Design + Build for Your Home

Making the Best Use of Custom Cabinets

Posted by Hannah U Tiffany on Friday, May 17, 2019 Under: Design

Making the Best Use of Custom Cabinets


The word “custom” is used a lot in the home-building and remodeling industry; it connotes something special – unique to the homeowner, made just for you.  But “custom” has a catch… Are we getting the full potential from our custom products?  No two humans are the same, so when we’re designing custom products why would we default to “same?”  This applies to every made-to-order product and installation, but in this blog, I’d like to talk about cabinetry.  We’re all familiar with stock cabinets (you buy the cabinets off a shelf), and semi-custom (the boxes are made, then you choose your door styles and “look”).  Then there are custom cabinets – made for your space, to your specifications.  So why do we so often have them made to the same specifications of those off-the-shelf and semi-custom cabinets?  There are a few design “tricks” that we can use to improve our spaces fantastically – if we just remember to think outside the box (pun intended). 


At Creative Kitchen & Bath, we work with two custom cabinet manufacturers: Crystal Cabinet Works ( and Bellmont Cabinets (  Specifics I mention in this blog are going to be related to those lines because they’re the lines with which I’m familiar.  Cabinet manufacturers will vary in what they can produce, but they will have a lot of the same capabilities across the board.


When working with a custom cabinet company, a few things are low-cost adds that can really make cabinet design special. 


First on that list: size modifications.  Standard cabinets are made in 3-inch width increments and two standard heights – counter height and vanity height.   At times, those standards might not be the best for what we need.  One of my favorite examples is the bathroom vanity.  Years ago, the standard vanity cabinet height was about 30-inches high, putting the finished vanity top at about 31-1/2 inches off the floor.  Most sinks were drop-in and would add a little height to the counter.  As a rule, we’re getting taller and the trend now is under-mount sinks.  All this results in the current standard for vanity cabinets being raised to kitchen counter height (34-1/2-inches, with counter tops approximately 36-inches above the floor).  I had a recent conversation with a friend about her bathroom remodel:

“the only thing I regret is that we raised the counters to 36-inches high… it’s not comfortable for me to lean over the counter to the sink to wash my face.” 

She has a point – we shouldn’t assume that because 32-inches is too low, that 36-inches is “just right.”  Perhaps the “just right” height is 34-inches, 35-inches, or 34-5/8-inches?  Most cabinet shops will modify the height of the cabinet at no additional charge to the eighth of an inch - some even to the 32nd of an inch!  If you’re taller or shorter than average, why not have your cabinets designed to fit your body?  If you and your partner are both professional basketball players, why not raise your kitchen counters so you can comfortably work?  And don’t forget wall cabinets.  Cabinets to the ceiling are such a predominant trend in today’s transitional kitchen, but how often do we really access those cabinets that are already 8-feet off the floor?  What if we increase the depth of our wall cabinets by a few inches (from the standard 12-inches to, say, 15-inches)?   Now, they’re easier to reach and we’ve gained storage space.  In a kitchen I remodeled in 2016, my clients had to keep the existing U-shape of the kitchen to preserve their floors but needed more storage.  So, we increased the depth of all the base cabinets – more drawer depth, more storage space, and more counter top surface with this simple modification!


Second on my list of favorite custom options: door styles.  When the cabinet manufacturers are building the cabinets to specs, they are already set up to size and assemble the doors in their catalog.  Many cabinet manufacturers will customize a door – inside profile, outside profile, center panel, etc. – and it may not cost much or any more than a door out of the catalog.  They are all made to order, after all.  If a client loves a specific detail on one door, and another detail on a different door, we can create a “custom” door style and combine those details.  A pro tip – always order a sample door before placing your cabinet order if you’re getting it made custom.


Custom color is another weapon in the arsenal.  Perhaps there is a piece of art or an accent in your home that is an inspiration and you want to carry that into the design.  Or maybe you have a favorite color that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.  Most custom cabinet makers will do a custom color and the quality and durability will meet all their finishing standards.  (I.e. no need to have a painter come in and paint them in your home).  Often, doing a custom color means a percentage of cost added for the development and sampling of that color, but it’s usually a one-time cost and cabinet makers may keep those color formulas in their records for years.  Why limit ourselves to the colors in the manufacturer’s catalog when we can use any color in the spectrum? 


For some fantastic examples of custom colors and door styles, check out Crystal Cabinet’s annual design competition award winning designs:


Finally (for this entry, at least): we can design our cabinets for the items we plan to store in them.  Specifying a deeper (or shallower) cabinet drawer to fit a specific item (stew pot? Hair dryer?) is an easy change to make when those cabinets are being produced one-at-a-time for each customer.


True, there is often a price tag that comes with custom.  These additional costs are because of the human-power, brain-power, and tooling needed when designing, engineering and manufacturing a unique item.  If you and your designer dream of a special piece of cabinetry you want to use, think of your cabinet manufacturer as a furniture-maker.  You want a special hutch or a beautiful banquette?  They can make them.  High-end cabinet makers use high-quality materials and top-of the line construction methods.  I had a client who wanted a special desk for her home-office that would stylistically coordinate with her kitchen and have storage for all the items she planned to keep there.  When it was all designed, ordered and installed, it cost about the same as a well-made furniture piece.  And (silver-lining) we didn’t spend any time shopping for a desk that would perfectly fit her space and needs.




If I have one piece of advice to sum it all up, it’s this: use your designer – let him/her know what you want and ask lots of questions about what’s available.  We get excited about projects that are unique and stretch our creative minds.  I’ve never met a designer who didn’t love a challenge.  Our goal is to guide you and help you create a space you love – that’s what we’re here for!

In : Design 

Tags: custom cabinets  crystal cabinet works  bellmont cabinets  cabinet design  design  kitchen cabinets  bathroom cabinets 

About Me

Hannah U. Tiffany Recent Seattle transplant from Virginia, with a design background in full-scale interior design. Earned Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from Virginia Tech. Hannah is also an amateur artist, and you can check out her personal artwork at