Sealy Design 101 — Cabinets

Options for Adding Cabinets to your Space

Off the Shelf/Simple DIY ($-$$$)

  • You can buy an existing furniture piece or standalone cabinets (i.e. bookcase/armoire) and tailor it to your needs-build it in to look custom (by encasing it in drywall) or, add other functional details like a corkboard, or decorative details like paint or wallpaper, or replace hardware, to make it your own.

Semi-Customized ($$-$$$$)

  • You can buy standard cabinets at a big box store, like Home Depot, that meet your specific requirements. You will also be able to select a door style and colour from a standard selection of options. As the homeowner you could do some of the legwork yourself, such as going through the ‘Sealy Design 101- Planning a built-in’ checklist and doing a simple floor plan (check out, Sealy Design 101- Measuring for a Floor Plan). Armed with all this invaluable information you could visit a store and work with a designer there, or hire one to help with the drafting and layout.

Customized ($$$- $$$$$)

  • After completing the 'Sealy Design 101- Planning a built-in' checklist homeowners may choose to go completely customized. Perhaps you have a small, awkward space that would best suit a specific solution. Custom cabinets can be made in any size, width, height or shape for totally customized fit often resulting in fewer filler pieces as the cabinets were built specifically for your unique space. You may have a certain look in mind and this solution is ideal as the doors styles have limitless options for centre panels and edging details, and they can be painted any colour or wood stain (even custom stain mixes!) you desire. Or, if you don’t have the time or the ability to visualize and enlisting the help of a professional designer helps maximize the potential of the space and saves time and frustration.

Planning a Built-in or Custom Cabinetry

Step 1: Function

Storage, display, feature, all of the above?

  • What are you storing/what’s being housed here? (e.g. books, games, office or art supplies, wrapping paper, photo albums, DVDs, toys, AV equipment&ellip;)
  • What are the sizes and quantities of these items? Often this number is best described in how many linear feet of x deep storage do you require?
  • Is this open (display) or closed (hidden) storage?. We often have a combination of the 2 based on what is being stored. Note: always good to think about overall site lines in the room and what you are putting at eye level or at the end of a hallway, or in an area that might be the focal point of the room.
  • Do any of these items require, electrical, cable, telephone, internet, ventilation (e.g. electronics)&ellip;
  • Do these items work on a remote- IR technology requires an unobstructed site line to the receiver, newer technologies do not.
  • What tasks might this area need to accommodate? E.g. Filing (letter or legal?), a work surface (that may or may not get hidden away when not in use), keyboard tray, lockable area, monitor/TV, printer&ellip;
  • What type of lighting do you require? Decorative? Task? Both?

Step 2: Budget

There are 2 ways to set a budget for most things — either decide what you are comfortable spending and see if you can get what you want/need or determine what you need and get quotes and most often it is a combination of these two. Determining a ballpark budget and talking to a pro or doing some research will help you figure out if you are going off the shelf or more custom.

Some tips for understanding built-in costs:

  • Drawers cost more than doors
  • Flat slab doors are generally less $ than more ornate doors
  • Material can effect price- exotic woods are generally more
  • Open storage can be less expensive than closed (depending how the interior is finished). The storage systems you put inside your cabinet can as much as double the price but make a huge difference in on functional your piece is. Definitely consider where you need them and set-aside some budget for this.

Note: It is important to humidify and de-humidity your space to maintain the integrity of your built-ins. Many cabinetmakers won’t guarantee their product if you aren’t keeping your home/office within a certain range.

Step 3: Look and Feel or Aesthetics

  • Modern? Contemporary? Transitional? Traditional? Retro? Rustic?… Identifying the overall look will help narrow down other decisions, for example, flat door style is often more contemporary. Or a rustic piece wouldn’t likely be made of a high gloss laminate.
  • Reuse or Upcycle- is there anything you might want to incorporate into your design, e.g. doors from an old cabinet that doesn’t fit your space anymore or perhaps the cabinet is badly damaged. Incorporating some vintage silverware as drawer pulls for a country home or branches for the cabin?
  • Material it is made of- this actually bridges all categories- Function, budget and look and feel. Some materials are more durable, and may cost more money but will hold up better over the long run making them a good investment. Then you need to ensure that the final decision also gives you the look you want and works with the rest of the space.
  • What else is in the room-it is important to have flow and for items to relate in scale and proportion to one another. Or if there is other millwork in the room, like a fireplace mantel or existing window sills or baseboards the new cabinet(s) should blend in with these elements.
  • Using a designer’s eye and applying the “The Golden Ratio/Section”. A very old principle that is used when designing everything from architecture to cabinets that is said to be more pleasing to the eye. This belief has been applied by such talented people as Leonardo da Vinci to Swiss architect Le Corbusier.

Which to simplify means, divide by the greater number by 1.62. So if we apply this to a framed art work an example of a perfect (golden ratio) sized piece, we could take the tall side of 60”divide by 1.62 to determine the best width is 37.

Plans & Elevation Drawings

Measuring a floor plan

Recommended Tools:

  • 25-30 foot metal tape: A standard tape measure-rigid (recommend min 1”thick), retractable, lockable
  • Clipboard
  • ¼" graph paper (1 foot in real life will equal 1 box on the paper. We call this ¼" scale)
  • Pencils with erasers, and coloured pens

Getting Started:

  • It’s nice to have a partner who can hold the end of the tape, but not necessary.
  • Sketch the basic floor plan/footprint — wall, window, and door locations—before measuring. Ideally, this should be fairly proportionately to real life and, leave enough room around the footprint to add notes/details and dimensions.
  • Measure in running dimensions by fixing the tape at one corner and run the tape along the wall reading the measurement at each measurable feature (window, door&ellip;). This will greatly reduce the accumulation of errors caused by measuring each feature separately. If you measure in segments, take extra care to be accurate.

    Note: When noting the measurement and/or location of a door, window, or opening, measure to the inside of the jamb, then measure the door/window itself

  • Keep the tape level, taut and straight for more accurate measurements.
  • Measure each room's overall dimensions in addition to placing interior doorways, closets, etc. This will help resolve discrepancies that may arise when drawing up the plan.
  • Measure all wall thickness and ceiling heights. While measuring you may find that some walls are thicker than others, this is often the case in walls that are load bearing or contain plumbing (called wet walls), and you may not know where they are until you take that measurement. Add bulkhead details in a dashed line or different colour so that this isn’t confusing later.
  • Make additional measurements and notes on the drawing as you see fit. These might include the trim width, flooring or wall materials, location of vents. Also important are switches & plugs, floor drains, existing plumbing drains & supply lines, etc, which are measured to the centre, not from one side to the other. My trick is to do all plumbing in one colour, then electrical in another and so on. The more notes the better.
  • Always take tons of pictures so that you’ve document the before and can share this with others as you meet for advice. It’s always great to have a wide shot of a before picture taken from the same spot as where you think you may want an after picture, but it also helps to have lots of pictures of the overall ceiling (the 5th wall) and any details that may become important during the renovation phase.

Elevation Drawings