All about kitchen furniture
All kitchen cabinets need to be replaced eventually. Whether they're falling apart after years of heavy use or getting in the way of overhauling the work triangle you've planned, a coat of paint or new wood veneers just won't save them.
With so many styles of doors, finishes, and bells and whistles, like built-in spice racks and retractable pantries, investing in new cabinets can be exciting. But with a lot of money at stake (cabinets make up about half the cost of a typical kitchen remodel), it can also be stressful. To get the best return on your investment, it's important to focus not only on good looks, but also on the quality of the materials, the type of hinges and other hardware, and the joinery that holds the cabinets together. These factors determine whether your closets will hold your affections for long or soon force you to start shopping again.
New custom cherry cabinets echo the expertly crafted look of the millwork throughout the rest of this 1904 Craftsman-style home.frost cabinets
anatomy of a closet
With the exception of the drawers and the plinth, the base and wall units share the same basic elements.
Body.cabinet box; Supports the weight of the countertop and the items on its shelves.
Corner keys.Keep the casing square during transportation and installation.
Porta.Four types: flat panel (shown), raised panel, slab, and glass front.
Drawer.It moves on metal skids fixed to the sides or bottom.
Face frame.Stilettos and rails that stiffen the case and provide support for the hinges. (Not present with full overlay ports.)
hingeIt can be visible or hidden, depending on the type of port.
Hopper.Closes off the gap at the base of the cabinet and provides a footwell.
What do they cost?
Stock cabinets start at $35 per linear foot, the length of the horizontal run they cover. Semi-custom cabinets start at $90; Custom ones start at around $150 and go up from there.
Can you install them yourself?
A do-it-yourselfer with a helper or two can put together or semi-custom cabinets. Custom ones should always be left to professionals, partly to protect the warranty.
How long will they last?
Properly installed and cared for, cabinets can last until you tire of them. Warranties on workmanship and materials (not finishes) range from two years to "as long as you own it."
Wipe up any drips immediately with a damp cloth. Never use abrasive sponges or scourers, and avoid cleaning products that contain bleach or ammonia. Tighten or adjust loose hinges as necessary.
General closet rules
Although cabinets can be configured in a number of ways, they are generally built and installed using well-established dimensions. Follow these guidelines during the planning stages to visualize how your kitchen will look and function.
1.Distance between countertop and upper cabinets: 18 inches
2.Top Cabinet Depth: 12 inches
3.Bottom Cabinet Depth: 24 inches
4.Counter Overhang: ¾ to 1 inch
5.Counter Height: 36 inches
6.Kickspace: 4 inches tall, 3 inches deep
Demonstration:Custom colonial door in white painted plywood; available fromExclusive custom cabinets
Buying Guide: Stock
Good for:Tight budgets and fast deliveries; some require assembly. Limited selection of styles, configurations and finishes.
Sizes:The widths for the top and bottom shift in 3-inch increments. Heights vary in 6-inch increments at the top; the lower ones are fixed.
Materials, fittings:Cabinets are typically ½-inch MDF (medium-density fiberboard) or melamine-faced chipboard; the doors are usually made of MDF covered with thermofoil or wood veneer. Drawer glides tend to be lightweight metal and do not allow the drawer to be fully extended.
Buy them at:Home centers and home furnishing providers such as IKEA. Please allow one to five weeks for delivery.
Cost:Starts at $35 per linear foot.
Demonstration:Adel door in white thermolaminate on MDF; available fromIKEA
Buying Guide: Semi-Custom
Good for:More demanding tastes and deeper pockets. Get any style, configuration or finish, as long as it's listed in the manufacturer's catalog.
Sizes:The widths of the top and bottom generally change in 1-inch increments. Heights vary in 6-inch increments at the top; the lower ones are fixed.
Materials, fittings:Cases are usually ½-inch MDF, but can often be upgraded to plywood. The doors can be made of solid wood or MDF with thermofoil or wood veneer. Full extension drawer glides are side mounted.
Buy them at:Home centers or kitchen showrooms. Please allow five to six weeks for delivery.
Cost:It starts at around $90 per linear foot.
Demonstration:Andover Door in White Stained Maple (Brookhaven Collection I); available fromwood mode
Buying Guide: Custom
Good for:Kitchens where precise fit, more configuration options, and fine details matter more than price.
