Kitchen Cabinets: Reface or Replace?

If you are in the market for a kitchen remodel, you may be wondering what to do with your kitchen cabinets. There are so many options out there: you can completely replace your kitchen cabinets, re-face them, or re-surface them. What do those terms mean? What is the difference between each? How much do they cost?

Knowing which is the best option for your kitchen is the tricky part.

When I work with clients this is a common predicament. Mostly, clients are trying to mind their budget, but often they are genuinely confused about how to move forward. To clear up the confusion these are the three things I usually bring to table.


#1 Cabinet Anatomy

I like to start with a little bit of education. Starting with the structures that make up a cabinet is usually a good first step. The first myth I usually dispel is that cabinets are rarely made entirely of solid wood. The second myth is that you don’t want them to be made of solid wood! Lets take a look at the drawing below:

Anatomy of a Cabinet

 

The image on the left is the “box”. Think of the box as the skeleton or bones of your cabinets. Cabinet boxes are typically made of plywood, particle board, or MDF. This is a good thing! These composite wood materials withstand minor moisture changes better than solid wood, which will keep the box from warping. This is even more important in places with high humidity. The inside of the box is wrapped in a veneer or thin covering. Depending on the quality of the cabinet, that veneer can be a laminate or plastic veneer or it can be made of wood. Veneers also vary in thickness based on the quality of the cabinets. They can be a thin “sticker” type veneer or a several millimeters thick.

The image in the middle is the “face” of the cabinet. Cabinet faces are made of veneers. If you have wood cabinets, then your veneers will be made of the same wood and stained or painted to match. The veneers are the really important part of a re-facing job. I say that because the veneers that are part of your original cabinets were applied in a factory. The conditions in the factory are quite different than the conditions in your kitchen. Factories have a lot of environmental and quality control processes in place that ensure that the cabinets are free from defects. So, if you are thinking of refacing your cabinets, you have to consider that the veneers on the face of your cabinet may not adhere as well or may degrade more quickly over time because it wasn’t applied in a less controlled environment.

The image on the right illustrates the doors and the drawer. These are the most expensive parts of a cabinet. When refacing a cabinet, the doors will not be the doors fit to your cabinet in the factory. This may mean that the doors won’t fit as well or may not hang as well as the factory fit cabinets. Again, there are a lot of quality control measures in place in a factory that will not be in place when a local cabinet company comes into your home to do a re-face.


#2 What are your goals?

To really decide if you should re-face or replace your kitchen cabinets, ask yourself these questions:

Do I simply want to freshen up the look of my kitchen and make it look updated?

Are my cabinets giving me the storage I need?

Do I love the layout of my kitchen? Or do I need a more functional layout?

Do I want to move a wall to “open up the space”?

Contemporary Kitchen

If you find that you want or need a more open and functional kitchen or if you plan to move or remove any structure, you may be facing a major remodel. In that case replacing cabinets will be your best, and possibly only, option. However, if you are just looking for a shorter term cosmetic update, re-facing your kitchen cabinets might be the right option for you.


#3 The “B” Word: Budget

Obviously, budget plays a big role in what you can do with your cabinets and kitchen. If you have a small budget of $15,000 or less, unless you have a very small kitchen  you may not have the budget for a complete kitchen remodel. For a small kitchen you may also find that a major remodel isn’t even an option. You may want to focus on improving the cosmetics of the kitchen from the start. Re-facing cabinets costs around $90-125/linear foot of cabinets and new semi-custom cabinets start around $125/linear foot and go upwards of $300/linear foot depending on the finish, door style, and cabinet type. If you want painted or glazed wood cabinets with roll-out trays and deep drawers, you’re going to pay a premium price.

 

…And don’t forget to multiply that linear foot number by 2 if you want wall cabinets. So if you have 20 linear feet of wall space that you want to fill with base and wall cabinets, that include a pantry with roll out trays, deep drawers, a beautiful range hood, and a few wall cabinets with glass doors, you can expect to spend $12,000 to $20,000 on cabinets alone at most retailers.

