7th House on the Left

Q: Hi Greg and Ashley, My husband and I are currently trying to decide on a kitchen cabinet route to go with our kitchen remodel. I’ve always loved Kraftmaid and heard great things, but recent research has led us both to a lot of negative reviews about the quality the cabinets and paint finish. Would you share your experience? Are you still happy with your cabinets all this time later? Would you go with Kraftmaid again? Thanks for any info! -Kara

A: This question has been coming up a lot in our mailbox lately, so we thought we’d dedicate a post to our kitchen cabinets. Before I delve right in, let me preface this by saying, we have no connection with Kraftmaid and this is 100% our honest opinion about our experience with our cabinets. That said, the honesty part is true of all of our posts. This post is going to try to be pretty comprehensive – we’re trying to make it the post we wish we’d have read when shopping around for cabinets ourselves.

Kraftmaid Cabinet Review (and a Before & After) // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Before we get to what we think about them now (a little over two years later), I guess we should do a quick rundown of the cabinet designing/ordering/installation process…

Once we finally decided on going with KraftMaid cabinets (more on the decision process here), the first thing we did was meet with a kitchen designer at our local Lowe’s. After a quick consultation in the store, he came to our house, took measurements and listened to our ideas/wants/wishes. We already had a layout in our heads, so he took down all of our notes and put together a rendering for us to look over.

Kraftmaid Cabinet Review (and a Before & After) // 7thhouseontheleft.com

He emailed us the initial renderings, and we made notes on what we loved, liked and didn’t like, let our thoughts and opinions simmer for a few days, then went back into Lowe’s for another meeting to finalize the layout. The cost to have the kitchen design put together and priced out was $90. However, since we ended up actually purchasing the cabinets from Lowe’s, that cost was deducted from the final cost of the cabinets.

I think the overall cabinet-buying experience can have a lot to do with the sales person (or “kitchen designer”) you deal with when you plan out your kitchen and order your cabinets. You get to know them, they’ll call you often throughout the process for questions and updates, and they are who you turn to when you have questions or concerns. We were lucky enough to score a really great guy to work with. He was extremely personable, fun and knew his stuff. The only snags that came up (if you even want to call them that), were some design differences when it came to the bookshelf on the end of the peninsula and leaving space for the floating shelves next to the window above the sink. He tried to talk me out of both design elements multiple times. As for Greg, he was down with whatever I chose when it came to making the kitchen less “cookie cutter” and more unique. Those two ideas were a bit out of the norm, so I totally get where he was coming from. I’m sure he has some crazy requests now and then and just wanted to make sure we wouldn’t regret our off-beat decisions later. When it was all said and done, I stuck to my guns and he respected my decision. About a year or so later, I ran into him at Lowe’s. He said he saw our kitchen in Better Homes & Gardens’ Kitchen & Bath Makeovers magazine, and he wished they would have featured a photo of the “awesome bookshelf in the peninsula.” So, I think that means I won him over in the end, haha.

Kraftmaid Cabinet Review (and a Before & After) // 7thhouseontheleft.com

At the same meeting when we finalized the layout, we also chose our cabinet style and finishes. We went with the Dove White finish and the square recessed panel door style (aka shaker door). For hardware, which at the time was “free” with the purchase of the cabinets, we chose the Aged collection.

Kraftmaid Cabinet Review (and a Before & After) // 7thhouseontheleft.com

If I recall correctly, the cabinets ended up arriving a few days (if not a week) early. That was fine since our kitchen was empty and waiting for the huge mountain of boxes, but our installers weren’t available for another two weeks. So, we had to maneuver around the monstrosity above a little longer than anticipated – but it didn’t really bother us.

Kraftmaid Cabinet Review (and a Before & After) // 7thhouseontheleft.com

The decision to have a pro install the cabinets was worth every single penny. In our case, they were installed by a local company subcontracted by Lowe’s. For this part of the process, we really just left that area of the house alone and let them do their work. I actually had just returned home from having surgery the day before they came, so I ended up staying at my mom and dad’s house hopped up on pain meds while the chaos was going on. Now, looking back, I think that was a blessing in disguise. I would have probably been a nervous wreck and wanting to watch everything going on. So if you’re having cabinets installed and have any Dilaudid around… no, I’m TOTALLY kidding. Do not do that. Seriously though, just get out of the house, take the dog to the park, go get your hair cut and colored, do some retail therapy… you get the gist.

