Cabinets come front and center

Custom cabinet makers in Montana

Montana's custom cabinet makers

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By Amity K. Moore

The demands homeowners place on Montanas cabinetmakers are as varied as the styles, colors and textures of the cabinets themselves.
As Montana's population diversifies, custom cabinetmakers must stay abreast of both local architectural and design trends and those in other parts of the world.
Especially popular in Montana is the lodge, or rustic, look in interior design.
"We do more of the rustic, knotty and distressed look than what you see in metropolitan areas," says Rich McBride, owner of McBride Custom Cabinetry, in Kalispell. It fits with the log and stone architecture, and lifestyle here.

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McPhie Custom Cabinetry

Similarly, Kristie McPhie, owner of McPhie Cabinetry in Bozeman, says most of her clients are building homes in mountainous or resort regions, like nearby Big Sky, and show more interest in a rustic look that feels warmer than other types of cabinetry.

Often these homes are log with stone accents.

McPhie's customers are choosing cherry and alder, typical choices in Montana. Some people are going so far as to pick recycled wood because it blends with rebuilt or modified homestead buildings.

McPhie Custom Cabinetry 2

McPhie Custom Cabinetry

Steve Berner, owner of Shirno Cabinets, in Whitefish, has noticed more use of alder and maple in Montana than in other parts of the country. Before moving here, he worked with wood in California, where people tend to prefer oak and lighter-colored woods, and in Pennsylvania, where walnut, mahogany and other hardwoods reign.

The type of wood makes an aesthetic difference, but so do the finishes. Again, Montana's homeowners lean toward distressed, antiqued and weathered looks. But theyre not sticking with these looks alone.

The finish goes a long way in telling the story of a house and its attention to detail, explains Marylee Syme, owner of Syme Design and Consulting, in Bigfork. Finish is important in public rooms. A reasonable finish is fine in other parts of the home, but custom glazes and crackle finishes that take more practice and expertise.
The ability to execute a finish properly can determine a clients decision to use a particular cabinetmaker. Syme herself sometimes picks cabinetmakers based on their expertise with finishes. Shirno is one such cabinetmaker whom she uses.

Barry and Kelly Simmons of Helena chose their cabinetmaker because the cabinet company could provide just the right finish. Their home is decorated not in the trendy lodge, or rustic, style but in a dcor Kelly Simmons describes as old-world. Like most people, the Simmonses began their cabinetry project with their kitchen and master bathroom. These rooms are the two most popular places for cabinetry, with home offices coming in third. They chose alder because its smooth, like pine, but has fewer knots.

The Simmons cabinets fit with the homes dcor  warm, like other Montana homes, but more formal, says McPhie, whose company designed and made the cabinetry. An arch over the cooking area gives it a European feel, and the cabinets have an elegant, earthy and natural finish. The cabinets appear slightly distressed, Kelly Simmons says, with their clear butterscotch stain and a darker stain on top thats been wiped off so it shows only in the woods cracks.

Cabinetmakers are using a similar finishing method at the Koppes home in Hamilton, which Syme is decorating. Three cabinetry companies also are working on the project: Shirno; Klassic Kabinets, in Hamilton; and one from out of state. The home, a whopping 15,000 square feet, will be the primary dwelling for a family that regularly entertains 20 to 40 people. Its more formal than many other high-end Treasure State houses.

In keeping with its French country interior design, Syme picked light colors for the cabinets in the butlers pantry, which Shirno is making. In this case, the cabinets are painted, rather than stained, cream. Atop that color, woodworkers have applied a chocolate glaze to give the cabinets a slightly antique look. The glaze also accents the doors recessed-panel design. Syme says she and Shirno designed the cabinets to resemble furniture, to mesh with the houses northern French interior design.
Recessed-panel doors are popular, although the doors McBride mainly installs have a square, raised panel. Another door style hes seeing more often is Shaker, with clean lines and little detail.

But visual appeal isnt the only demand homeowners make. How cabinetry works is equally important. In the Koppeses butlers pantry, for example, the family stores fine china and crystal. This is also where they clean up these items and prepare to serve cold drinks and desserts. To accommodate such needs, Syme arranged for a dishwasher, two refrigerator drawers and two freezer drawers. Shirno disguised each of the appliances with cabinetry.

The Koppeses asked for hidden electrical plugs and plenty of storage space in their master bath, for which Shirno is making the cabinets. The outlets are inside the upper cabinets, so the counters can stay clear of clutter, and drawers line both sides of a central lower cabinet.

Adequate storage space was a concern at the Simmons house, too; custom cabinets were necessary to meeting the needs of the large family. Because ease of movement around the kitchen was also important, McPhie installed an island. Plus, Kelly Simmons enjoys baking, so she wanted a counter just for that activity. Its built a few inches below standard cooking height, letting her knead bread more easily. Electrical outlets are included in the cabinetry, so wires dont have to cross from other walls or countertops.

Cabinetmakers say they're seeing more custom designs, particularly in kitchens, for cabinetry that fits the way people live. Clients are asking for kitchen designs that accommodate more than one cook and afford uniformity among appliances and more social interaction and efficient use of space. Built-in pieces resembling furniture hide computers, televisions and small kitchen offices.

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