New Zealand Home & Building, October-November 1998
When it comes to choosing cabinetry for a kitchen, the same considerations apply - durability, ease of care, and the look you want to achieve.
If you're on a budget, you might opt for painting your own cabinetry, using enamel paint or acrylic paint coated with clear polyurethane. For a professional, hard-wearing finish, however, two-pot lacquer over MDF is the best choice. Sprayed-on lacquer gives a smooth, glossy finish and is harder than conventional paint. If it does scratch or damage, it can always be resprayed. A mirror gloss can be achieved with lacquer, but this adds markedly to the cost and will show scuffs and scratches more than a satin finish. Perhaps the biggest advantage of lacquer is the unlimited range of colours.page 77
Colour, texture and pattern can all be achieved with laminates, making them a popular choice for cabinetry. Bonded to MDF, laminates provide a hard-wearing and easy-care option for cupboard doors and drawer fronts. Not all laminates are created equal, however. High density laminates are much tougher than their low density cousins. Another option is thermal laminate PVC, which is basically an MDF core shrink-wrapped in PVC. This allows a pattern to be routered into door and drawer fronts. For a high-gloss look, Acrocore, a solid colour acrylic sheet laminated to MDF, provides a finish that's even more hard-wearing than lacquer, but the colour range is fairly limited.
Timber veneer over laminated plywood or MDF is the most cost-effective and environmentally sound way to achieve a timber finish for cabinetry. There are more than 100 native and exotic timber veneers to choose from in a wide range of colours and textures. Any timber finishes in a kitchen need to be sealed.
Frosted, clear, sandblasted, reeded or patterned glass is a great alternative for cupboard doors. Set into lacquered MDF or timber frames, it provides an effective contrast to solid surfaces. Backlit glass surfaces add drama to a kitchen at night.
Stainless Steel has slipped off the benchtop and onto doors and drawers to create a modern, streamlined look. Large expanses of stainless steel can be overpowering (and are difficult to keep smear-free), but used judiciously it provides an effective foil to coloured laminates, painted surfaces or natural wood. Stainless steel will scratch but over time this adds character.
Any number of materials can be inserted into timber or MDF frames to create interesting drawers and cupboard fronts, from chicken wire to translucent fibreglass, copper and stainless steel mesh. The design possibilities for kitchen cabinetry are literally limitless but, as with most things, the more complicated the design the higher the cost.page 78page break