Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Luxe and Stuff

Luxe Basalto High Gloss & Roble Frappe Cabinets


The image below is a cell phone picture of a kitchen we are working on in Claremont, Ca. There is so much going on with these cabinets that it's hard to decide where to begin.

I guess we should start with the obvious: Luxe Basalto High Gloss, and Luxe Roble Frappe. The latter is perhaps the most popular choice for a grain pattern from Luxe (we're talking about Roble Frappe -if you are like me, and have to think too hard about what the 'latter' refers to). Roble Frappe has a High Gloss acryllic finish and a beautiful wood grain. The high gloss really gives the grain a real-wood feel, or 3d effect. No glasses required :) Pictured below is the peninsula. And, Yes! That is a stainless steel toe kick. Nice huh? The kitchen features stainless steel toe kicks throughout. We will be offering this as an option on our website soon. You may have noticed there are no handles on the cabinets. If you keep up with our blog, you will have read about the Filo handle, these stainless handles are integrated into the top of the doors and drawers. Expensive...labor intensive -but Oh, so nice!

Below is the other half, Luxe Basalto, in stunning High Gloss! (I know -no one is really stunned- that's a bit strong, but if you are actually stunned, you know where to reach us). I really like Basalto, it's not a color I would choose for my car, but for kitchen cabinets? Heck yeah! They just work in this home. It could feel austere and cold, but the Basalto really pulls it back from the realm of Concrete Jungle. Can I say: Earthy? or how about warm? -there's so many catchy kitchen cabinet cliches to choose from... These cabinets also feature the Filo handle, and stainless steel toe kicks. Anyway, I'm not going to go into too much detail here...

Why? Because, if the stars align, (seriously, that's what it takes for me to be able to visit a jobsite once in a while...and, Oh, by the way, did you know that five planets will be visible in the night sky this month?) I will be standing on that glorious marble floor, with my not-cell-phone camera in hand, snapping away. Cross your fingers. Then, I will be able to share even more magazine quality pictures and commentary. I'm throwing in this last picture of the home in Claremont because, eye candy!

One final note: of the million-things-to-do on our website, one of the most requested areas is -a 'projects' page. It is extemely difficlut to re-visit past jobs, because of this, we wait a long time to get showroom quality pictures that we can share with our customers (and fans). So, if you identify with either of those categories, you will be happy to know, the Projects Page is coming soon, and will feature pictures of our cabinets, and projects prior to reaching the magazine quality stage.

Thanks for watching!


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Filo Handle Installation

Required: The right tools for the job!

We get so many inquiries about how to install these handles that we decided to make step by step instructions. The Filo and Karmen handle are essentially the same -the Karmen simply has a taller channel that shows more metal above the drawer when installed. These handles are designed to install into a channel on the door or drawer front. The most common locations being the bottom of the door, or the top of the drawer front, as shown in the image below. Nice huh? So, how do you go from the raw material (Filo/Karmen come in 96" uncut lengths) to the shiny finished product below?

Step 1: Purchase handle.


Step 2: Cut Handle to Length.

Using a 'Chop-Saw', with a fine tooth blade, cut the handle to the exact width of the door or drawer front. Be sure to wear eye protection, those little bits of aluminum can be nasty when combined with your eyeballs!

Step 3: Polishing the cut.

Using a 'Bench-Grinder', with a 'Sisal Wheel', polish all surfaces of the cut. The rough-cut handle will have sharp burs that must be removed. Use a sanding block (sand-paper wrapped around a wood block will work) to remove as much of the rough burs as possible before polishing with the Sisal wheel.

Step 4: Make the Template.

Using a 'Router', cut a template for the handle. We recommend using a router-table for making the cut into the door/drawer front. The image below shows the specifications for the channel that must be cut into the door or drawer front to accept the handle, these specifications will also be used to make the template. The template is critical for holding the handle in place for the two drilling steps that must be completed.

