Maybe It’s Time for Custom Cabinetry

These days, you can let your creativity flourish when planning a kitchen makeover. The team at Premier Woodwork can customize cabinetry to just about any specifications.


So you want to improve your kitchen. Maybe you plan to open some walls and reconfigure the space. Or maybe you’re seeking to freshen up an outdated space. Perhaps you already have a mental picture of your dream kitchen.

But have you given much thought to your cabinets? They’re easy to take for granted, yet they’re one of the most apparent and foundational components in your new room.

Many a kitchen designer selects cabinets from big-box producers, which manufacture standard units and shapes. But John Kruschke approaches cabinets from a different perspective. The owner of Premier Woodwork, 1522 Seventh St., in Rockford, leads a team of 15 craftsmen who can produce, by hand, the same components and contraptions offered by the big-box producers. Not only are these cabinets made locally, but they’re made with quality craftsmanship and built to fit precisely.

“I see custom cabinets as being more permanent fixtures, like furniture, rather than just going to a box store and buying cabinets,” Kruschke says. “Maybe 10 years down the road, you’ll replace those big-box cabinets. Why not spend the money and buy something that’s going to last a lifetime?”

Custom cabinets allow homeowners to get exactly what they want in shapes, sizes, colors and trims. The customizability is an advantage when fixing up older homes, where space may be limited or awkward.

“A lot of times in older homes, kitchens are smaller, so we can put more cabinetry and features in a smaller space, to make better use out of the space,” Kruschke says. “For example, when the home was built, there wasn’t a lot of thought on storage, but now we can do cabinets that go all the way up to the ceiling.”

Kruschke’s specialty is cabinetry, so it’s not unusual for him to work in coordination with a dedicated kitchen designer who can tie together the new cabinets with paint colors, countertops, flooring and light fixtures. Those designers also can help Kruschke to identify a working floor plan and appropriate sizes for cabinets.

Whether working with a designer or directly with a cabinet builder, homeowners should be prepared with photographs of kitchens they like. Some of Kruschke’s first questions center around visuals.

“Generally, I ask if there’s some starting point, maybe a style they like, if they have photographs, or if they have examples from Houzz or Pinterest,” he says. “I need to know whether they want to paint the cabinets, if there are certain wood species they like, if they like light or dark. I can go from there, based on what they like, and come up with a design that works.”

Lately, Kruschke has seen a trend toward darker cabinet colors and the return of an espresso finish. The classic white cabinet remains a timeless choice, though it’s received a touch of modern chic.

“We’re seeing a lot of white cabinets that have an added gray or brown glaze to them,” he says. “It highlights the moldings, the details and the profile of the door. There’s a paint that we put in the groove of the moldings and it creates a shadow effect. It looks really nice.”

When Kruschke says cabinets are fully customizable, he means it. His office and the hallway outside are filled with samples: boards filled with molding choices and sample cabinet doors leaning against a wall. Samples of baseboard and trim options mix with kitchen designs on his desk. Little accents provide a subtle, yet powerful accent.

“We’re able to add additional pieces of light rail or molding, and maybe we’ll put in some crown moldings, too,” he says. “We can use moldings and create a column look on the corners of an island. Those small touches make your cabinets appear more like furniture.”
It’s the little details that make a big difference in quality, too.

“We still use old-time joinery that was used in cabinets years ago,” says Kruschke. “We use the best hardware and build cabinets that are made with three-quarter inch sides. It’s all solid wood fronts, dovetail corners.”

Gadgets and hardware are making their way into more and more locations in kitchen cabinets. Virtually anything you’ll find in a large-scale cabinet manufacturer Kruschke can install in a custom cabinet. Tools like soft-close cabinets are old news.

“There’s an array of hardware we can put in, from trash rollouts and pullouts to liftup doors that lift or slide up,” says Kruschke. “We can do TVs that come out of the countertop or mixer units that swing up.”

Technology is integrating itself into the kitchen in new ways, and custom cabinetmakers can adjust accordingly. One of Kruschke’s new tricks, useful in kitchens or in family room entertainment hubs, is the pop-up TV.

“You put the TV in a base cabinet and the facing is false. It just looks like cabinetry,” says Kruschke. “The lid pops up from the countertop and raises up to reveal the TV. Then, it goes back down again. We can use a remote control. It’s pretty slick.

The team at Premier Woodwork is used to doing high-end woodwork for settings like banks and hospitals, so it’s easy to create a wet bar and other accents that class up the basement.

“We don’t really call them basements anymore – they’re called lower levels because they’re so nice,” says Kruschke. “They’re done like the rest of the home these days, so you outfit it with the same kind of cabinetry – wet bars, bars with seating, game rooms, wainscot paneling on the walls, that kind of thing.”

The real estate market may be picking up, but that’s not stopping homeowners from investing in things like custom cabinetry. The team at Premier Woodwork is keeping busy with new residential projects. In fact, business is so good that Kruschke is expanding the operation into a 15,000 square-foot space next door.

“Homeowners are figuring that remodeling where they’re at is more cost-effective and staying where they are is a safer choice,” says Kruschke. “After the recession, remodeling seemed to pick up. Residential is booming, and we’re keeping very busy.”

Custom cabinet creation can take about eight weeks from design to fabrication. Of course, that timeline also depends on the design work and any changes the client might make along the way. Be prepared for unexpected delays that might pop up.

“Sometimes when they start doing demolition on an older home, they find things they didn’t realize were there, and we have to make changes accordingly,” says Kruschke.

Custom cabinetry typically costs more than pre-sized manufactured cabinets. But it’s the quality craftsmanship, made by local, rather than foreign, craftsmen, that sets this option apart.

“You’re getting quality, and you’re getting something that’s custom,” says Kruschke. “You get something that fits this space and it fits your look, your design, your paint color choices. So, many times, somebody calls me and says they can’t get just what they want, size-wise. We can make something that’s a three-quarter of an inch difference.”

Not to mention, they can add most any gadget or accent, because, when you make it yourself, you have unlimited possibilities.

“A lot of people say, ‘Is this something you can do?’” Kruschke says. “Yeah, if it’s made of wood, we can do it.”