Sizes:Built to any width or height you like and with any finish, hardware, or wood species that catches your eye.
Materials, fittings:Typically ¾-inch furniture grade plywood for the casings; Door and drawer fronts are generally made of solid wood. Full extension sliders can be mounted below and have a soft close feature.
Buy them at:Kitchen showrooms or local cabinetmakers. Expect eight to 10 weeks for home cabinet delivery, 14 to 16 weeks for imports, and eight weeks to six months for a joiner.
Cost:It starts at around $150 per linear foot.
Demonstration:BeauxArts door in flannel gray lacquered plywood; available fromSieMatic
Buying Guide: Used
If you're patient (or lucky) and willing to compromise on fit, finish, or style, you can get a custom or semi-custom cabinet set for less than inventory price. Check Craigslist or visit stores that specialize in salvaged household items, like one of Green Demolitions' three East Coast showrooms or Habitat for Humanity's national chain ReStore. Do a thorough inspection and save your money if you discover any of these problems: out-of-square cabinets, delaminated siding, cracked door panels, and unless you're willing to paint everything, major finish flaws. Missing or damaged drawer hinges and hardware are fairly easy to replace.
This new semi-custom cabinet set on display at Green Demolitions recently sold for just $6,000 including stone countertops and all appliances; available fromGreen Demolitions
Door Style: Flat Panel
Stairs and railings frame a recessed central panel. This type works well with Shaker and Craftsman style kitchens.
Demonstration:Stock Adel door in beech veneer over MDF, about $85, including 12-by-30-inch cabinet; available fromIKEA
Door Style: Raised Panel
A frame surrounds a panel with angled edges and a raised center. The elegant look evokes 18th century Georgian woodwork.
Demonstration:Custom Vintage Cherry Door with Distressed Paint, about $150; available fromSimple and sophisticated custom cabinets
Door style: slab
Made from a single piece of MDF or plywood, this type of door can be painted or covered with plastic or veneer. The look is streamlined and cleanup is easy.
Demonstration:Semi-custom Cherry Veneer Over Plywood Vista Porta (Brookhaven II Collection), about $225, including 15-by-30-inch cabinet; available fromwood mode
Door style: beadboard panel
A styling frame and rail surround a center dash panel. Less formal than the flat or raised screen, it has a farmhouse look.
Demonstration:Polarcrest Semi-Custom Door in White Thermofoil on MDF, about $150, including 12-by-24-inch cabinet; available fromKraftMaid
Door style: glass front
Glass panels replace solid panels. Wavy or clear glass split lights (pictured) have a traditional look; the frosted glass without any grille gives it a more modern feel.
Demonstration:Custom painted maple Chesapeake door, about $975, including 15-by-33-inch cabinet; available fromcrown tip cabinets
Door (and drawer) mounting options
1. Partial insertion.The doors have a groove, or notch, cut into the outer edge so that only a thin edge overlaps the front frame. It is usually equipped with blade hinges (shown), but can also use cup or surface hinges. Doors without notches that cover a portion of the front frame are called partial overlap.
2. Full overlap.The ports completely cover the front of the case, without the need for a front bezel. It uses glass hinges, which are hidden when a door is closed.
3. Insertion.The doors fit snugly into the front frame. Typically used with top hinges (shown), but will also work with cup, blade, and surface hinges.
The aged lacquer finish on this solid brass knob appears to have darkened with time and use.
inherited distressed traction, around $10; available fromAtlas Appliances
Fittings: Trash can handle
The oil rubbed bronze finish and dummy screw heads give this zinc alloy knob an antique look right out of the box.
Top buttons to pull the cup, about $6; available fromhome decoration hardware
Fittings: Bell tower hinge
Made for pocket doors, this cast iron Queen Anne hinge has an ornate design on the leaves.
victorian hinge, about $12 for two; available fromold ironmongery house
Hardware: strap hinge
Made of powder-coated steel, this 6-inch hinge looks like it came out of a blacksmith's forge. Works with pocket doors.
Amerock Colonial Handle Hinge, around $10; available fromBaer Supply Company
A heavy brass sphere set on a shield is a perfect match for Arts and Crafts style cabinets.
