Tips for a Seamless Custom Cabinetry Design Process

Custom cabinetry should be like quality furniture or fine art hanging on the wall. One of my recent customers was told that their cabinets would look fine with just a little paint! When you hire the right custom cabinetmaker you should get much more than “fine,” you should get truly amazing results that “wow” you every time you walk into your home.

Your custom cabinetmaker will begin working on a design once you have communicated your ideas to him or her. He or she should provide you with a detailed drawing of your design to prevent any miscommunication, this is called an elevation. Your elevation drawing is a frontal view of each wall; specifying minute details like trash can pullouts, special drawer inserts and architectural details. Carefully look over every drawing and sign each one to confirm your approval of the design. Always ask your custom cabinetmaker for mock ups of details such as crown molding, baseboard, custom pillars, or hand carved corbels. This will eliminate surprises and help you be aware at every stage of the design process. If you want your cabinetry to last you a lifetime, ensure that the drawers of your custom cabinetry are constructed with dovetail joinery that is either crafted from hardwood or a nine-ply, plywood.

Some companies will give you perspective CAD drawings of your design. Keep in mind that this is relatively expensive, costing around $70.00 an hour. At Authentic Designs Inc, we provide our clients with clear, full scale drawings on quarter inch white melamine, so that they can easily visualize the scale and approve their design.

A good custom cabinetmaker will listen attentively to his client’s desires. It is also important for you to keep an open mind during the design process. There are many factors that you may not realize, but can have a significant effect upon your design. For example, walnut wood tends to bleach out if in direct sunlight, and soft woods will not be durable in high traffic areas. I have often discussed such scenarios with my customers, explaining to them why certain woods would not be appropriate for their space. Making changes later can become a very costly affair!

The material you choose for creating your custom cabinetry is increasingly important. Your custom cabinetmaker should be able to hand craft your cabinetry from hundreds of different species. The wood used for the boxes of your cabinetry is essential to ensure longevity. These cases can be made of pre-finished plywood like maple or cherry for ultimate strength. The alternative is melamine products like particleboard or MDF, which are cheaper options.

There are many things to keep in mind here – a specialized custom cabinet shop should have plenty of experience in ensuring that the moldings will match the wood you choose. The price difference between some of these molding is significant. In one of our past projects, we have sourced moldings for one customer that was intricately hand carved from solid cherry wood. The molding was approximately $38.00 a lineal foot, while that same molding in a paint grade version was only $9.00 a lineal foot.

Many custom shops offer cabinet detailing in different species of wood than the one your cabinetry is made of, in an attempt to reduce cost. I once came across a distressed customer whose kitchen had high-end cabinetry of stain grade wood. However, the cabinetmaker had employed paint grade embossed moldings and hand carved white wood embellishments to this kitchen. By mixing the species of wood and using the wrong varieties together, the kitchen details were a disaster and failed to blend together seamlessly. Faux finishing is an alternative to this scenario, but this can be expensive. Wood is a natural product and using even the same material will sometimes stain differently, but trying to blend two species of wood like poplar and alder to look the same will create a definite problem.

During the construction of your cabinetry, be sure to visit your cabinet shop and witness the progress. Check the custom details and ensure that they follow the same design that you had decided upon. If you want your solid cabinetry to last you a lifetime, ensure that the drawers of your custom cabinetry are constructed with dovetail joinery that is either crafted from hardwood or a nine-ply, plywood. Most custom cabinetry companies offer self-closing, soft-close drawer slides for their cabinet drawers. These drawers provide a smooth motion and will pull themselves closed once you push them to a specific point. This virtually guarantees that your drawers do not slam shut and extends the life of your cabinetry. The soft-close mechanism for doors can be incorporated into the hinge, clipped onto the hinge, or attached to the cabinet itself.

If you have requested a carved door, be very careful during the project inspection. Woodcarving is open to interpretation and varies from person to person. If you are looking to build radius doors, whether they may be convex or concave, you should be prepared to pay almost double, as this is very labor-intensive. The cabinetmaker has to first build the case, then build a template for the door to be molded to. Working out the swing of the door and the hinge location is an art form and cannot be successfully achieved by an amateur.

Deciding on the size of the kitchen island has typically been a major stumbling block in the design process. While customers love to have the largest possible island, sometimes such large islands can dominate the entire room and occupy precious space. If you are planning to incorporate an island in your kitchen, first visit a home improvement store and buy some tall boxes. Assemble these boxes in the space you wish to create your island, to replicate its potential size. This will give you a clear idea if the scale is right for your home.

Timing of completion can make the difference between a memorable experience and a cabinetry nightmare. At Authentic Designs Inc, we ensure a smooth and on-time project completion. We guarantee to complete your cabinetry on time and even take the extra step to keep it in storage until needed. We offer our clients a time-line clause that states that if we delay production, it actually costs us money. If our work is delayed, we compensate our clients $350 a week. This of course exempts delays caused by unforeseen weather conditions, frequent design changes, or circumstances beyond our control.

As a customer however, you should be prepared to take your time during construction to allow quality work that can last a lifetime. One of my recent custom closets required some simple changes, like changing flat face on shelves to rounded beading. We added special glass, a mirror trimmed with custom molding, custom milled baseboards and even a vintage chandelier and can lighting. Had my customer rushed this project we would have been unable to add these special touches we felt were integral to the design. Often times customers are in a rush to complete their projects, understandably so, yet it is important to find that balance.

by Dean Jones in Custom Cabinetry | 0 comments

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