Fine Woods Spice Up a Well-Furnished Kitchen

Atlanta Business Chronicle
Friday, May 29, 1998

*This article features The Building Firm, now known as MOSAIC Indoor Living.
By Shannon Wilder

Fine woods, high-quality stains, exquisite moldings — these terms are not unfamiliar to anyone who knows furniture. But they’re becoming increasingly recognizable to Atlantans remodeling a kitchen.

Ripping out tired, old cabinets and replacing them with high-quality pieces that are nothing less than furniture for the kitchen is a hot trend in the 1990s.

“People want kitchens that are more living areas rather than just functional space,” said Traci Page, sales marketing manager for Cabinetcraft, which custom-builds cabinets for homeowners and contractors.

Opening up rooms calls for quality
“It’s a matter of the openness of one room to another,” said William Fadul, president of The Building Firm. “Cabinets originated as storage boxes, but they’ve become more finished because you’re looking at them all the time. Opening up the kitchen to other areas, such as living rooms, dining rooms and sunrooms, justifies having kitchen cabinets that are more than boxes on the wall.”

That’s not to imply that you must put your cooktop on a piece resembling Grandma’s antique dresser.

What it does mean, Fadul and Page said, is that many newly remodeled Atlanta kitchens are sporting cabinets constructed of a higher-quality wood –often cherry or maple — covered in a better stain and frequently accented with rosettes, crown and rope molding, and even reeded pilasters.

Page said the American traditional look is popular with his clients. Mark Fosner, a partner with Moon Brothers, said his clients tend to let the style of the home guide the look of the cabinets.

“Our clients want really clean lines, sort of a Shaker feel,” said Carl Seville, vice president of SawHorse Inc. “It’s a step away from traditional cabinets with paneled doors but less contemporary than flush doors.”

“Sometimes, clients place a lot of emphasis on staying with the spirit of the house, but not always,” Fadul said. “Sometimes, we put high-tech kitchens in older homes. The furniture look is more in the color of the wood. It calls for natural, darker woods and inset doors. We add extra features for a better design so cabinets are interesting and stand alone as furniture in the kitchen.”

Mahogany inlay on maple doors
Some clients are requesting extras, such as stains in different colors and decorative inlay. Fosner, for example, recalls a project his firm completed for a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home that featured criss-crossing mahogany inlay on maple cabinet doors.

Making the cabinets look like furniture can be expensive, but the look can be achieved without breaking the bank.

“There are ways to get the look for a moderate price such as using high-quality wood for the doors and lower quality wood for the sides and backs, which don’t show that much anyway,” Seville said.

Staggering cabinets — placing pieces of varying height — throughout the kitchen is another option. Page said this look can be achieved for an extra cost of about $20 to $40 per cabinet.

Built-in appliances better than ever
She also said that popular appliance companies such as Kitchen-Aid and Amana are offering lines of built-in appliances that achieve the furniture look with great success.

“These are true built-ins in the Sub-Zero tradition,” she said, “not just appliances with panels on the front.”

Some homeowners are opting to accomplish this look with one of the kitchen’s most visible elements — the kitchen island. Since it stands alone, it can take on a variety of treatments that add to the furniture feel.

But before investing in a spiffy new island, Seville said, remodelers should take into account the room’s layout and the island’s visibility. If the room is right, however, the island is a great place to have fun with design.

“We’re seeing more customization of islands than any other piece and we’re having requests for more decorative islands,” said Page, whose firm offers a functional island — complete with built-in wine rack.

“Traditionally, American kitchens tend to be made from one material and possess a unified look,” Fosner said. “Now, America has become more design-conscious in everything from clothing to interiors. We’re recognizing that the kitchen is a gathering space.

“We’ve said, `Everybody is going to wind up in the kitchen anyway, so let’s make it look like the rest of the house.’ “