Kraftmaid Cabinet Review (and a Before & After) // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Larry and his team came and put the entire kitchen together in a matter of two or three days. We had a piece of trim missing from our order (it belonged on the ceiling right above the peninsula), which came in about two weeks after the cabinets were “done”. Once the tiling was done, Larry came back to install the missing trim pieces, as well as the other trim pieces that had to be removed for the tiling. If you’re having countertop-to-ceiling tile installed (like we did), just remind your installation guy to not put on the cabinet trim pieces that touch the wall until the tiling is done. We didn’t realize that would be an issue at the time, so the tile guy had to take the trim pieces off and the cabinet guy had to come back and reattach them. Once that was done, everything was “done”.

Kraftmaid Cabinet Review (and a Before & After) // 7thhouseontheleft.com

QUALITY // Structurally, we’ve had no problems whatsoever. Everything is just as sound, sturdy and solid as the day they were installed. Aside from a handle or two getting loose – a problem easily solved with a quick turn of a screwdriver – we’ve had absolutely zero functional problems with the cabinets.

Kraftmaid Cabinet Review (and a Before & After) // 7thhouseontheleft.com

As far as cosmetic issues, we’ve had one issue that we’re in the process of fixing. In the sink cabinet, the center mullion (Greg looked up the term so we wouldn’t have to call it “the thingy that goes between the doors in the middle”) is just a little too long. Unfortunately, this has caused some paint chipping. This might have something to do with the installation, I’m not completely sure, but the good news is that we were told it’s covered by the warranty. As long as you own your home, KraftMaid will guarantee your cabinetry to be free from defects in material and/or workmanship under normal residential usage.

The only other little thing that has come across our radar is that we wish the doors were soft-close like the drawers. Kraftmaid has since added the Whisper Touch soft-close feature to the doors, so if you’re in the cabinet market now, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Kraftmaid Cabinet Review (and a Before & After) // 7thhouseontheleft.com

COST // A lot of people have asked us how much our cabinets cost to see if the price they were given is “right”. The thing is, every kitchen is different, so we really can’t answer that question. The features like roll out shelves, cabinet-covered appliances, extra shelves, and bookcases all add up to a different price tag for different spaces. That said, the final price of our cabinets including installation was around $17,000.

Was it worth the money? Absolutely. Greg and I both think it’s important to invest in larger home purchases to ensure quality and longevity. In the long run, you’ll end up spending less money if you invest in something of higher quality upfront. This is especially true for kitchen cabinets, which are permanent (or semi-permanent, at least) fixtures in your house because once they’re in, it’s tough to change things later. Obviously, the cabinets were the most expensive aspect of our kitchen reinstall. The entire kitchen renovation totaled to approximately $28,000 – the cabinets taking up about 60% of the budget. The total (which includes everything from switch plate covers to appliances) is actually much lower than what we read online and in magazines. It’s also lower than the average kitchen gut-job renovation in our area, so we were happy with the final number.

Would we purchase KraftMaid cabinets again? Yep. We’ve been extremely pleased with the durability and quality. On top of that, all of the customizable options are crazy amazing. I literally drew what I wanted the bookshelf to look like, and they did it! It’s worth the extra money to get something that fits your wants/needs so that you can love your kitchen for years to come.

Kraftmaid Cabinet Review (and a Before & After) // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Going through this process ourselves, we have four bits of advice to pass along, in case you’re going to be tackling a similar project:

01 // As for getting started on the cabinet-buying process, we recommend meeting with a kitchen designer and giving them your absolute dream wish list of everything you hope and desire for your space. Then, when they come back with the design and the estimated sticker price, take away the things you can live without until you get to your target budget.

02 // If you have it in your budget, have the cabinets installed by a pro. Actually, I would even go as far to say make room for it in your budget. Even if you think you or someone you know is all DIY-savy and are handy with a nail gun… trust me. These guys do this every day. They’re familiar with the dos and don’ts, and you’ll save yourself some major headaches and possible repair costs down the road. We were definitely happier spending the extra money to have it done well and right the first time.

