Laminate Kitchen Cabinets: Your Thoughts?

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SleazyG
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Laminate Kitchen Cabinets: Your Thoughts?

Postby SleazyG » Thu Mar 05, 2009 3:09 pm

I've just purchased a condo with an unsalvageable kitchen. The previous owner butchered the cabinets to make room for an unpermitted, unvented washer/dryer. My dilemma is that I want new kitchen cabinets that are full-overlay, slab doors with exotic wood, but on a budget. For instance, I like some of the kitchens from Scavolini, but they're oppressively modern and I am not paying those prices. The solution I'm considering is to have laminate cabinets custom made. There's a laminate from Formica that I'm in love with called "Couture Wood." It resembles red gumwood veneer. Laminate is attractive to me for cabinetry because I can achieve an exotic wood look without the cost of veneer and there's a large increase in durability with laminate compared to veneer. For the countertops, I'm planning on a white quartz surface such as Caeserstone. My questions are, do you think laminate cabinets are inherently cheap or poor quality? Is the faux wood look cheesy? Will I encounter disapproving buyers if I ever need to sell the place? Is it dumb to have laminate cabinets and then pay for quartz countertops? If you were a prospective buyer in an open house and saw a kitchen like I've just described, would you say to yourself "What the hell were they thinking?" Do you think cabinetry with the woodgrain running horizontally will date poorly (it's very popular now, but pickled oak was once popular too)?

I'm also considering paying for veneer, but I'm worried about its durability in a kitchen environment. Has anyone used the prefinished composite veneers from Brookside Veneers (www.veneers.com) for their cabinetry?

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Postby Luka » Thu Mar 05, 2009 3:25 pm

Have you considered Ikea? Several of us on this board have them and the laminate cabinets have a lengthy warranty, great hardware and offer several different looks. I along with a couple of others have Nexus Yellow Brown.

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Postby egads » Thu Mar 05, 2009 3:50 pm

Indeed. Ikea cabinets are flush overlay and are quite good quality. The only drawback is the limited sizes compared to a line like Kraftmaid. Their new flush overlay line, Venicia, is available at Lowes.

http://www.kraftmaid.com/#

The great thing about flush overlay is you can completely change the entire kitchen by just replacing the drawer fronts and cabinet doors.

As to the Brookside Veneers, any product with a factory applied finnish will be far superior to having a cabinet shop make cabinets for you. I did have a client who had her entire kitchen updated from a european lacquer (mauve, speaking of dated) to maple. The fronts were made from plywood that came factory finished and just a hardwood edge had to be finished onsite.

Another of my kitchen rants: deep drawers, no pull outs behind doors.

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Postby Joe » Thu Mar 05, 2009 5:25 pm

laminate is a great choice for counter tops and cabinets

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Postby egads » Thu Mar 05, 2009 6:41 pm

To expand and answer some of your concerns you bring up in your introductions post:

http://www.lottaliving.com/bb/viewtopic ... 6428#76428

Modern is clean, plain and simple.
It was the de- embellishment of surfaces. So right off the bat I will suggest you try to restrain yourself from adding big out of scale handles to the face of the cabinets. I often wince at some of the examples posted here. I rarely say anything, because the board should not be overly critical. (Pleasantville and all that) But really, some big honking brushed nickel or stainless handle 6 or 10" long all over the kitchen is as "decorative" as the Baroque oil rubbed bronze of a Tuscan kitchen. A simple wire pull or a plain round knob will get the job done (opening the drawer) So the gist of this rant? Less is more.

I have seen some office kitchens in all laminate that I would have in my house in a heartbeat. Talk about form following function. But you may be right, a slightly richer surface may be a better idea in a home you want to sell someday. You have an opportunity many of us do not have. You have a plain space without the vintage so many of us have. Many of us have historic fabric we need and want to preserve. I suggest you look at some old pictures of Neutra houses. And go to:

http://www.marmolradzinerprefab.com/

and look at the kitchens, baths and built ins they do. In fact, you can even contact them about building your kitchen cabinets. We had an employee of theirs who had a link to Mar Vista house he had redone (in the real estate for sale section) I sent him a private message asking about the cost of the cabinets in his kitchen. He quoted me a price that was completely in line with what going to Home Depot and buying cabinets would be. They have a reputation for being expensive, but I think that comes from doing meticulous restorations of very large significant houses. For very rich people. In any case you will find that a shop that does commercial work will be a better choice for custom flush overlay.

Also, do learn how post photos. There is a link to instructions on the left sidebar. And section at the bottom to do tests. You can also just post a link to a photo page as many do. Don't be embarrassed about the state of your space. Many of us are "in process", have kids and pets, and are used to a mess.

