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How (and why) there are no toekicks under my kitchen cabinets

Find out how I chose freestanding cabinets for my farmhouse kitchen remodel. No toekicks.

Let’s rewind to the year 2011. I had a new baby and a very old galley kitchen. One morning, I took a gallon of milk out of the fridge and as I set it down on the counter, it slipped and splat on the floor. The cap popped off. Milk was glug, glug, glugging out, and some of it slipped under the toekick on our 1980s cabinets. Untouchable. Can’t clean under there. I vowed that someday when I finally got a new kitchen, there would be no toekicks under my kitchen cabinets.

And then, about two years later my Dad dropped a huge, warehouse-club size olive oil in that kitchen. If you are not familiar with American warehouse-club sized olive oil, it’s the equivalent of about three soccer footballs full of oil. Some of the oil spilled under those pesky toekicks, too. Sealed the deal. I was done. No more toekicks.

Early American furniture did not have toekicks. Cabinet toekicks rose to popularity in the 1960s. Here is why and how I didn’t put toekicks under the cabinets in my Early-American farmhouse kitchen renovation design. #kichendesign

I focused on designing an Early-American farmhouse style kitchen. My house is over 230 years old. Even though I wasn’t willing to swap out my range for a giant fireplace hearth (so unauthentic of me), I wanted to limit the elements that weren’t around back then. Toekicks fall into that category.

What exactly is a toekick?

I didn’t know either, until I started thinking about renovating my kitchen. Underneath most kitchen and some bathroom cabinets, there’s this strip of wood, usually 4″ tall (a little over 10 cm), along the floor and the cabinets are placed on top. The strip of wood is the toekick.

Why my farmhouse kitchen cabinets dont have toekicks.

Benefits of a toekick

It’s not all bad. There are some good (and self-reinforcing) reasons why toekicks were invented and became so common.

  • Clean look
  • Covers mess underneath cabinets
  • Most cabinets already come with toekicks
  • No additional modifications
  • Installers are very familiar with toekicks

Drawbacks to a toekick

  • Rose to popularity in the 60s, 70s and 80s
  • The room feels larger if you open up space below the cabinets
  • If something falls into a crack, it’s gone till you demo
  • Liquids can slip under
  • Can’t clean under the cabinets (for like 30 to 50 years)
  • Mice make little nests in there (don’t ask how I know this, but it’s firsthand knowledge)
  • With spills, scuffs and dirt, you have to clean them or they look dingy
  • Not historic or farmhouse style

What replaces a toekick?

Realistically, there’s two choices. You can either put the cabinets on feet, like any other piece of furniture, or you can build up the molding at the base of the cabinets. We did both because we had to.

Most of our cabinets are on furniture feet. We had the cabinet maker craft the boxes without the toekicks. Then, the contractor installed them resting on a 2×4 along the back wall, which you can’t see. Finally, he nailed the furniture feet into place. Since our house is far from level, he spent extra time adding to and cutting down the feet to level off the cabinets. But, believe it or not, most of the weight rests on the 2×4 along the back wall.

Cute story. When I first told the architect, Rob White Architect, that one of my must-haves was no toekicks. He was speechless. He doesn’t go speechless often.

It was the first time any homeowner had made the request. Rob’s great though. He pivoted immediately and saw my vision. I appreciate that. Actually, he more than saw my vision. He and I both independently chose the exact same feet from a furniture catalog of a zillion options. That left me speechless.

No toekicks in this farmhouse kitchen where the white cabinets look more like furniture.

The fridge is hidden inside of an imposing wall of cabinetry. We couldn’t actually put the fridge on furniture feet or the wall of cabinetry. Instead, we built the molding up at the base of the fridge. You can see it in the background of the next photo.

We also couldn’t put the heavy island on furniture feet. Our island is hiding a bunch of pipes and a dishwasher on one side and is inset on the other side to create a countertop that we can slide stools underneath. We built up the molding on three sides of the island. On the fourth side, under the sink…I admit it…true confession…there’s a toekick. But, it’s small and hidden.

I inherited a table that we put at the end of the island, which gives us back the furniture feel. Phew.

Kitchen table at the end of a gray island and wide plank floors

My prediction

I predict that you will start to see preferences swing away from toekicks. I just have a feeling. They look awesome. You can clean under the cabinets easily with a dry sweeper or a mop. Also, unexpected benefit, a robot vacuum fits easily underneath.

