Kitchen – cabinetry…

I don’t think making cabinets is a DIY project for most people – and that includes myself – so I hired it out. Fair warning – I have written a book on this subject.  You are likely wondering why – since this part of the project was not DIY? My answer – this part of the project was one of the most frustrating parts of the project and I am feeling the need to throw a few lessons learned out there for those that might be interested in avoiding the same mistakes I made.

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The inspiration for our cabinetry was Chipotle (a restaurant that originated here in Denver – see above) – Tad’s idea. I had to think about Tad’s proposal for a bit but I pretty quickly got on board with the idea – a bit industrial, definitely unique, and still nice. The woodwork at Chipotle is a Baltic Birch plywood and the layers of wood form a striped edge. The striped look was the part that we really liked and wanted to highlight in our cabinetry. Below is the striped edge we recreated in our kitchen.

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Of course, we knew that we would need a custom woodworker for this job – you can’t just go to a cabinet store and pick up Chipotle style cabinets. On a side note, I strongly believe in supporting local small business and craftsman when I can. I always promote going with a custom woodworker when you need cabinetry. You get exactly what you want and they are often less expensive than the big box or kitchen design stores. Anyway, I had worked with some custom woodworkers on other design projects in the past so I got several bids – in the end I choose a woodworker that was recommended by a friend because the price was significantly less than the rest for comparable high quality product. The only thing that I didn’t like was that this particular woodworker did not provide installation of the cabinets – however, an installer was recommended so I felt ok with the arrangement – and we were considering installing the cabinets ourselves anyway.

Lessons Learned…

#1– Make sure you get what you asked for – don’t settle for something less than you expected because the cabinet maker doesn’t want to put a little extra thought and effort into figuring it out.  The two most annoying moments in the cabinetry part of my project involved the cabinet maker treating me (the paying customer) bad.  At one point, the cabinet maker tried to convince me that the integrity of the dovetail joints on some of my drawers were maintained when the drawers were revised (they were cut down because the cabinet maker got the depth wrong). I specified and paid for high quality drawers with dovetail joints – what I got was cut up drawers that were glued and screwed back together – the dovetail joints were NOT maintained. I had also repeatedly asked about the build of my refrigerator cabinet – it was designed to be pretty specific but the dimensions and build of the top cabinet that I received appeared to be wrong. I was assured (aka blown off) by the cabinet maker that this is how it was done and the installer would create what I was expecting on site. I had a nagging feeling that this wasn’t true – I also had the feeling that I was on the verge of being labeled as annoying (or maybe at that point I was already labeled as annoying). Well, nobody likes to be labeled as annoying and that includes me. Long story short, the refrigerator cabinet did not turn out like I designed it. In general, it is on the side of acceptable – but I still feel like it looks like it wasn’t well thought out. I can’t really put blame on anybody but myself though because I let the cabinet maker intimidate me. The lesson here is – Don’t let the professionals intimidate you – again, it comes down to the fact that you are paying good money for a product they agreed to provide. I paid a lot of money for a refrigerator cabinet that doesn’t match my drawings and that I am not 100% happy with. Don’t let this happen to you!

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#2 – Don’t make your final payment until you are completely sure that you have absolutely everything you asked for. In general, I think people are good and want to do a good job – but for some reason, once the final payment has been made, they seem to be less motivated to finish with the details – and the details are what makes or breaks the project. I noticed that once I made the final payment for my cabinets, it was difficult for the cabinet maker to want to be involved in problem solving – it was disappointing.

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#3 – As mentioned before, I wasn’t totally excited about not having the actual cabinet maker install the cabinets. That lack of excitement ended up being a serious annoyance by the end of the cabinet install. I ended up paying extra for things that the installer had to make because the cabinet maker didn’t provide it or what the cabinet maker provided wasn’t quite right. Also, I found myself not quite sure who to call with problems. The jury is still out on the value of paying for cabinet installation. According to the countertop guys, the installer did a good job – but it was expensive in my opinion. Because it was expensive, I expected near perfection and I don’t think I got that. At this point, my recommendation is to go with a cabinet maker that also installs their own cabinets – that way the responsibility or blame can’t be passed on to someone else – and you won’t get double charged.

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With all that said, I don’t want it to seem like the whole cabinetry experience was miserable and a mistake.  In the end, I am very happy with my cabinets.  I still prefer to work with local craftsmen over a sales clerk.  I feel like I got a fair price for higher quality cabinetry.

Oh – and people wonder what the deal is with the lack of drawer fronts on the lower cabinets.  I initially was just going to have open shelving.  I decided I would like to have pull outs for better/easier access – which led to the drawer thing – which then led to needing a drawer front but I still wanted it to feel a little like open shelving – thus, the partial drawer fronts.  So far, I still like it.