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Custom Cabinetry

Most of us think of flatpack cabinetry as something you get from chain stores like Ikea or Bunnings. Size-wise, get your standard offerings and not much else. You certainly can’t customise. Until now.

Having custom cabinetry in your home isn’t just about storage. It’s about creating a beautiful space that reflects your personality and lifestyle. Unlike mass-produced cabinets, custom designs are built to integrate perfectly into your space, maximising every inch and eliminating awkward gaps. This means you get a higher level of resolution to your room design. It’s the “Wow!” factor that makes your home feel special.

A beautiful modern Scandinavian kitchen with minimal classic wood kitchen cabinet, white tiles wall
Residential interior of modern kitchen in luxury mansion, 3d rendering

Designer Interviews

We recently had the privilege of speaking with two talented interior designers from Perth who shared their passion for creating unique and functional spaces through custom cabinetry.

During our conversation, we learned about designing spaces with cabinetry that truly reflects the client’s needs and desires. Here’s how the professionals do custom cabinetry.

Jess O'Shea

Jess O’Shea

Design Benefits of Custom Cabinetry

What are the primary advantages of choosing custom cabinetry over other off-the-shelf pre-made options currently on the market?

The main perk is having the freedom to do whatever you like, rather than doing a bit of Tetris with existing blocks. Using custom cabinetry means you can play around with it. The initial part of our discussions with the clients is about understanding their morning, evening and daily routines as a family and individually. We want to understand the way they move in a space. This means that we can create, in detail, custom cabinetry to suit their lives rather than being restricted by what we can buy off the shelf.

Cost of Custom Cabinetry

People might think that custom cabinetry is expensive. Has custom cabinetry that can be delivered in Flatpacks changed that?

Yes, people don’t often put the two together. When we think of flatpack, we think of standard offerings with a very limited range. Accessing custom flatpack cabinetry can improve the quality of a project while still working within a restricted budget.

Interior Design Process

Could you walk us through the design process for custom cabinetry? How do you collaborate with clients to bring their vision to life?
At the start, we have a detailed brief meeting with our clients. This is about the small details. We look at how many cutlery sets they’ve got. What kind of cooking do they do? How many people would cook in the kitchen at one time? This is about getting a clear idea of how they want to use the space and what storage is required. We look carefully at benchtop heights and those kinds of details. We take that away, absorb all of that information, and come up with a clear idea of how they want that space to look. We then put our input into that. Then, we start the design journey with plans and materials for the custom cabinetry. It’s a process.
Do many clients come with a vision for what they want, or do you extract the elements and help them create the vision together?
Clients will often come up with some ideas. It’s usually a Pinterest board or something like that they’ve collected. They often say, “I don’t even know if this will make any sense.” It could be so many images over quite a long period of time, but you can see the journey that someone’s taken visually. There’s generally some consistency to it so that you can pick out the elements from it, and then we’ll filter through all of that and create a new visual direction.
What are your strategies for designing custom cabinets that maximise space and functionality, especially in smaller or uniquely shaped areas?”
You mentally file away things that have worked for previous projects. This might be appliance cupboards with pocket doors, what spacing works, how far your microwave can sit off the bench, that sort of thing. People talk about the working triangle, which is, I think, a load of rubbish. When you had these U-shaped kitchens, there was probably an element of that, but everyone uses their kitchen so differently. There are certain zones, and having a bin close to the sink is good, but it doesn’t have to be so rigid. We’ve had Indian clients and their families, and the way they work is different. Their appliances are more separated or have certain kinds of storage requirements that differ from others. There’s no hard and fast rule, and that’s why it is so nice to understand how these clients will work in their own space.

Image: Adobe Stock

“When spaces work, it has an amazing impact.”

Achieving The Finish

In terms of the look and feel of cabinetry after installation, what do you notice about the finish of custom cabinetry?

The biggest difference is in the small details. Again, our drawings will specify the width of a scribe that goes to the wall. We’ll specify whether or not this door finishes flush with the top of the cabinet or if it’s below. When it’s pre-made, you’re dealing with what that cabinetry construction has been done. Same thing with bench top overhangs. It’s all the small stuff that makes the biggest difference. Looking at a custom kitchen that’s been completed, you can see that it’s just so much more refined.