03 // When we had our initial rendering, I showed it to my mom and Grandma to get their input. After all, they’ve been doing the homeowner/cooking thing a lot longer that I have and I thought they’d have some good input – and they definitely did. Because of their advice, we moved a few cabinets around and changed out drawers for cabinet doors in one spot in particular, which turned out to make a huge difference in the productivity department. That said, entertaining too many opinions might hurt your decision-making process. Just pick the brains of the people closest to you, including that friend that is killing it with the organizational skills and ideas.

04 // Take the time to be absolutely, 100% sure you love your layout before you place your order. Once we decided on a layout, I was so excited to place the order and get the ball rolling. Greg talked me into waiting at least a week before placing the order. Even though I was like a kid waiting for Santa on the longest Christmas Eve ever, it was worth the wait because we made a few small tweaks, and I felt 100% confident when we said, “Go!” and wrote the check.

We hope this review helps you guys out there in the decision-making process. For a complete list of kitchen resources and more details, check out this post. To read aaaaaall of the posts having to do with the kitchen, click here or check out the Projects page for a list of the “meaty” kitchen reno posts.

Q: I’d love to see a glimpse of how you two plan and budget for projects. We both work full-time jobs and have a house that needs a lot of TLC. With our busy schedules, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day or days in the weekend. That being the case, I’d love to see how you guys do it. -Lisa

A: One of the projects we have coming up in the near future is a guest room re-do. When we first got the house, we had no idea what our style was, and the current state of the guest room reflects a mix match of styles and left over furniture from our apartment. In light of that, we’re going to try to bring in the modern rustic style we’re aiming for with a plank wall (more on all of that here). Since this is one of the next projects we have up our sleeves, we’re going to use this as an example…

Planning & Budgeting DIY Projects 101 / 7th House on the Left

STEP 1 // TALK IT OUT. We’ve been talking about doing a plank wall for a long time, but this past weekend we finally sat down to officially plan it out. We usually try to sit down and talk about big projects like this together because A) this makes the lines of communication better when it comes time to actually do the project and B) two heads are better than one. Most of the time, Ash catches something I don’t or vice versa. We make a good team like that.

STEP 2 // MAKE A LIST. CHECK IT TWICE. Once we’ve talked through the project from A to Z, we make two lists: a to-do list and a need list. The to-do lists consists of the major steps we have to accomplish in order to get the project finished. The need list is everything we’re going to need for the project – right down the the very last drill bit. If we come across something we already have (in this case, we already have some stain, polyurethane and brushes on hand), we still write it down so we’ll be sure to double check we have enough before we take a trip to the hardware store.

Planning & Budgeting DIY Projects / 7th House on the Left

STEP 3 // TAKE A PRE-SHOPPING TRIP. With our new “need list” in hand (with notes of what we already have), we like to take a quick pre-shopping trip to our local hardware store to check out the prices on stuff we aren’t sure about (like lumber and specific hardware). In our experience, we’ve learned that if you’re doing a larger project, getting a real price for everything is essential. If we were just buying one or two pieces of lumber, it wouldn’t be a big deal if we were off by a dollar or two. For the plank wall project, we’re buying 20+ pieces, so being off by $2 per board would mean we under- or over-budgeted by $40 – which may make a big difference in our budget for the project. Do that enough times over the course of a project, and things add up fast.

Budgeting DIY Projects / 7th House on the Left

STEP 4 // BUDGET & SCHEDULE. Once step three is done, we have a good gist of how much things are going to cost, and we can get an accurate idea of how much the project total is going to be. That’s when we take a look over in our Finance Binder, get a good idea of what our finances look like and schedule a weekend that’s good for us financially and time-wise. Some bigger projects will take some saving up to do as we make it a point to pay cash for everything. That’s when we make a note in our binder to set aside X number of dollars for X project.

STEP 5 // GET TO WORK. If you’ve got everything properly planned, this really is the easy part – even for larger projects. You already know how much everything is going to cost, you’ve scheduled your time to the best of your ability, and you’ve got all the materials on hand and paid for. Just rock out, get it done and try to have fun.

I (especially) love knowing how things are going to go before I get into them, so planning ahead is great for my sanity. On top of that, if you’ve really done your homework, everything should be relatively stress-free. Sure, doing all the planning takes some time, but it’s great to be able to say, “Hey! I figured this might happen, and I have a fix,” when something goes wrong. It makes the whole process a thousand times less stressful.

