I have 20+ years experience in Home Furnishings and Interior Design, specializing in Kitchen and Bath Design since '01. I work for Bilotta Kitchens in the A&D Building on East 58th Street in the Mid-town Manhattan. I have a passion for learning and love the opportunity to collaberate on projects of all sizes. My strengths in the field begin with my design background, use of color and texture to bring interest to a room, spatial relationships, organizational skills, innovation, decisiveness, and planning. I have had the thrilling experience of helping hundreds...?maybe thousands of people with their projects, and what I love is it never gets boring, and no two are ever the same. Thanks for reading.
Lately, the question of the hour seems to be, "should I use semi-custom or custom cabinetry, what's the difference?" I say this: To some the only difference is the company's position in the marketplace. Just because a company adds new painted and glazed finishes and many semi-custom options would the "Largest Stock Cabinet Manufacturer" in the country give up their position on top to become a smaller fish in the semi-custom market? That may seem like an overly simplistic answer, but it brings you to the truth of the matter, which is each company should be evaluated for their product, and each kitchen for it's need.
The higher end custom companies do definitely have higher quality finishing, and attention to detail as well as allowing for full creative input from the designer, Like the kitchen above designed by Sol Kassorla of Manhattan Center for Kitchen + Bath. Even if you aren't looking for the "fancier" or "better" options, how about the attention they pay to lumber grade, and the curing of the wood, the toners used to stabilize the finish, and cabinetry that can be perfectly sized to fit high end appliances like the featured Sub Zero glass door refrigerator. These are all things that matter tremendously to the overall finished look of your kitchen.
I have seen a semi-custom cherry kitchen that looked beautiful when it was new, turn into the "Tony the Tiger" kitchen after the wood began to season and stripe. Over the first year after the kitchen was installed the contrast of the white and green wood that was mixed in the doors became overpowering. And the kitchen, which was high end semi-custom lost mush of it's visual appeal.
Beautiful Custom Rope Columns
Also to keep in mind, semi-custom companies do offer many structural modifications to their cabinetry, making them easier than ever before to customize to fit, the options vary from company to company. However, keep in mind that if your layout demands many of these modifications to properly fit the space you will be driving cost up and can end up spending as much as you would for a full custom kitchen. If from the start you are looking for things like working side entries on cabinets, meticulously engineered wainscoat panels, moldings and columns look to a designer like Steve Naphtali of Kitchen Expressions of Short Hills who designed the kitchen on the right which was featured on HGTV.
If Old Navy jeans are okay at $39.00 dollars a pair, but you need to have the leg and the waist tailored for another $40.00, wouldn't it make sense to buy the Gap jeans that fit you perfectly for $69.00? Kitchens are more complicated than jeans so you need to do a little more homework.
Consult with designers for both types of cabinetry, see what products and services are offered and what fits your kitchen best. A kitchen is only as good as the installation, so do yourself a favor and stay away from online contractor referral schemes, talk to your friends and neighbors to find out the best services in your area. Remember "Service Magic" is paid for by the contractor who wants your business, this not an independent referral service!
There are so many decisions to make when planning a kitchen. Some of the most important ones need to be made in the beginning, like appliances, cabinetry, under cabinet lighting. You may wonder why under cabinet lighting couldn't wait until closer to the end, especially if you're feeling overwhelmed by the choices. When properly planned for ahead of time a professional designer will customize the bottoms of the cabinets to conceal the light fixtures. If you wait until the cabinets are already made to decide you could end up scrambling last minute for cover moldings, panels, or worse yet staring at your fixtures for the lifetime of your kitchen.
If you are already in the process and haven't addressed this yet don't wait, contact your designer and add a small molding to the order, something like a soffit crown for a traditional kitchen or a solid stock with return, a plain molding like this can be left "as is" in a contemporary kitchen or receive an applied molding to dress it up. Calculate the linear feet of exposed bottom edge and then round up to the nearest multiple of eight. If you are within two feet, add an extra length. Ultimately you want your molding produced with or as close to your cabinetry as possible to achieve the best match and allow all the materials to age together.
Next you will want to sit with a knowledgable lighting specialist, someone who can match up the necessary drivers and connectors to whichever fixtures you decide in. They should also be in the best position to show you the latest offerings in lighting. There are so many to choose from, flourescent, halogen, LED, avaialable in tones ranging from cool white, to warm, to natural daylight. Not all fixtures can be placed on dimmers, so if this is a feature you like, make sure it's compatible.
Contemporary Kitchen in Blue
Lacquer with Figured Anigre
In a kitchen you can create visual excitement by layering your lighting as in this contemporary blue kitchen. There is LED cool white puck lighting installed in the stainless flyover panels, under the cabinets, and behind the butterfly cabinet doors.
If you are looking for a more subtle lighting effect, I recommend custom fabricated bottom light shelves. The ones here are a constructed as a double hulled glass with interior flourescent lights to create pleasing downward and and upward lighting, perfect for cabinets with glass doors. Here shown with backpainted white glass lift up doors. All the materials shown here were designed and are on display at Manhattan Center for Kitchen + Bath.
Buying a kitchen can be a daunting task, not everyone is a natural planner and with an investment this size, it's good to have the best advice. Obviously hiring a professional kitchen designer is one way to make sure you get the most out of your remodel. But not everyone can afford to hire their own consultant, and even if you can, arming yourself with information is one of the best things you can do. I have three little words, my own personal mantra, if you will, "fit, form, and function" ...they ramble through my brain daily, because without them, the most beautiful kitchen in the world is a complete waste of money.
I am a big fan of the "Dummie's" books, I own quite a few, personal finance was the one that got me started almost 20 years ago. When there is something I don't know anything about, I reach for a book.
Kelly Morisseau, CKD, noted Kitchen Designer and Blogger today has released her first book "Kelly's Kitchen Sync". In my opinion it's a "Must Read" for anyone thinking about redoing their kitchen. It's easy to read, comprehensive, and engaging, she tells it like it is without talking down to her reader.
Kelly offers practical advice on everything from lighting, to cabinet function, to layout and more. I highly recommend picking this up for professionals and layfolks alike, there's something for everyone to learn. Thanks Kelly for this great perspective on a craft I love!