Custom cabinetry makes a big difference in a home, but the process of choosing and designing custom cabinets can be harder than it may seem. 

From picking the right type of natural wood to choosing your stain color, each decision in custom cabinetry is important.

Today, we’re teaming up with expert Tyler Farrell, owner of Killowen Cabinet Co. to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about custom cabinetry. 

We asked Tyler about everything from the typical custom cabinetry timeline to his process working on the cabinets in The McGee Home, and we’re so excited to share his answers!

Here’s what you need to know about custom cabinetry: 

Killowen Cabinet Co.    working on    The McGee Home Kitchen.

Killowen Cabinet Co. working on The McGee Home Kitchen.

What is the big difference between custom and pre-manufactured cabinetry / why should you go custom?

With custom cabinets, you can have anything you ever dreamed of with a perfect fit for your house. Custom cabinets get down to 1/32″ for a custom fit. Pre-manufactured cabinets will only give you widths of 36″ to get the most yield out of each wood sheet. That means when you put pre-manufactured cabinets in, you have to add big fillers. 

Also, with pre-manufactured cabinets, your selections, from door styles to colors, will be very limited all the way around.

White oak cabinets from a    recent kitchen design.

White oak cabinets from a recent kitchen design.


When designing custom cabinetry for a client, what is the process like from design to installation? 

It really depends on the project and the size of the job. There are a lot of factors. For example, Shea knew exactly what she wanted when we started designing the cabinets in The McGee Home, and we were able to match her vision and begin more quickly. 

On the other hand, if a customer doesn’t know what they want and wants to see many different styles and samples, it adds a lot of time to the process. We have created a client questionnaire that helps narrow down the client’s vision if they don’t have a designer involved. We absolutely prefer when a designer is involved because it streamlines the process significantly.

Once the selections are made, the design needs to be finished and approved, ideally 6-8 weeks before installation. 

When we start building, there are a few other factors that impact the timeline. Such as: Are we painting on site or pre-finishing? Are they inset or overlay cabinets? 

When it comes to install length, it depends on the size of the job. We can typically install a 6000 sq ft home in three weeks. 

The McGee Home Kitchen.

The McGee Home Kitchen.

Typical design-to-installation process

  • Make selections

  • Finish and approve designs

  • Building

  • Pre-finishing (if not painting on-site)

  • Install 

  • Painting on-site (if not pre-finished) 

What+You+Need+to+Know+About+Custom+Cabinetry
What You Need to Know About Custom Cabinetry

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Wood type: Maple

Paint shade: “Creamy White” by Benjamin Moore

Paint sheen: Matte

How do you select natural wood? What are you considering in this process?

When it comes to natural wood, it’s all about the look and the durability. Certain woods have different grain patterns and take on the stain and paint differently, and the durability between woods varies quite a bit. 

Choosing the right wood is another thing that completely depends on your home. Once we select wood, we dig for hours through units of wood to find the correct grain to match your house.

What is the difference between quarter, plain, rift, or live sawn / which do you recommend?

Quarter, plain, rift, and live sawn are methods of cutting the wood. In my opinion, there isn’t one that is better than the other. It all depends on the look that you are going for. Showing your designer or cabinet specialist examples of what you are envisioning will help them identify which type of cut and grain pattern is best. 

What You Need to Know About Custom Cabinetry

How do you work with your clients to create a stain that works for them?

We start with inspirational pictures or physical samples, and then we work on creating our own samples for reference. It’s all about preference when it comes to stain color, but it’s important to talk to consult with your paint store and pick lacquers that don’t yellow. 

The McGee Home Laundry Room.

The McGee Home Laundry Room.

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Wood type: Maple

Paint shade: Natural Cream by Benjamin Moore. 

Paint sheen: Satin

Do you prefer a matte finish or satin finish? Oil-based vs. water-based paints for cabinets? 

When working on our projects, we prefer the look of matte finishes, but there is a tradeoff with maintenance. Matte finishes will sometimes show your fingerprints because the oils off your hands have a higher sheen than the matte. Make sure to weigh out the pros and cons when making your decisions and choose something that works best for your lifestyle. 

The McGee Home Mudroom.

The McGee Home Mudroom.

What You Need to Know About Custom Cabinetry
What You Need to Know About Custom Cabinetry

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Wood type: Maple

Paint shade: Midnight by Benjamin Moore

Paint sheen: Matte

What was the process like for choosing the wood and stain for The McGee Home cabinets? Which type of wood did you use?

Picking the wood for The McGee Home was easy because Shea had a vision from the beginning. We used maple on the painted cabinets, and white oak on the stained cabinets throughout the home. Choosing the stain and paint took a bit longer. We did several custom stain samples and paint samples before we got it just right. 

Do custom cabinets (that are painted, not natural wood) chip?

Unfortunately, chips can happen to anything, custom or not, depending on how the cabinets are treated. If done improperly, they can tend to chip easier than usual. 

What’s a must-have feature in a custom kitchen cabinetry?

Function: Soft close doors and drawers. We use Dovetail drawers made out of ply or solid wood (no particle board) to get this effect. 

Design: I love inset cabinets, and I know team McGee loves inset cabinets as well, but they do cost more. 

Contrasting colors also make a big difference, even if it is just a small stained accent, like a sink drip edge.

The McGee Home Kitchen    process.

The McGee Home Kitchen process.

To learn more about Killowen Cabinet Co. visit their website at killowenhomes.com, and follow their Instagram account @killowencabinetco.

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