England's Smallbone Kitchens are known for their warm and quirky charm. Unfortunately, the high prices can leave some people cold. If you're one of them, consider a more affordable alternative. Jean McHale, the co-owner of Gaines McHale Antiques, has created a line of custom cabinetry inspired by the coziness of English kitchens -- for about one-third the price.
While most expensive cabinets are machine-manufactured out of new wood and then finished with spray varnish, these are truly custom-made using Old-World techniques. Ms. McHale designs the kitchens for local customers and then sends complete specifications to a craftsman in England, who custom-builds each cabinet out of Victorian-era pine timbers. The antique timbers present an authentic aged appearance, and they hold up much better over the years than does an artificially distressed cabinet. No fewer than six coats of paste wax varnish are hand-rubbed into the cabinets, giving them a deep, subtle glow.