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Postby Perks » Thu Mar 05, 2009 8:38 pm

As someone who has the giant kitchen drawer pulls that Egads despises so much, I should take offense to what he says. :?

But he's right. I don't like mine. My wife wanted something easy to grab. After much spirited debate, I acquiesced. After all, I won out in even getting our house in the first place (she thought it was too dark, and it was, but easily fixed).

The big handles stick out. I'm constantly catching my clothing on them. And now I can't remove them without having to figure out a way to patch a bunch of holes in the laminate. On the plus side, I now have fifty handy towel racks in my kitchen. :wink:

Anyway, the right laminate can be perfect for a modern house, and I do like my Ikea cabinets. Sure, they won't last forever, but considering I paid under $10,000 for the lot (and that included custom design and installation), I'll be able to replace them once or twice for the cost of a high-end design.
Andy Perkins, Broker/Owner

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Stephen
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Re: Laminate Kitchen Cabinets: Your Thoughts?

Postby Stephen » Thu Mar 05, 2009 10:31 pm

Stephen Meade
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Pacific West Assoc. of Realtors President-Elect
http://www.OCModHomes.com
http://www.CliffMaySocal.com
and
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Postby robbhouston » Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:04 am

Not sure if your existing cabinets would allow it, but as an alternative to laminating them you might be able to to do what we did. We painted our cabinetry, then had a local cabinet maker create new full coverage, handless doors and drawer fronts. To save money I shellacked them myself, then had him hang them.

http://www.lottaliving.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=6757

http://0044f49.netsolhost.com/nashville ... uring.html

It was very affordable, around $1500 (including doors and drawer fronts for both baths and a living room built-in)

Personally, I would not put in a faux wood. Natural wood is so warm and beautiful, and is a nice feature of so many authentic MCM kitchens.

Do you have a photo of the kitchen in question?

--Robb
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A little website I created to showcase my home and other MCMs in and around the Nashville TN area.

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Postby egads » Fri Mar 06, 2009 10:17 am

I really like the laminate that has hand made paper as it's base.
A neutral palette allows you to "punch" your own personal objects. I really like small artworks hung on the back splash. It's usually lit well with the under counter lighting.

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Postby SDR » Fri Mar 06, 2009 9:30 pm

Stephen wrote

"There is some middle ground. Ikea sells just the cabinet boxes (sans doors). Since you want relatively simple slab full-frame doors, you may
find that a kitchen with Ikea innards and custom door / drawer fronts let's you do something stylish but keeps the budget in check."

Oddly, I was going to suggest just the opposite ! Assuming IKEA had a door style that you like, and the sizes you need, putting their
(inexpensive) doors on custom cabinet boxes could save money (over having the custom shop make similar doors) and give you a much better
quality job overall. After all, when we gush over an IKEA kitchen, its the nice doors we're really happy about, isn't it ?

Yes, I know many L-Lers have sung the praises of IKEA cabinets -- but let's be frank, their only real selling point is price. Once you've taken
those cabinet parts out of the box and looked at them, you'll quickly see how they can sell them so cheaply -- and that's with overseas transport
thrown in ! Nice white melamine or foil -- over the very lowest grade of particle board, and with a warpy 1/8" back ! Ugh. Yes, the bulky and
obvious hanging system works well. But there are no finished ends that close the gap to the wall -- and the knock-down assembly system is a
poor compromise that no-one should have to accept. (If you have to use them, for heavens sake take the precaution of gluing the dowels as you
assemble -- something IKEA wouldn't dream of troubling you with, for some reason.)

When you go to sell your house, is it any advantage to the buyer that you saved money on the cabinets ? "Look, Honey -- IKEA !" I don't think so. . .

Anyway, a local cabinet shop (and I agree that a commercial-oriented business will do a good job with frameless and full-overlay) can make you
boxes, either of white melamine (see if they'll use the upgrade of MDF core instead of particle board) or factory-finished maple (or cherry)
plywood -- a MUCH better and more long-lasting alternative to IKEA. They'll be exactly the sizes you need, no matter how odd, so they'll fit your
space as they should. (If you choose to use IKEA doors, give the shop a list of available sizes, so there is full coordination and no surprises. Another
choice is to let the shop acquire doors from their sources -- they have lots of options, and the price may be no worse than the IKEA doors.)

Horizontal woodgrain looks good only when the grain truly aligns from one door to the next. This is not quite as easy as it sounds, and if anyone
balks at doing it, it's because they don't have the technique. The secret: lay the laminate (or veneer) on a panel wide enough to maka a whole
bank of doors, and THEN cut the doors from it. It's obvious, then, that these will be doors with edgebanding applied after the face is on, not
before -- but that's pretty much standard these days anyway, even for laminate.

