How to build kitchen cabinets: Getting Started

June 22nd, 2013


Hi! Mr Project here with a few tidbits from our kitchen cabinet build experience. When the Project Girl and I set out to redo our house in California, I really had no idea what I was doing. Jen had the vision for what this house would be, and I promised to execute. I knew how to use a few tools by then – circular saw, drill, router, hammer to name a few – but I really felt out of my depth. In fact, the first hole we put into a wall the night we signed for the house was as much an adrenaline rush as I had ever felt. Remember when your mom would tell you not to write on the walls, and when you did, you felt SO naughty? Yeah, that was me, but this time with a hammer. It felt surreal.

Here is the kitchen during the first part of demo:


Check out the before pictures of the project house here, and the after pics here in the Project Girl’s project house reveal!

We had quite the task ahead . . . to say the least . . . Definitely look at those before pictures if you haven’t yet. Every surface of the house needed to be re-done.

Soon, I got into the swing of things (pun intended) and the intimidation and anxiety left with each swing of the hammer and each hole I made.

Fast forward to one of the big, no, BIG parts of the renovation: THE KITCHEN. I hadn’t ever built a kitchen cabinet, but I figured that this wasn’t rocket science or brain surgery. I’d built somewhat complex and challenging pieces of furniture in the past, but still, the thought of building a kitchen cabinet was really daunting and stressful. In retrospect, this was probably due to the fact that I really had no idea HOW they were made or pieced together. I was crippled by fear of not knowing how, and somehow made them out to be this really big deal in my mind.

So, I did what any man that is lost, or looking for directions would NEVER do – I tried to find an instruction manual. Turns out that there are some really great books available for purchase that pretty much teach you everything you need to know about building kitchen cabinets, including how to find the right materials, basic construction and makeup, finishing, install, and even building countertops. These are the books I used to learn pretty much everything I know:


“Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets” ,“Trim Carpentry and Built-Ins” , “Building Kitchen Cabinets”

 Not only was I able to find out how to make them, but how to make them amazing. Just by reading these books. I did have to expand my tools a bit, but the investment was well worth it and from that effort, we were able to build and create an awesome custom kitchen.

Jen, of course, did the kitchen design, and I just made, installed, and finished the cabinets.

So here are seven things I learned during the process of renovation and building our kitchen -

1. Ask questions -

Not only are there usually great people around who are willing to help, but with the internet, you can pretty much find an answer to any question you have. Power tools aren’t that scary if you just read or watch how to use them, or have a friend show you the basics. It’s all about knowing. Ana White, for example, has some really great tips on getting started with building small wood projects.

2. Get the right tools -

Having the right tools for the job is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Think of all the money you could save by doing your own cabinetry! Most of the cost in pricing out custom cabinetry comes from the labor costs associated with the job. I decided to put the money I would save into purchasing the right tools. You can do a lot with a circular saw, cordless drill, and a router, but having a table saw, for example, will save you SO much time. We built our kitchen cabinets for less than 2500 bucks. Killer deal if you ask me!

Here’s a pic of my garage “shop”.

spencer-nugent-garage-shop3. Work Smart -

Cabinetry is pretty standard. Look for patterns as you work and cut your pieces in lots. Cabinets are a lot like puzzles. There are standard pieces and sizes that come together to make the full box.


4. Have a plan -

The Project Girl out together all our kitchen design drawings before I got to work. This was so helpful! We measured everything and planned out where and how we wanted things to be. That way, we could minimize surprises along the way. Part of the biggest challenge in making something is not having a plan on how to execute.

You can check out more plans from The Project Girl here.

kitchen-sketch1 kitchen-sketch2


5. Be ready to change that plan

… And be ready to change that plan too. As we were installing cabinets in our new kitchen, we realized that the floor in our kitchen wasn’t very level. We had to change a few things in our plan to make it work, but it worked out nicely.


Sometimes, plans change. You can’t see it too well here but there’s definitely a slight shift in level of the floor from one side to the other. We made it work!

6. Patience is everything -

Finishing/Painting is my least favorite part of the process. It sucks. But if you’re patient, have some good tunes, and a good attitude, it’s really not THAT bad. Patience is one of your greatest tools in your arsenal. If you’re patient and let things flow, everything can and will come together. At least, that’s how it was for me.

7. There’s always a fix -

Last, but not least, this is my new motto – “THERE’S ALWAYS A FIX”. One of the great things about this whole process is really, there isn’t THAT much that you can screw up, and if you do, it’s really easy to fix, with some time and effort. Knowing that there always is a fix helps me relax and take things on with a good and positive outlook.

So those are some of the things I learned along the way. There’s much more, of course, and if you’re feeling up for the challenge, here are a few of my favorite books that helped me along the way as I was learning how to build cabinets.

“Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets” - Solid guide, but not my favorite, though useful.

“Trim Carpentry and Built-Ins” - Good for knowing about how to integrate cabinetry into your home and finish things off.

“Building Kitchen Cabinets” - My personal favorite.


