The first apartment of one my good friends had this really, really cool dish drainer that was integrated into the cabinet above her sink. In a small place with minuscule counter space, this was genius. Because I'm not a believer in hand-drying dishes, letting dishes air dry but still be off the counter, out of sight, and simultaneously put away was kind of jaw-dropping amazing. Turns out this feature wasn't a one-off, but an iteration of a Finnish design with the delightful name of Astiankuivauskaappi. We'll just call it awesome.
What are Finnish Dish-drying Cabinets?
Finnish dish-drying cabinets consist of shelving above the sink that, instead of being solid on the bottom, are made of wire or dowels so that dishes can drip dry. Dish-drying cabinets are sometimes bottomless, allowing the dishes to drain right into the sink. Other times, the cabinets have trays or drawers to catch the drips. They can have doors, or not. All that matters is that the cabinet doubles as both a drying rack and permanent storage for said dishes.
As you can imagine, this is especially convenient when there's no dishwasher because everyday plates and glasses are being hand washed either way. It's the ultimate in touch-it-once: Setting the washed dishes to dry is putting them away.
The History of Finnish Drying Cabinets
The first version of a dish-drying cabinet was patented in the United States by Louise R. Krause in the early 1930s. But the idea never took off and we in the United States are stuck in time, drying our dishes on countertop racks like "barbarians," as one Finnish man describes it.
When Ms. Maiju Gebhard of Finland independently designed her version in the 1940s, the concept did take off, and the drying cabinets are widely used in Finland to this day. According to the podcast 99% Invisible, the cabinets are found in every Finnish apartment that doesn't have a dishwasher.
Listen to the podcast: Finnish the Dishes: Simple Nordic Design Beats Dishwashers & Drying Racks from 99 Percent Invisible
Is an Astiankuivauskaappi Right For Me?
Before you make your Finnish dish drying cabinet dreams come true, consider your dish washing habits. If you're a dishwasher user and tend to throw everything in there, you may not be the best candidate for a dish drying cabinet.
Another thing to consider is the location of your sink. If you have a window or no wall above your sink, you can't put a drip-dry dish drying cabinet over your sink — which isn't to say you can't use another cabinet. These are just things to consider.
But if you live in a small space with no dishwasher, you could save yourself some serious time and energy by retrofitting a regular cabinet to become a dish draining one.
I Like It. I Want It. How Can I Get It?
If you have a cabinet over your sink already and carte blanche to cut up your cabinets, see if you can replace the shelves (and maybe bottom) of the cabinet with plastic-coated wire racks—either with the help of a contractor or on your own as a DIY effort. You might want to find a small dish drainer that you can fit into the cabinet on top of the wire shelf for holding up dishes and containing cutlery to keep everything not only working well but looking good, too.
If destroying your cabinets in the name of easy drying isn't in the cards for you, you should know there are some after-market products that replicate some of the functionality of Finnish dish drying closets:
IKEA UTRUSTA Dish Drainer, £30 ($40)
Not available stateside, but a great find if you snag one.
The Drip Dry Dish Rack, $149
This rack comes in a few sizes with an installation kit to make pro-looking work of your DIY retrofit.
Stovold & Pogue Stainless Steel Plate Rack, £150 ($199)
Wall-mounted stainless steel racks like this one are commonly found in India, too.
IKEA GRUNDTAL Dish Drainer, $27.99
This dish drainer works with the GRUNDTAL rail system and can be mounted right on top of the sink.
If you have just a bit to store and dry, this over-the-sink rack should work a treat.
NEX Dish Drainer, $59.99
There's a single-height version of this one available on Amazon, too.
The bridge-above-the-sink options are endless, really.
Rev-a-Shelf Pull Down Shelving System, $230-$250
You can get all the functionality of the drip-dry closet without dropping the bottoms of your cabinets with this pull-down rack.
Whether you help bring the trend home by using them yourself or simply admire their ingenuity, Finnish dish drying racks deserve to be lauded as prime examples of exceptionally functional design.