A Complete Guide for Buying Cabinets – with Spahn & Rose
Your cabinets are a vital element of your home. They offer essential structure and organization, helping keep your kitchen, bathroom and lives uncluttered. But cabinetry’s structure also impacts the room’s design and can be complemented with attractive finishes and hardware. You can transform simple storage into a stunning focal point of the room. More than just kitchens and bathrooms, cabinets can be a useful addition to living spaces, home offices, closets and other spaces such as garages.
To help you see the possibilities of cabinet design, the local professionals at Spahn & Rose have compiled this cabinet buying guide. We’ll walk you through how to plan the layout of your cabinets as well as how to select the best materials and design features such as hardware or finishes. We’ll also help you decide if buying stock or custom cabinetry is right for you, before finishing up with some commonly asked questions about cabinets. With everything at your fingertips, your next cabinetry project should be off to a great start!
Part 1: Forming the Structure and Layout of Your Cabinets
First and foremost, cabinets are about what you put in them. They’re going to be a fixed part of your home for a long time, so it’s beneficial to consider their structure and potential layout. Taking time to visualize the cabinetry in your home will go a long way toward making them a cohesive part of the space they occupy. Start by asking yourself a few questions:
- What are my priorities? Cabinets are primarily for storage, so what needs the organization most? Are you keeping items out of reach or locked away? Will these things be used every day, or every couple of months?
- How does the room or space affect what’s possible? Tall ceilings, cramped corners, and other aspects about the physical dimensions will inevitably restrict what’s possible. Make sure you’re working with what you have rather than planning dream cabinetry you can’t actually accommodate.
- Will your sense of style affect the layout? Historical or traditional cabinetry requires a different construction and installation process compared to modern styles such as frameless cabinets. Certain aspects of these styles will affect how much room you have for storage, so it’s best to consider what styles you like best in case they affect the physical construction or layout.
- Are there any special features you want included? Storage is supposed to be convenient, so Spahn & Rose cabinet design experts can provide options for more specific elements such as storage for the trash can or pull-out shelving. These things are worth the investment if you plan on using these cabinets frequently.
Deciding Your Cabinet Layout
Cabinets can be divided into several different types depending on where they’re installed as well as their general size. Your kitchen cabinets are probably a good example of them all, since kitchen cabinetry is designed to accommodate a lot of diverse storage.
Base cabinets rest along the floor and typically feature all kinds of internal organization, including open boxes, shelving and drawers. These cabinets are usually come with a toe kick to create a sense of cohesiveness while getting them out of the way of your feet.
Wall cabinets are fixed to the wall and usually consist of either boxes or shelving, since drawers are harder to use and see into from high up. They’re also less likely to get damaged, so they tend to feature more decorative features like custom designs or glass doors.
Pantry cabinets are particularly tall and will often connect a base cabinet with a wall cabinet. This type of cabinetry often includes a variety of drawers, shelving and open boxes in different sizes to suit miscellaneous items for storage or display.
Base cabinets can offer more surface space for décor or practicality, while wall cabinets are more out of the way. You can mix and match these types precisely according to your needs and to maximize your storage space.
But how these cabinets are arranged is just as if not more important to the functionality of the space. You want cabinetry that flows, offers plenty of space, and encourages intuitive use. Because kitchens are the most common place you’ll find cabinetry, let’s continue to use this room as an example. Kitchen cabinets are most often laid out in the following configurations:
- Single-wall: The simplest cabinet layout, all base, wall, and pantry cabinets will be placed along the same wall. This style is most often found in smaller homes to accommodate less space.
- Galley: Adding cabinetry on the opposite wall as well creates a galley style kitchen, with cabinets on either side while the central corridor is left clear for traffic.
- L-shaped: Ideal for maximizing corner space, the L-shaped layout is useful for high traffic kitchens since pathways in and out of the house can be concentrated in the opposite corner.
- U-shaped: For convenience, you should consider a U-shaped layout for your cabinets. They’ll wrap around the kitchen in three different directions, and typically allow for the smallest distance between appliances.
