A comeback for custom cabinetry

PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTIAN DERSTINE A kitchen recently built by Christian G. Derstine – Furniture Maker. Owner Christian Derstine says he has received a lot of orders for painted maple wood.

Something old becomes something new once more; updated, or refreshed with an unexpected hue.


Wooden cabinets and furniture trends – such as pickled and painted wood pieces – come around, disappear then return reinvented. Trending now are reclaimed plank tables for kitchens and dining rooms and light-colored painted custom cabinetry for kitchens, baths and entertainment centers.

“Everything cycles,” said Kathleen Wilhelm, director of sales for Stofanak Custom Cabinetry in Lower Nazareth Township.

Wilhelm said the most prominent trends for kitchens in recent years have been a return to simpler styles and lines with light-colored painted surfaces in shades of white and gray tones, often with black accents. Another popular choice is dark wood or dark-stained cabinetry, such as solid finished walnut or walnut stains.

Custom cabinet housings are popular for everything from entertainment centers to kitchen islands, under and overhead cabinets, apron sinks and wood refrigerator housings for built-in units or as a way to camouflage the essential appliance.


Christian Derstine said lately he has received a lot of orders for painted maple wood, mostly white, sage and light sage colors. He operates Christian G. Derstine – Furniture Maker in East Rockhill Township.

Derstine began his business in 1987 as a furniture maker. While he kept the company name, Derstine acknowledged his business has migrated from furniture to custom cabinetry.

About 90 percent of his business emanates from cabinets and housings such as entertainment centers and freestanding appliance or enclosure pieces.

Derstine said that about 20 years ago, painted distressed furniture “was all the rage.” Today, painted cabinets and furniture are back but colors are opaque, rather than pickled, and they trend lighter rather than mid or dark-toned.


Derstine said custom cabinetry equals flexibility and creativity for the homeowner and craftsman.

“We’re doing apron sinks and dishwashers, with full-size washing sinks in the islands,” he said, as well as refurbishing existing cabinets, not exactly refacing but something similar.

“Customers want longevity, simpler kinds of looks that span time frames and different kinds of style,” Wilhelm said.

She said prior to the economy tanking in 2008, clients wanted ornate, fancy finishes and design work.

“Now, you’ll see recessed panels, not raised panels in cabinet doors,” Wilhelm said.


Derstine said among that 10 percent of orders he gets for furniture, reclaimed woods for scrubbed farm tables top the list.

Consumers are looking – and willing to pay more – to add a large farmhouse slab wood table.

Often costly to make and time consuming for the craftsman to source from rare or reclaimed wood species – the farm table nevertheless continues to be a steadfast and growing consumer favorite.


Tony O’Malley Custom Woodworking in Emmaus specializes in custom and commission work for a tiny niche market, he said. In nearly all cases, requests are for a design that fits and is comfortable in the room.

O’Malley said material prices alone for slab farmhouse style tables range from $4 to $25 or more for a board foot.

“Single planks alone can cost up to $1,000 each, just for the slabs,” he said, which means a large table can cost $7,000 or more.


Tamara DeLoretta, owner of Tamara DeLoretta Interior Design in Cumru Township, said a growing interest in fine wood furniture, especially scrubbed farmhouse-style tables, continues to be a hot trend.

“Millennials are looking for something that will last,” she said.

She said homeowners of all ages are returning kitchen tables to the kitchen; the perennial heart of the home.

“There are still islands, but people congregate in the kitchen, and the kitchen table [set] is back,” DeLoretta said.

She said millennials shop vintage and hipster era looks, pairing mismatched flea market finds such as wood chairs with the custom-crafted farmhouse table purchase.


Scrubbed table prices in DeLoretta’s locale range from $2,500 to $5,000 “depending upon species,” she said. “Heart pine is very rare and … it’s expensive. They’re also looking for splurge pieces.”

Meanwhile, empty nesters are returning to quality, handcrafted wood furniture, too, because it’s built to last and many want new pieces when they downsize, she said.

“We’re seeing a lot of banquet-sized tables on Letgo [a buy-and-sell app], from the McMansion years,” DeLoretta said.

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