabinets appeal to homeowners with an eye for the classic and traditional styles. However, the best thing about freestanding cabinets is most are moveable. With all sides finished, you can put them anywhere in the kitchen, or the house for that matter, and it will work. All you have to do is to choose countertops to match whatever room in which you plan to put them.

This also makes them much easier to install because it does not need to be. In most cases, you simply unpack them, and you can easily put several units together to form a whole in different considerations. You can even adjust the height of most freestanding cabinets by fiddling with the leg screws and using a level to make sure the top is straight. This is an obvious advantage if your floor is not completely true.
Cleaning freestanding cabinets is also much easier, even if they are a full-function island and fixed in place. You can go around them to clean each side, not missing any spot as you might with regular cabinets because they are stuck to the walls. The fact that they are usually on legs means you have a clear space underneath the cabinets, so you can clean it more thoroughly.


The real problem with freestanding cabinets today is that they tend to be a bit more expensive than regular base cabinets, and they are not available in the same range of designs and styles. That will probably change in the future as their popularity grows, but in the meantime, you have to work with what you have. You can choose to have them custom built, but that makes it even more expensive.
Freestanding cabinets also rest on the floor, although it can be base or tall cabinets. However, if you want wall cabinets, freestanding cabinets are not for you.


Quality might also be an issue, as some cabinetmakers produce poor quality cabinets. You have to make sure you get your cabinets, freestanding or otherwise, from a reputable supplier. Fairfax Kitchen Bath is the one for you in the DC, MD and Northern Virginia metropolitan areas.
We are a Class A, licensed and insured contractor, registered in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We have a showroom in Fairfax, Virginia, which houses all our products.

We sell only top-quality products for all your kitchen remodeling needs, from top-brand kitchen cabinets of all type materials to natural and engineered stone slabs. We carry products from Schrock Cabinetry, Fabuwood, Silestone, Blanco, Kohler, and Mosaic Décor.

Contact us today to get free in-home design consultation and quote for your RTA kitchen cabinets and other remodeling projects. We guarantee you will love it for life!

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Picture of Sam Kazanci <br/><span id="position">Owner</span>
Sam Kazanci

Sam Kazanci is the owner of Fairfax Kitchen Bath Remodeling. He has experience to build and remodel the kitchen and baths with his team and the author of fkb blog: You can find Sam on LinkedIn and Twitter.