Free DIY Worksheet Printable / 7th House on the Left

Ashley here! After realizing our “system” is the same for all of our projects (even when we’re just decorating an area of the house), we came up with a fun and handy “DIY Project Worksheet”. You can download our design for free here. Each sheet prints two worksheets – making them the perfect size for stashing in your purse or folding in your wallet. Happy planning!

Lumber photo from here.

Q: I live in Zuni, VA — a small town between Suffolk and Petersburg. I have enjoyed your blog for awhile now and wanted to ask you a question. I would love to visit flea markets in or near Richmond, but I don’t know where to go. Do you have any suggestions? … -Brenda

A: This question crosses our inbox every now and then, and when we got Brenda’s email yesterday, we thought it was about time to make a post about it. For some reason, it wasn’t really until we started blogging (and reading other blogs) that we got interested in visiting local thrift / antique stores. These days, it’s one of our favorite things to do when we have the time, and we’ve even bought some of our favorite things in the house from them. If we go out of town, we find ourselves searching for area thrift stores to check out while we’re at our destination (like this super awesome place I went to in LA). There are a lot of interesting thrift and antique stores here in the Richmond area, but here are the places we stop by most often…

Antique & Thrift Stores Around Richmond / 7th House on the Left

Cold Harbor Antique Mall: This is the antique mall we stop by most often. This is our go-to place for small accessories and random accent pieces (like antique cameras and wood crates). The store is divided up by “booths” and their vendors often have awesome sales. They keep their stock rotated really well so no matter how many times we stop by, we always see new things. I talked more about shopping there in this postClick here for directions.

Richmond Thrift & Antique Stores / 7th House on the Left

Governor’s Antiques: This place is huge. Seriously. Huge. They have everything imaginable–old gas pumps, stop lights, huge concrete yard ornaments, old doors, marble slabs, massive estate furniture… the list goes on and on. In the past, we’ve found their prices to be a little on the high side, but it’s still worth the trip just to see the massive amount of… stuff! Check out their website here.

Richmond Thrift & Antique Stores / 7th House on the Left

Class & Trash: This place is a new favorite of ours. The prices are very reasonable, and they have a great collection of fun, funky pieces. The few times we’ve visited the store, we’ve noticed they have a lot of pieces that could easily be transformed into furniture or fun decor elements with a little bit of elbow grease and some DIY know-how – like old doors that could be used as a headboards, barrels that could be side tables and carts that could be turned into coffee tables. Check out their website here.

loveofjesus

Love of Jesus Thrift Store: There are two Love of Jesus locations (one on Nine Mile Road and another, larger store on Midlothian Turnpike). The Midlothian Turnpike location has a really good rotation of furniture – we’ve spied some really great mid-century buffets that we wish we had a space for. The Nine Mile Road location is a pretty good size, too, and is the one we go to most frequently between the two. Their prices are ridiculously good (like the frame for our laundry room chalkboard… for $1). They even have a corner of the store where you can buy whatever you can fit into your cart from a designated area for $10. Check out their website here.

caravarti

Caravati’s – Technically Caravati’s isn’t an antique or thrift store (it’s actually “architectural salvage”), but they have a ton of great, old items.  They have a huge collection of doors, fireplace facades, mantles, columns, slabs of reclaimed wood and what I’m sure to be the largest amount of ornate door knobs I think I’ve ever seen. If you’re looking for larger architectural items with some character, this is the place to go. Check out their website here.

borkeys

McLawhorn’s Red Barn Antiques – This place is pretty awesome because not only do they have interesting things (like a great collection of old books, which Greg loves), but the building itself has a lot of history. It used to be a very popular general store back in the very early 1900′s and the current owners love telling people about the history. They have a vintage coke cooler in the middle of the store, and they hand out free Cokes to customers.  We actually bought the green dresser in our utility room from here, and we brought you guys shopping with us in this postCheck out their website here.

If any of you Richmonder’s have a place for us to add to our list, let us know in the comments. We’d love to add a few new places to our normal stomping grounds. For those of you outside the Richmond area, please tell us your favorite area thrift stores in the comments. You just might help another reader find exactly what they’ve been looking for! Oh, and be sure to check back Friday for our winter brunch recap. We have lots of photos, details and recipes to share!

Love of Jesus Thrift photo found here. Carvati’s photo found here.

 

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