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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 years as a designer, the kitchen is the No. 1 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 percent of a kitchen budget goes toward cabinetry, it is a major investment. 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 home improvement centers can be bought "off-the-shelf" and usually preassembled (units from places such as IKEA are an exception). Stock cabinets limit your choice of sizes, styles and colors and 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 the homeowner to select from a variety of sizes, styles and finishes provided by the manufacturer. These cabinets are made to order and take several weeks for delivery. With careful planning, these units can mimic costlier custom units.
True custom cabinets are built by a cabinetmaker or woodworker and tailored to the homeowners'' specifications. Often crafted from exotic wood or other specialty products, they offer total 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 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 frequently are 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, which makes these 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 also can add glass doors or bead-board inserts to mix it up. Since the facade 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 also can define the style. Decorative details like corbels and crown molding give cabinets some architectural flair and definition. And remember, not all embellishments are visual. 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.