Bestowing the qualifier "high end" to kitchen cabinets is dangerous. One homeowner's high-end is another homeowner's low-end. All too often, high style is mistaken for quality—leaving materials and workmanship ignored. Let's look at a few accepted hallmarks of high-end kitchen cabinets and where you can buy such cabinets.
You can define high-end cabinets as a combination of three factors: Quality materials, quality workmanship, and unique styling.
Does "sleek and Euro" mean high-end? Not always. Example: IKEA kitchen cabinets have achieved a gloss of "high end" over the years, mainly through aggressive marketing. While its style mimics high-end European cabinetry, its construction is decidedly basic: lots of MDF (medium-density fibreboard), thermofoil, cheap fixtures, and balky hinges and slides.
Kitchen cabinets are just a bunch of boxes affixed to your walls and resting on the floor. So it's no accident that industry parlance for this part of the construction is "the box." The box should not be MDF or any other type of pressboard. Despite industry claims to the contrary, it is unlikely that you can build a quality kitchen cabinet box out of MDF.
- Plywood: The plywood used in quality kitchen cabinets is not the stuff on the bulk racks at Home Depot. It's furniture-grade plywood that performs as well or even better than solid wood. Plywood will be found in the box, not doors and other finish surfaces.
- Solid wood: Solid wood doors and drawer fronts are par for the course in high-end kitchen cabinets.
Outside dimensions of the box vary. But within each box, recommended thicknesses of panels are:
- Doors: 3/4" thick
- Floor panels: 1/2" thick
- Ceilings (wall cabinet only): 1/2" thick
- Back Panel (wall cabinet only): 1/2" thick (This is important because the cabinets hang from this panel)
Where to Buy
- Aran: Aran hits this list because its styles are very Euro/Italian, but the sizing is all U.S. Aran's wall and base cabinets come in standard sizes. Not all of its cabinets are high-end (it does offer some MDF products). With showrooms only in Palo Alto, CA, Palm Coast, FL, and Houston, TX, Aran doesn't make it easy to find its cabinets. A company called Cabinets By Design is Aran's designated U.S. representative.
- Porcelanosa: This 30-year-old Spanish company has made huge inroads in the high-end kitchen cabinet industry. Like Aran, its U.S. footprint is rather small (only 5 locations).
- Smallbone of Devizes: Even the name of this U.K.-based company is high-end. Smallbone features distinctive all-wood cabinetry. If you're looking for high-end but not the sleek Euro-style, Smallbone may be the answer.