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  • Writer's pictureAlyce Lopez


Updated: Dec 9, 2022

I forget sometimes that apparently I can see the "vision". My clients tell me all the time, "I would have never thought to do that", or "I couldn't have imagined it looking like this" and I am always surprised. Really you didn't think THAT could look like THIS? When you remove the ugly, the options are endless!

I love to educate! So let me tell you a little about this kitchen reno! Yes, I'm going to make you wait to see the before and after! When it comes to kitchen renovations every designer has a different and unique process and we have really honed in our process over the years. However, let me tell you that our industry is constantly evolving and new products are being introduced every year. We invest time each year to educate and discover new products and methods.

When we talk about kitchens with clients, one of the big questions we ask is custom cabinets or ready to assemble (RTA)?

There are pros and cons to both RTA and custom cabinets.

What are RTA cabinets?

Let me clarify that there are thousands of cabinet lines out there and they are NOT all created equal. RTA cabinets are flat packed cabinets that need to be assembled. Hence the name, Ready-To-Assemble. They are typically manufactured overseas.

PROS of RTA cabinets:

RTA cabinets are cost effective because they do not include assembly labor. Think of IKEA. Your contractor will assemble and they can likely do it at a more reasonable cost than purchasing pre-assembled cabinetry. You will also save on shipping since they are boxed flat.

RTA cabinets have quicker lead times because they do not have to account for assembly. Although during a global pandemic this may not apply ;)

CONS of RTA Cabinets:

You get what you get and you don't get upset. RTA cabinets come in pre-selected face styles and limited colors. If you want shiplap, fluting details or a specific face front it will not be available because RTA cabinets are for the masses. Looking for a white shaker? RTA has you covered! However, it may not be the shade of white you prefer and maybe the drawers will have a flat front and only the doors will come with shaker. Each cabinet line is different in what they offer so knowing what your contractor/designer offers is so important. Again, not all RTA cabinets are created equal!

RTA cabinets also come in pre-determined sizes. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but if you appreciate the fine details this may drive you nuts. They often times require filler pieces to span the proper length. It's like playing legos. You have to move things around until they fit because their size isn't changing and sometimes you can't find the size you're looking for.

What are custom cabinets?

Custom cabinets means your cabinets are built from scratch. Literally they do not start producing your cabinets until you sign on a dotted line.

PROS of Custom Cabinets:

The options are endless! You can select your wood species, color and additional details like floating shelves, side panels, appliance garages, etc. You are not limited by size. If you want specific heights or widths they can do it. If you want to panel all your appliances, they can make it happen. Want to carry your kitchen cabinetry into an open concept with built-ins they can make more than just kitchen and bath cabinets. You dream it, they can do it within reason ;). Can you tell we love custom cabinetry?

CONS of Custom Cabinets:

Custom cabinets will likely always have a longer lead time because they're made from scratch. That means the length of your renovation will likely take longer. However, in the perfect world your demo lines up with the completion of your cabinetry and you move right into installation.

Custom cabinets will be a larger investment than RTA cabinets. The accessories, wood species and custom features you select will ultimately determine your overall cost.

Ready for the before + after?

It's coming soon, I promise. Let me leave you with a tiny more insight on our processes. Sometimes we will quote both RTA + custom cabinets on a project and see which makes more sense for the client. Some clients may not want to invest as much into a home that they will only be in for a short period of time. Or they simply want to spread their budget across to other rooms. While others are really looking to elevate their home with custom features and want specific colors and design elements. Regardless, hiring a designer is so important because we can select the proper combination of materials to elevate any space.

Ok, I know you came here to see a before and after. So I'll be sharing an RTA kitchen below and I'll share a custom kitchen on our next post! Let's start with the BEFORE...

Yes, those cabinets are Cherry red and we are all familiar with the stock brown granite. I bet you're ready for the after? I've kept you hanging long enough haven't I? Well, first let me show you our 3D concept...

Ok, so that's where we started with our concept and now I'll let you see the real deal!

I mean NIGHT + DAY right?! I know! I can barely believe it myself. Those cherry red cabinets were long past their shelf life. They probably should have never had a shelf life to begin with. Obviously we did A LOT in this space. Everything from paint, flooring, electrical, new pantry door, etc. I think the only thing that stayed put was the window. Let's take a closer look!

We relocated the microwave to the island which was a huge bonus! And the floating shelves really let in all that natural light! I will always try to work floating shelves into a kitchen. I think they are so practical and inviting!

I love a classic kitchen and this one is just that! We went with a less traditional subway tile by doing a 2x9 instead of the 3x6. I think we gave it a little modern edge with the lighting and minimalist vibes. What do you think?

Wanna see more of this kitchen? Head to the project page HERE.

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