Residential and Multi-Family Design Trends: Cabinets Are Not Just for the Kitchen Anymore

Residential and Multi-Family Design Trends: Cabinets Are Not Just for the Kitchen Anymore

If you think cabinets are just for the kitchen and bath, think again. Cabinets have tremendous versatility and can be integrated into the design of virtually any room in the house. Your options are limited only by your imagination and your budget.

While cabinets aren’t, and shouldn’t be, limited to kitchens, that room can be a good starting point, establishing a design “base” that can be carried through the rest of a home. Of course, how you use cabinetry depends upon the specific line you choose and how customizable it is, but I’ve used “kitchen” cabinets in libraries, dens, home offices, playrooms, living rooms, mud rooms, bathrooms and even closets – pretty much everywhere they could go in a house. And in almost every design, I treat them not just as storage, but as pieces of furniture that help anchor the space. Think sideboards, hutches, armoires, benches…the list goes on and on.

If you’re looking to add cabinetry to a room or replace what’s already there, there are several decisions you’ll need to make that impact everything from cost to design.

Stock vs. Custom Cabinetry

Stock cabinet lines are less expensive than custom, but you’re more limited with your designs than if you opted for custom or semi-custom cabinetry.

With stock cabinets, you’re restricted to 3-inch size increments, so, depending on the size of your space, the height, width and depth of the piece you need may not be available. This is not the case with custom cabinets, which can be modified for use in a multitude of ways. For example, I’ve used inset cabinets to bring an elegant furniture-like appearance to a wall unit or armoire. I’ve also eliminated toe-kicks, which allowed the addition of decorative legs. If you decide to keep it, you can even flesh out the toe-kick to include a decorative molding wrapped around the base.

Colors and Materials

Your choices abound when it comes to cabinet colors and materials. Your ultimate selection really just depends upon your personal preferences.

Do you tend to prefer solid colors or patterns? Do you lean toward neutrals rather than vivid colors? Do you prefer something sleek and modern or something that has a lived-in feel?

Wood has an earthy appearance and is subject to variations, but that is the beauty of a natural material. Certain species will also change color over time or when exposed to the elements. Walnut, for example, will lighten, while cherry will darken. Natural wood may also be susceptible to scratching, denting and warping. Laminate cabinets, by comparison, offer a more consistent finish and color, so all pieces look the same. This can be good if you’re assembling a larger installation, or bad if you want a one-of-a-kind piece with more character.

Single-Family vs. Multifamily Applications

Creative uses of cabinets aren’t limited to single-family homes. I’ve also done them for apartment and condominium buildings.

In an apartment, where every square foot counts, nothing can make a small room look smaller than large pieces of furniture. To avoid that, we’ve scaled built-in entertainment centers and other installations to the rooms that house them.

I’m currently working on a new condominium project in Western Springs called Foxford Station, where we’re using cabinets for much more than kitchens and baths. Units will also feature wet bars, entertainment centers and built-ins, and we’re customizing each piece. So, for the purchasers, many of whom are downsizing from single-family homes, the units will live like a single-family home, not an apartment.

The next time you’re planning a room, think about how cabinetry can be used to solve your design challenges. Bookcases, desks, credenzas, bars, headboards, storage beds — the options are limitless. And with such affordable, adaptable and attractive options to choose from, you may never build from scratch again.

Jane Kelly
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