Custom creations

Add design and functionality to your kitchen by investing in customised cabinetry

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It is a place of entertainment and romance, a place to relax and indulge. So when it comes to building or renovating your house, whether an apartment for two or a sprawling family abode, it makes sense to invest in the customised kitchen of your dreams.

Cabinetry is an essential element of any kitchen. However, off-the-shelf cabinets that are not tailored to the space can create problems with storage and function while compromising on style.
Customised cabinetry will not only create the look you want, but ensure the kitchen suits your needs.

Lydia Geerlings, interior designer at Designworks Ltd, believes investing in a customised kitchen is one of the best decisions a homeowner can make. 

“As a general rule of thumb, you should spend approximately five per cent of the value of your home on the kitchen, excluding appliances,” Lydia says. “Given that a properly designed kitchen can bring so much daily enjoyment, and is one of the main areas for attracting potential buyers, five per cent doesn’t seem like too much of an investment.”

Kenny Wulffsberg, co-owner of Mario and Son, agrees. The experienced carpenter says customised cabinetry adds a level of design and functionality that cannot be achieved with off-the-shelf products.

“It all depends on what you want,” Kenny explains. “For a small unit, it might not be worth spending $20,000 on a kitchen. But for a substantial home, it will be worth it. There’s a lot of special stuff in cabinetry that you can’t get from chain hardware stores.”

Lydia says the most important element to consider with custom cabinetry is how the kitchen is going to be used.

“One of the first things I do for a client is dispense with most of the rules and instead focus on how they want to use the space,” Lydia says. “Forget about all the usual formulas, such as ‘You must have a pantry’, as these can hold you back and prevent the formation of new concepts for approaching the space.”

Rick Singer, operations manager at Pooley Design Studio, explains that the use of the kitchen will determine the size, style and finish of the cabinetry and will ensure the space is perfectly tailored to the client’s needs.

“People that cook less need less practical kitchens, so the look can be very sleek, ultra modern, with high-lacquer Italian finishes,” Rick says. “People that cook need a lot of function and the right materials, so they don’t have to worry about scratching and chipping.

“For a family with kids, for example, I would stay away from lacquer [finish] and use a stain instead, as it is easier to clean. And you need to be really careful of corners with kids.” 

Function is an integral component of any kitchen. A functional kitchen will be ergonomic and take into account features such as storage, lighting, hardware and plumbing. But from an aesthetic point of view, function does not mean lack of style. In fact, recent advancements in hardware and materials mean the two go hand in hand.

“Function and style are the same now,” says Rick, who sources much of his cabinetry from Italy. “A lot of the features are designed to add function and style to your kitchen. Some people don’t want their kitchen to look like a kitchen. They want it to be a piece of art.”

Lydia believes this combination of function and style has created endless options for customised cabinetry, as homeowners are now limited only by their imagination.

“There have been exceptional advancements in the past few years that make working in a kitchen so much more intuitive,” Lydia says. “Customised cabinetry will have all the right hardware to ensure working in it is a dream, such as silent drawers, cupboards that close without a ‘bang’, rubbish bins hidden in drawers that open with a slight touch of the hip.”

To maximise storage, overhead cabinets can increase bench space while corner cupboards with folding doors can take advantage of awkward angles. The type of bench you choose, for example an island bench or a bench against the wall, can provide different levels of access to your kitchen and space. 

On island, Kenny has noticed a move towards sleek, European-inspired kitchens. He says the introduction of new designs has led to greater choice in styles.

“There is always new hardware coming on to the market, in hinges, drawers, lights and finishes,” Kenny says.

“That modern, integrated look is becoming very popular down here. There are a lot of clean lines. The dishwasher is hidden behind the same panels as the rest of the cabinetry; the fridge is in line with the cabinets. There are few details, no handles or accessories.”

Rick has also witnessed this move towards a modern aesthetic, which he attributes to the fact that “people are always changing”. He says hardware such as soft-closing and self-closing hinges are becoming standard, as they are practical and easy to use.

When it comes to cabinetry materials, there are a number of elements to consider, including budget and aesthetics. Lydia believes climate is also relevant as heat and humidity can be harsh on materials.

“You need to consider and prioritise each of these factors so you have a starting point,” Lydia suggests.

“This will help you narrow down the untold options – solid timber, veneer on plywood or medium-density plywood, high-pressure laminates in funky designs, framed doors with inserts that can vary from woven cane to glass to cool wallpaper, high gloss or matte lacquer, metal wrapped doors.”

Rick warns that with a painted finish, “you’re going to see the paint joints because of the humidity”. He believes stains are one of the best finishes to use in Cayman, as they are much easier to keep clean than high-gloss lacquer.

So, what is the most important thing to remember when designing a custom kitchen? Designers and carpenters agree: create a space you absolutely love.

“A customised kitchen will fit like a tailored suit,” Lydia says. “The trick is to always think outside the box and don’t be afraid to design what you want. After all, it is your kitchen.” 


Stephen Clarke