Millwork Details to Elevate Your Space

Millwork has definitely been one of the most time consuming parts of our build. In addition to the amount of time spent designing the plans for our millwork, I’ve also spent countless hours agonizing over all of the small details and, still, I am almost certain that once we move in there will be things that I wish we’d done differently. Until then, here are a few of the design details that we’ve included in our millwork plans to elevate the look of our cabinetry.

The Ends of the Cabinets

In our first home, we didn’t add any decorative elements to our millwork. The ends and corners of our cabinets were left flat. With our second home, the majority of the millwork was built-in between walls, so we didn’t have any exposed cabinet ends to consider.

This time around, we have several exposed ends, so I’ve tried to be purposeful in designing those spaces.

In our laundry room, for example, since the end of our cabinet is exposed, we made sure to add some decorative panelling to tie it in to the rest of the millwork. You wouldn’t think to notice the ends of cabinets but when you compare the drawings with and without the finished ends, it’s a no-brainer – decorative panels go a long way to elevate the space.

Pay Attention to the Top and Bottom of your Cabinets

Another added detail that we were conscious to pay close attention to this time around was the top and bottom of our kitchen cabinets.

For example, we have one section in our kitchen where the end of the cabinet is exposed. We decided to add a decorative baseboard to that panel so that it blends in with our kitchen island.

Since we have 12-foot ceilings in the kitchen, we added a 2-foot bulkhead and then 10 feet of cabinetry. In order to make the bulkhead and cabinetry appear seamless (and intentional), we added this modified molding that will close any gaps between our upper cabinets and the bulkhead.

Let Your Counters be the Showpiece

We put a lot of focus on our millwork in the kitchen and laundry room because those were our two largest cabinet spaces where we need our millwork to be functional and, ideally, pretty. In other areas, such as the master ensuite and the Jack & Jill bathroom, we opted to go for a clean and simple cabinet design (no additional detail work) and are making our stone countertops the showpiece of the space.

The boys’ vanities, for example, are just a set of two drawers for each boy (no cabinets); we want the eye to focus on the counters – which will be a 5-inch thick skirted edge – and let the millwork blend into the background.

Custom is Not Always Best

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves when building a custom home to try to have everything created and designed specifically for us. But all of those personalized designs come at cost. There are definitely spaces in our home where we don’t need to invent the wheel. In our guest bathroom, for example, we omitted all custom millwork and purchased a ready-made vanity from Home Depot. We framed the space so that the vanity is snug between two walls and that will help give it the built-in look without the custom-built price.

Store bought vanity from Home Depot Canada

In our case, as in most cases when you’re building a home, millwork was one of the priciest items in terms of “add-ons” for the house. My biggest piece of advice where millwork is concerned is to be intentional, purposeful and resourceful with each space. In addition to the above tips, consider making a wish list of everything you’d like and then work with that to create your space. For example, I knew early on that my wish list items for our pantry and mudroom were too expensive to fit in to budget at this time. Instead of settling for less, we decided to completely omit those spaces from our current millwork plans. We allocated the funds for those spaces towards finishing the kitchen, laundry and bathrooms the way we want them and we’ll tackle the pantry and mudroom down the road. If there’s an area of your house that you really want custom but it’s not currently in the budget, consider not doing it all for now. I’ve often heard that “imperfect action is better than perfect inaction” but I don’t believe that applies when building a home or renovating a space. Personally, I don’t believe in spending money on things I don’t love, so I prefer to do nothing until I am ready to make it my everything.

Tips For Choosing Your Cabinet Hardware

Our home is still a ways from being finished but, as is customary, we have already had several design meetings with our millwork company to finalize the drawings for all of our cabinetry. And, this week, we finalized everything!!! So now comes the fun part – choosing the jewelry for our designs (i.e.: the hardware).

When we built our second Production Home, we asked Mattamy Homes to omit all of the cabinetry hardware and opted to install it ourselves after moving in. The reason was simple – we didn’t like anything that Mattamy was offering. At that time, I did quite a bit of research on different hardware styles, finishes, sizes, placement on the cabinets, etc. While I always liked our selections, I felt I played it safe in that I didn’t mix metals and kept the hardware in each space uniform. This time around, I’m trying to be a little more intentional about our selections by applying the tips I’ve learned along the way.

#1 Review your millwork measurements

My number one (that I have applied to my own home religiously) is to really review your millwork plans. I start by printing the plans (which include the exact measurement of each cabinet and drawer) for all of the rooms where we’re going to need hardware (kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room).

From there, group same size drawers (width wise) and cabinets (height wise) so that you know how many of a specific sized knob or pull you will need for the space. In our master ensuite, for example, we have 6 drawers and 4 cabinet doors that are all around 20-30″ wide (for drawers) and high (for cabinet doors), so it makes sense to order all of the same hardware since the pulls will look uniform throughout the space. In our laundry room, however, I have a mix of 10″ cabinets, 24″ drawers and even 48″ upper cabinets, so a one-size-fits-all hardware would not work there (my 3″ bar pull might look good on a 10″ cabinet but it’ll feel flimsy when opening our 24″ drawers).

