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Cabinetry 101

Gregory Vaughan - Thursday, November 15, 2012

How to Choose the Right Cabinetry for Your Home, Lifestyle, and Budget

I have been doing a great deal of work in kitchens lately. No, not the experimental gourmet creations and events in my own kitchen that I fondly describe as dinner parties, but helping clients plan their own personal culinary laboratories. I have found that in my 20-some odd years of being a designer the kitchen is the number one space that often frustrates and overwhelms clients. And, given the plethora of options and styles available, combined with the wide range of price-points, it is no wonder clients become intimidated when faced with choosing all the components.

Cabinetry is the backbone of any kitchen design and given that, on average, 50% of a new kitchen budget goes toward cabinetry, it is a major investment as well. Therefore, making smart choices with the right type of cabinet is very important. There are three basic categories of cabinetry: stock, semi-custom and custom. Each type has its pros and cons and their costs reflect their quality and options.

Stock units from a home improvement center can be bought “off-the-shelf” and usually preassembled (units from places like IKEA being an exception). These limit your choice of sizes, styles, and colors and are usually are not made from solid wood. Stock cabinets are the most economical for adding a second kitchen in a basement or rental unit but most likely not ideal for use in a primary kitchen.

 Semi-custom cabinets allow you to select many options of sizes, styles, and finishes provided by the manufacturer. These cabinets are made-to-order with the options specified from standard size units and take several weeks for delivery. With careful planning, these units can mimic much costlier custom units.

 True custom cabinets are built by a cabinetmaker or woodworker and tailored to your exact specifications. Often crafted from exotic wood (or other specialty products) they offer complete personalization, thus they cost more to create and take longer to construct. The end product is truly a work of art.

If you are using semi-custom or custom cabinetry in your new kitchen you will have a choice of finishes. You can select from the full spectrum of stains and paint colors. And, on top of that, you can embellish them even further with a glaze for definition or distressing for an instant worn and antiqued look.

The next step is to choose your frame style. Partial overlay doors are the most popular and are characterized by doors and drawers that reveal some of the frame (or box) of the cabinet. These are frequently used in traditional style kitchens. Full overlay doors cover the entire frame of the cabinet box, leaving just enough space for them to open. This provides a seamless look popular in more modern and contemporary decors. Full inset doors fit flush with the frame and are the most difficult to manufacture, so these are distinguished by the custom upscale look the most expensive option.

Door styles are available in any panel design you can imagine. Flat, raised panel, recessed panel, or applied molding can be combined with straight or arched motifs to create a completely personal look. You can also add glass doors or bead-board inserts to mix it up. Since the façade of your cabinetry dominates the visual effect of your kitchen, carefully consider the overall look you desire.

 Once you have established the basic look of the cabinetry it is time to add personality and sparkle. The hardware is like jewelry for cabinetry – it adds some bling and drama. Whether you opt for knobs, pulls, latches or hooks, these functional elements can also define the style. Decorative details like corbels and crown molding give cabinets some architectural flair and definition. And remember, not all embellishments are visual, so consider soft-touch hinge systems to eliminate the slamming shut of doors and drawers. Your ears will appreciate the silence.

 So, if you are planning a new kitchen, don’t be afraid of the process. Think of it as trying a new recipe. If you are intimidated, consult a professional. We are here to help guide you through the myriad steps of selecting the ingredients and when the right ingredients come together the result is delicious and satisfying.


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