Here’s a little fun fact about me — storage and organization are my jam! Be it organizing a desk drawer or cataloging my kitchen cabinets, creating systems for everything make me hella happy. I would browse the kitchen cabinet sections of The Home Depot and IKEA, scroll the online galleries of Masterbrand and Bellmont cabinet companies, daydreaming about what my kitchen storage would look like — what I loved, what I hated, and why. But I was never thinking about the millwork — well not really — so much as I was really fixated on all the interior options. So when it was official that we were going to renovate the kitchen, I knew that I wanted new cabinets that would allow me to design storage around the way we live. After all that ideating, I even came up with a cabinet wish list…
- Two-tone shaker style cabinet fronts
- Combination of drawers and doors
- Pull out options behind doors, not shelves
- Soft close and full extension drawers
- Variety of drawer depths and widths
I knew that much of what I wanted would require a custom solution, not pre-fabricated…but I didn’t want the hefty price tag of sourcing custom cabinetry…and to be quite honest, I also didn’t want to burn the mental calories coming up with a design from scratch.
I needed to find a sweet spot between custom and stock or pre-fab so that we could get semi-custom cabinets.
Starting from scratch with our cabinets is something that we knew would be costly. Salvaging them would not be an option for the layout we had in mind because it’s the cabinets that were the problem.
P.S. The “problem” with cabinets was never the quality of the cabinets themselves…just the layout.
The kitchen consisted of two L-shaped configurations that framed the large kitchen into a square with small entrance points. That was the problem. To get rid of the wall between the kitchen and the dining room & to extend the kitchen into the eat-in area, the cabinets would need to go…giving me an opportunity (and burden) of starting from scratch. So much for not burning extra mental calories, lol.
Wanting to keep costs low, our first instinct was to check out the IKEA kitchen assortment, specifically the popular SEKTION Kitchen. While I wasn’t exactly thrilled about the idea of putting together kitchen cabinets — IKEA cabinets are “ready to assemble”, not to be confused with cabinets that are already assembled & “ready to install” — it seemed like a good starting point for assessing our costs. Also going with ready to install versus ready to assemble would make a difference in the cost to us with our contractor. Why? Already assembled & ready to install cabinets would mean less labor and labor = dollars. For this reason, you’ll also find that a lot of contractors won’t install IKEA cabinets and think about it…if you’ve ever bought & put together anything from IKEA — ANYTHING! — it’s not fun. So imagine getting boxes & boxes of cabinet parts to catalog & assemble. While there are contractors that will do it, expect there to be an upcharge for the
Right before closing on the house, we’d also made a trip to our local IKEA so that we could see a lot of the cabinet & storage options in person. This, combined with our existing cabinets, inspired and/or cemented a lot of the cabinet wishlist. Let’s revisit…
- Two-tone shaker style cabinet fronts: The shaker style would honor the home’s innate charm in a way that still looks contemporary and aligns with our more modern aesthetic with the black & white tone.
- Combination of drawers and doors: Having more drawers than doors would allow us to maximize (and customize) our storage options, especially not having upper cabinets.
- Pull out options behind doors, not shelves: Having a balance of doors and drawers will create visual balance, but to make sure we’re fully using the space all the way to the back of the cabinet box.
- Soft close and full extension drawers: It’s truly the little things… and that’s what this is all about — being able to reach the back of the drawer.
- Variety of drawer depths and widths
Now for some more ideas…
- Even though we have a pantry, I wanted to make sure we add a tall “pantry” cabinet with room for a built-in microwave
- A pull-out trash & recycle cabinet has been a must-have, eliminating the need for freestanding trash cans out & about
- Clever storage solutions are my jam & I imagine this kind of set up for breakfast bar mugs
- Metal accents are design jewelry & an elevated way to showoff otherwise basic items…like aprons!
- Open shelving is visually less “heavy” than upper cabinets & I would get to show off my monochromatic dinnerware
- Open the door… oh look, a drawer! This would make it so much easier to reach our things instead of reaching to the back of a shelf
Using IKEA as my initial point of reference didn’t mean it’s what we would actually get…it was just a starting point for developing ideas. With there being a number of direct-to-consumer cabinet retailers, including IKEA, we knew we could semi-custom cabinets for under or around $10K.
Spoiler: I am terrible at budgeting when it comes to design — this is no secret — but when it comes to big decisions like this, we do always have a number that we know will make us uncomfortable.
For the size of our kitchen — 22 linear feet for the cabinets — we were looking at the following costs…
Stock: low of $2,200, high of $6,600
Semi-Custom: low of $3,300, high of $14,300
Custom: low of $11,000, high of $26,400
Stock cabinets are ypically the most affordable & with the quickest turnaround because they are mass-produced and ready to ship. What they lack in color, sizing, and features, they make up for in price & acquire ability. The sizes were a good fit for our kitchen but I needed a more robust assortment to accommodate our storage needs.
This would be the next tier up in terms of customizations while still having the benefits of stock cabinets. They can be found in the same standard sizes as stock cabinets & are pre-manufactured, however, upgrades & detail changes are available. Additional options = additional cost, but still available within a decent turnaround time. For us, this would be the perfect balance.
