Chris Schwarz, Design, Modern Kitchen Cupboard, SketchUp
Comments 4

Changes for The Modern Kitchen Cupboard

I like the design I developed for my next woodworking plan (shown above). I am calling this piece of furniture the Modern Kitchen Cupboard. I like the overall shape, I like the gray paint and birdseye maple combination, the sweeping curves to the top; the modern door/drawer pulls. Pretty much all of it, except one thing.

When designing in SketchUp, I have learned the hard way to never rely just on your 3D model for a final design. Always draw it full size to confirm you like it; confirm there are no surprises (make a full size model if possible like this one). So, I bought some poster board and taped several sheets together and did just that; draw the Modern Kitchen Cupboard full size. I quickly discovered a design flaw. The cupboard is simply too short. In the image at the top of this post, I have added a scale figure which shows what I am talking about. The cupboard height is around this guy’s elbow. When I stretched out my tape measure while drawing the full size image, I thought: “Really, that is how tall this cupboard is?”

I knew instantly a significant design change was needed. But I was also disappointed because I had come to like the elbow height design. I also had to think back to the starting point of this process and wondered why I would draw the cupboard that short to begin with. I always need a starting point; some shape to work from. This is usually a 3D rectangle, then the design takes off from there. The object I used for inspiration was Chris Schwarz’ aumbry as seen in Popular Woodworking magazine. The Schwarz aumbry is a killer design and I like knowing there is a little Chris Schwarz aumbry in the Modern Kitchen Cupboard’s DNA. As luck would have it, there is a SketchUp model of this aumbry available for download (see it here). I downloaded the model and began my design process…

With the Chris Schwarz aumbry in the background, I began my design work.

But, I never really paid attention to the aumbry’s height. While creating my own design, I did raise the height on the cupboard’s top; did this to get more vertical shape to the doors, but not because I thought the design was short. And I never did anything to add some scale, even though I knew doing so was important.

While drawing the cupboard full size in my workshop, I played around with various heights and settled on 56 inches as an appropriate height allowing for some item to be displayed on the cupboard’s top (family photos, a radio or TV, dirty dishes, etc.).

New design with new drawers.

More height means more room for additional drawers. The new design shows two additional drawers and the drawer depth has increased by one inch. I played around with the idea of introducing a curve to the base of the cupboard, but I haven’t found a curve I like better than the simplistic straight look of the bottom face frame rail. Part of design is knowing when to stop.

New design, taller, additional drawers.

Front, right 3/4 view.

I still need to make some minor changes to the inside of the cabinet since it is now taller, but I think this design is about 99% final. Soon, I’ll get to work on the new woodworking plan. A plan which will be much more compact than the expansive 34 pages of my last plan.

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Have a question or comment about this post? Leave me a comment below; but I also like email. Use my contact form to send me an email (click here).


  1. Nice design Jeff. I recently watched a SketchUp video where the commentators advised that you use one of their face me people images because, as they put it, how else will you know scale. I really never thought of it that way. My first step is to erase that image and begin work – doing like you do and having a tape measure near by. Great advise.

    • Hey David; I used to do the same thing, delete the scale figure. I saw it as a nuisance. Then I selected a different base template which did not have the scale figure, and I rarely even think about it. I saw the same video (I think) and it is good to pop this guy in your model from time to time. 🙂

  2. I have to agree about dropping the curved rail idea from the design. I feel like that element would be incongruent with the overall style. It’s a great piece and I know it’ll be stunning when you bring it to life.

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