- Custom or Manufactured – This is your first decision when selecting cabinets. There are pros and cons with both. Custom cabinets are typically the more expensive choice (however, not always so some homework may be needed here), but will better utilize the space available and you can control the details and enhancements more. Also, a custom finish will have more personality; more of a human touch than a factory finish. However, a factory finish will last longer in most cases and some cabinet manufacturers offer so many modifications, that it is easier today to achieve a more custom look with manufactured cabinets than in the past. Fillers are still a necessary evil with manufactured cabinets that you can avoid with custom, because width options are still limited with manufactured cabinets.
- Species and Finish – This topic assumes you are using wood – cabinets can be made from other materials too: laminate and Thermofoil are two materials used for cabinets that are not wood. These use different manufacturing methods to make the cabinet look like wood yet is more durable and resistant to humidity, nicks and scratches. We typically reserve these two types of cabinets for more commercial uses or more industrial areas of the home. By far, the vast majority of cabinets in residential kitchens in New England today are wood. The three most common species of hard wood used in kitchen cabinets are: cherry, maple and oak. They all have distinctively different appearances. Cherry is naturally darker with a dense, smooth grain. Maple is very light with a similar, dense smooth grain and oak is a medium color tone with a definite open grain that can also be felt on the surface. Cherry tends to cost more than the other two and develops a deeper, redder coloring with age which is very beautiful, so staining cherry is the most popular method of finishing this species. Maple is also beautiful and stains evenly. It will age to a deeper pinky-golden yellow to orange tone which is beautiful, but not as rich as cherry. Maple is also popular to paint because it is priced well and the grain is hidden within the surface, resulting in a smooth, painted finish. When making these decisions, keep in mind that painted finishes come with an upcharge, whether you are going custom or manufactured. Oak is less popular than maple or cherry but can be used to create a more traditional look or in other ways, such as combining with a modern door style and painted so the grain shows through to create a more unique, updated look. The number of stain and paint colors, combined with many glaze colors (and distressing options) make the choices overwhelming – your kitchen designer will help to narrow this down and show you samples of all of the possibilities!
- Frame style – Full overlay, partial overlay or inset: full overlay is where the door covers the face frame (leaving only ¼” reveal for door/drawer operation) like the European style. Partial overlay is where the face frame is exposed by at least an inch around the door/drawer. Inset is where the door is actually inset within the face frame. Full overlay is very popular and can be used to create more contemporary looks but can be used to create a traditional style kitchen as well (depending on the door style and finish selected). Inset is typically used to create a shaker, farmhouse or more traditional look, but can be paired with a modern door style for a fresh, updated look. Generally, inset is more expensive than the other two frame styles.
- Door Style – Once you have decided on species, color and frame style, the door style is an important decision: it will set the style for the kitchen and also can significantly affect pricing. Some general guidelines: flat profile, shaker and flat center panel doors create a more contemporary, classic or transitional style. Raised panel doors are used to create traditional style kitchens. Of course, molding styles, hardware and other embellishments further contribute to the specific style you are going for. Also consider the drawer heads: some will come flat or plain and some will come as a five-piece unit to match the door. This choice will also contribute to the look you are trying to achieve, as well as price.
- Color – This is where your designer can really help: many combinations are commonly used to create that specific look you are trying to achieve. Often the island is done in a different color or different door style and color. Or, you can use one color for the base cabinets and another for the wall cabinets, stain one section and paint another, change counter-top materials, change colors and counter-tops, the options are endless! Be sure to look at plenty of pictures and ask plenty of questions during the process.
Choosing the right cabinet can be daunting or it can be simplified if you follow these five selection steps!