Now, that you’ve picked your jaw up off the floor, it’s time to start planning your kitchen remodel and budget! Make sure to check out my post on counter surfaces here and you can grab a great guide for sampling paint here.

Or if you’re still struggling with your ideal style or planning your next project you can schedule your Design Plan Consultation here.

 

Take the Pain Out of Painting

You’ve been thinking about painting.

I see you there, standing in front of a wall with at least a half-dozen paint samples painted in 12″ squares. Completely confused. This one’s too dark. This one’s too blue. The last batch looked too yellow. You’re wondering how anyone ever picks the right color. Eventually, you pick one, it might even be a paint you never sampled; maybe it’s just the least offensive of the bunch. On a wing and a prayer you paint the room. Hopefully, it looks close to the color you had hoped for, but quite frequently, it doesn’t. It’s too bright or it looks like a completely different color once it’s on all four walls.

One of my client’s calls it the “color crazies”.

Why is the painting process so painful? For so many people, thinking about painting a room or two brings a level of anxiety that induces sheer panic. But it doesn’t have to be that way! If you arm yourself with a little bit of knowledge, selecting paint colors for your next project will be easy!

Step One: Read the chips

The first step in learning how to select paint colors like a pro is understanding how to “read” paint chips. 

The most tinted colors are at the top of the paint chip and the most shaded colors are at the bottom. You can add black to any paint color (or hue) to make it a shade darker or white to any color to make it a tint lighter. Paint manufacturers, like Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore already offer you multiple shades and tints of a particular color, that’s why they have about 7 shades or tints for each hue. Typically, the paint you purchase at stores like Home Depot or Lowes, won’t have as many tints and shades for each hue, but you can ask them to add white or black to tint or shade the color to your liking. You can also tone down a bright color by adding gray.

Undertones are the hints of color you can see “under” the color itself. So, gray isn’t just black + white = gray and pink isn’t just red + white = pink. When you compare the various paint chips to each other you will see these undertones appear. This will also be most obvious in the darker colors on the chip. However, don’t be fooled! Those undertones will definitely show up when the color is on the wall, even in the lighter hues. I’ve had clients that are particularly sensitive to blue undertones in colors and if a color has even a hint of blue undertone, they’ll only see blue. If you know you prefer warmer neutrals steer clear of anything with a black, purple, or blue undertones and of you prefer cooler neutrals steer clear of anything with red, yellow, or tan undertones. Consider the undertone when selecting neutral paint colors. Look to the darker colors on the chip to more easily see the undertone. 

Standard chips have multiple tints and shades.

Step Two: Flip your chip

Aside from the various tints and shades of your chosen hue, the back of the paint chip will also have some useful information. The most important information is the Light Reflective Value (LRV). Light Reflective Value is a scale that tells you how much light will reflect from the surface. The whitest white colors have the highest scores and the darkest black colors have the lowest scores. You will use this number to tell you how light or dark a color is when you compare it to white or any other color. The LRV will also give you a clue  how dark or light the color will appear when it is on all four walls. You can use the LRV to help you with the next step.

 

Step Three: Prime first

You’ll want to put primer on your wall prior to painting samples on it. This helps reduce interference from the original wall color. You don’t need to prime the entire wall, a large section will do. This will eliminate any interference from the color your wall is already painted. For example, if your wall is a deep red color and you are want a light gray with blue undertones, the blue undertones will be exaggerated and the paint will look pale in comparison.

Primer will have an LRV of >/=90. When you put any color on top of the white primer it will look dark. Remember the LRV of the lightest color on the chip is around 75. So, that little patch of LRV 75 will be sitting there absorbing more light, while the primer will be reflecting almost all of the light. So, by comparison, the sample will look dark, but it’s not! An LRV of 60 or more is still quite light and once it is on all 4 walls it will reflect a lot of light. Conversely, if it’s a darker color it will absorb a lot of light and darken your room. 

 

Reference Color: it’s difficult to see the undertones of your color when you paint directly over the old color because you are referencing the old color to the new color.
When you prime the wall first, your only reference color is white. These are all light colors, but compared to pure white, they appear darker.