The following images are of the template we created to hold the handles for drilling. We have marked two locations on the template: one is 2 inches in, the other is 3 inches in (place the same marks on both ends of the template) -larger handles will have a hole 2 inches in on both ends of the handle and one hole drilled in the middle. Smaller handles will have only the holes drilled 3 inches in from each end.

Step 5: Drill the Pilot Holes.

Using a small 'Drill-Bit', drill the pilot holes for the screws. The pilot holes in the handle are critical for the next drilling step -the counter sink. Before drilling pilot holes you must also decide the distance from the edge of the handle that the screws will be placed. In the image below we measured 3/8" from the bottom of the handle for our holes. This distance can be whatever you want, as long as all holes are drilled using the same measurement.

Step 6: Drill the counter-sink.

The chart below will help you determine the size of the pilot hole and the size of the counter-sink. These sizes are based on the screw you select for handle installation.

Using a 'Drill-Press' and a 'Counter-Sink bit', drill the counter-sink into the handle. Counter-sinking creates a beveled edge that allows your screw to sit flush when installed (it is important for all of the counter-sink holes to be the same). The counter-sink can be made without a drill-press, however, it is difficult when hand drilling to determine when to stop and to hold the drill level. The drill-press in the picture below has been set up to hold the template. The drill-press has a setting that stops the bit at a predetermined depth, this ensures the counter-sink will be the same each time. You will need to create some test holes with the counter-sink bit to find the best set-up for your screw. The ideal counter-sink allows the screw to sit flush with the surface of the handle.

There is one step that we didn't cover: Sealing the cut you make in the door/drawer front. Cutting the channel in the door/drawer front exposes the core -regardless of the door material, you should seal the exposed material against water absorption. The sealant you choose will depend on the material you are sealing. (we also didn't cover screwing the handle to the drawer...that's the easy part!)

We hope you find these instructions helpful for installing your handles. There is a ton of detail we could throw in here, but we thought it best to keep it as simple as possible -the interwebz are full of detailed info for those inclined to sift through it :)

We may bring online ordering for finished Filo/Karmen handles in the near future. Currently, we are only offering the raw uncut 96" lengths.

Thanks for watching!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Luxe by Alvic

Ooh Shiny!

The image below is a sheet of Luxe Antracita Pearl hiding under it's protective film, soon it will become glorious doors and drawer fronts which will adorn a project we are preparing for manufacturing this week. It's a big project -something like 68 cabinets! This project will feature the Luxe Antracita Pearl, in high gloss, and high gloss Roble Frappe pictured further below. We are (understandably) excited to get this project going, and I can't wait to get the final pictures and share them with you.

On the subject of pictures...I have about 8 gigs of raw images waiting to be processed and shared, and I will be taking a day next week to revisit some of our recent projects to take the 'after' shots (yeah, we have been busy little beavers!). These will include a large Natural Bamboo kitchen, the Cleaf Oregon Pine kitchen I blogged about recently, and a Cleaf Vineyard Oak project in Carlsbad that is nearing completion. The Carlsbad project will have before and after images too. The Carlsbad condo is a small space so we packed it full of Rev-A-Shelf accessories to maximize storage, there will be some great shots of the refrigerator fillers we included there as well. Also, there is the San Diego condo featuring Cleaf City Oak that I will be taking photos of (I haven't forgotten my promise Cassie!) those were blogged about before, but we only had cell-phone shots at the time.

In other news, we are bringing on a dealer in Florida, soon customers will be able to visit the showroom there. This will feature Luxe by Alvic and Cleaf cabinets. We are also working on manufacturing Cleaf and Luxe products for customers working with our dealer there, and will share photos of the cool stuff we are working on for them when we can. They include Cleaf Aspen Oak and Luxe Antracita Pearl. Also, I should mention that we promised to bring online ordering for Luxe by Alvic back in July, and we did...sort of, we made samples available, but! we have finally carved out some time to finish our work, and this week we will be launching our 'Made in USA' Luxe by Alvic cabinet lines. This will feature many new styles that we haven't had time to put online as well as our new pricing structure that is sure to make our customers happy! :)

Did I forget to mention that we are nearing completion on another Luxe project in Laguna Niguel? This is another condo that will feature high gloss Blanco from Luxe by Alvic. The cabinets are in place and we're finishing up work on the doors and drawer fronts this week. I'll be in there next week taking pictures. I'm really excited, this was our first Luxe project and I've been dancing in my seat waiting for the opportunity to see it finished and share the results.

