The 6-step guide to picking out your new kitchen cabinets

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When renovating a kitchen, it’s hard for people to look through magazines and websites for kitchen design ideas and really know how to follow through. Homeowners may know the basic aspects they want in their new cabinetry, but they rarely know exactly how to go through a step-by-step process of deciding what they should look for.

Alure Home Improvement’s custom kitchen and bathroom designer Marilou Arcuri explained in an interview exactly what homeowners should consider when they start looking into buying cabinets.

1. Construction
“It’s about quality of construction. That’s really first and foremost. That’s the bones of the kitchen and that’s what’s going to make that kitchen last. You want something that’s well-constructed,” Arcuri explained.

What’s the point of building a beautiful kitchen if it won’t hold your pots and pans? Homeowners should talk to a designer about the aspects that can make cabinets last as long as they want, including wall systems, heavy-duty undermounts, dovetail doors and stainless-steel glides.

“How we’re designing now, is we’re designing more with hardwoods,” Arcuri said. “So, those types of mechanisms are going to be used very heavily.”

Cabinets are usually made from plywood or particle board.  Plywood is the construction of choice for many, but if you get a well-made particle board cabinet It will offer a sturdy, reliable cabinet without a large price tag.

By incorporating these systems and materials into the cabinets’ construction, Arcuri and other designers have been able to let homeowners fill their shelves and countertops with whatever they want. With a solid construction, people don’t have to think about the weight of a platter, pot, appliance or mixing bowl – they know it’ll hold up.

Once you’ve settled on the elements that make your cabinets’ construction solid, it’s time to turn toward preference.

“Past that, you want to think about the type of construction. Whether you want to go with a frame construction or frameless construction. Both are equally as strong as far as the construction is concerned,” she explained, saying it really comes down to aesthetic preference.

Framed, or American, cabinets are a more traditional, classic approach. They may have slightly smaller, more ornate doors and drawers, allowing for the frame underneath to show through bordering and outlining your cabinets. Frameless, or European-style, cabinets have a heavy back panel and unobstructed openings. They’re more open, even and equal. Frame style doesn’t change the durability or function of a kitchen, but it can adjust the look and give you more storage space, Arcuri explained.

“If you’re more contemporary in style, you’re going to want to go with the frameless cabinets,” Arcuri said. “You’re going to get a much sleeker look.”

2. Overall style
After you pick construction style, there are still plenty of design elements to be discussed, such as traditional designs versus contemporary and transitional.

Contemporary cabinets, and kitchens as a whole, are much sleeker and often have flat fronts and sharp edges. Conversely traditional cabinets are more elaborate and classic. Traditional cabinets may have detailed molding or ornate features, whereas a contemporary cabinet has simpler trim. Transitional designs often combine aspects of both traditional and contemporary.

However, for some, picking cabinet style can feel too important and is stressful, but Arcuri tells homeowners not to worry – the cabinet isn’t the only aspect of a kitchen.

“When you’re picking a style, think of it as the frame of the kitchen,” Arcuri advised. “There are other elements that are going to bring style to the kitchen, that doesn’t have to be the cabinets, it can just be the frame. You have your backsplash, you have your countertops, you have your flooring, how you accessorize the kitchen – [cabinets] don’t have to be your end-all. Just think of your cabinetry as the frame to a beautiful kitchen.”

3. Door style
Basically there are three types of cabinet, slab, recessed and raised. Slab doors are just that, a flat door void of detail for a contemporary design. Recessed center panels usually equate to more casual or transitional in style, while raised center panels are typically associated with formal, or traditional design which also may be paired with molding build ups, turned legs and other decorative fittings. Although pretty, these complex moldings and carvings can also be more difficult and time-consuming to clean.

Doors can also be made from a variety of materials, including Cherry, Maple, Oak, Thermofoil and others.

4. Color
Cabinets with a white paint finish are very popular right now, but classic, finished natural wood is always a good option as well. Arcuri recommended that people who do want a natural look find a stain that matches the type of wood that they decide to use.

This is likely going to be one of the most fun parts, because you’re picking a color that goes well with your kitchen that you like. There are a number of glazes and brush stroke designs that can also be used to add texture and depth to cabinets. Antiquing is also a popular technique for some homeowners, where the cabinets are made to look stylishly classic.

5. Overall Design and Function of Space 
You’ve likely put thought into where you’re picturing these cabinets going, but this is a good point to talk about additional cabinet uses, such as in an island or against a far wall. By discussing where cabinets will be used, you can make better judgments on style and function choices.

It’s also good to discuss the amenities that can be added to the interior of a cabinet. Talk to your designer about your specific needs to get a customized cabinet interior that can help you organize and fit all of your household needs.

Arcuri explained that although getting quality construction is the most important aspect, saying that there’s “no room for compromises,” function shouldn’t be ignored. She works hard with homeowners and their kitchens to get them a new kitchen and cabinet setup that will work well in their lives.

“When I’m designing for my clients, I delve very deeply into every aspect of their kitchen and how it’s used and what’s stored in it,” Arcuri said. “And that’s an important element in making sure that my clients can house what they need, have it accessible and be able to grow into it. Because, oftentimes, my clients are coming from a small kitchen and I’m expanding it, reconfiguring it or tearing down walls. There’s so many times that they can’t do with what they have and they wish they had [more space]. I try to not only find what they use on a daily basis, what they have hidden in other places and what they wish they could have and I try to design the actual cabinetry to their needs.”

6.  Where to buy
You should find a reputable designer who’s willing to take the time to answer your questions, help with your selection process and educate you as to all of your options.

When you’re figuring out what types of cabinets you want in your new kitchen, it’s important to go through Arcuri’s list so that you don’t miss anything. That way, you’ll end up with cabinets that you love to use, look at and show off.