- Peninsula: Need a bit more countertop space or storage? Extending one of the ends of U or L-shaped cabinets will create a peninsula layout, also known as G-shaped cabinets. Many homes also use this layout for extra seating or to prevent constant traffic coming through the rest of the kitchen.
- Kitchen with island: An island is a great way to add more useable cabinets without taking up more wall space. With an island layout, you’ll want to make sure there’s adequate room between the island and the rest of your cabinets.
If you’re starting from scratch, you have a great opportunity to choose the layout and configuration precisely according to your preferences. Spahn & Rose can pair you up with an expert cabinet designer to help you determine the best layout and types of cabinets for a given space. Here are some things to keep in mind when planning cabinetry design:
Base the layout on your habits: If you prefer having everything close at hand, a more closed layout like U-shaped cabinets is perfect. But if you’re often hosting dinner parties, L cabinets will keep things nice and open for your guests. Consider how you like to use the space before you pick a layout or cabinetry configuration.
Consider appliances and utilities early: If you’re working with existing plumbing or other hookups, you might not have as much flexibility with where key fixtures in the space can go. Try to identify these things beforehand so you don’t have to abandon a layout further along the process.
Encourage or dissuade traffic with different layouts: An important part of your cabinet layout is helping to influence where traffic will be expected in the room. Large families or small rooms may benefit from L-shaped cabinets, since it maximizes space in the rest of the room.
Keep the distance between appliances comfortable: while a broad, open kitchen may look attractive in a magazine, you don’t want to have to cross the entire room to go from the sink to the oven to the fridge. Keeping the fixtures you use most a little closer together will ensure the space is efficient to use.
Including Special Cabinet Features
Because cabinetry should help you stay organized and keep everything easily accessible, special designs and features are a great ways to further improve a set of cabinets’ functionality. While you may not find these kinds of additions in stock cabinets, custom or semi-custom cabinetry often includes these features according to your priorities. Special cabinet features can offer:
Increased organization: Drawer inserts, built-in utensil caddies, and baking sheet storage provides specialized sections of cabinetry for organizing larger or oddly shaped kitchenware.
Fast, easy access: Pull-out pantry drawers, deep drawers, and kitchen islands keep things more evenly separated throughout the kitchen, rather than stuffing every pot and pan into one drawer. These special features are particularly useful for reaching items towards the back of your cabinets.
Added convenience: You can even implement built-in charging stations, recessed lighting, and other handy features that ensure every inch of kitchen space is easy to use.
Face Frame or Frameless
Another important structural element of your cabinets is whether they’re framed or not. Frameless cabinets are a popular European style that provides the most internal storage space. Frameless cabinets suit modern and contemporary styles like flat-front or glass doors.
Most commonly ¾” thick by 1-½”, framed or face-framed cabinets take up more of the internal storage space in exchange for more durability and design options. These cabinets are also more budget friendly because the framing can be made of less expensive materials. Some of these design options include how far into the frame the doors or drawers sit:
- Overlay will cover most if not all of the frame with the door and drawers. This is preferred for adding texture and depth.
- Inset frames allow the doors and drawers to sit flush with the frame, forming a more cohesive look that can draw the eye to the hardware.
Cabinetry is a little more complicated than setting up some storage against the wall. And this is just about the basic construction of your cabinets; there are also all the details to consider, which will help decide their overall look. These features can be coordinated to ensure a beautiful, finished cabinet, while haphazard decisions could leave your cabinetry looking mismatched.
Part 2: Selecting the Design for Cabinet Doors and Hardware
Once you have a rough idea of how you want your cabinets structured (or you’re at least aware of how much there is to consider), you can move on to more specific features of the cabinetry. This includes the material they’re constructed from, the style of the doors and drawers, hardware like the hinges and pulls, and finally the color. From matte colors to glossy stains, you have all sorts of options. In fact, there are so many possible design choices that it may feel a little overwhelming to narrow them down. But with decades of experience, Spahn & Rose cabinet design experts can help guide you to match color options, texture and finish with the home’s style.
Let’s break down some of these details and benefits.
