Cabinets—Where to Begin?

September 15, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger

Everything, including the kids’ snacks, the everyday dinnerware, grandma’s gravy boat, the laundry detergent, bath towels, blow-dryers, and on and on and on, need a place to be housed. That’s right! We as consumers have a huge amount of ‘stuff’ to be stored. Walk into any home’s kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, etc. and the first thing you’ll notice are the cabinets, and the large amount of space they have staked their claim to.

With cabinets being so prevalent and important, we thought it might be a good time to give an overview of what the options are for these ‘elephants in the room’.


Prefabricated: Prefabricated units can be both cost effective and attractive. They provide a product that is completed and ready to install saving consumers the hassle of any decisions beyond which one to select. The drawbacks to prefabricated are numerous though. To begin with the space you are using the piece in must be the correct dimensions—there’s no adding on or subtracting if need be. Also, the options in wood, finishes, and hardware are limited—odds are you’ll see the same cabinets elsewhere at some time. ‘Unique’ is not a word we use with prefabricated anything—especially cabinets. You’ll also need to install the cabinets yourself or hire a contractor to do so.

Custom: Custom cabinets are often comparable in price to prefabricated and offer any number of additional customization options. You not only get to choose the style of cabinet, but also the wood, the finish, the hardware, and even the height and depth of the finished product. Custom cabinet manufacturers will also come out and install the pieces for you so you know they are done correctly.


Lower cabinets typically will stand between 34 ½ -36 inches high. With custom cabinets, getting the correct height for your household is a breeze. There’s not much worse than being tall and needing to use a low sink or vice versa.

Upper cabinets are between 30-42 inches high. Cabinets over the fridge or the range hood are between 12-15 inches high. Due to varying building codes and heights of appliances, the upper cabinets may need to be altered. It’s always best to have a contractor who knows the codes help to plan your kitchen cabinets, whether you are using a prefabricated option or a custom one. Hiring an interior designer can be beneficial as well, since they can not only provide you with professional design advice, but they often already have contractors they work with and can put you in touch with them.

The depth of the upper or lower cabinets will be dependent on the depth of the counter top.


The very core of any cabinet is what it’s comprised of, and, although there are many inexpensive pressboard or laminate options available, for the purpose of this blog we are going to concentrate on solid wood varieties.

Cherry: A high quality hardwood with a well-defined grain. It comes in a variety of shades from light-reddish gold to dark-red. This wood will darken with age and exposure to natural light. Cherry is a pricier wood.

Oak: A hardwood often used in traditional, rustic, or country style kitchens for its natural rougher grain. Oak comes in white, yellow or red varieties and is generally less expensive than maple or cherry.

Knotty Alder: A smooth hardwood that represents itself as rustic and informal. Its prominent feature is its multiple knots which will vary in size, structure and consistency. The color ranges from warm yellow to red. Knotty Alder will lighten over time as it is exposed to light.

Bamboo: Although not really a ‘wood’, but rather a grass, bamboo is a great choice for a unique, very sturdy, modern, earth friendly option for your cabinets. Bamboo is considered to be a ‘green’ option as the crop grows quickly and is replenished far sooner than other woods. Bamboo offers a grain pattern that presents as long, straight lines and can be used so the lines are either horizontal or vertical. Bamboo can be stained a variety of different hues and is easy to maintain. As bamboo is considered an ‘exotic’, it does run a little more than other traditional ‘domestic’ woods.

Maple: A smooth, strong, creamy colored hardwood that may appear mottled when stained for its varying areas of density. Maple’s very fine smooth grained surface makes the wood the perfect choice for cabinets that will be painted. Probably the most versatile of the woods as it lends itself well to contemporary, traditional and country styles.

Hickory: A heavy, strong, and very durable hardwood with inconsistent areas of light and dark patches. Hickory is an informal wood that is used mainly to convey a rustic feel and costs less than cherry.

Birch: A lighter colored wood that may vary in color from cream to reddish-yellow and is characterized by the small knots that are prevalent throughout the wood. Birch is a great choice for traditional style rooms and is lower in cost.

Walnut: A beautiful and durable scarce hardwood that will cost you more than other woods. The cost for this wood is affected by how it’s dried. An alternative to solid walnut would be walnut veneer which can be used on cabinets for a fraction of the cost of using solid wood.

Pecan: A straight grained, light yellow to medium brown, strong and durable hardwood. Pecan can be difficult to work with and is frequently sold together with hickory as just ‘hickory’. The cost for pecan is lower than other woods and coveted for its varied colored grain.

