We’re all about making things as easy as possible for our clients (and ourselves, honestly!). After working with hundreds of clients, we’ve found it helpful to simplify cabinet options into 3 categories of comparison: Good, Better, and Best.
Now, of course, there could be 15 categories, if we really wanted to get into all the details. But, that would defeat the purpose of simplifying. I read an article from a design professional this week that divided cabinets into 6 categories. Sure, we could say there are 6, but that would simply confuse people and lead to “analysis paralysis.”
Here’s the important thing to remember when purchasing kitchen cabinetry: You get what you pay for!
In our design practice, we consider “Good” cabinetry to be a “stock” cabinet. Stock cabinets are not made-to-order, but are mass-produced, held in large warehouses, and then picked off the shelf to fulfill your order. Stock doesn’t have to mean “low-quality”, in fact, our line is actually excellent quality. It’s simply cabinetry produced at scale, in standardized sizes to accommodate a lower price section of the market.
This level of cabinetry is a great choice for someone who is flipping a home, doing a basement kitchen or bar area, or simply doesn’t want to make the investment in a more upscale kitchen.
We can make these kitchens look lovely, but they are unavoidably simple and limited. They will last your family for years to come, but will not hold up as well as other alternatives.
We’ve partnered with River Run Cabinetry in Virginia as our entry-level offering. This line is manufactured (not just assembled) in the United States, boasts an impressive ten-year warranty, and has a simple selection of excellent door style and color options.
The construction is all good-quality plywood, and the face frames and doors are Birch hardwood. The biggest concern with lower-end cabinetry is if it will hold up under the weight of thousands of pounds of countertop material. We assure you that these cabinets will do that with ease!
Here’s where the limitations begin with the “Good” category. Because these cabinets are mass-produced, we are limited in our design by what the manufacturer chooses to offer. Cabinets are offered in 3” increments in both height and width, with little-to-no design flexibility.
These lines often have good finish options available, but only a few of them. If we choose to limit our budget to this “Good” option, we have to select from these limited options in our design. For some clients, this is just fine! We can create the look they want with these simple options.
Usually, these companies offer a warranty that lasts a specific number of years, from a couple of years (avoid these manufacturers like the plague!) to Ten Years. Our manufacturer in this category offers an industry-leading Ten Year Warranty.
For us, “Better” cabinetry is what the industry calls “Semi-Custom”. In essence, these type of cabinets give us a broad range of standard cabinet SKUS, coupled with the ability to customize the sizing to fit unique spaces where needed. They offer a vast array of door styles, finish options, and accessories for us to choose from.
These cabinets provide excellent value for your investment! They are high quality, built to last decades, and look absolutely beautiful when designed and installed properly. Because they are not fully custom, the investment is accessible for most of our clients. However, the quality and options available are limited compared to a completely custom cabinetry line.
There are dozens of excellent manufacturers in this category across the country. We’ve partnered primarily with DuraSupreme (durasupreme.com), who we think is top-tier among these manufacturers.
Semi-custom cabinets are built to last, in whatever brand you evaluate. They are made of ½” plywood, or furniture-grade particle board, and their face frames and doors are made of solid hardwoods such as Maple, Cherry, Oak, and more.
This type of cabinetry will offer different styles of overlay, such as standard, partial, full overlay, or even flush or beaded inset options. Many of these manufacturers even offer two different kinds of constructions, framed or frameless cabinetry.
Semi-custom manufacturers provide extensive spec books filled with thousands of standard cabinet options, configurations, decorative accents, and accessories. Many clients and designers can work together to find everything they need to build a gorgeous kitchen from a configuration of these options.
Trying to go outside the standard offering, however, is where these manufacturers start to struggle. Even though they make a lovely product, they are set up to produce cabinets at volume in order to keep costs down. When we attempt to customize something, it throws a wrench in their system and so they place big upcharges on these items. Many times, it’s easier to upgrade to full-custom if we need some special options.
Semi-custom manufacturers will offer a Limited Lifetime Warranty on their products. This means they stand behind their product for as long as you own the house. Obviously, there are exceptions for water damage, abuse, and other wear and tear situations. However, these manufacturers build a great product and area willing to stand behind it. This gives you the confidence and peace of mind you need to invest in good-quality cabinetry that will last for a very long time.
Custom, or Full-custom cabinetry is what we specify in our “Best” category. This product is upscale furniture in design and quality, and is meant to last a lifetime. These manufacturers are outfitted to build anything that the designer and client imagine or draw. If we can draw it, they can build it.
Clients who care deeply about the beauty and functionality of their home, and especially their kitchen, often choose to invest in Custom cabinetry because it allows the greatest flexibility and fit in their space.
“Best” cabinets, as you can imagine, are more expensive than the other options, but the quality is unsurpassed.The finish is flawless, the function is supple and smooth. They are, in every way, stunning! If you can make the investment, you won’t be disappointed!
Custom cabinetry is built “like a tank”. They are constructed of ½” or ¾” hardwood plywood, and the face frames and doors are of solid hardwood of many species, including some exotic woods. Everything about the construction is top-notch!
These cabinets have very few limitations, which makes designing with them a lot of fun! You, as the client, get to have basically whatever you want, as long as it fits in the space! We can pick any color, any texture, any shape or size and apply it to your kitchen cabinetry as desired.
A huge benefit in working with Custom cabinetry (and even some semi-custom) is that we rarely, if ever, need to have a filler. The final product is even more fabulous when there are fewer seams, no gaps, and everything looks like it was perfectly fitted for the space. After all, that’s exactly what happened!
Custom cabinetry comes with the same warranty as Semi-Custom, a Limited Lifetime Warranty. These manufacturers make furniture-grade cabinets, and so they are willing to stand behind them!