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Cabinet Craft

Instead of just cleaning out your kitchen or bathroom cabinets, why not replace them?

It's that time of year again, the time we all dread: spring cleaning.

Instead of lugging out the mop and duster, how about redoing your kitchen or bathroom to really give your home a new feel? These are two of the rooms you spend most of your waking hours in, so a fresh, clean look is always welcome.

And although it may not be as glamorous as upgrading to a Viking stove or Jacuzzi, simply updating the cabinetry in both rooms can make a big impact.

This New House

Before you start any remodeling project, though, it's important to set a budget. That way you won't get in over your head. Spend a few days looking at various style magazines or home furnishings stores online to get a sense for what you like, noting prices.

Another good way to get a sense of what you want is to visit kitchen and bathroom showrooms. From

Home Depot

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to Ikea to

Restoration Hardware

(RSTO)

, there are cabinet options for a vast range of budgets and styles. You'll come across stock cabinets (usually a few hundred dollars each and installed as-is), semistock cabinets (which allow for some customization), framed or frameless models, European and glass varieties.

If your project is on a bigger scale, you may need a professional designer's help. Always do background checks, and make sure you get estimates from a few different companies before you decide.

When you're with your designer, it can be easy to lose track of what you want and just go with his or her recommendations. Even though you should be open to a pro's advice, make sure you keep in mind what you want for your home.

Superior Designers

One company,

MyHome, can guide you through the entire process. The New York store specializes in kitchens and bathrooms.

MyHome offers a free consultation to help determine what style works best. (And even if you decide not to use the company, you have acquired some guidance from an expert.)

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The consultation "takes a look a space and measurement. We analyze labor and materials," says Danielle Castaldo, office manager of the company's Mt. Kisco, N.Y., store.

The second meeting is in the showroom. "Then we come out with a project manager, and

then a contractor to go over the project," says Castaldo. A renovation of a small kitchen's cabinets -- including the materials and installation -- will cost around $20,000.

Cabinets aren't too time-consuming to install; MyHome's offerings can be put up in a week. "We carry four lines, so we are very familiar with the construction and dimensions," says Castaldo.

The most expensive type of cabinet, not surprisingly, is the customized variety. They can be made to your specifications of shape, size and material. Some unique options are available from Orange County, Calif.-based

Linderman Designs, which creates high-end cabinets out of the finest woods.

Be ready to shell out the bucks. "Typically, you're going to spend $1,000 to $3,000 per cabinet, depending on the detail," says owner Ed Linderman. He has been working in the industry for about 30 years, and many of his clients reside in multimillion-dollar homes.

Linderman is passionate about his work. "I love being creative," he explains.

The process to make customized cabinets is very detailed. "We spend a lot of time ... sanding and getting the cabinets smooth. Only then do we start putting on base coats, which builds depth out of the color," says Linderman. His cabinets often end up resembling antique furniture, in both their richness of hue and material.

"Most of our consumers are interested in a highly detailed and a traditional look," Linderman says. In his local area, however, "around Hollywood and Beverly Hills, people are interested in a more contemporary look." Linderman claims that his company can fulfill any and all customer requests, no matter what the style.

Linderman considers himself an artist and focuses on the smallest of details. "Most cabinet shops won't do the details in the molding and carving

that we do," Linderman adds.

The process starts small, though. "Basically we'll give them a beginning consultation and some quick sketches. We don't charge

customers for the design until they decide to sign a contract," Linderman says. However, the customer is not allowed to keep the designs if they don't use the company.

One job was for cabinets to outfit 27 rooms. The designs alone cost $3,000. "That particular job had three 3-inch notebooks full of pages for the designs," says Linderman. Most design sketches range from $1,000 to $3,000.

If a sketch isn't enough, you can still envision how your new cabinets will look. This home design software from

Plan 3D allows you to create blueprints of your kitchen and bathroom -- a sure way to see exactly what you want. With the easy-to-use program, you can virtually place cabinets in your existing kitchen or bathroom, working within the dimensions of walls, windows and bathroom fixtures. It's far simpler than trying to move your refrigerator across the room.

You can then add paint, wallpaper and material type for the cabinets, which will all affect the final look of the rooms. It's a cost-effective way to attack remodeling -- only $3 a month if you sign up for a year, or $16 by the individual month. It may save you a lot of money in the long run.

Always remember, though, updating your cabinets will be a project and a process. Nothing will be done overnight. Keep your budget realistic, and know what you want.

Next time you're thinking of just cleaning out your cabinets, try looking into a completely new design for your kitchen or bathroom instead.

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