So much to do, yet, so little time! I never really appreciated that in my youth.

Thanks for watching!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cleaf Oregon Pine Shaker Insatallation

A Look Inisde

I thought it might be interesting to take you inside an installation featuring our Oregon Pine white shaker cabinets. The image below is the kitchen of a home in Newport Beach (one block from the beach!). It's a beautiful new construction with a price tag of just under $2 Million. If you have never remodeled your kitchen, take a good look, this is about three days worth of work. There are coffee cups in the bathroom sink. Aside from our beautiful cabinets, the most interesting thing about this project is the fact that the owner had us rip out brand new cabinets. The builder chose white shaker cabinets and we are not sure who made them, but they were not worthy of this address. I have some pictures of the original cabinets and plan on posting a comparison on the website (usrtacabinets.com). From afar, like the front door, they looked great -but a closer look revealed some shoddy workmanship and cabinetry. Look for that page soon to be on our website.

Oregon Pine is a Cleaf product. Made in Italy, the material comes in 81.5" x 110.25" sheets. They are difficult to deal with until we cut them down for manufacturing. Cleaf makes the Metro series by impregnating sheets of paper with resin, forming the grain detail and then under heat, permanently bonding them to the substrate. We have a video on our website of us demonstrating it's resilience. We offer a lifetime warranty on our US made cabinets, its nice to sell Cleaf knowing that it will look just as good ten years from now. By the way, Oregon Pine shaker cabinets are our current best seller, and we are Southern California's #1 buyer of Cleaf products. Another thing that we love about Cleaf is the price. The doors and drawer fronts cost roughly half as much as paint (finishing is expensive! I'll post a look inside the finishing process for paint in the future), and they will keep their look far longer than painted doors. I plan on doing a comparison page on the website soon to give customers a good look at the pros and cons of painted doors vs. Cleaf products.

Back to the installation. The massive island will have a prep-sink in the near corner and features storage on 3 sides. The side facing in the image has an overhang for seating and 12" deep cabinets for storage. The other side has a microwave in a base cabinet and two 36", two drawer cabinets for pots and pans. The island is nearly complete, just missing a toekick skin and the tip-out tray that goes in the false drawer under the prep-sink. The side facing the living room is finished with a full width shaker side panel.

The next image shows the corner cabinets leading into the range. Both sides of the range feature a 6" spice rack pull-out from Rev-A-Shelf. The lazy susan in the base corner cabinet is also from Rev-A-Shelf. We call the corner wall cabinet above an Easy Reach cabinet. Most of our customers prefer this option over diagonal wall cabinets or blind-corners. The diagonal wall cabinet has an angled door that cuts the corner and can make the space feel cramped. Blind-corners leave hard to use space in the corner and we avoid them at all costs. The Easy Reach corner cabinet will have bi-fold doors that allow easy access.

Just to the right of the corner cabinets there is a post that juts out from the wall about 9", making a tough spot for designers. Unfortunely this post cuts the kitchen in half. The entire house is built from concrete, so no possibility of taking it out. You wouldn't want to lose any space by adding drywall on either side to flush it out. Our solution is to go around it. The image below shows the 3" deep cabinet we built to span the space. It will have tiny shelves and offer some small storage, a better solution than a blank filler covering the space. Below we made a 15" deep base cabinet, it is 15" wide to make better use of the drawer space. The wall cabinet is 8" wide.

Most homes near the beach are not huge, so storage is important. Our customer didn't want the audio equipment taking up floor space so we designed a special equipment cabinet that flanks the fireplace. The side of this cabinet is open and covered by a shaker panel with black speaker mesh which will hide the bass speaker.