Craftsman 1¼-inch knob with backplate, around $16; available fromrestoration.com
Button-operated latches, such as this nickel-plated solid brass version, were surface-mounted on cabinet doors from the 19th century through the 1930s.
oval revolving cabinet, around $25; available fromRejuvenation
In the late 1800s, a hanging cabinet like this with brackets and a cornice on top would have been paired with furniture-like work desks.
Similar to the one shown:Classic semi-custom portrait on painted maple; available fromMerillats
An understated simplicity belies the fine workmanship and classic proportions of this style. Paint offers the best protection and is easy to maintain.
Demonstration:Custom shaker in painted white pine; available fromThe Kennebec Company
Design: Arts and Crafts
Popular in the early 20th century, this style abandoned the curved profiles of the Victorian era in favor of right angles. It is usually made of hardwood.
Demonstration:Arts & Crafts Designer Custom Series in White Oak; available fromcrown tip cabinets
Full-panel slab doors create a simple, uniform façade that is the very essence of contemporary cabinet design.
Demonstration:Custom Mid-Century Modern Collection with Walnut Veneer over Formaldehyde-Free MDF; available fromGabinetes Neil Kelly
Make your own design or trust an expert?
Choosing cabinets is time consuming, but designing an entire kitchen is downright difficult. Even with design programs like Google SketchUp that let you draw your own designs, having such a plan doesn't mean you can execute. Or that you can afford.
The easiest way is to find a line of cabinets you like and can afford, then work with the in-house designers at a retail store. These professionals use software from cabinet companies with exact dimensions, model numbers, and prices. They also have the experience to anticipate and resolve any adjustment or installation issues, before your cabinets are delivered.
Stores and manufacturers often provide their design services for free, but be sure to ask first. Also, ask whose measurements it will be; Most cabinet companies insist on making your own, on site, before finalizing a project, but a home center designer can completely rely on your measurements and hold you accountable if there are any errors.
Custom touches: window seat
A set of 18-inch-deep by 24-inch-high cabinets typically used above refrigerators sit on a platform on the floor, providing an ideal place to entertain the cook.
Demonstration:The standard Annapolis door in white thermofoil over MDF, about $125 per linear foot; available fromamerican wood brand
Custom Touches: Storage Basket
In keeping with a more rustic and country air, these removable wicker baskets are perfect for storing fruit, bread or vegetables.
Demonstration:Sierra base custom basket unit in stained white oak, about $550; available fromcarpentry plato
Custom Touches: Slider Spices
Hidden behind this painted pillar is a two-tier pull-out shelf that keeps condiments within easy reach.
Demonstration:Custom pull-out spice rack with painted maple pilaster detail, about $800; available fromSimple and sophisticated custom cabinets
Custom touches: open shelves
A cabinet without doors is a perfect way to display dinnerware and dinnerware. A dish rack on the bottom shelf provides a place to dry washed dishes.
Demonstration:Custom wall shelf in plywood and maple with milky paint finish, about $3,300; available fromcrown tip cabinets
Custom Ringtone - Workstation
A kitchen table provides a dedicated space for reading recipes or paying bills. To sit comfortably, the height from the floor to the counter should be 26 to 30 inches.
Demonstration:Semi-custom Marquette door and 30-inch drawer in semi-gloss stained maple, about $830 for the table alone; available fromKraftMaid
Custom Touches: Lighted Ceiling
Make a soffit to match your cabinets using stock material. Here, a column filler panel is turned on its side like a tray and drilled with holes for puck lights.
Demonstration:96-inch tall cherry wood column filler (to match Townsend door), about $450 without lights; available fromamerican wood brand
Custom Touches: Decorative Corner Post
Cabinet corners don't have to be smooth and straight-edged. Here, a half post marks the transition between cabinets of different depths.
Demonstration:Colonial-style “Split Legs” in painted maple, about $500; available fromFirst row of kitchens
Custom Touches: Wine Storage
Open cubbies provide a convenient place to store bottles. Just be sure to install the rack away from heat-producing appliances, which can literally cook your booths.
Similar to the one shown:Painted Maple Semi-Custom Wall Wine Bottle, about $280; available fromKraftMaid