Pros + Cons of Kitchen Design: Custom vs. Stock Kitchen

Pros + Cons of Kitchen Design: Custom vs. Stock Kitchen

kitchen with marble designed backsplash

Today’s kitchens are used for much more than just preparing food. They are one of the most often used, making them the heart of the home for many. They are the place we eat, gather, and make memories.

While kitchens used to be more closed off from the rest of the home, today’s popular open floor plans mean that the kitchen is often in full view of all who enter your home, making designing this all-important space a bit tricky and sometimes overwhelming.

custom kitchen design

So, when it comes to designing your dream kitchen you’re probably wondering:

  • Is a custom kitchen an option?
  • Should you go for more stock-like options that are offered at places like Ikea or home improvement stores?
  • Can you do a combination of both?

We’re breaking down the pros + cons of custom kitchen design so you can make the best decision possible for this important space in your home, a space you and those closest to you will enjoy for many years to come.

Here are some things to consider when you’re deciding between a custom kitchen and stock options:

kitchen view of interior design project with sleek staircase

How Does Your Layout Impact and/or Limit Your Custom Kitchen vs. Stock Kitchen Options?

Depending on the layout of your kitchen, going with the available stock options could mean the difference between a functional kitchen that meets your specific needs, and a not so functional kitchen with unused and not as user-friendly spaces.

While this might not seem important during the design process, it can become extremely important down the road when you realize your dream kitchen isn’t so dreamy anymore. So, before you figure out anything else design-wise, consider the functionality you’ll need in this space and how your layout can affect both your needs and your options. It’s important you really spend the time to work out what you want out of the kitchen, how you want it to function, and what’s important to you. Some of these considerations just might not be available with off-the-counter options. Here are some examples of design considerations when determining what type of kitchen works for you.

  • Will you need deeper cabinets or cabinets with space for larger, taller, and/or oddly shaped appliances?
  • If you entertain regularly, will you want gathering spaces? Think: large bar areas with seating plus storage to make the most of the space.
  • How do you want to use corners and niches so they don’t become dead and unreachable spaces?
  • If you’re a wine lover, will you want space to showcase your wine collection?
  • What style of cooking do you do? If you’re a gourmet cook, what custom options will you need to house your gourmet appliances and gadgets?
  • What will you be storing inside the cabinets, and where they should be located?

No matter what, if you don’t have the layout, and storage space to meet your needs, your kitchen can quickly become a space of frustration, and that custom option you assumed was inexpensive, often turns into a money pit.

kitchen faucets and backsplash of a custom project

Consider Your Materials and Finish Options

Let’s be honest: The way your kitchen looks is one of the top priorities, if not THE top priority. After all, you might be looking at this kitchen for decades, depending on how long you plan to live in your home (link back to blog 1), so you want to be in love with the look of your kitchen space from day 1 and for years to come.

The main difference between custom and stock kitchen options are the limitations of the latter. With stock kitchen options, you are often limited in colors, finishes, and features, and sometimes, these options are often made of sub-par quality materials.

Why a Custom Kitchen Might Cost Less Overtime

Custom cabinets can look more “finished” and can come in a wider variety of finishes than is available with stock options, and they are also manufactured from higher quality materials with higher quality hinges, locks, and handles. Plus, custom cabinets should simply last longer, making that initial higher cost outlay worth it over time.

One thing to consider when deciding between custom and stock is the traffic and traffic frequency in your kitchen space. The more traffic, the more wear and tear on everything in your kitchen, including cabinets and hardware. Consequently, the lower cost and quality that comes with stock options might not hold up over the years, necessitating a future remodel, adding additional expenses in the years to come.

Investing a little over time and money in a custom solution pays dividends. We currently live in a house with original custom cabinetry from 1984, which is still in perfect condition to this day. The mill work is exceptional quality and built to last. The cost overtime is a no-brainer.

Kitchen designed from an old bread factory in Connecticut

Are You Maximizing Your Space?

Similar to the first point about layout, even with a traditional layout, you want to make sure you are maximizing all your available space and meeting your needs. The trick here is that the core functionality of your kitchen space is different from house to house, person to person. Bottom line: Good kitchen design is rooted in function, and everyone uses a kitchen slightly differently.

By using a designer and creating something custom, you’re in a much better spot to max sure your space and needs are being taken care of. This important aspect of your kitchen may be missed if you do an off-the-shelf kitchen without the help of a designer. When it comes to maximizing space, custom cabinetry can offer extra depth or allow the space provided by high ceilings to be utilized in a way that standard cabinets cannot.

Related: How to remodel a kitchen on any budget

Again think about cost, and by this, we’re talking about filler materials. When stock cabinets are used, they oftentimes do not have the ability to fill all spaces in your kitchen layout. As a result, you spend more money on filler materials than you would if you had a kitchen built for your physical space.

For many property owners, their kitchens are not a one-size-fits-all, and that’s important to consider when you’re thinking about your space.

  • If you have a smaller kitchen space, then you can realistically do a custom kitchen on a budget since that space is smaller, and custom will also allow you to use every inch of space in the best way possible.
  • If your kitchen is larger in scale, and depending on your budget, custom options can allow you to make room for larger appliances and customizations you want to fill your space without making it appear cluttered or too vast. It all comes down to layout and needs.
Stewart_Schafer kitchen interior design

Consider Your Project Timeline

Since custom cabinets often have to be manufactured from scratch, they can definitely take longer to arrive at your home versus cabinets that can be picked up immediately. You might also experience delays depending on the availability of materials. But if you’ve got the time, custom cabinets can be a viable option for your kitchen space. Typically a custom kitchen can take 6-10 weeks to build, depending on the size and scope.

Related: Click here to read more about the phases of design, including the overall timeline.

Founders of Stewart-Schafer in kitchen they renovated

Should you hire a designer to help you navigate your vision?

This is a very involved question, so here are some things to consider when deciding whether or not to use a designer for your kitchen space. One big reason people decide to go with stock cabinetry is because they wrongly assume it’s cheaper, and they don’t have the financial resources for custom options. While custom kitchen companies can be very expensive, there are options outside of these custom companies. Designers have direct access to fabricators who are able to customize kitchens, sidestepping the kitchen companies that charge huge mark ups. When you sidestep these companies and deal with a fabricator directly with designer’s assistance, the cost to go custom is not as high as you would expect. You just need someone to hold your hand through the process—your designer.

Related: Click here for more info on what to know before hiring an interior designer

Consider this: there are companies who use Ikea off-the-shelf boxes and then add their own custom fronts to create what they are marketing as custom, cost-effective solutions. This is not the case, and it is just a marketing spin, making these companies a lot of money and making your “custom” kitchen over-priced and not so custom, especially quality-wise. There is no benefit to using these companies, and their cost can actually be higher than if you work directly with a designer and a fabricator to create a 100% custom kitchen to the size and specifications you’re wanting.

It’s easy to notice a bad design, especially in your kitchen space, so if you find yourself having to walk across the room to get to the trash, or if a drawer is too small, or if the dishwasher is not close to the sink, or if you literally have to crawl to the back of a cabinet to retrieve a needed item, a designer who understands both your needs and kitchen core functionality can be an investment-worthy of your consideration. Have questions about how to bring your dream kitchen to reality? Contact us. We’re ready to help!

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