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Sorting the Choices When Buying Cabinets

Choosing kitchen cabinets can make anyone sweat. Double the decisions and you've got a real barn burner

<p><em>This Old House</em> TV's Charlestown house project</p>

This Old House TV's Charlestown house project

Like many kitchen renovators, Dan and Heather Beliveau, owners of This Old House TV's Charlestown project, had some tough decisions when it came time to choose cabinets. Should we go with cherry, maple, red birch, oak or painted? Out of the hundreds of stains, which color goes best with our appliances, countertops, flooring and walls? How long is this going to take? And will our selections fit our

budget? Now take all these questions, double them (the house includes a full rental unit) and you have a tale of

two kitchens.

At first, Dan and Heather thought that designing their kitchens wouldn't

be too tough—after all Dan's in the business and Heather has been

keeping a file of things she likes from magazines. They decided to focus

on their own kitchen and spend less on the rental unit's while still

making it look attractive. So while Dan and the crew gutted and

reframed, Heather began to choose appliances, going with the higher end

stainless steel in her home and moderately priced black appliances in

the rental unit.

Next came cabinets. Heather has always wanted a white kitchen, a clean

and classic look. Both she and Dan envisioned the rental unit in

cherry. The first thing that caught their eye in the kitchen show room

was a beautiful cherry kitchen. Heather thought they could use these

cabinets in the rental and Dan agreed. But, as we started to discuss the

white kitchen, Heather and Dan kept drifting over to the cherry kitchen. Dan finally blurted out, "We don't want to like the downstairs one

better than ours!" So they decided that their kitchen would be cherry.

Then Dan and Heather chose several custom features, such as a wine rack,

moulding details, tray dividers over the oven, and also upgraded the

cabinet's construction, outfitting them with plywood sides and full

extension drawers.

For the rental unit, Heather was still clinging to the idea of a white

kitchen but, because its appliances are black, she agreed to go with

natural red birch cabinets. The design of this kitchen was both more

straightforward and more modest than the one upstairs, but we did

include some special design features such as a double wastebasket unit

and lazy Susans.

The bottom line of this renovation was that Heather and Dan wanted to be

smart. They were trying hard to stay in a budget and keep a close eye on

the real cost of such an undertaking. When choosing cabinets, it's easy

to forget that you're making selections that you will be living with for

years. Give yourself time to consider your choices but also keep in mind

the project's overall time frame. Dan and Heather did all this, and the

results—both upstairs and downstairs—will speak for themselves.