Mudroom, Laundry, and “Moms Office” Style Guide

June 15th, 2013

I’ve always liked the idea of multi-purpose rooms, so when I was designing the mudroom space, I wanted it to be a considered a “utility” space. The room will house the laundry space, a mail center, lockers, and a “mom’s office”. The room is also connected to the Den/Office and the butler’s pantry, so this part of the house becomes the work/utility center of the home.

When it comes to styling, I wanted the space to feel bright, eclectic, and of course, farmhouse. I incorporated light colors, painted wood planks, baskets and galvanized steel to get the look that I want.


Wire Pendant Light – Shades of Light

Caesar Stone – Frosty Carrina

Macau Chair – Ballard Designs

Large Round Basket – Target

Counter-Balance Pendant - Lighting Showroom

12×24 ceramic tile –

This is my color inspiration – whites, corals, and pale aquas. If I were really brave, I’d use that wallpaper too!

This is palladian blue in the wild – I hope it turns out that green:

I’m also going to add in a wood seat on the locker bench and a black tile floor to bring some contrast into the space. I want the lockers to have an open feel so I’ll do corbels up to the upper cubbies and  one big bench, like this:

Here is the official layout of the room. The door from the right is the garage and opens up directly across the lockers & mail station. The Mom’s office area is at the far end of the room with access into the Den, and 3 awesome windows.


All of the cabinetry will be the palladian blue and the countertops white quartz.lockers

Here is the desk area with the wire basket pendant light and white planked wall:


And the laundry area with cubbies for laundry baskets and an upper cabinet/shelf area for storage.


I’m so excited for all the details in this room. It’s one of my favorite rooms in the house, however, since it’s not a “need” space, I don’t know how quickly the cabinetry will get done. Hopefully Mr. Project will feel so inspired by my plans, that he will want to get this room done super fast so we can enjoy it to its fullest! Either way, I know I’m going to be spending a lot of time in here!

Do you have any multi-functional rooms in your house? How are you using them? Or do you prefer to have individual rooms for all of these tasks?

Utah Valley Parade of Homes 2013

June 7th, 2013

** Click to see my review of the Utah Vally Parade of Homes 2014**

We took to the streets today to check out our 4 top picks of the Utah Valley Parade of Homes 2013. I’m posting some quick iphone snapshots of my favorite rooms & features – if you are in the area though, you should definitely make the effort to go see some of these beautiful homes. I also have to say that I must have been so in awe of house #14 that I forgot to take any pics. However I loved so many things about #14 and would totally recommend you go see it. The big playroom and tandom bathroom (two showers, two toilets & an urinal) were my favorites. It’s also gorgeous on the outside and has an amazing view. Okay onto the eye-candy…

My favorite ROOM (Home #5) – kids craft/laundry room

IMG_2990 IMG_2985

House #14 also had an awesome little kids craft room off the kitchen/family room area – for some reason I forgot to take a snapshot, but it was a really great space.

Right outside this room (still house #5) is a mud room, with all these lockers, and my favorite part – an awesome PURSE shelf. Now that’s what I’m talking about!!






House #5 also had this adorable kitchen/family room area. You all know I love craftsman style room dividers! Such a great way to keep a floor plan open and defined at the same time. All the decor is by Four Chairs Furniture. I love all the bright colors.
IMG_2979Here’s a view of the kitchen with windows. I also love kitchens with lots of windows instead of tons of upper cabinets.


IMG_2981And my favorite part of this kitchen was the ceiling – a gorgeous V-groove ceiling really made the room feel unique.


IMG_2977And they had quite a bit of paneling – I liked this square paneled wall:



House #7 was my favorite EXTERIOR on a house:


I’ve actually been stalking this house for the past two weeks and was thrilled when I found out it was on the parade. Lots of cute details in this house, including lots of fun trimmed out areas. Also if you peek at the bottom of this picture, you can see the cute penny tile in the entry with their house number.


They also had lots of different paneling in the rooms:

IMG_2970Love that this one is a shelf:



And this was rough-sawn wood all painted. Could be an awesome pallet project!



And of course, any house wouldn’t be complete without a 2-story basketball court!  (There was also one in house #4)


House #7 also had quite a collection of Restoration Hardware lighting. It was great to see the lights “out in the wild” because it’s hard to get a feel for the scale and detail work just looking on the RH website.



I believe this light is from West Elm:


House #15 was our favorite ALL-AROUND house. It had lots of great built-ins, amazing custom doors, and beautiful tile.


I love this ceiling detail in the master bedroom:

And my favorite room there was the master closet with the stacking washer/dryer:


House #4 was definitely the most DETAILED house. You can tell that no expense was spared, and every room had a purpose and thought put into all the different details. Here are some of my favorite things from this house.

Hidden pantry door:


Under the deck basement deck:


Gorgeous ceiling detail in master:


Cute play area in basement:


Diagonal v-groove coffered ceiling:

Super wide (12″??) V-groove wall in guest room:


Book tree! Totally going to have Mr. Project recreate this one:


And my favorite little space was a little kids nook upstairs – complete with build-in chalkboard and art display board. Love the v-groove paneling for that too.



Well that was our adventures at the Utah Valley Parade of Homes! We had a fun little afternoon date, and got some good inspiration for our upcoming build. Anyone else planning on checking out the Parade this month?