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Cabinets range: out of the kitchen.

Cinderella-like cabinets sweep out of the kitchen, bestowing great looks on other rooms.

The "unfitted" kitchen was a designer trend in the late 1980s. By doing away with upper cabinets, the unfitted kitchen freed up large expanses of walls for windows, atrium doors, fireplaces or displays of personal collections. The primary role of the kitchen as a place to cook was dismissed and it was seen as personal space for lounging and entertainment, hobbies and homework, for televisions and computers.

But some of those designers heard a small, nagging voice asking, "Where do the dishes go?" Enter trend setting cabinetmakers like SmallBone Inc. with its Unfitted Range kitchen -- individual, handcrafted cabinets along the lines of the china cabinet and old baker's cupboard.

These cabinets are built of pine or oak and finished like fine furniture, with painted and/or stenciled exteriors. Other manufacturers followed with similar "furniture" pieces taking over for cabinets, including tables or carts with extra functions to replace islands.

Given a break from kitchen duties, cabinets began to roam around the rest of the house. Cinderella-like, they assumed great new looks and now are making their presence known in living rooms, libraries and dens, dining rooms and bedrooms. According to the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers' Assn., 8 percent of all cabinets sold for new, single-family homes in 1991 was for rooms other than kitchens and baths. A recent WOOD & WOOD PRODUCTS' survey revealed that 48 percent of the Top 25 U.S. cabinetmakers sell cabinets for other rooms.

Strong architectural details

Other-room cabinets are not just kitchen cabinets with their aprons off. The category makes a strong architectural statement by adding elements like panel mouldings, crown mouldings, columns and pediments. The result is cabinetry that not only offers storage plus good looks, but has the appearance of custom built-ins and implies the craftsmanship of fine furniture.

To create superb custom cabinetry for rooms other than the kitchen, Rutt Custom Cabinetry has reworked several traditional carpentry details. The company surrounds its cabinets with a variety of mouldings, heavy plinth blocks, floor-to-ceiling wainscoting, fluting and columns. Rutt recently introduced a fascia moulding 6 1/2 inches high comprised of dentil, flat and crown mouldings built up for a one-piece look. A new palladium pediment with a 15-inch-high arch for topping corner cabinets also is a new look.

Maria Corey, senior designer for Rutt, said high-end customers are seeking cabinetry that is ornate and looks like furniture. She sees this trend in cabinetry for bookcases, bar units, entertainment centers and around fireplaces. When bookcases are on either side of a fireplace, consumers want the fireplace mantle and surround to match and to have "lots of wainscoting," she said.

"Customers are very educated. They are doing research and coming in with their clipping files. They know what they want, and especially what they don't want," Corey said. The designer said that traditional French and English style oak cabinets in antique and light finishes are very popular.

"People expected its popularity to fade, but white paint is still the number one finish throughout the country," she said. Corey added that all that white is a reaction to the dark cherry and birch cabinets with dark soffits and woodwork that have been around since the 1950s. "Women don't want that look anymore. They've had it too long."

Rutt makes the architectural elements in its Pennsylvania cabinet plant. Most of its product is sold through dealers who have a designer on staff, Corey said.

A growing market

Other-room cabinets in upper-middle to high-end homes make up a growing market. Fifteen percent of Rutt's $17 million sales last year were in this category. Gordon's Cabinet Shop, another high-end custom company, had other-room sales of more than $2.5 million by early October 1992, up 50 percent from last year.

"The trend probably started a few years ago," Corey said. "Customers looked for bookcases, entertainment centers or other storage units in a store, but what they found didn't suit their rooms," she added. "They have become aware that cabinetmakers are not limited in what we can do. Instead of hiring a carpenter, they'll come to us. If they need retractable doors, rollout shelves or adjustable shelves, a swivel carousel or fixed shelves -- it is available."

Gordon's includes china cabinets, library bookcases, wet and dry bars, stereo cabinets, entertainment centers and cabinets for walk-in closets in this category. Bill Peterson, product design and marketing, said more detailing goes into these cabinets, such as hand routing, mouldings and expensive hardware. For closet cabinets, doors and drawers of 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch plexiglass are an option.

Gordon's sells most of its cabinets to new-home builders. "We do not have a stock line in a catalog," Peterson said, "but we do have several options that give builders flexibility. Customers select from various grades of wood, types of hardware, interiors, door styles, stains and colors. Buyers can mix and match many options in a line within a designated price range." He added that builders usually want the same wood, door style and finish throughout to make the house look customized. Everything is made to order and typical lead time is three to four weeks.

The more expensive the home, the more leading edge the builder's taste, Peterson said. At a basic level, red oak in simple and traditional designs is a best seller. Avant garde builders in southern California, where Gordon's is located, use maple, more glass and darker stains. Natural or white-washed hard maple is still hot. High-end MDF doors with extra routing and high gloss finishes are very popular. In library settings, dark cherry or walnut finishes on maple are favorites, Peterson said.

More than designers

Gordon's seven designers are trained in computer-assisted design. "But they have to be more than designers," Peterson said. Because they are project managers responsible for an entire house, they need a heavy construction background. Peterson said the designers must have installation experience and have worked with plumbers and electricians. They have to know how to assemble a cabinet and be familiar with framing. They work on site and totally coordinate the job, Peterson said.

Switching from kitchen to other-room cabinets does not make a big difference in the manufacturing process, according to Peterson. However, these cabinet doors frequently are more intricate, have more embellishments and are more labor intensive, such as doors set up for leaded or beveled glass. "We've developed a technique that allows custom applications for semi-production level manufacturing," Peterson said. "We have also adapted our milling to fit through production."

The biggest difference in the manufacturing process is in assembly, according to Peterson. Gordon's has a separate crew for sub-custom cabinetry, because it requires fine tuning and has tight tolerances. "Jobs overlap for the sub-custom crews so they have to be able to do everything," he said.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:kitchen cabinets
Author:Garet, Barbara
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Words:1137
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