Paint vs. Stain

Stained wood provides a room with all of the natural beauty of the wood grain while adding warmth to the space. Stained wood though is one of those things that can start off beautiful, but if not well maintained through regular cleaning and degreasing can quickly go downhill. Stained wood can also be susceptible to water damage.

Paint is a great way to ‘cleanup’ your cupboards. It is easy to maintain as all you generally need is some warm soapy water and a sponge to keep it looking great, but it too can have drawbacks. Paint chips, fades, and can show water damage too.

Cabinet Doors and Hardware

The aspect of the cabinet that adds as much, if not more, interest than the materials it is comprised of are the type of door they have on them, the hardware and other accessories.

The flat panel door (aka a shaker style door) is generally a door ‘framed’ in wood with a recessed center panel. This is the most popular form of cabinet door and lends itself to all interior design styles.

The raised panel door (aka a pillow style door) is similar to the flat panel door except the center panel is raised with a ‘moat’ of sorts between the center and the frame.

The slab door is no more than a flat piece of wood, the edges of which may or may not be beveled or rounded.

The accent door is any cabinet door that has any number of special attributes including clear glass inlay, stained-glass inlay, louvers, craftsman style cross molding over glass, etc.

The hardware can range from the very simple tubular shaped brushed silver bar pulls to glass knobs to simple hemp rope being threaded through the holes. The hardware is like the jewelry—it can dress up or dress down any cabinet style.

One last feature accessory we’d like to touch on is the hinges and drawer guides. There are so many different options for these today, but one of our favorite is the soft-close hinges and guides. This option is wonderful for any household, but particularly for households with children. The soft-close hinge literally catches the door/drawer while being closed (no matter with what vigor it is being closed) and quietly softly closes the door with barely a sound. Ahhhh…no more banging of the cabinets.

We hope this has been enlightening for you and given you some information to think about when it comes to all the options there are available for cabinets in your home.


Bamboo cabinets:





By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger

Couples start to plan for their weddings at least a year in advance.  They select photographers, florists, caterers, the officiant, seamstresses, tux rental shops, D.J.s, etc. for a single day event.  They worry and fret about every little detail, yet when it comes to major construction on their homes Remodelpeople often times plan hastily and expect it completed in just a few weeks.

We often have clients calling us to inquire about a remodel project and frequently they want to start it sooner rather than later.  Remodeling is not a quick fix—just to get ready for it to begin is a long process and the actual construction can last for a much greater duration of time.

When planning a remodel think of it as you would a wedding.  Line up all of your contractors, get on their schedules, line up your materials, price them, adjust the budget, etc.  Here is an easy to follow At-A-Glance timeline when preparing for a remodel.

6 Months Before:

–Start to think about the parameters of the project.  How much do you want to do? Will you be replacing flooring? Removing walls? Reworking the roof line? Will there be hardware that needs to be purchased? Appliances to select? Etc.?

–Establish a relationship with an interior designer (if you don’t already have one).  The benefit of having a designer on the team is that they have already vetted contractors and can bring an entire docket of professionals to you.  This is nice in the fact that it makes the process run smoother and affords project relationships that are already established.

–Select your general contractor.  Your designer most likely has a general contractor they work closely with and would be happy to share with you their information or you may want to research and secure your own contractor.  Either way most contractors only work on one or two projects at a time.  It is always recommended that you get your job on their schedule as soon as possible.  Your initial meeting with your contractor will give them and you a good idea of how much time the project will require and what they estimate your completion date to be.  It is always nice to include your designer in the meeting with your contractor as they will be working closely together throughout the project.

–Select the other professional contractors. Again ask your designer if they have recommendations, do your own research into specialized contractors or ask your general contractor if they have sub-contractors that they prefer to work with.  However you go about finding your painter, plumber, drywaller, etc.  you’ll need to schedule your project with their schedules as soon as possible to ensure your project has less of a chance of delays.

4 Months Before:

–Find some inspiration. Start to look online, in magazines, on, etc. for inspiration as to what kind of flooring you want, what paint colors attract you, what hardware you like, what appliances you might be interested in, etc.  Compile a file of these items to share with your designer.  This will make your likes/dislikes clearer and direct the shopping for these items.

–Set a date to meet with your designer You’ll want to make sure you get on your designer’s schedule to have a meeting about the design direction of your project.

3 Months Before:

–Meet with your designer.   At this meeting you will be able to discuss how you want the space to feel, what you want to use it for, what style you envision the area to portray, etc.  You will also set a date(s) with your designer to shop for all the products needed.  Depending on the project this could include flooring, paint colors, counters, cabinets, backsplashes, lighting, hardware, tile, furniture, etc.

