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Cabinet Beginnings

One of the main ways we are saving huge amounts of money on the kitchen is by building our own cabinets. Way back when Adam and I were dating (as teenagers about 14 years ago) his family ran a custom cabinet shop. They built the cabinets themselves, which means that my handy husband isn’t new to this whole cabinet building thing. We got a quote for cabinets anyway (just to make sure building our own was worth the time and effort) and it came back around 10K. So far Adam has built and installed all the cabinet boxes (so no drawers or doors yet) and it has only cost us $500. Worth it. It helps that we are making paint grade cabinets, if we were leaving them wood we would need to buy much more expensive materials and build them more carefully.

The first step in building cabinets was designing exactly how we wanted them. I’m not going to lie, this stressed me out a little. I felt like I had to plan where every pot, dish, and utensil was going before we even started building. I wanted everything to have a place so that the kitchen would be functional and organized, but doing that much planning in that much detail is just hard. Anyway, Adam and I talked, pinned, planned, he asked me a million questions, and eventually he drew up some sketches.

kitchen sketch sink wall


kitchen sketch oven wall

Then it was time to start building. Adam and Darin (remember Darin and Jody, our house building buddies?) built them together in Darin’s workshop, and since we basically have the same house they built the exact same kitchen twice. Makes it easy.

building kitchen cabinets

(They built them back in January…no one is wearing sweaters in Texas in June, trust me).

So about an hour into working Adam called me and said “Darin and I talked and you and Jody no longer have an opinion about the cabinets. We’re just going to build them the way that makes the most sense and you will love them.” As soon as he said that I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The kitchen design was no longer my concern and I felt pretty darn great about that.

Anyway, the actual cabinets look almost nothing like the design sketches. The biggest change is that there are only two upper cabinets instead of five intricate ones (which I love), plus they somehow managed to center the vent hood and oven and switch the dishwasher to the other side of the sink.

So here is the quick and dirty version of how they made them.

First they made the face frames, which are made from 3/4 inch thick (and 1.5 inch wide) poplar strips and assembled with wood glue and a Kreg Jig.

custom cabinet face frames

kitchen cabinet face frames built with a Kreg Jig

Next they cut all the sides, which are made from 5/8 thick birch plywood (thicker than normal plywood).

custom cabinets before assembly

Then they started assembling the cases, with wood glue and the Kreg Jig again. Adam really loves his Kreg Jig.

DIY custom kitchen cabinets

DIY kitchen cabinets

And voila, cabinets!

custom cabinet boxes

You like how I make this sound the easiest project ever? I think Adam would write a very different blog post (a much more useful and valuable one, I’m sure).

DIY kitchen cabinets

Next we moved to the outside “workshop” for caulking, priming, and painting.

cabinet building “workshop

caulking the cabinets

priming cabinets

Adam painted them first with an oil based primer (this one) and then went over that with a latex paint (SW ProClassic). I know that oil and latex paints aren’t supposed to be used together, but I promise you that’s not true anymore and this is the way to do it. I literally spent hours researching this (because our current painted kitchen cabinets are peeling) and all the paint professionals and internet info led me to the same conclusion.

Also, Adam used our trusty paint sprayer (same one he used to paint the whole house) to paint all the cabinets and it took him absolutely no time at all. I can’t recommend this sprayer enough if you have a lot of painting to do.

green cabinets attempt #1

The above picture is them painted with the green I originally picked (SW Grassland), when I was trying to copy my favorite kitchen (this one). After they were painted though, I kinda hated them. Instead of looking like a light neutral green, they look very…. pastel. They reminded me of an Easter egg. So I went back to Sherwin Williams to look for a better (darker) color…

Green options for kitchen cabinets

The first sample is the one I already used, the last one is the one I think I am gong to go with. Maybe. I’m having a really hard time with this, and they are already installed in the new house in the original color. I’ll repaint them by hand as soon as I can find something to do with Judah, who is 15 months now and mighty handsy. Actually, I imagine it would happen sometime after we move in so I can work after the kids go to bed.

DIY kitchen cabinet boxes

Anyway, that is part one of the cabinet adventure, CLICK HERE to see them installed in our kitchen!

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  1. Such a great skill set Adam’s got. It’s just awesome that you can have such nice cabinets and save so much money. Quality cabinets are unbelievably expensive!
    I like the middle shade of green, too. It’s going to look good either way.
    Two posts in two days…impressive! :D

  2. Personally, I think you nailed the cabinet color. I think you aren’t loving it because you are only looking at solid expanses of it with no other elements…. such as the hardware, countertops, backsplash and all the other stuff. I’m glad you think you aren’t going to repaint them until you move in because I think when all the other stuff is there, you’ll see that it’s another win by Ashley!

    1. Yes! I bought this paint sprayer it have yet to use it. I would love to see a blog post or video on it!

  3. Congratulations, you did an awesome work here! I love the colours you’ve chosen! Plus, making a cabinet on your own requires a lot of skills, but you really nailed it! Keep up the good work!

  4. I reckon the Herbal Wash is the better colour for the cupboards. I think since you have such a big area and tall ceilings you need more of a statement colour. That’s the one! The pale colour would be best I think, in a smaller room.
    How lucky are you to have such a great team to make the cupboards! Jealous here. Loving it all and I WILL wait for the update via here and not instagram! I like to be patient.

  5. I’m so envious, no not really. What a great team and support system you have. You are all so gifted. Can’t wait to see it finished and thanks for sharing your journey and being an inspiration to those of us on the sidelines.

  6. You’re so right about latex for cabinets! I’ve done both latex & lacquer. We currently have lacquer that we painted 12 years ago–can’t believe it’s been that long–& it’s so chippy now…not the cool old chippy either! It looks beat & tired. Meanwhile the latex cabs that I painted (with an airless just like you did) 13 years ago still look great in our old house that has been a rental for 12 years. Latex has stood the test of time, even with a couple not-so-loving tenants. I plan to spray our “weekend place” kitchen cabinets with latex when that project kicks off next summer.

  7. Hi Ashley! Love the cabinets and the layout design. Some people go for looks in a kitchen but then it’s not functional to use. You guys nailed the look and the function!

    I enjoyed seeing how you built the cabinets, not junk MDF or particle boards that’ll fall apart in a few years. Real plywood that’ll last. Nice paint color too! And the Kreg Jig is awesome :)

  8. Morning , the cabinet making process is very exciting and challenging, however I am pleased with motivation and incredible skill and work you’ve showed, thanks and continue to keep the woodworking field an on going learning experience wonderful !

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