Material Types, Doors Styles
First, let’s explore the styles of your cabinets’ doors as well as the possible materials of the cabinets themselves. Not only are cabinet doors a large part of the overall aesthetic, but certain materials will also offer practical benefits like greater strength. The vast majority of cabinets are made from wood, using plywood for the case and shelving, while real wood can be used for panels, framing and the doors.
With real wood cabinets, hardwoods such as cherry, maple and oak are popular choices. The wood can complement a wide range of paint or stain colors, with the woodgrain itself offering visual interest. You can also construct the cases from real wood, but plywood is usually sufficient for the internal components.
Modern cabinets often use alternative materials like laminate or acrylic. Laminate resembles wood while acrylic features a brighter, glossier finish. These materials best suit sleek cabinetry that prioritizes maximum storage space and minimal maintenance.
Door styles are designed to be distinct while still offering flexibility for different interior design styles such as mid-century modern or craftsmen.
- Shaker-style doors feature a square recessed panel for simplicity and clean lines.
- Raised-panel doors bring the panel out, which can be carved into specific shapes like the arch or cathedral panel.
- Glass-front doors allow you to see inside the cabinetry, which is perfect if you’re equally proud of your dishes or cookware. The glass can be clear or frosted depending on your preference.
- Beadboard doors come with vertical planks also known as tongue-and-groove planks. Beadboard can also be installed against the back of cabinetry for a textured look inside.
- Slab or flat-panel doors are simple designs ideal for frameless cabinets. The entire door is formed into one panel without any embellishment.
Hardware and Color
The hardware of your cabinetry should meld convenience with style. From ornate hinges to sturdy door handles, hardware offers flourishes and accents for your cabinets that can elevate simple storage into a legitimate design element in the room. The most common hardware you’ll use for cabinetry includes the door hinges as well as pulls or knobs. Many designs complement common interior design styles such as mission.
- Knobs are the simplest form of handle for your cabinets. They are installed with a single screw and are designed to be opened with just a few fingers. They range from simply designed round knobs to detailed custom shapes.
- Pulls function the same as knobs, but they’re installed with two screws and points of contact for a firmer hold on the cabinet door or drawer. The longer hardware is easier to grasp with your entire hand, giving you more leverage in case the storage inside is heavy.
- Hinges ensure your cabinet doors open and close properly. They’re largely a functional element, but style-minded homeowners can go with more textured designs for extra detail.
You’re almost done! Once the layout, any framing, doors and hardware is chosen, all that’s left is to decide on the color and finish. Color goes a long way toward giving your cabinets a sense of personality and emotion, while the finish can help your cabinets as a whole stand out or settle into the space. You can satisfy both using paint and stain.
- Paint offers the brightest, longest-lasting color, while stain is best suited for bringing out the natural color and details of wood cabinetry. Whichever you prefer, the finish of your chosen paint or stain will decide its sheen. Bright, reflective finishes like gloss or semi-gloss will display a greater range of tones as light bounces off, while muted finishes like eggshell or matte provide a more consistent color.
Refacing Cabinets as a Happy Medium
For those who are happy with their cabinets’ existing layout, refacing cabinets can offer a brand-new look without the extra work of a full remodel. When refacing cabinetry, you’re replacing the external veneers like the doors and drawer fronts. The internal structure of the cabinetry, known as the “carcass” stays the same.
Because you aren’t tearing out the carcass, all you’ll have to consider for a refacing project are the external details like the doors and hardware. Replacing worn knobs with pulls and picking out a new color can leave your cabinets feeling brand-new. That being said, if your cabinetry’s carcass is made with a lower quality material like MDF board, you may be better off fully replacing the cabinets. This will ensure they aren’t as vulnerable to damage or wood rot and can serve you for many years to come.
Part 3: Should I Choose Stock or Custom Cabinetry?
As such an essential element of rooms like the kitchen, cabinetry is widely available. From manufacturers to local carpenters, you have plenty of ways to find the perfect cabinets for your home. But this availability also presents another question: do you want standard, ready-to-assemble cabinetry or a custom design?
|Stock / RTA cabinets
|Standardized layout and sizes
|Standardized sizes but can accommodate custom additions and layouts
|Designed and built for individual layouts
|Depends on additions and builder
|More expensive, and varies depending on builder and materials used
|Little to none
|Custom modifications that suit existing cabinetry. May include modular storage options
|Can be fully customized to your exact specifications
|Depends on number of additions
Ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets, also known as stock cabinets, will be the most affordable option because their sizes and layout are standardized. As a result, they’re also generally manufactured according to popular styles and simple construction to maximize their usefulness.