The final picture I took standing in the kitching looking towards the front of the house. An odd thing happened today while we were there, a car with two women inside stopped in front of the house and they sat there looking inside. The picture doesn't relate how close the street is, from inside the house -it's very close. For a moment I thought they may be coming to the house to visit the homeowner, but they were stopped in the middle of the street. I remember thinking earlier that it was odd that there were no window coverings in the home yet. The owners recently moved in and possibly haven't purchased anything yet, but I also noticed the neighbor across the street had no coverings on their windows either. I started to wonder: maybe if you spend a couple million dollars on your home you want to be seen in it? I assume you don't see many Ferraris with tinted windows because the drivers like to be seen in their expensive car... Anyway, my partner and I started to feel really uncomfortable, like fish in a bowl. After a minute one of the ladies got out of the car, knocked on the sliding glass door, opened it and asked if the home was part of a new development. Beach communities are a world of their own.

I'll post pictures of the space once everything is finished so check back later if you're interested.

Thanks for watching!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Shipping Considerations

Custom Inset Cabinets

The image below is of our custom grey inset cabinets. These were manufactured for a local customer, though we were reluctant to offer them. Our customer had a fixed budget and originally asked us to do the inset cabinets, one look at her kitchen and budget told us they would be too expensive. Inset cabinets require more hard-wood for the frames and that means more expensive hard-wood and more work for us as the frames are hand made. This is why we were reluctant to offer them in the first place, they are labor intensive and costly. The customer understood and accepted our standard European frameless construction. Just prior to going into manufacturing, Derek (owner of the brick-and-mortar side) decided to surprise the customer with the custom inset cabinets (we're not a mindless corporation -we really do care!). They were installed last week and the customer was ecstatic.

We have tossed around the idea of offering the custom inset cabinets for online purchase, but there are a lot of logistic limitations. As I said above, they are labor intensive and require additional material, and that makes them expensive. Expense aside, the biggest hurdle is shipping. Kitchen cabinets are designed to be assembled and locked into place, they are not engineered for road trips! Our standard European frameless cabinets ship unassembled. Shipping the cabinets unassembled cuts down on the cost of freight. Freight is charged by volume, unassembled cabinets require less volume in the truck, and they can be flat-packed tightly with casework parts, doors/drawer fronts, and hardware separated. Separating the components allows for tighter packaging and a much higher degree of protection for everything. The custom inset cabinets are finished (painted) with the casework and faceframe assembled. Shipping cabinets assembled increases the freight charge two to three times. That's not even our biggest concern.

Imagine the trip these assembled cabinets would take in the back of a semi-truck. The vibration of a road trip alone is likely to cause damage, the next time you see a freight truck take a moment to observe the suspension on the trailer, they are not made for comfort, all of that vibration and bouncing is not good -and a nightmare for assembled components. The pallets are typically loaded and unloaded multiple times too (and sad to say: the people driving the forklifts are only human). Freight is picked up from us and taken to a local terminal where it is offloaded and reloaded onto a long-haul truck. Once the shipment reaches the destination terminal, the freight is unloaded and reloaded onto a local delivery truck. All of this moving around means more opportunity for damage. Even slight damage may mean a claim and shipment of replacements, that can get expensive -and there's still risk of damage to the replacements. Of course if the damage is the caused by the freight company they will pay for the replacements, but this process can take months. Look at the fine print on many cabinet companies shipping terms, they typically make the customer deal with the freight company for claims. No one wants to pay for replacements and hope the freight company reimburses the expense later, and no one wants their project delayed waiting for replacement parts. Of course we are a caring and compassionate company, and in the case of freight company damage, we immediately ship replacements at no cost to the consumer and deal with the freight company ourselves.

As a business it's hard to turn down paying customers. We know the average customer doesn't have the experience to understand all of the manufacturing and delivery concerns, and look to us for our knowledge and experience to aid them. For this product, our concern is making sure we can deliver quality cabinets that can be installed immediately without potential damage causing delays. Though the sale is enticing -we have to be responsible to our customers. Until we find bullet-proof ways to reduce the risk, inset faceframe will likely remain an option for local customers only.

