Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thinking Outside the Box(ed)

About 99 percent of the projects I do are custom cabinets and this has nothing to do with the fact that my client base has deep pockets, it's based on the fact that custom is the best way to take small spaces and make them function well. I recently posted a reply on an industry blog where a new designer asked the question, "What's the best way to explain the difference between custom cabinets and factory cabinets?" What I found shocking is that most of the responses were based on misinformation or a general lack of knowledge as to the difference between true custom cabinets and factory-built cabinets. All of the responses touted the finish of the factory (boxed) cabinets as far superior and more desirable and some went so far as to demean the work of small shops and local craftsmen. By definition anything you order from a catalog where you choose pieces and parts, even if they're proprietary to that shop, are not custom, they are semi-custom. Had I walked into one of my recent high-end projects with a catalog of factory "custom" cabinets, my work as the kitchen designer on that project would have lasted less than 15 seconds, not 15 months. The cabinets I designed for Bella Luce were built by a local craftsman and many of the finishes were applied on site, not by a giant sprayer and a baking oven but by an artist.

It's my opinion that a lot of the "boxed" cabinets look very plastic and the finishes, though durable, often leave you with something that looks less than natural. A lot of the designers tout the fact that their finishes have a lifetime warranty, but with the average lifespan of a kitchen being 10-12 years, is this what you should base your purchase decision on? Look at it this way; we all quickly tire of things that are average or blah-looking -- but we keep beautiful furniture pieces forever. In my eyes it's worth the effort to go custom.

So this is my design philosophy: there are places and times when factory cabinets are the best answer but for the most part, it's worth spending a small amount more (custom isn't as expensive as you might think) to do the custom cabinets and work with a local craftsman to create a kitchen that comes out of your imagination, not out of a box. You get better functionality, infinite finish choices, something unique to your style and needs, and you support the local craftsmen while adding greater value to your home's resale potential.

What are your thoughts on the use of custom versus semi or boxed cabinetry?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mad Men and Depression

I picked up a Restoration Hardware catalog today while Brenda and I were at the mall. I always like to get this catalog; I might not like everything in it but for mainstream America, they pretty much have their pulse on current trends, be it color or style.

This issue is thought-provoking, because the very first picture I look at has two very weathered-looking doored cabinets in the background. And the finish isn’t antiqued in a way that’s been popular in the past few years -- very painted and distressed; these are basically raw wood, weathered cabinets. They look like they’ve actually been left out in the rain and the elements for years and years. What I find most interesting about these cabinets is they are almost exact replicas of a cabinet that Nashville artist Arlene Gold and I produced for her kitchen two years ago, pictured at left.

Flipping through the pages of this magazine, I took note of the colors. While our country’s currently in a recession, all of the pictures are almost depression-era in tone. All the furniture is bare and weathered. like it’s been sitting out in the sand and the wind of the Dustbowl. All these pictures have this sepia-toned depression-era look. It’s almost like the magazine is taking us back to that era and re-romanticizing it, because it’s something people can connect with -- a lack of shine and glitter and bright color. Now juxtapose this with the fact that the hottest new show on television is “Mad Men,” where we’re thrown into a design and style era that was sleek lines and beautiful fabrics and big hats and mid-morning martinis. In its short three-year run, this show has already had a profound influence on fashion and home furnishings.

My point is, it will be interesting to see what washes out between these two very polar opposite styles that are being presented to mainstream America.

What’s your style? And how is it affected by the mood of the times?