Custom cabinetry is good for a client. It’s a relationship, so people are coming to us for advice. It’s good for clients to clearly understand what they ideally like, want or strongly dislike. If someone says, “I don’t know what I like, but I can tell you what I don’t like,” that’s great because it helps that design process. When you’re going custom, the world’s your oyster, so for a designer, if you say, “Do whatever you like”- that’s not a brief because it’s too open. We want to create space for them, so we need more information about their preferences.

Can you describe the feeling when you’ve specified a custom space and see it all installed?

Oh, I love it. I look like Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. I just get the biggest grin on my face, walking into a space that has been finished exactly how we want it to be. It’s also wonderful to get feedback from clients about what they love. You integrate all these little tricks into custom cabinetry. This is especially relevant with families when they have mornings and evenings of mayhem. I love integrating these little storage things or zones that work for the family. They use useful spaces every day, multiple times a day. So, when those spaces work, they have an amazing impact on those clients. I love to hear that what we’ve done has an amazing effect on their lives. That’s why we do it.

Annie Benson

Annie Benson

Custom Cabinetry

What are the primary advantages of choosing custom cabinetry over the-shelf pre-made products?

Custom cabinetry will fit properly. It will perfectly fit the space, even if there are some odd angles you are working with. Many off-the-shelf items have limitations with sizes with certain brands. Working with the fit of custom cabinetry gives you more freedom to design for the space.

You also get better quality. With custom fits, you have more choice over the quality components. Finishes like handles and beautiful, smooth, soft-closing hinges—the bling.

Design 

Could you walk us through the design process for custom cabinetry? How do you collaborate with clients to bring their vision to life?

Image: Adobe Stock

It’s about their lifestyle, how they work in a kitchen or laundry space or scullery. I listen to that. I also ask for any personal pieces like art, furniture or something they might like to include in that space. It might be their grandmother’s kitchen stools; they want that to be the focal point. It’s about incorporating those personal pieces to introduce something meaningful, a talking point. We start by exploring those things together. Then we talk about the finishes, whether organic, matt or textured.

I often like to walk through their homes to get a feel for how they are, how they work, and what appeals to them. I can also draw from their colour preferences, whether they like bold or neutral. That can help me select the finishes, whether they want something slightly more neutral or bolder. 

There are many options, and they can be overwhelming. My job is to narrow down the options to fit the project vision and budget.

Cost

People might think custom cabinetry is expensive. However, you can now get custom flat-pack cabinetry. What are your thoughts on that?

There are differences in the price point, but you get what you pay for. You get better components, soft close runners, hinges and side rails, and it’s better quality when you go custom. Choosing custom flat-pack cabinetry can save you a lot of money if you have the skill set to assemble them yourself or have somebody do it for you. You have quality and economy.

Maximising Space

What are your strategies for designing custom cabinets that maximise space and functionality, especially in smaller or uniquely shaped areas? 

Well, I always recommend drawers. They’re just easier to access than shelves. Shelves often only give you two spaces to accommodate or store things, so drawers are great because you can pull them out, maximise the space, and easily find what’s there. You don’t tend to lose things. I steer away from using corner cabinets. If it’s on an island bench or something like that, I use the other side so they have access from the other side, giving the client more storage. Each space is individual, and I work to meet the client’s needs. That’s the way I approach design.

The Finish

Regarding the look and feel of custom cabinetry after installation, what do you notice about the feeling of a custom cabinetry fit-out?

Custom cabinetry looks very resolved. There are better quality runners, hinges and carpentry. You can notice the finish and with use, there is clearly better quality in how they are made. Off-the-shelf products are often rickety and become problematic. There are many do-it-yourself jobs, and I’m called in often to try and fix those. In contrast, custom cabinetry is long-lasting and a pleasure to use.

My priority is having a happy client, and I love that feeling when I see the happy client at the end and know that we’ve achieved what they visualised or wanted to achieve. Happy client, happy designer—I love that. Seeing happy clients is my greatest joy.

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