Kitchen Cabinets: The Good, The Great, and The Excellent

If you’ve ever had to redo a kitchen—I mean a total gut job—then you know that the cost of the cabinets is usually your largest expenditure (unless you go all crazy and ask for glazed lava stone countertops from France, which can set you back $300 per square foot. Yikes!). The problem, however, is that if you’re short on green, most entry-level cabinets from large home supply stores look and feel like hell. But the outlook isn’t as grim as it seems. There are some really good options out there, but here are some that we like.

The Good: Ikea and Tonusa Elements

Yes, you know the Swedish company for cheap knick knacks and funny sounding designs (The hell is  EKTORP anyway?) But the company’s AKURUM cabinet system is no joke. Yes, the boxes are made from particleboard with melamine foil. And sure, they come flat packed and have to be assembled. But the door selections can’t be beat for the price point, the hinges are high quality stuff, and the line can take a beating.


The California company is known for good entry to mid-level style cabinets, but not too long ago they partnered with famed designer Fu-Tung Cheng, to come up with Elements—a “highly-elevated design of kitchen to more homes at a more affordable price.” It uses materials not typically found on cabinets in this range: aluminum shelves, bamboo uppers, integrated drip-trays, rubberized plate holders, sliding translucent panels, wood veneers, and laminate.

Tonusa Elements

The Great: KraftMaid Kitchen Cabinets and Viola Park

KtaftMaid used to offer a kick-ass modern cabinet line called Venicia—sort of like a higher-end version of Ikea—but then some genius at the company decided it would be a good idea to kill the brand. Still, the semi-custom company makes other really good modern, traditional, and transitional stuff. Features include wood face frames, plywood boxes, and dovetail drawers.


Viola Park is the mid-priced cabinet line from ultra premium custom company Henrybuilt, but you will easily mistake it for a much more expensive product. Launched as an alternative to Ikea, the line offers modular pieces that can be used in a range of configurations. It uses high-quality materials (such as walnut bamboo, and maple), hardware, and construction techniques. Expect to spend about $15,000 to $20,000 for your cabinets.

Viola Park
Viola Park
Viola Park

The Excellent: Plain & Fancy Cabinets and Bulthaup

Whatever you want, in whatever style you want, with any feature you want—Plain & Fancy has you covered. The all custom cabinet company builds each cabinet in one of two ways: framed, mortise and tenon construction with soft-close dovetail drawers or European-style full-access (frameless) dowel construction, also with soft-close dovetail drawers. The company carries no inventory, as each kitchen is built to the homeowner’s specifications from wood species to door style.

Plain & Fancy Cabinets
Plain & Fancy Cabinets

There are many ultra high-end cabinet lines in the market, and the German manufacturer Bulthaup is one of the top brands. The company specializes in the architecture of kitchen cabinets and is one of the pioneers in innovation such as its b3 line, which uses a multi-functional wall that allows cabinets to hang from the wall rather than sit on the floor. It uses high-quality veneers, lacquered finishes, glass, laminate, and a host of other materials.


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