Category Archives: Kitchen Renovation

There often comes a time in a home owner’s life when Denial hits a wall and your dysfunctional relationship with your kitchen needs to be addressed. Here’s how…

Kitchen Renovation #6: Cabinets Or Not

It’s unlikely you have too much storage space,

but if you really want to open up the wall space,

consider whether you need

the upper cabinets at all.

Do you really need cabinets above the countertop?
Do you really need cabinets above the countertop?

Can everything be stored in the cabinets underneath,

or in a nearby kitchen armoire?

Will simple shelves serve your needs?

All things considered, if cabinets are still the best answer, you have options here too. One of the easiest upgrades is to simply replace the doors with newer ones that are more stylish and/or higher quality than the originals. If you are not shy about the general state of order in your cupboards, glass inserts in the front panels are a great look and give the illusion of a bigger cabinet area because of the newfound visual depth.

If you are in the market for new cabinetry altogether, you have three basic options:

  • Stock – The equivalent of “off the rack”.  A limited range of styles and sizes keeps the prices down and delivery times short.  Typical construction uses high-density particleboard with a hardwood veneer rather than solid wood to eliminate warping.  Standard sizing comes in three-inch increments so filler panels are usually needed to close the gaps between cabinet and walls.
  • Semi-custom – Same as above, but better, sturdier construction with the additional advantage of a larger selection of door styles, colors and storage options. Semi-custom cabinets are also made in three-inch increments, so you may still need filler panels to close the gaps between the cabinet and the wall.  Expect a significant increase in price over stock cabinets.
  • Custom – You can have whatever you want – materials, styles, flourishes, colors, or finishes. Whereas most manufacturers have a network of dealers and installers, going custom means finding a designer and a cabinetmaker (check portfolios and references), plus a carpenter or general contractor.

Whatever cabinet arrangement meets your needs, poor quality cabinetry will not. You are opening and closing the drawers and doors all the time.  Your best bet is cabinetry made with strong hardwoods, good finishes and sturdy hinges. Most cabinet doors open out into the room but there are also the type that fold up.

Many roads to high quality: One company of note is in Southern California. The company has a division called Semihandmade, whose goal is to offer the same craftsmanship and attention to detail as their custom division at a lower price. They use IKEA’s sturdy cabinet boxes and high-quality Blum hardware as an incredibly cost-effective base, and then face everything with their own hand-picked veneers, laminates and reclaimed lumber for a totally unique and built-in look.  “In the end”, says John McDonald, artistic director of, “most clients save 30-40% on the cost of a typical custom kitchen.”

The Bottom Line: Be realistic about the budget for your new and improved kitchen. While a new kitchen can improve the marketability of your home, you can’t bank on recouping every dollar you invest on improvements, especially is you have plans to sell in less than a year.

Speaking of budget, what is it…really?  Add 20%, and probably another 20% in addition.

By the way, it ALWAYS takes longer than estimated.

A Word To The Wise: There is an advantage to consulting with a professional kitchen designer.  The designer will be able to point out potential pit falls, as well as supply good ideas that would never have occurred to you.  And when it comes to remodels, the designer has access to more resources and frequently reps entire kitchen supply lines.   You could be offered much better pricing than you would get on your own…if you even had access to these companies to begin with.

Related Posts

Kitchen Renovation #1: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Kitchen Renovation #2:  Concept Prep

Kitchen Renovation #3: How Much Wonderful Do You Need?

Kitchen Renovation #4: Material Witness

Kitchen Renovation #5: Field Trip


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This is one of several articles I wrote for publication on It’s presented here as a foundation for further topic discussion, updates and commentaries…

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