Custom cabinetry requires more work and resources but offers excellent results with special features and details perfect for you. You’ll work with experienced professionals to create tailor-made cabinetry that’s designed with the room and your sense of style in mind. Custom cabinets can provide better functionality and increase useable space with unique storage options or add-ons.
But there’s also a third option: semi-custom cabinets. By modifying stock cabinets, you can add custom details for convenience without starting a big remodeling project. Refacing existing cabinets can fall under semi-custom, since you can take that opportunity to add new elements without changing the originals.
The Benefits of Custom and Semi-Custom Cabinetry
If stock cabinets are the most affordable, why bother considering custom or even semi-custom cabinets? With mass-produced cabinets, the style and dimensions won’t always suit the room as well as they could. You may be missing out on additions and modifications such as:
- Pull-out trash bins
- Corner solutions such as a lazy Susan
- Different organizers for pots and pans
- Drawer organizers
- Built-in wine racks
- Cookie sheet dividers
- Pull-out cutting boards
Another key benefit of custom or semi-custom cabinets is the chance to add cabinets in rooms you haven’t traditionally used them in. Most people think of their kitchens, but cabinets can be useful in master bathrooms, laundry rooms, a hobby space or workshop, and even the garage. Custom cabinets can be added to these rooms for more storage and convenience, helping you make the most of the space.
And best of all, you’ll have the support of an experienced professional. Spahn & Rose cabinet design experts can help you compare style options or walk you through the benefits of different cabinet types such as frameless. Their experience designing cabinetry for a variety of clients can help make figuring out your own style choices much simpler.
Part 4 – Frequently Asked Questions
Do I really need to hire a professional to install my cabinets? While RTA cabinets can be a DIY project, a professional installer knows how to ensure cabinets are firmly attached to the wall or floor and measured for a precise and attractive final look.
Will new kitchen cabinets really improve the look of my home? If you close your eyes and think about your kitchen, the cabinets likely take a large amount of wall space. Updating their color and hardware can help completely transform the room’s design.
Can’t I just buy some cheap cabinets from a big box store and call it a day? You can, but it might not be long before they start to fall apart. The most basic cabinets are sometimes made from inferior materials like MDF board. It doesn’t hold hardware like screws and hinges well and is also more vulnerable to rot. With lots of boiling water and steam in the kitchen, a cheap set of cabinets could quickly become damaged.
How do I know which cabinet manufacturer is the best? Spahn & Rose works with a number of trusted vendors and local contractors you can depend on for quality cabinets. An extensive portfolio of work as well as your preferred materials or styles is a great place to start in terms of selecting a manufacturer.
Are you looking for a way to update your kitchen without spending a lot of money? Because one of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is to install new kitchen cabinets. Spahn & Rose offers a wide variety of custom styles, colors and finishes to choose from, so you can find the perfect cabinets for your home. Spahn & Rose cabinet design experts have decades of experience matching budgets with beautiful cabinet choices.
Think your kitchen is too small for new cabinets? Think again! Spahn & Rose offers comprehensive cabinetry design services that work within existing spaces like your kitchen. Custom cabinets can bypass issues like small square footage through unique designs and efficient storage options.
Don’t know where to start when it comes to choosing new kitchen cabinets? Local experts like Spahn & Rose are here to help and you can schedule a free consultation now. From our in-depth consultation to reviewing our potential design, your needs and goals are priority one.
Start Your Cabinetry Project Right with Help from Spahn & Rose
Transforming a cluttered kitchen into a bastion of organization helps your home feel more comfortable and welcoming. It can make cleaning and daily tasks faster and more convenient. And with custom cabinetry, the ceiling’s the limit. Contact our staff by visiting your nearest location or filling out our contact form online.
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