Thanks for watching!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cleaf Online Ordering

It's Alive!

I planned on blogging every day, however, as we came closer to launching our Cleaf Metro product line the ammount of work required seemed to grow exponentially. I am fairly certain that one day last week I came home dead tired and fell asleep at 6:30 p.m.! I still believe it may have been a dream (sources close to me say it really happened). Over the past few weeks my head generally hasn't hit my pillow before 1:00 a.m.

Why all of this torture? Cleaf Metro! We launched the first seven of twenty seven styles today for online ordering. We are really excited to finally see all of our hard work ammount to something actually visible online. It's alive! That's what I've been feeling today as the individual categories came online. There's still work to do, we are adding more options and working on getting the pictures of kitchens we have done in Cleaf online. The are still some styles that we haven't done an order with, so we're only able to show small swatches meant represent an entire kitchen. Then we go to work on the fifteen or so styles of the Luxe Collection.

The image below is the category page for Cleaf Metro Carbone. This is the gateway to Carbone -kind of an over view of product specifications and links to order cabinets by type. These pages were relatively easy to produce, but there are twenty-seven of them!

Below is the 'quick view' selection for ordering a 24" base cabinet. It shows the cabinet, part number , options, and price. There are also links to more information and some detailed descriptions of the cabinet and available options. The nice thing about the quick view is that from a page with say twelve different cabinets choices, you can open the quick view and configure a 12" cabinet, send it to the shopping cart, close the window and configure another cabinet of the same type without going back and forth between pages. Hm...that sounds confusing, anyway it's a nice feature and shoppers will appreciate it :)

Finally, I present a picture of Cleaf's Lakeshore Oak Shaker cabinets recently installed in a modest kitchen in Temecula. The customer is really pleased with the results and is having a professional 3D tour of this home produced (the house is a 'flip') and has promised we will get a copy once it's done (of course we will share it with you). There are some other pictures coming soon, including a San Diego condo done with Cleaf City Oak. I shared a picture of the 'under-stairs' glass door cabinet a few posts ago and people are still asking to see the whole project. It's coming, I promise!

Thanks for watching!


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

That's Life

Cleaf Metro Product Setup...cont'd

On Sunday, I wrote about the setup of the new product we were hoping to launch this weekend. It didn't happen. What did happen is we realized that one of the product options, 'cabinet height', wouldn't work as we planned. The issue is really a technical one on the part of our ecommerce host. We offer 5 choices for casework material and 3 part numbers for width, so say you choose a 15" cabinet in x material, y width, the price would be z -no problem. The next choice would be height, and there is the problem is created. Using this setup would require us to show each width and height option, in each casework material option -as an option. This would make the option list massive, too massive. The alternative would be to use dropdown menus for each option. The image below is our current option setup for this cabinet.

Hate is a pretty strong word, so I'll just say, as online shoppers ourselves, we are not fans of dropdown menus. Our setup takes 2 mouse clicks to get from the first page, or category page for this item, to the option configuration. 6 mouse clicks to configure the options and add to a cart. Dropdown menus double the clicks required to configure a product: 1 click to open the menu and 1 to select the option. That's a total of 12 clicks to configure the same options and 16 total to get to it, configure it, and put it in a cart. Another issue with dropdowns: you can't see the available options until you click the dropdown. Not very user friendly. So stuck between a rock and a hard place, we chose to do the extra work in creating individual part numbers for each width and height and preserve our clean 8 click ordering process, actually, taking height out of the options drops our click number to 7.

There was never really a choice. We had to do the work up front necessary to make it as easy as possible for our customers to shop with us. It's a little disappointing that we missed another self-made deadline, but at the end of the day we know we are doing the right thing.

I talked about a new Cleaf kitchen we began work on Friday. The picture below is a Lakeshore Oak Shaker wall cabinet. These are being readied for installation on Thursday, actually they will be ready today, but the customer isn't ready for them until Thursday. We started work manufacturing these cabinets on Friday, and they are ready to install after only 2 and a half days! I'll have more pics of these cabinets at the end of the day.

Thanks for watching!