If you’ve considered a robot vacuum before, I am pretty happy with mine. It’s not really a name brand, which means it’s a little cheaper. But, it’s easy to empty and simple to set up. My five year old can work it, no problem. The only thing is, it is not very good at docking itself to charge so I usually have to carry it back near the docking station before I press the “home” button. It’s great on hardwood or tile floors. It works pretty well on area rugs.

Hope you had fun learning about toekicks and a different way to think about them.

I am working on a whole series for the blog about my Early-American farmhouse kitchen renovation. Go ahead, follow along.

Early American farmhouse kitchen design

35 thoughts on “How (and why) there are no toekicks under my kitchen cabinets

  1. I like the look of the cabinetry very much, it is very nice. My daughter has a robot vacuum that is name brand and it doesn’t dock very well either. In fact, she called me specifically to tell me it had docked itself.

    1. Thank you, and what a beautiful testament to your relationship with your daughter – that when this small, happy moment happened in her everyday life, she thought, “Yay! I have to tell Mom.” That’s so sweet.

  2. Years ago we had a pet ferret who somehow knew of a way to get under the cabinets even with the toe kicks. Every time we do any work on the cabinets or appliances we find toys and other “treasures” the ferret hid under there. It never occurred to me to just get rid of the stupid toe kicks!

    1. Oh wow, a ferret! This cracked me up. I could add “your pet ferret might hide stuff under the toekicks” to the list of Cons. So funny. Ferrets don’t know. It seems like a great place to them.

  3. New to me. I have never thought of this but can see why it is a great idea.

    1. Thanks! That’s so exciting bc we all hope our blogs help us share new ideas and challenge perspectives.

  4. Toe kicks – I had no idea! Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Going with no toe kicks after tearing out the cabinets and new tiling in the undone floors under the cabinets. And being adjustable meant I could put one end of the cabinets over a transitional threshold on one end, setting back the leg 2 inches.

      1. Yes! That makes so much sense. Love that idea!

      2. Seems like a good idea, Alan.

  5. […] How (and why) there are no toekicks under my kitchen cabinets […]

  6. Curious as to why you didn’t just have the cabinets sit on floor level? Seems like you’re losing 4 or more inches of potential storage space? And then I have to get down there and clean under it? Nuhuh.

    I intensely dislike my ’73 kitchen in Raleigh. It’s got toekicks, but also cabinets don’t go to the ceiling by more than 1 foot. Sheetrock boxes it level with the front cabinets up there – just think of all the storage that would be! We downsized into this house and the kitchen is 1/4 the size of my old one. ARGH! I want that space! I grew up around kitchens like this, but DARN they are not functional. Our great grandmothers would have had shelving in both areas!

    1. Good and valid question. They do make slide out drawers for the toekicks, which would be good places for storing trays, towels, extra serving spoons, things like that. It’s an excellent idea for people looking for more storage!
      As for me, it was a personal-preference for a “furniture look” that lead me to question conventional thinking and put the cabinets on feet.

      I thought cleaning might be a bigger deal. But now that we’ve lived with the cabinets awhile, it hasn’t been. Our robot vacuum zips right under there, so does a mop. We don’t mop under there often. When we ripped out the old cabinets, it was pretty gross under the toe kick. I personally spilled milk that slipped underneath a toekick once. Pleasant.

      This being my first new kitchen, I can relate to your vintage 70s surroundings. Totally. But 73 is pretty impressive…it’s still functional after 46 years! You must really do a good job caring for it.

  7. I am an out of the box thinker, and am so happy to see this article and the good sense it makes. But, husband values toe kicks for the reasons you listed why people like them. Shoe mold is used at the toe kick sometimes, if I have that right, to create an extra barrier for the spills and dirt. I never thought of rodents, just bugs, and the trapped dirt. You placed a “pro” in the “con” list perhaps…’makes the room look larger”. Your idea is like a modified floating cabinet.
    The best use of toe kick that I made was like you mentioned, putting a drawer there. Except I did it with a step stool made for that purpose since the cabinets go to the ceiling.

    1. Thanks for the ideas! I love the hideaway step stool. Great thinking!

  8. Hi there 🙂 I was just wondering if you had any more information on your hidden fridge. I want to do a paneled fridge, but the appliances that came with our house were brand new and the fridge is enormous! I feel like it would be such a waste to get rid of it. Did you buy a panel ready fridge or a counter depth one? Thanks!