 

Key Take-Aways:

Paint the wall with primer first. Don’t paint the new wall color options directly onto the old color.

The lightest color on the chip is actually pretty light, but not as light as “white” colors.

Be aware of undertones. They may be pronounced when compared to white primer.

Don’t just compare your color to the stark white primer. Use your knowledge of light Reflective Value (LRV) to help you gauge how dark or light the sample will actually look on your wall.

Hopefully, these tip will help you take the pain out of your next painting project! You can download this information in my design guide called “3 Steps to Easier Paint Sampling” here.

Still feel like you need some help with your color selections? Schedule your Design Style Consultation with Paradigm Interiors here.

 

 

Awkward Rooms: Finding Balance

Awkward rooms. Everybody has them. Even the most well designed custom homes. That one room where you just can’t figure out where to put the furniture to make the space work. I have one. In my house it’s my office and sometimes I’m still not sure if I’ve found the absolute best solution, but I have managed to find some balance and function.

So, what do you do with those awkward rooms? A few design “rules” can help you figure out your best approach for furnishing those spaces. The first step is using good space planning guidelines. If you like to entertain, like I do, you will want to make sure that there is enough room for everyone to move around in the space. The most common rooms for entertaining are the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen.

Earlier this week, I posted video and table that had furniture spacing information for these rooms. You can access them here.

The other problem with awkward rooms is finding a way to create visual balance. The easiest way to create a balanced look is by using symmetry. Symmetry is by far the preference of most people. However, if the awkward space your designing just isn’t conducive to symmetry, then you’re probably wondering how to achieve balance without symmetry.

It’s not as hard as you think!
It’s all about weight. Every single object in your home has visual weight. There are several elements that give something visual weight. The obvious elements are shape and size. A tall object has more visual weight than a short object. Squares and rectangles seem heavier to the eye than curved and rounded objects. However, texture and color can also effect the visual weight of an object. Think of a brown faux fur pillow versus a cream colored silk pillow.
A cream colored silk pillow with mother of pearl accent looks lighter than a brown faux fur pillow.

Or an organic live edge wood table versus a chrome and glass table.

A glass and metal table has a light, delicate look compared to the live edge style table.
Even though they may have similar dimensions, one appears heavier than the other.
So, lesson one in balancing your awkward rooms is to use items with a similar visual weight. An example would be to balance a light colored, smooth velvet sectional sofa with 2 side chairs in a coarser, darker fabric, like in the image below. Although the chairs don’t take up as much physical space as the sofa, the dark blue color makes them look heavier. This contemporary mediterranean room is a recent project where I used this this technique to create balance.
Contemporary Mediterranean Living Room
The other major factor in creating balance in awkward rooms is space. You can use the space around an object to help create balance. This one is a bit of a head scratcher, but think about a really great gallery wall, like the one below. The designer has used the framed art to create balance, but she has also used the space between the art to achieve a balanced look.
Here’s another example with a furniture layout.
What challenges have you faced in your awkward rooms? Will you be able to use balance and space to help you make your room less awkward? Still not sure? Give Paradigm Interiors a call or schedule your Design Style Consultation here!
You can shop the Contemporary Mediterranean look here.
Product board for the Contemporary Mediterranean look

How Much Should I Spend on a Sofa?

How much should I spend on …. a Sofa?

You know the old saying “you get what you pay for?” When it comes to selecting furniture, a truer statement has never been said. Well… to a point. Sure there are some brands in furniture for which you will be paying for the name (I see you Mrs. Hunt). Not that I wouldn’t absolutely advocate a client going all-in and buying a Baker Sofa if they could afford it and wanted it. What I’m saying is that there is a quality tipping point. You can get a well made sofa that will last for years without spending a small fortune.

Sofas, and other upholstered pieces, happen to be a piece of furniture where quality can be all over the map and where “you get what you pay for” really comes into play. Where upholstered furniture differs from case goods (dressers, tables, etc) is that you cannot see the guts of a piece of furniture that is covered in foam, down, and fabric. You have to ask about the quality indicators. So, what are these mysterious qualities?
1. The spring system.
2. The filling.
3. The frame.
4. Bonus: fabric

How do all these quality indicators shake out? This is a quick guide to the cost vs. quality debate.

