On cabinets: stock, custom and more


Q: We got our new house for a really good price because of the kitchen -- it makes Dagwood and Blondie's look avant-garde modern! While we are saving to remodel, I need some very basic information.

Like, what is the real difference between stock and custom cabinets, what do they mean by "frameless" cabinets and how can I tell if what I buy is any good?

A: For such nitty-gritty info on wise buymanship, I tapped the expertise of a certified kitchen designer, a CKD. Those initials behind a designer's name mean that he or she has been certified by the National Kitchen and Bath Association, and must meet certain standards and ethics set by the association.

While it is no guarantee of design talent, you have some assurance that you're dealing with a reliable professional. That's crucial when you're making a major investment like remodeling a kitchen. On to your questions:

Custom cabinets are built to order to fit both your exact measurements and your exacting style requirements: type of wood, laminate color, decorative designs and such.

Stock cabinets, on the other hand, are manufactured in standard sizes from 9 to 48 inches wide (increasing in 3-inch increments). Even with stock cabinets, however, you often can find variations in depth, toe-kick height, etc., to meet special needs.

The bottom-line difference: Custom cabinets are like a tailor-made suit, as opposed to buying off-the-rack. You pay for individualism and extra quality.

"Frameless" cabinets are a sleek, European idea that has been around for a decade or so. There are no center mullions (vertical supports), and when the doors are opened, there's no obvious frame around the front. Frameless cabinets offer more adjustability of shelves, easier access to the contents and permit hidden hinges.

Earmarks of quality construction are much the same as for any kind of case goods: smooth, quiet operation; adjustable shelves; self-closing hinges; mitered or dovetail corner construction in drawers; finished backs and floors and (for laminates) finished edges and matched undersides on wall-hung units.

Get all the information from the people closest to this subject: Write the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association, 1899 Preston White Drive, Reston, Va. 22091-4326, and ask for its booklets.

Q: We have a bay window in the room I plan to turn into an office for my husband, a CPA who works at home. What would be appropriate for a man? I was planning to put up swags, but he doesn't want the neighbors looking in when he works at night.

A: Miniblinds and honeycomb pleated shades are both practical and more "masculine," perhaps, than pure fabric treatments. Budget permitting, you might also consider wooden shutters, one pair to a window, and old-fashioned wide-slat Venetian blinds.

A nice finishing touch (stolen from New Jersey interior designer Nina Lee, ASID): Have the slats covered in some wonderful, textured fabric. Lee is partial to Ultrasuede (but who wouldn't be?)

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the author of five books on interior design and a contributing writer to other publications in the field. Send questions to Inside Advice, Food & Home, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.

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