The internet is full of resources for what size hardware works best on different cabinetry sizes. I personally like this latest one from Schoolhouse Living – it is simple and clean and the size options are universal.

#2 Finishes – same same but different…

There’s a lot of literature and opinions about mixing hardware and compelling reasons for and against doing it. I personally have never mixed metals before; having knobs and cups in one space was about as adventurous as I got in our last house. But this time, since we’re building fully custom, I’m throwing the conservative rule book out the window.

While I want to mix things up, I still want it to flow. In the laundry room, for example, I am aiming to maintain a cohesive look by mixing different hardware designs that are from the same color family. So our large cabinet doors will have polished nickel latches, while the pull-out drying racks and other drawers will have more detailed bar pulls in the same polished nickel finish.

Laundry Room Hardware Selections

#3 Texture vs. Design

Our current rental is a typical builder-grade Mattamy home. They used the same handles, in the same finish, throughout the entire house (kitchen and bathrooms). While it certainly is uniform, it also falls flat. So another way that we’re having fun with our hardware selections is by using different hardware shapes and sizes for different spaces.

The boys’ vanities, for example, are a forest green color with 5″ stone countertops. We want the countertops to be the focal point but still want interesting hardware, so I opted for simple black bar pulls that have a textured finish for added interest.

#4 Make a list of your selections

My final tip is something we are doing for all aspects of our home’s finishing choices (tile, lights, hardware, paint, etc.). While I love everything I am choosing right now, it’s inevitable that at some point in the future I will want to change things up and one of the easiest ways to spruce up any space is to swap out hardware. The one limiting factor with hardware is that you have to buy the same size or else you’ll have to contend with patching up holes in your millwork. And in the age of online shopping, you can’t always bring a handle to the store to compare, so by keeping a list of your hardware choices, ideally with an online link that provides a description, you can easily get the specs for your hardware to order different (but same size) ones in the future.

In our case, we will also have spaces that aren’t yet completed (such as our pantry) that I will eventually want matching hardware. By keeping a detailed list of our selections now, I can simply refer to the links later on to order additional knobs and pulls.

When you’re building a house, there are many big budget items, such as millwork, that consume a lot of your time and reflection. By the time you are picking hardware, it is not uncommon to be suffering from decision overload and to not give this aspect of the build the detailed attention it deserves. But you need to remember that hardware (and lights and tiles) is really what makes the space. While you might have paid a lot for cabinetry, a shaker door is a shaker door; dressing it up with the right hardware is how you can elevate the baseline. So if I can offer any advice when building your home, it is to really analyze your hardware selections by considering some of the above tips.

Custom Home: Month 9 – Taking Shape

January was one of those months where workers were at the land almost every day but yet it always looked the same… until, one day, it just all came together…

The trusses came up this month and man were we nervous… When we were designing the house, we really wanted to have a high roof pitch but didn’t want to spend extra on the upgrade. So we took the maximum of what was offered and just hoped that a 6:12 pitch would have the effect that we envisioned for our exterior – and IT DID! The pitch is not super high – which I don’t think would have gone well with the style of the house anyway – but it is distinct enough so that the roof doesn’t look flat…

View from our kitchen when the trusses were just about done!

Finishing the roof was next on the list. We kept it simple with black shingles and love how it came out.

Next up for the house is the installation of windows and doors. We were hoping to have those in by the end of January but they were delayed and install is now projected for some time during the month of February.

From a design perspective, we met with our millwork designer to start planning out our cabinetry. She patiently listened to all of our wish list and took detailed notes. She is now working on drawing it all out in order to provide us with a quote. I removed several upper cabinets from our plans and replaced them with shelves thinking we might save some money that way but, as we quickly learned, there isn’t much difference in cost between doing a cabinet or a floating shelf…so, needless to say, there will be lots of upgrades where the millwork is concerned.

If I had one piece of “budget” advice to give, I would strongly recommend using the time between when you finalize your floor plans (and have a good idea of sizes and layouts) and when you receive the permits (there is usually a 6-10 week period there) to actually meet with the millwork people and get a ballpark of what your dream layouts would cost so that you can then account for that in the budget from the onset… Had we had the benefit of that knowledge, we would likely have cut down on certain upgrades that we did to our windows, doors and a few other things that we have already committed to. Anyhow, we already know that we aren’t going to be able to get all the millwork that we want right away but, with time, we’ll finish those areas (such as the mudroom and pantry) that are not going to be upgraded in the initial build.

Month 10 should have the house completely sealed up with windows and exterior doors. Not sure what comes after that but, regardless, each day is one day closer to seeing this project come to fruition.

She looks like a house!