Remodel Series: Part 3 | Choosing Cabinets

This is the third in a series of posts meant to shed light on the mysterious (and seldom exposed) process of remodeling a home. My wife and I recently bought a place in my hometown and we’re in the middle of our project now! I hope these posts will prove useful to anyone considering a remodel of similar scale and will lend insight into the challenges and decisions we’ve faced during our project.



Cabinets are a big deal. I’ve seen 2-year-old cabinets that are tired and unreliable. Our 1959 home in West Seattle has original cabinets that have held up incredibly well and look great. Beautiful, durable cabinets are really important to us because we hope to make our kitchen the hub of our new home.

So when it was time to start looking at cabinets, my wife and I started by visiting BMC in Issaquah on our contractor’s recommendation. We wanted durable cabinets and a modern aesthetic (but not too trendy). BMC put together an estimate for our kitchen and two bathrooms, as well as a rough initial design (all for free).

After spending some time in the showroom and looking over their proposed design (above), we agreed that builder-grade cabinetry was thoroughly unexciting. This is what you see in new construction townhomes and flipped homes all over Seattle. It looked generic and felt cheap. And it was cheap! They proposed to do all of our cabinetry for kitchen and baths (not including installation) for $14K. This is much less than I expected, especially considering that (by my standards) our kitchen is fairly big and includes an island.

We also considered IKEA cabinets, which look great and feature some of the bells and whistles we wanted like soft-closing hinges and pull-outs. But we heard from too many friends and clients who said that their IKEA cabinets didn’t hold up. We never got a quote from IKEA, but I was told by a client who installed one that a full kitchen would cost around $8,000 (not including installation).

At the time, I forgot about another middle-of-the-road cabinet company that was suggested to me by a colleague. Abodian is commonly used by builders of townhomes in Seattle. I never got pricing from Abodian, but I wish we had–I like their design aesthetic and cabinet options based on what I’ve seen online.

After exploring more economical options, we decided to get a quote from Kerf Design, a small custom shop located in Interbay that builds modern plywood cabinetry. Their quote for our kitchen and bathroom cabinets was more than twice the quote we got from BMC, but the designs were customized to our needs and the quality was head and shoulders above anything else we saw (and I’ve seen a lot of cabinets through the years!). We had sticker shock, but we loved the product, so we didn’t rule it out. Ashley is a great cook, so we wanted cabinets that would work hard and look good doing it.

Clients (and friends) of mine who recently completed a major remodel in Phinney Ridge suggested Greenhome Solutions. Greenhome Solutions partners with Duncan Woodworks for their custom cabinetry. We love our friends’ kitchen, so we asked for an estimate to compare with the one we got from Kerf (using the same rough design). The estimate was about $2,000 less than Kerf’s, but we thought the design and quality from Kerf was a little better and, frankly, I’ve been a follower and admirer of Kerf for years. We had also used Kerf for a small bathroom cabinet we put in our previous home, so we had tested the product personally.

Before making any final decisions, I asked the folks at Kerf for a reference to a recent client so we could hear about their experience and see their kitchen in person. They introduced me to Robin Sheridan, who recently used Kerf for her amazing remodel in Blue Ridge. This was the nail in the coffin. Robin’s kitchen was the exact aesthetic we wanted and is holding up exquisitely (even with two young kids in the home!). After this visit, we started designing our kitchen and baths with Kerf.

There were hundreds of small decisions over the months ahead, but none felt as important as this. We want our kitchen to be the center of our home.  Choosing cabinets really set the stage for our project and got us underway. Here’s a preview of our cabinet design!