1. Materials and Machining
Use the highest quality materials available. Your high end cabinet maker knows what they are. Good substrates, high quality veneer for the euro style cabinets, and good kiln dried wood for the traditional style cabinetry. CNC machining assures that shelves line up, hinge holes are in the right place, and everything is square. Start out with a good foundation and grow from there.
Make sure whatever you’re building, be it a kitchen or an entertainment center, has been designed by a professional. Sounds simple, right? Design? What could be so hard? After your dishwasher door holds the kitchen hostage when open, or there is nowhere to put your pots, pans, and lids in one place, design starts to mean a little more. Don’t wait for the, “Oh crap, I shoulda thought about this before!” This is not to say that designers are infallible, but most likely your cabinet maker has been through all this before. If you do have a designer, let your cabinet maker put his or her two cents in if he/she notices something that doesn’t seem to work. The form vs. function battle has been raging since, like, a long time ago. I’ll save this issue for another time.
The Europeans have developed the most awesome hardware for drawers, doors, pullouts, etc. Drawers can have soft closing hardware, touch latches, and combinations of the two. Doors can close softly, they can go up and over cabinets, they can pocket into cabinets and can slide out of the way with incredible smoothness and ease of effort. That being said, if banging doors and crashing drawers are a necessary and frequent expression of marital discourse then nix the soft close features and bang away. But if you want the top quality stuff, beware that it’s made by only a few suppliers. If you want the best, and your cabinet maker plans on drawer glides that only cost three dollars apiece, um, you may want to rethink your choice of cabinet maker.
What happens when someone walks into your kitchen for the first time? What do they see? Ok, they see the materials if it’s stain grade stuff, but for the most part they are looking at the overall picture. A good finish can help or even save a mediocre job. A bad finish can absolutely ruin a good job. Whether it’s paint or stain, attention to detail is what sets apart the good from the other guys. Prep work for finish is essential. That’s why you pay 30% or more of your cabinet price for finish. Once again, foundation is the key – good high quality finish, attention to detail in the prep work, and professionally applied finish that is durable and long lasting.
If you are so inclined you can do your own finish… especially if you are in the business like I am. $20,000 to finish my kitchen? Please! For me, I’d get all the paint stripped off and then I’d be ready to call the finisher with a story about how my wife made me do it. He’d nod accordingly and we’d move on from there.
Either way, use the good $hit, make sure it works, make sure it looks good, and you’ll rock your neighbors. (It’s always good to hear your neighbor’s wife ask hubby, “Why don’t we have that!”)