Super Budget. The lifecycle on this category is very short. You can expect these soft upholster pieces of furniture to look good no more than five years with very light use. Pieces of furniture in this category use lower quality materials including the fabric, filling, and spring systems. In this category you will find retailers such as IKEA, Rooms to Go, Ashley Home Furniture, American Signature. Most families with children will find that these super budget upholstered goods will look worn with six months to one year of heavy repeated use. The frames in these pieces are also made of inferior woods, such as MDF and plywood. Sometimes they even use cardboard to shape the arms. They also are stapled and glued and may not have any other joinery beyond that. This may be an option if you do have young children and you want something inexpensive to get you through the early years. However, if you can afford a high-quality sofa, you can use stain resistant fabric and/or have it recovered when your children are older. You cannot recover a super budget or budget sofa.

Expected investment: sofa: $400-800, sectional- $800-$1500

Ikea Söderhamn Sectional Sofa, $1200 Retail

Budget. Technically, this is where furniture stores like West Elm, Pier One, and even sometimes Pottery Barn would fall. The cost of their upholstered goods is a little bit higher, but the structural quality is not much better than the “super budget” category. You may find better joinery in the frame and the frame may be made of pine, instead of plywood, but overall these have a short life. The spring systems are usually lower gage sinuous springs, meaning that the couch will sink after a short period of time and the foam used in the back and seat cushions will also lose their loft in a year or two. In this category, you may also find some ability to customize the sofa, but it will be fairly limited. You can expect these pieces to last 3 to 5 years, but with heavy use they may look very worn after six months to a year. Expected investment: sofa- $800-2000, sectional- $1500-4000.

Pier 1 Ecru Rolled Arm Sofa, $900

 

Pottery Barn Comfort Slip Covered Sofa, $3000-$4300

Mid-grade. In the mid-grade upholstery you will find a combination of quality.  Most sofas in this category will be semi-custom, though there are some mid-grade manufacturers, like Universal, who offer little to no custom options. You will probably see that these pieces will have better joinery but may have lower quality fillers and lower gauge sinuous spring systems. However, you also may find eight way hand tied spring systems in this category. For instance, The sofa sold at places retailers like Restoration Hardware and Crate and Barrel are made by companies like Lee Industries. They may have eight way hand tied spring systems and higher quality filling in the cushions. This means that this couch can be reupholstered. They may even have a warranty on the cushions and frames. Sofas in the mid-range price point can last anywhere from 10 to 20 years. However, because of the higher-quality spring systems they can be reupholstered and the cushions re-stuffed, and thus, their life can be extended. Expected Investment: sofa- $3000-$5000, sectional- $3500-$8000 depending on fabric selection.

Eight-Way Hand-Tied Springs
Lee Industries 1303-03, retails around $4000 depending on fabric selected

 

Restoration Hardware Maxwell Sectional, $2400-$3800 depending on depth and fabric

 

High-end. How are you and is a category where the highest level of craftsmanship is employed and these are “heirloom” quality pieces. This means that they will last a very, very long time. The foam and batting used in the seat cushions is of the highest quality. They often have a down/feather blend top layer and a spring inner core, like a mattress. They always have eight way hand tied springs, if they are not sleeper style sofas. The frames are crafted with high quality, kiln dried lumber and joinery. They can be fully customizable or “designer”. The prices can vary widely, but typically the expected investment is >$7500.

Holly Hunt Waterloo Sofa

My personal mantra on sofas is invest. I’ve heard people say “…but, my taste might change! Then I’ll be stuck with a sofa that doesn’t work for my new style.” I would invite you to think back to all the previous sofas you’ve owned. Aside from the fabric, were they really all that different? Mine haven’t been. My advice is, if you can afford it, get something with a classic shape that will work with many styles. It’s an item worth saving for. You’ll be able to re-upholster it down the road if it’s of excellent quality.

If  you’re in the market for a new sofa and need some help or looking to redo your living room, schedule your Design Style Consultation with  Paradigm Interiors here!