How would I approach getting new kitchen cabinets, in what order? If you are a longtime reader of this blog, you will probably not be surprised by my #1 recommendation. Here goes:
Reconsider the need for new kitchen cabinets at all.
If you have an older house with its original kitchen cabinets, those old cabinets may be of better quality than any “affordable” new cabinets available today. If your existing kitchen cabinets are sturdy and still serviceable, there are numerous ways to give them new life. This would help you avoid significant, unnecessary spending, not to mention the stress of a major renovation. Can you work with your cabinets? Refinish them if the wood is nice… Or repaint them… If the doors and drawers have decorative moldings and you want to go for a glazed look, try a solution like Rust-oleum Cabinet Transformations… Then, swap out the cabinet hardware for a fresh new/old look. Other ideas: Add glass-front doors to some of the wall cabinets, or take some doors off some of the wall cabinets for an open look.
Remember, Reality Check: You typically do not make your money back on remodeling projects — plan your spending with care.
Shop for vintage steel kitchen cabinets.
This is the route I took. The 1975 melamine cabinets in my 1951 kitchen were literally falling apart. I learned about vintage steel kitchen cabinets and went on a five-year hunt. I finally found my 1963 aquamarine Genevas, original finish, in great shape in a cooking school formerly run by nuns. I bought 67 cabinets for $3,000. I installed a bunch of them and then sold the leftovers on ebay for $2,500. And did you catch that: My cabinets are STEEL. Like Superman. With steel roll-out shelves. These cabinets will outlive me. Heck, barring a flood, they will live FOREVER.
Want to learn more about vintage steel kitchen cabinets? I have dozens of stories about vintage steel kitchen cabinets here on the blog. We also have a Forum focused on buying/selling steel cabinets — we’ve identified more than 75 vintage brands. Youngstown steel cabinets were the biggest-selling brand, so will be the most plentiful today. But St. Charles steel cabinets (shown in the photo above, 1941) are the best-of-the-best. The St. Charles’ were made of even heavier steel than my Genevas. They are something. Still, many of the other brands are wonderful — and will do the trick just fine. Searching out steel kitchen cabinets can be a chore. And then, you may need to have them repainted at additional expense. But dollar-for-dollar, I can’t imagine finding any better quality kitchen cabinets for your money, especially for a mid century house or any house with a kitchen being done with vintage flair.
For new wood cabinets, read the research on Consumer Reports.
I am a ginormous fan of Consumer Reports. All of their testing is independent. They are not beholden to advertisers. They exist to serve their subscribers. Whenever I am in the buying mode for big stuff, I buy an online subscription, so I can research like a maniac. It makes my decision-making process so much easier. Right now, they do not show any brand-by-brand tests of kitchen cabinets. But they do have an article about what kind of construction to look for if you are looking for new wood kitchen cabinets. So read up. Note, though, that their #1 recommendation is same as mine: Can you work with the cabinets you have?