You'd never know Nelson Kuo is a self-proclaimed "nerdy, uncool" cabinet contractor by his work. The LA-based custom millworks company he co-owns, Cabinet Happy, is dedicated to coming up with cool, creative solutions, such as the crafty drawers you see above. The very candid Kuo shares his thoughts on cabinet design and remodeling, and what's trending in custom kitchens.
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Kuo: The more information you can provide for a designer the better. This can include appliances (make and model numbers), countertop choices, cabinet door style/stain/color, wall/ceiling paint colors, flooring and lighting choices. You do not have to know all the exact choices, but at least do some homework and familiarize yourself with options out there. Pick up some magazines and bookmark kitchens that inspire you.
Kuo: It is always cheaper to reface existing cabinets given that the existing countertop and appliances are to remain where they are. However, if you plan on changing the countertop, then there are new "pre-fabricated" cabinets that cost far less than a reface. People often forget to factor in the additional costs of re-installing all appliances and plumbing. If you plan on changing the counter and sink, forget the reface and go straight to new cabinets.
Kuo: Custom is always going to be better on multiple levels, especially design-wise, assuming the custom shop you are hiring is using the best materials and hardware, as well as being professional craftsmen. Custom is going to cost more than imported pre-fabricated cabinets, but often times can be competitively priced to domestically made cabinets. For example, locally made custom cabinets may cost less than cabinets made from North Carolina or Ohio (sold by most home improvement stores).
Kuo: In 2012, suppliers of cabinet materials within California are certified by CARB, FSC and LEED. This means all locally manufactured cabinets are as environmentally friendly as can be. Imported cabinets are not following or meeting the same guidelines. We know very little about their green specifications.
For people interested in shopping for specifically "green" labeled products, thoroughly do your homework because there are more lies than genuine green products out there. For example, bamboo products have been the "green" sustainable alternative to tree products this past decade. But bamboo is not a solid material like pieces of wood sliced from a tree. Bamboo products are made of compressed strands glued together. You be the judge!
Kuo: Most cabinet contractors will charge you for demolition and disposal. It is highly recommended that you hire someone that is licensed and insured since a kitchen demolition can lead to flooding your house, or even set it on fire.