When most kitchen designers talk about custom cabinets, they are referring to cabinetry made in large production facilities with the ability to custom make individual cabinetry pieces and to modify cabinetry as desired. These large custom cabinetry plants are fine furniture manufacturers able to mass produce durable consistent finishes on all their kitchen, bath, office, and furniture pieces. Most custom cabinet companies that make framed cabinetry (the more durable way to manufacture cabinets) specialize in inset, beaded inset and lip cabinet doors. These are door styles where the cabinetry specifications need to be the most precise.
Often people shopping for a new kitchen don’t understand that a small cabinet shop or an Amish furniture maker is not what kitchen designers are referring to, or what customers are seeing when they go to a kitchen and bath showroom and see a “custom” cabinet. Small and what most kitchen designers refer to as ”homemade” cabinet makers have a wide range of skills and abilities. However, most of their cabinetry doesn’t compare with a higher end, larger manufacturer’s.
Homemade cabinetry makers aren’t large enough to afford the ovens needed to bake and dry cabinetry and finishes. Their equipment and the shop conditions can’t produce consistent quality cabinetry and finishes. Their warrantee is also less valuable because they are individuals who can die, get sick, or change professions. Cabinetry warrantied at a traditional showroom or at Main Line Kitchen Design is warrantied by both the selling company and the large cabinetry manufacturer.
The construction specifications at small shops can be the same as those at larger cabinet companies. In fact the hinges, drawer tracks and all the cabinetry hardware will most likely be identical in all these lines. But, because of the differences in available equipment, the finishes on the cabinetry from smaller cabinetry shops usually doesn’t approach the quality level of even the lower level semi-custom cabinet lines.
This difference in finish quality is the main reason why kitchen and bath showrooms don’t sell this type of cabinetry. Kitchen designers can see the difference instantly and, were the cabinets side by side in a showroom, consumers would be able to as well.
Occasionally we get a customer that takes our designs and brings them to a small cabinet maker or friend to copy what we designed in a high-end semi-custom line or custom line for around the same price. In their desire to get themselves “a deal”, they end up paying the same money for an inferior product, without a reliable guarantee and from a home furniture maker far less knowledgeable about kitchen cabinetry and design. These customers often become our best referrals when problems eventually arise.
Wishing everyone a great fall and of course as Julia said……….
All photos for this article are of Jim Bishop Danbury Cabinetry. Kitchen designed by Ray Gardner - Senior Designer Main Line Kitchen Design. Installed by A.J. Ahrens of Amberwood Builders. Photographed by Bob Graham Jr. – Copyright Bob Graham Jr. Photography.