As the name implies, a completely bespoke option — from sizing, to color, to all the bells & whistles your heart desires. You get what you pay for, so expect to pay a premium for options that are designed for your specific design. With a higher price point, you’ll also get a longer turnaround time to allow for the customizations to be done. We didn’t want to spend the time or money on custom cabinets, nor did we need to.
The total price of our cabinets could also be assessed per unit, as is the case with IKEA, paying per piece — every shelf, toe kit, filler, drawer glide, etc. Depending on the finishes and accessories, we could get a semi-custom kitchen from IKEA, for example, right in line with the above estimates…right around $8K.
While I appreciated the ease of stock options from brick & mortar retailers, I kept coming back to thinking, “What if I could make my semi-custom kitchen even more custom?” Even with semi-custom options, I still wanted options that felt a touch more bespoke… without leaving a huge hole in our pockets.
Often when people are upgrading their cabinets, they keep the existing boxes & replace the fronts for an updated, fresh look. We could do the same things, except our boxes would also happen to be new.
A few months back I’d worked with Semihandmade to upcycle my IKEA Besta media unit with new door fronts. Known for their custom cabinet front options, I started thinking I could pair Semihandmade doors with IKEA kitchen boxes, and create what would essentially be a fully custom kitchen without the hefty $20K+ price tag.
To be clear, my reasons for wanting semi-custom to custom options have always been for the cabinet interiors — our storage — but having the option to customize the fronts as well wouldn’t be a bad deal.
When people think of a custom kitchen, it is often about what we see on the surface, but not us. Renting our entire life meant always having to work around the storage there — purchasing separate storage accessories to come up with reversible configurations for the kitchen cabinets. If we are going to embark on this renovation, this would be our chance to make sure things work from us from the onset…from the inside out.
As I dug into the exterior options I would have with Semihandmade, I was excited to discover that they would be expanding to offer their own cabinetry with BOXI.
The idea of getting boxes from one vendor and fronts from another vendor may save us a ton…or it may not. Mixing and matching and playing around with the different ideas was very reminiscent of my permutations math lessons from middle school. My kitchen would need less than a dozen cabinets, and about twice as many fronts — we weren’t getting upper cabinets — and we required “ready to install” cabinets to decrease the cost (time and money) of labor. If we were DIY’ing the entire kitchen this wouldn’t have been a factor.
Working with BOXI would minimize how many components to manage — cabinets from A, fronts from B — without compromising the custom options that were on our wishlist.
As I said, IKEA was just my launching off point — the kitchen planner helped me visualize exactly what cabinet options I’d want and where, then create an itemized list for the design to shop around & compare. A company known for its cabinet innovation would be the best of all possible options —
- Customization: Access to a variety of cabinet sizes and configurations
- Availability: Unlike most semi-custom to custom options, we wouldn’t be saddled with a hefty lead time
- Quality: Having familiarity with the products gave me confidence in the durability, construction, and longevity of the products
With most cabinet options, you should be able to acquire samples to ensure the quality of the products — good looking cabinets mean nothing if they start to fall apart after a few months.
So after living with our new matte black shaker doors from Semihandmade for our IKEA Besta unit — it was basically a test drive for the kitchen cabinets — I knew this could be perfect for the kitchen cabinets as well. I received my door fronts in the fall, right before we moved. Just from the unboxing, I could see the quality of the doors and knew that Semihandmade would be a great option for the kitchen; and my IKEA kitchen planner efforts were not for naught — I was able to use that same design to plan with Semihandmade for the door fronts… and later with BOXI for the cabinets.
So How Would Everything Add Up?
Pairing IKEA cabinets with Semihandmade fronts would total close to $10K (this is a very very rough estimate based on the preliminary tinkering I did with the design, including the panels and trims). Configuring a similar design, in terms of look and storage, using The Home Depot’s assembled & in stock white shaker collection, would come in at less than $10K (however a final number, to include panels & trims, would likely require a proper sit down with a THD kitchen specialist). And lastly, the entire BOXI design — trims, panels, and all — would come in at just over $10K…$10,300 to be exact.
So when you think about the options — everything from how robust the assortment is to the construction of the cabinets themselves — looks like I might’ve found my sweet spot after all.
My cabinets arrived already assembled, with all the necessary components for installation — a win for me & my contractor, and making for a quick and easy installation. There was no need for too many fillers because of all the size options and I didn’t have to sacrifice anything of my cabinet wishlist.
Going the semi-custom route has always been my preferred option but admittedly, I wasn’t sure if that preference had many options until I did all my research. With BOXI by Semihandmade — expect a full breakdown of that process over on my blog by the way — I was able to get the semi-custom kitchen cabinets I imagined without having to compromise and now that that’s done, the rest of the design can fall into place.
Guess what? The next time we talk about my kitchen it will be the final reveal! Hope you are as excited as I am:)
Opening Photo Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Inside All Our (Super Organized) Drawers & Cabinets In The Mountain House Kitchen