From buying new to refurbishing, experts provide options to upgrade your kitchen cabinetry—and your lifestyle
By Trish Amundson

Are your kitchen cabinets dated? Are you ready for a new look?  Whether you’re up for a complete overhaul or just want to freshen up your cabinet surfaces, there are many possibilities to consider when updating the most prominent fixtures in the heart of your home. Local experts can help you achieve a stunning transformation that incorporates modern styles and features—and aligns with your personal preferences and budget.

Diane Quinn, owner of Beyond Kitchens and a certified kitchen designer, leads the way in her knowledge of current styles. “Painted cabinets are still the favorite,” she says. “However, we are seeing a movement away from all-white kitchens toward more color or mixing with stained wood. We’ve moved totally away from decorative detail to more simple and clean lines.”

Beyond Kitchens is a design-build remodeling company, which specializes in kitchens, bathrooms and other spaces within the home. “We design the project, assist in product selection and provide contracting services to complete the project,” says Quinn.

The company partners with Plato Woodwork, Inc., a nationally known Minnesota-based cabinet company, to offer both custom and semi-custom cabinetry in a variety of styles. Quinn also collaborates with Daryl Nigon, president of Nigon Woodworks, Inc., for specialized projects, such as decorative ventilation hoods that can breathe new life into almost any kitchen. For over four decades, Nigon has helped customers with projects from simple repairs to complex woodworking needs.

Built-in quality, convenience and accessories
“We can make cabinets for any room in the home from kitchens and bathrooms to family rooms, home theaters and more—and any room that has built-ins,” adds Nigon, who does the majority of his work in existing homes.

Nigon likes to see pictures of projects that appeal to each client as they consider choices, and together, they will finalize a plan. He also recognizes changes in cabinetry over the past few years: “More base cabinets just have drawers and no doors, and some include very large drawers for pots and pans or dishes,” he says. “These are more convenient than getting things out of a base cabinet with doors and shelves.”

Hardware offerings now include soft-close hidden hinges and soft-close, full-extension drawer slides. Creative accessories can be built into new cabinets—pop-up mixer shelves, vertical dividers for cookie sheets, wood dividers for silverware and utensils, heavy-duty lazy Susans, swing-out shelves and roll-out shelves and trays.

“Shaker-style doors are very popular and often constructed of fine-grained woods like birch, alder, cherry or even walnut,” says Nigon. He constructs high-quality custom cabinets with high-grade parts and thicker, durable materials, and when it comes to customizations, the possibilities are endless. “Unique things can be done with custom cabinets, such as matching the grain of the wood from cabinet to cabinet or using different materials like metal accents or reveals.”

“New cabinetry is a major investment whether you use a custom shop or factory ‘box’ cabinets,” says Darcy Higgins, president and CEO of Higgins Custom Cabinetry. Architecture of the home, space utilization, lifestyle and budget all influence the homeowner’s decisions in making their cabinetry selections.

Higgins creates cabinets for both existing homes and new constructions. A family-owned business for nearly 40 years, his shop can accommodate special requests and can make your cabinets unique—with “impeccable detail.” The process begins by scheduling time with a designer at the company’s showroom, which displays a variety of cabinetry styles and wood and color choices. “With custom cabinetry, the mantels, built-ins and even the closets can be constructed by the same shop,” he says, noting they also give customers the opportunity to see their projects in the different stages of production.

“The choices for woods and finishes are increasing every year. Reconstituted veneers, textured laminates and gloss and matte acrylics are some of the man-made options that have become more popular recently,” says Higgins. “Our native woods are still the most popular choices.”

Some homeowners choose to keep the current layout of their cabinets but update the look. A popular alternative to replacing cabinets is refacing them. This process is less time consuming, less costly and less disruptive than a total cabinet overhaul. “Refacing is possible when the owner likes their existing cabinets, and they are still in acceptable condition,” explain Matthew and Janai Haynes, owners of Artisan Construction and Remodeling, Inc.

Matthew Haynes is a third-generation craftsman with more than 20 years of construction experience. The company’s projects include full-scale kitchen remodels, decorative backsplashes, granite and wood countertops and replacing and refacing cabinets. He recommends cabinet and countertop replacement if possible, noting homeowners are happier when they actually have “a new kitchen.” But he understands the scope of the project depends on the budget and whether the owner can or wants to invest in new cabinets and countertops—or if they want a more economical option.

The refacing process includes removing the doors and drawers from the cabinet boxes and then cleaning and scuff sanding the cabinet faces and exposed sides to achieve a sound surface. The facing material, which can be pre-finished, stained or painted in a variety of colors, is bonded to the cabinet faces and sides before it’s trimmed and sanded for a pleasing appearance. “Usually we add new doors, drawer fronts, hinges and drawer slides to finish out the process,” the couple says.

Cabinet products and services also are offered through large home improvement retail stores, such as Home Depot. If custom cabinets are not in your budget but you still want to buy new, you may consider stock units. Home Depot also offers cabinet refacing, which it describes as “a quick and convenient way to give your kitchen a new look in less time than it would take for a full remodel.” Customers have the opportunity visit with a project consultant, who will partner with local trusted installers to refresh your kitchen.

Another lower-cost possibility is to spruce up your current cabinets with fresh paint and hardware. However, take time beforehand to do research and visit with professionals to understand the appropriate process and products to achieve a clean, new look that will last for years to come. “Sometimes painting the existing cabinet doors and drawer faces is all the homeowner’s budget allows for,” says Matthew Haynes.

Gather photos, expert tips and inspiration. From top-quality custom, factory-produced and lower-cost options, take time to find the right solution for both you and your kitchen. Visit the online galleries and showrooms of local craftsmen to see examples of their fine quality workmanship.

Your kitchen should not only suit your cooking and dining needs—but also your personal style. An ideal cabinet update will complement your home’s architecture, provide maximum use of space and stay within your budget. It will help create a space for you and your family that fits your lifestyle.

Artisan Construction  and Remodeling, Inc.
Beyond Kitchens
Higgins Custom Cabinetry
Home Depot
Nigon Woodworks, Inc.

Trish Amundson is a Rochester-area freelance writer, who loves her recent kitchen cabinet makeover consisting of new doors and hardware, thanks to her talented son-in-law Brandon Roth.