The Hallmarks of Luxury Cabinetry
Updated: Mar 1, 2022
One of the main reasons people reach out to us is for new cabinetry. We hear time and time again, “Our cabinets are falling apart! We need to do something.” It’s often when the kids are older when it finally makes sense to invest in cabinetry with proper storage solutions and it’s nice to entertain and not be embarrassed by the chipped paint caused by enthusiastic Hot Wheels races and Nerf gun battles. Oh, and that frustrating wobbly drawer can finally be replaced! Like most things, there are varying degrees of quality (and price) in kitchen cabinetry. That is a good thing because needs and budgets vary. For each project, we thoughtfully specify the best cabinetry suited for the project to maximize value and ensure the materials endure the tests of use and time. We passionately believe the aesthetics of the cabinetry should fit the architecture of the home which we can help determine and, with the kitchen being the heart of most homes, we understand that functionality is of utmost importance. Custom cabinetry is designed exclusively for each client – the way they live. It is highly personalized and is just one of the many characteristics that set custom cabinetry apart from stock. While I am happy to geek out about the technical aspects of cabinetry construction, let us instead discuss the visual qualities that separate true luxury from the pedestrian. Once you know what you are looking for, these characteristics will be apparent the moment you enter the room.
First, let us talk about the grading of the wood. This aspect is visually apparent, especially with stained finishes. Higher quality cabinetry shops select and sort hardwoods for grain, clarity, and color consistency. A true mark of luxury is that it is not just the individual board, but the hardwoods and panels are selected for consistency across the project. Wood grains can also be sequence matched across multiple doors and drawers for a truly upscale look. (Sequence matching is where the color and grain of the chosen wood is laid out to ensure an even and consistent look across the cabinets.)
Cabinet interiors can also speak to quality; just because it is behind closed doors does not mean there is a drop in quality. Some cabinetry will have easy-to-clean vinyl interiors. There are also fabulous linen patterned laminates for a modern European look. Wood interiors made from white oak, walnut, or maple veneers enhance a luxurious appearance. Superbly finished drawers made of stainless steel, contrasting woods, or even two-toned finishes are small details that separate the mediocre from the sublime. Then there are wood species to consider. There are some beautiful, responsibly harvested hardwoods available to create that special look such as rare exotics from Africa and the Middle East, or even reclaimed wood from a southern tobacco farm. The availability of these woods allows homeowners to incorporate materials they have loved from their travels around the world. Imagine walking into the kitchen each morning for that first cup of coffee and being reminded of the villa in which you stayed in Italy. Materials such as back-painted glass, metal, and solid surfacing used in the right context, can be breathtaking and used to evoke vivid memories as well.
Many of today’s popular cabinet door styles can be found in some form at any price point. However, it is the proportions of the frame widths, the recess depth of the center panels, and even the thickness of the doors and drawers that work together to create a luxurious visual. One-inch-thick doors and drawer fronts create a unique dimensional look. Extra narrow, extra wide, or unequal stile and rails work together to create door and drawer styles that are set apart from the rest. Admittedly, to the untrained eye, proportions are harder to distinguish unless they are side-by-side, but when presented, cabinetry properly proportioned simply feels better. Custom cabinets offer a sense of beauty that catches and holds the eye. It is similar to fine art; you just know when it feels right and that’s usually because the proportions are correct.
This is a big one. I have seen many beautifully specified and crafted cabinets miss the mark because of poor finish quality. Superior finishes take time to complete the multiple steps involved to make it right. It is things like clarity, evenness (see wood selection), appropriate sheen, and depth of color that set quality cabinetry apart. Run your hand over your cabinets. What do you feel? Is it perfectly smooth or does it feel uneven or rough? On the other hand, I have also seen installations from some of our finer cabinet shops that were installed in the 1960s where the finish still looks like new – no chipped paint or fading. Unique finish techniques such as cerused or fumed finishes are labor-intensive but create a luxurious visual well worth the extra time and budget.
Luxurious options abound such as interior lighting, the motorization of doors and drawers, and custom interior storage options - “a place for everything and everything in its place.” That crock of utensils can finally have a home out of sight. The refrigerator can now blend in with the cabinets rather than sticking out awkwardly. And those unused space fillers? They are a thing of the past. Custom marquetry and inlays, appliance integration, and coplanar doors just scratch the surface of what is available. Only the imagination (and of course physics) limits what can be created with custom cabinetry.
From a purely utilitarian perspective, most cabinetry available today all does the same thing – it stores your stuff out of sight, but within reach. Investing in premium cabinetry is similar to purchasing a Mercedes over, say, a Chevrolet. Both vehicles will get you where you need to go, but the comfort, feel, and emotion of the luxury vehicle makes the drive much more enjoyable. It is the finer details that make a huge impact. Custom design is unparalleled in giving your home a high-end and unique look; even the most expensive stock cabinetry will look lackluster next to custom designs. The partnerships we have cultivated with the cabinet shops with which we work allow us to differentiate the spaces we design in both form and function. Custom cabinetry is individualized and enduring and provides a level of sophistication stock cabinetry simply cannot. When you want to elevate your surroundings, custom-designed premium cabinetry is a must.