There are many more convincing wood-grain laminates today than there were forty years ago, when I started in the business. With the right low-
lustre surface texture, these can be quite handsome. But it would be wrong to think that only a factory finish makes a worthy coating on wood.
Unless you mistreat it, a good conversion varnish sprayed on real veneer by a reputable cabinet shop is perfectly sound and long-lasting.

I certainly agree that the no-hardware look is the "most modern" and timeless. Upper cabinets are pulled open by their extended bottoms.
(The cabinet has a lip from the bottom shelf, to hide the under-cabinet lighting, and the door hangs down another 1/4" to grab it for opening.)
Lower cabinets can have finger pulls, if there is a single horizontal gap below the top drawer-band. Only an all-drawer cabinet defeats this
strategy -- and that can be eliminated in favor of roll-outs behind drawers. I'd stay away from touch-latches, because some models are trouble, and
you can't tell which are which. (Ditto in spades for drawer touch-latches -- an idea from hell!) Simple self-closing door hinges are the right way to go.
And get the cabinet shop to show you how to adjust them with a screwdriver -- or to promise to come when you call, after a few years, to adjust any
out-of line doors. (Yes, cup hinges, which everyone uses to get the full-overlay look, do get out of adjustment sometimes -- the good part is they're
easy to realign, if you know which screws to turn.)

Good luck with your project !

SDR
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Postby SleazyG » Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:11 pm

So I went and bought a 4x8 sheet of the laminate in question and it only vaguely resembles the pictures on the Formica website. The colors in their images are way off. The actual laminate is far darker and there's no pink tint to it. I have to say, it's much prettier and pulls off the wood illusion better than I expected. However, I was surprised at how contrasty and varied the grain is. I worry the whole thing is "too busy." On the other hand, I did want a striking, exotic look...though Stephen is correct by noting that most buyers will think it's a bit much. I asked my realtor about the opinions she encounters from buyers and she said "Most people will paint over whatever you do, so do what you want and expect them to paint it white."

Here are the two images from Formica.com
Image
Image

Here are two images of the full sheet that I've taken. I like how the laminate mimics bookmatched veneer. The color in my photos doesn't seem too accurate either. Grrrrr.
Image
Image

And here's an image I've done in Photoshop of the laminate in question composited horizontally to some random kitchen. I chose this kitchen because I plan on having white countertops, backsplashes and walls like this photo.
Image[/img]

For hardware I was thinking of flush pulls or Rejuvenation's Satellite knobs like this one:
Image

Thoughts?

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Postby robbhouston » Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:39 am

The grain in that laminate kind of reminds me a painting technique known as "wood graining". I actually looked into that when I was brainstorming about how to do things affordably on my own place...

http://www.zinsser.com/fauxdetails.asp?projectid=29

I agree, the grain might look busy. The Photoshop'ed picture seems to suggest that. Of the pictures you posted, the 2nd seems to show it at it's best...

Image

If there are other selections, maybe you could photograph them without buying them, use Photoshop to test how they'd look?

--Robb
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A little website I created to showcase my home and other MCMs in and around the Nashville TN area.

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Postby Dan O. » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:18 pm

Personally I think laminate looks it's best when it's not replicating a more costly or expensive material. Faux-anything in laminate is almost an admission that laminate is not a good enough material to stand on it's own merits (nearly indestructible and maintenance-free). Solid color laminate cabinets with a contrasting solid color or graphic pattern counter top would not look out of place or conspicuously cheap in a modern kitchen in my opinion. I do wish Formica would offer more graphic patterns aside from Boomerang and Virrvarr though.

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Postby SDR » Fri Mar 13, 2009 1:01 pm

I agree -- well stated.

I saw samples of a laminate that featured short pieces of real fiber in a translucent matrix -- I believe the fibers were said to come from recycled
coffee sacks. The effect was striking -- and of course did not attempt to mimic some other material.

There are many manufacturers of laminate besides Formica -- Nevamar has a particularly sturdy finish, and there's WilsonArt and Micarta, as well
as the imported Abet Laminati, which has always had some interesting graphic patterns.

I'm afraid the sample above doesn't look like any book-matched wood veneer I've ever seen. You'd have more fun, and probably get a better
appearance, by painting such an effect yourself, onto plywood doors (use MDO, the pre-coated and sealed highway-sign plywood). And the pattern
would be sure to line up from one door to another, if you painted the doors in place.

SDR
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Postby grh122 » Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:02 pm

Laminate is great,

I've worked with Bulthaup kitchen systems, and laminate is one of my favorite finishes!

Incredibly durable, and a great look.


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