–Collect Bids.  After the selections are made then the product bids will start to come in, as they do so, a budget will start to take form.  Once all the bids are submitted and the budget established then it will be time to decide if the budget is viable or if more shopping for alternative products as a lesser rate needs to take place.  The budget can always be altered either by increasing the homeowner’s actual monetary budget or by decreasing the cost of the materials.  It does, however, take a little time and that’s why it needs to be several months in advance.

–Order Materials. Once the budget is agreed to and the items selected then they are ordered.  We encourage homeowners to 1.) have all the items needed arrive prior to the beginning of the project and 2.) to plan a location (preferably on site) for the materials to be stored.

2 Weeks Before:

–Come up with a ‘during construction’ plan. Decide what you will be doing to accommodate for the loss of the space being remodeled.  If it is a bathroom, will you need an additional facility brought in (I.e. a porta-potty) or is there another bath in the home you can use while it is not available?  If it is a kitchen, where will you prepare and eat meals?  Is there an area you can set up a makeshift kitchen or will you be eating out for the duration of the remodel?

–Stage your new temporary area. Start to get everything together and setup in the new location so you won’t need to rush the day prior to construction beginning.

Construction Begins:

–Have Patience. Once the project starts it can take a minimum of five weeks, but depending on the size and involvement of the project, it could take considerably longer.

–Communicate, communicate, and communicate.  Open communication between homeowners, general contractor, designer, etc. is very important.  Daily calls between all parties is not unheard of.

–Problems may arise and delays may happen.  Until a wall is actually removed, a tub taken out, or flooring torn up it may be impossible to tell what will be found.  There may also be family or personal emergencies faced by the contractors themselves that are unforeseen and, unfortunately, will delay the job.

Yes, a remodel is a big undertaking and, just like a wedding, it requires a lot of planning and budgeting and will get messy before it is done, but also just like a wedding, the finished product will be beautiful, rewarding and change your life for the better.  Enjoy!


Powder Rooms: They will never be palatial!

June 16, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger Recently while brainstorming some blog inspirations I came across this idea for a piece: “10 color choices that will make your powder room feel larger” and I laughed OUT LOUD!  I have to shake my head every time someone thinks that a powder room can be made to feel larger with a […]

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Garnering New Décor From Old (Also a Review of Chalk Paint)

May 19, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger The moans from the backseat are loud, eyes are rolling and heads flop lifelessly forward.  My children are protesting my need to visit some random free pile on the side of the road.  They have grown tired of my countless stops at these subtle prize heaps.  They don’t see the appeal of […]

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When Interior Design and Waffles Collide—Something has to give!

May 5, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger Upon returning from dropping my children off at school today I was struck by the wonderful warm, undeniable smell of waffles and maple syrup that wafted through our home.  An unmistakable remnant of my children’s busy active morning and the breakfast they had consumed.  I felt an instant bolt of love surge […]

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Gardens Need Makeovers too!

April 21, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells, and cockle shells, And pretty maids all in a row. We all remember this rhyme from our childhood.  It was usually chanted while holding hands with our little friends and dancing around in a circle under the warm spring smile […]

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Ahhhhhh Spring! Ehhhhhhh the Patio!

April 7, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger The twittering birds are here again, the sun is up earlier and setting later, the days are warmer and the flowers are blooming: It must be spring! If you are anything like me this time of year energizes you.  I start to feel excited to do some cleaning and decorating and refreshing […]

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Wine with Everything!

March 24, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger As you have probably already heard, or at least read in a not too distant blog post of mine, Marsala is the Pantone 2015 color of the year.  This color is rich, deep and warm and was a fabulous choice by Pantone, but it got me thinking about all of the ‘wine’ […]

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7 Quick Tips for Decorating Any Room

March 10, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger Good design, as with most things, is made harder by what we don’t know and instantly easier once we gain more knowledge. It makes no difference if you are a free-spirited bohemian, a more traditional-classic soul or a straight-laced contemporary up-and-coming; there are several design ‘rules’ that can help you put a […]

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5 Guest Room Essentials Every Good Hostess Needs to Know

February 24, 2015

By Marlie Bilbruck-Boerger We’ve all been there:  You go to visit friends or family and end up feeling like you were an afterthought on their agenda, your bed some cot in an otherwise storage-room and you conclude your visit suspecting they are breathing a sigh of relief to see you go. Of all the things […]

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