Introduction to site /


  2.     The pages of this site are accessible through the above menu as well as hot buttons in the text.

  3.     There are three sections of this site addressing the issues of cabinetmaking and installation, one for the Architect/Designer one for the Contractor  and one for the Client / end user .  I try to use an objective voice in the three informational areas so that they serve as practical, honest references to interested parties.  My work is used to illustrate unless I’m clearly referring to other sources, i.e., products from design shops or door companies.  There are separate galleries and a section devoted to My Approach. There are also downloadable PDF files that assemble the information in a concise form for quick reference.  I hope these tips will help eliminate potential conflicts and result in your job running smoother. ARCHITECT’S PDF / CONTRACTOR’S PDF / CLIENT PDF / STANDARD DIMENSIONS PDF / SOLUTIONS PDF / DETAILS PDF  (illustration of details that require practical decisions.)   If you have any suggestions or additional information or if you need advice please feel free to contact me at:

  4.    Full disclosure: I’m a cabinetmaker (contractor) with over thirty years’ experience in high end custom cabinets and it is there my loyalties lie.  I’ve designed, built and installed cabinets in upscale neighborhoods throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, from Atherton to Sea Ranch, the Oakland Hills to Stinson Beach.  My shop is located in Tomales in Northern Marin.  I’ve always installed my own work and, on rare occasions, I’ve installed the work of others. I’ve never worked in a production cabinet shop.

  5.     From this perspective I can give you insights into some of the subtleties in cabinetry that may not be apparent on the first encounter but will emerge after the job is done. It is easy to get caught up in the stylistic dazzle of store bought cabinets or something in a catalogue without understanding the implications for your particular home.  It is nearly always the intention of production designers to emulate traditional cabinetry, but they are driven by the economy of scale necessary to pay for expensive production machines, showrooms and advertising.  In this bargain something is lost. If you understand what it is they are trying to copy you should be able to get closer to it; or, better yet, maybe even get the thing itself. After the dust has settled on your project and you sit down with a cup of coffee, the success or failure of your decision will be before you.

  6.     There is a barrage of information supporting the ready made, out of the box approach.  From magazines, design centers, catalogues, and sadly these days even from many smaller shops that resort to ready made doors and panels that are custom fit, but, alas, also ordered from a catalogue. Many people would be surprised, after shopping high end design centers that they could have an authentically designed, built and installed set of cabinets for less. 

  7.     Even if you decide to go in the production oriented direction there is information on these pages to help you.  While I try to nudge you, hopefully not too stridently, toward a custom approach, I explain stylistic differences that are common to all cabinetry.  Armed with this knowledge you can speak with some authority in the design centers and kitchen shops.  You’ll learn the differences between “flush overlay” and “flush inset”, frame and panel and slab, or flat panel.   I can give you some strategies to help you get closer to what you want wherever you choose to buy cabinets.  Furthermore, you can learn something about the entire process of the design, problem solving and construction issues that go into a set of cabinets.

  8.     Isn’t it better to know all of your options?  From out of the box cabinets from Ikea or The Home Depot to higher end versions from design shops to local production cabinet shops, to the individual cabinetmaker, there is a wide range in price and result. You may or may not agree with me but I can assure you that these pages are the truth as I know it after thirty years of cabinetmaking.


  10.     If you have any suggestions or additional information or if you need advice please feel free to contact me at:  I’d appreciate your feedback.

This kitchen was designed to look as if it were built in place as the original kitchen in this 1932 mansion in the Berkeley Hills surely was.  The glass doors are true divided panes, i.e.,six pieces of glass for each door, (not a grill overlay on a glass door.)  All of the doors are custom built in my shop using custom molding profiles, nothing is a standard layout.  The depths of the cabinets front to back change from the left side to the right side of the doorway.  The doors are a full one inch thick  (not 3/4”) all of these things are unusual these days.  It was fit to the room in a manner that accounted for the irregularities of an older home.

Included was this enclosure for the Sub Zero refrigerator that completely conceals the unit (no metal shows).  The handmade frame and grill above the refrigerator are removable for servicing. Flush inset doors and custom details required many visits to to the job site and careful coordination with the contractor all the way through.  Total cost,  installed and painted: $45,000.  Expensive? Well, perhaps it is, but compare what it would cost for the same details from a high end kitchen design shop.   Really, there is no way they could do this in a factory. Even the price for fitting their product to the room would exceed  this significantly.

Poorly matched doors out of cheap, rotary cut veneers, or factory made doors out of a catalogue are not a substitute for the real thing.  Some of these factories can match a pair of doors but it’s expensive and that’s about as far as it goes, a pair.  The wood comes into the factory randomly and it goes out with a heavy tint to blur the differences .  Many local shops have succumbed to this economy.  Personally I’d rather have a flat door from a quality veneered panel , matched and integrated (below), than mismatched, heavily tinted, ostentatious mush (above). A thoughtfully composed set of cabinets is  pleasing to contemplate over a cup of coffee, not one more thing to edit out of your surroundings. Factories can produce detail upon detail, the two things they can’t delegate to production workers is site specific detail and carful matching of the wood, hence, heavy tints and stains and wide fill strips.

Above, a thoughtfully designed, matched, constructed and installed set of cabinets.  When this house resold it was bought by an architect because he liked the kitchen.  Cost, including installation and finish $18,000. Because it was authentic from the start, built for this house alone, it won’t go out of style. This included careful coordination with the contractor, fitting around angles and nonstandard plumbing, sequentially matched “flat panel” doors and a lot of thought.

Above, the factory lick.  Slick, “stylish” but what about the wood?  Finishes like these are to wood what Muzac is to music.  This is something you might find cloying after you edit out the nicknacks and focus on the stamped out-ed-ness of it, and it’s not even in your house yet. In a few years you’ll be looking for something more up to date, more stylish.  Add to this the issues around fitting them to your home, (they’re displayed for their optimal appeal in the showroom), and they aren’t  really a bargain.  These are expensive design center cabinets.

    OK, I’ve got an attitude.

If these contrasts resonate with you, you might poke around this site and learn something about fine cabinetry.

LIC # 661317

Bruce Kranzler

415-454-8100 / 707-878-2389

PO 66 TOMALES, CA. 94971

If the cabinets directly above this copy appeal to you there is probably not much I can say that’s helpful.