The Often Neglected Detail That Makes a Big Difference in Your Kitchen

updated Jul 23, 2020
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(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

This is a post about a part of your kitchen that you may not have even known existed. I had to work at an architecture firm before I learned that the little cove at the bottom of your cabinets is called a “toe kick”. And it turns out that paying a little attention to this humble spot can make a huge difference in the look and feel of your kitchen.

There’s a reason the toe kick exists to begin with. The next time you’re standing in front of your kitchen sink or working at the countertop, take a look down at your feet. Chances are you won’t be able to see your toes, because they’re actually positioned underneath the front edge of your cabinets, in the toe kick.

When you stand at your kitchen sink or work at the countertop, chances are your feet are positioned so that your toes are in the toe kick. Without this little foot-cave you’d either bang your toes into the front of your cabinets, or have to learn over awkwardly to reach things at the back of your countertop. It’s a helpful little ergonomic detail that’s so common that most people don’t think about it at all. (Bathroom cabinets that go all the way to the floor also have these.)

But the toe kick can be more than just a practical thing. In most kitchens the toe kick is either painted black or the same color as the cabinets, to make it as inconspicuous as possible. But these kitchens are different — they take this humble detail and make it an important, and celebrated, part of the room’s design.

(Image credit: Brit + Co)

This kitchen from Brit + Co has a cheerful yellow toe kick to match its cheerful yellow backsplash.

(Image credit: House of Hawkes)

A wood toe kick adds a touch of warmth to a kitchen from House of Hawkes. The typical height for a toe kick is 3.5″, but many of these look a little taller. Increasing the height of the toe kick is one way to give it a little extra prominence and emphasize interesting materials, but keep in mind that you’ll lose a few inches in the height of your lower cabinets.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

For example, this kitchen from Gisbert Poeppler has a fairly typical black toe kick, but its extra height makes it an important part of the design. The black stripe at the bottom of the cabinets relates them back to the dark island, helps to ground the space, and creates a pleasing proportion in a very tall room.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

A pegboard toe kick in artist Francis Upritchard and Martino Gamper’s London home adds a bit of funky charm to their kitchen, from the NY Times.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

A mirrored toe kick adds an extra touch of luxury to this kitchen from Ecora.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

This is one of my favorite toe kick details — a black and white checkered tile that wraps up from the floor and onto the toe kick in a kitchen from Royal Roulotte.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

This Australian kitchen, from Hecker Guthrie via The Design Chaser, features something similar on the island, but here, the ‘toe kick’ is extra tall and deep, making the island almost appear to float.

(Image credit: Style Me Pretty)

The toe kick here is quite typical, but what’s worth noting is the way the sides of the cabinets come down all the way to the floor, making the kitchen cabinets look a bit more like pieces of furniture. Image from Style Me Pretty.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Designer Emily Henderson applied contact paper to the toe kick in the kitchen of Joy Cho’s studio for a little cheerful color.

(Image credit: Jatana Interiors)

A striking stainless toe kick/baseboard in a coffee shop by Jatana Interiors.

Re-edited from a post published 10.2.15-DF