    1. Hi! Good question. I remember doing all kinds of research on this. We bought the panel-ready fridge and then ordered a custom-sized panel from the cabinet company. Our kitchen contractor installed them. Quite a series of things to coordinate, I know.

  9. I hate furniture that goes all the way to the floor, I’m trying to design a kitchen for my grandma and one of my priorities is no toekicks, I like being able to clean under my furniture.

    1. 100%! I’ve now had the ability to clean under our cabinets for 2 years…and I still love it! Yes, we do have balls and milk carton caps roll under there sometimes, but it’s no more difficult to retrieve than getting something out from under our dresser.

  10. I found your page looking for ideas about no toe kicks. I also really want to clean under my cabinets and I had no idea they were only a “recent” idea. Even better. I was hoping for suggestions for feet to use under my ikea cabinets….they carry stainless steel ones but that isn’t the look I was going for…ugh. And it’s in a basement so they need to be adjustable. …any suggestions?

  11. Ok…I am so glad I found this page as I have been trying to convince my fiancé NOT to do toekicks and use furniture legs on our new kitchen. I honestly got the idea from IKEA as they sell their kitchen cabinets with an option of legs instead of toe kicks…and after we destroyed our kitchen do to rodent issues and found nests and droppings under the cabinets (in the toekick spot) I said I never again want toekicks in my kitchen, I want to see what is going on under my cabinets 🙂 My question to you is, what height legs did you use? Is it 4.5″ legs? Thank you for this! Hopefully this will convince my fiancé to go with my idea instead 🙂

    1. Excellent question! I broke out the tape measure for you. Our feet are about 4.5” with a big caveat – our house is 230 years old so every foot is a different height. It is easier to cut the feet shorter than try to make them longer. Another big tip, the back of the cabinets are resting on a 2×4 that you can’t see. The 2×4 provides support and levels things out.

  12. Thank you so much for taking the time and measuring those legs!!! The 2×4 on the back wall is a great idea! Along with the IKEA installation rail that should be plenty of support 🙂 our house was build in 78 but I bet our floors will be uneven 🙂 Thank you again 🙂

  13. I love the idea of no toe kicks, but I’m not sure it is reasonable long term. What happens when it’s time for a new kitchen floor?

    1. I like the way you’re thinking. I didn’t think about replacing the floors. Hummm…the feet are just held on by nails. We could take them off and slide a floor underneath. I suppose we could also just put toekicks on some day if we changed our minds.

  14. I am trying to salvage my bathroom vanity cabinet. I want to remove it, including the toekick, add legs, paint it, and then reinstall it. You have helped me envision how to do this. I only hope I can get the cabinet removed without any damage so I can reuse it. I also have a robot vacuum, so I will make sure my legs are high enough for it to fit under it. Is your charging station under one of the cabinets or are you just talking about the vacuum cleaning the areas under the cabinets? I think having the charging station under the cabinet would be a great idea.

  15. I am reposting this comment because I entered the wrong email address the first time. sorry.

    I am trying to salvage my bathroom vanity cabinet. I want to remove it, including the toekick, add legs, paint it, and then reinstall it. You have helped me envision how to do this. I only hope I can get the cabinet removed without any damage so I can reuse it. I also have a robot vacuum, so I will make sure my legs are high enough for it to fit under it. Is your charging station under one of the cabinets or are you just talking about the vacuum cleaning the areas under the cabinets? I think having the charging station under the cabinet would be a great idea.

    1. Oh that would be a good idea. My charging station is underneath a table, under a window. I wish I could hide it, but I don’t have an outlet in a better place. Love your ideas! Good luck

  16. Is there a company that makes cabinets like this or are these custom? Hard finding cabinets like this without going custom and paying the price.

    1. I don’t know about you, but it feels like every option is expensive these days. These are custom, and the modification was easy. Basically, it’s just a matter of cutting the toekick off. The feet were purchased separately from the lumber supply. There are companies (mostly in Amish country USA) that make cabinets with feet ready-to-purchase. Another option I considered was RTA ready-to-assemble.

  17. Do you have more photos? Like in front of the sink and how you built up the molding by the fridge?

    1. Good question! The molding around the sink and fridge is just a 1×5 board with quarter-round. Very typical and simple.

  18. I’m totally against this idea — why create another spot that needs cleaning? To-the-floor cabinets are the standard for a reason!

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