Friday, January 20, 2012

An early valentine to our cabinet maker.

There are three things we know we will never regret about building our house:

1. Choosing Charis Homes. 
Building (and selling) a home is a stressful process, no matter who builds your home, because the process of making dreams a reality is a pretty tall order. There are a million little things that the average non-home builder doesn't even see or think about, yet he or she has an idea in their mind of what it should do, look like, etc. And, especially in my case, even if you do have an awareness of this thing, you probably don't know the correct terminology to accurately or adequately describe what you want it to do or look like. For us, bringing LOTS of pictures to our discussions has helped immensely, and throughout this whole process, there have only been a few last minute changes, which Charis was quick to remedy or adjust. We know that we are getting a solid, quality, energy-efficient home that we will enjoy for the rest of our lives. If we did it over again, we would choose Charis again. No doubt.

2. Choosing Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) for our entire house. 

We build a two-story house with a full basement. We used ICF forms throughout. It's a little more money, and a lot different than most houses, which use traditional stick framing, but I LOVE the way the house feels. It's solid and cozy...and the flooring isn't even in yet. Best of all, for my brain injury, it's quiet. The other night we were in the house and it was pouring rain outside. We didn't hear a drop until we opened the door. I see many more "good" days for me in my brain. If we did it over again, we'll choose full ICF again.

3. Choosing Joe Yoder as our cabinet maker. Learning about Joe was a very happy surprise in this whole process. Back in July, when we first broke ground, D and I would come to the building site each day to watch the Amish crew build our "lego" house. (D, at 2 and a half, had begun his Lego obsession and an ICF block really DOES look like a lego block...) It was insanely hot that month, so we tried to bring some sort of cool treat for the crew each day. After a few weeks of chatting with the foreman, he asked me who was building our cabinets. At the time, we had planned to put in semi-custom cabinets, but were still thinking through our final layout. He told me that his brother-in-law, who had worked for a cabinet company for about twelve years, was starting his own cabinet company, and maybe we'd want to have him give us a quote. 

We were pretty sure we wouldn't be able to afford a custom kitchen, but it's one of those things that if you don't ask, you don't know. We figured that if we found out how much a full customer kitchen would put us over our budget, it would be easier to remind ourselves of why we went with stock cabinets when we were feeling regretful. 

Joe doesn't have a store or display area, and as an Amish craftsman, he doesn't have a website or photos either. Instead, he invited us to his home to see his own kitchen, which he built himself in his wood-shop next to his house. On a personal level, we were excited to visit with an Amish family, and we were delighted to discover that Joe's youngest son was the same age as ours. Oh, to have a picture of those boys playing that first day.

Joe's kitchen is stunning. We didn't take pictures, to be respectful, but his wife was kind enough to let me open and close all the cabinets and drawers. It was much more modern than I expected. Not so much in style, but certainly in function. The wood was perfectly smooth and all the joints were flawless. Even considering that he threw in a little extra care and love for his own family's cabinets, we were in love. We tentatively asked for a quote and crossed our fingers. 

When the quote came in at just a few hundred over the stock companies, it was a no brainer. 

During the process, we returned to Joe's shop a few more times to see our cabinets in the process of construction. That's a fun family memory we never would have gotten with a stock shop.
Joe Yoder with our prep island. (photographed with permission)
We knew we wanted to do all base drawers (except under the sink and corner) with full extension and soft close on everything. All in all, not only did we get the best cabinets possible, (please click if you haven't seen our kitchen cabinets) but we were able to add options I wouldn't have even considered, like a touch-operated recycling center, three drawers under the cooktop, cubbies to the side of the cooktop for my wines and oils, a storage shelf under the prep island, storage trays above the ovens, utensil dividers, and more. 

Joe was really easy to work with. He understood what we were trying to do and why, and helped us think through our layout and functionality. In fact, it was his idea to add the wine cubbies instead of using a basic filler. We were very pleased with his standard quality, and blown away by his upgrades. The subs who were in the house after Joe have raved to us about the quality. These are people who see cabinets day in and day out. In fact, one of our painters today said that in ten years, he's never seen cabinets that were stained and sanded on top, where no one but the painter ever looks.

In addition to the kitchen cabinets, we had Joe do a few other projects.

Master Bedroom Built-In:
This is a great example of how Joe came up with solutions for us. Originally, the plan called for a linen closet in the water closet. Now, we have four deep drawers and three shelves right behind the vanity. (Still waiting for the hardware to arrive).
Laundry Room Cubbies:
I saw a picture on Pinterest with cubbies for laundry basket. I thought that would be a good way to organize our laundry. We did four even though we are a family of three, so the extra one could be used for upstairs linens, or even as a future doggie bed for a future four-footed family member. 

This is what he came up with:
I love how substantial the shelves look with the extra piece that covers the front edge. The depth of the cubbies matches the depth of our stacked washer and dryer.
View from the laundry room door. Since I'm short, I didn't have any use for upper cabinets. However, I do have the flexibility to hang a tension rod between the linen closet (with door open, to the left, and cubbies) to hang clothes if I want.
Close up of the super smooth edge of the shelf. You usually see a little lip here, but everything Joe did for us  is perfectly flat and smooth.
Another view of the craftsmanship.
Baking Center:
I love to bake and I usually knead my own dough. Due to my short height, this usually requires me to be on my tippy toes to get the force I need. We solved that issue by installing a baking center.
Originally, the plan was for the baking center to be a bit wider, to accommodate a wheelchair, but when I found out that Canton Cut Stone had a remnant of marble that was just a smidge smaller, we made the decision to go with it. Our kitchen still fits a wheel chair in the command center, which you'll see below. 
The marble will be installed on the 25th.
The advantage to the open sides is that my little sous chef (and a friend) can help make cookies!
This counter is JUST right.
Command Center:
Joe originally installed command center a few weeks ago. It's maple in a espresso shaker style like the kitchen cabinets.
All the drawers are full extension and soft close. The dry erase board is also magnetic.
This section of cubbies and open shelves will go above the dry erase/magnetic board after the counter is placed. The cubbies will actually be on the bottom.
On either side of the dry erase/magnetic board will sit these tall cabinets with doors to hide my binders.
Surprise! It's a built in pencil drawer!
Built in cabinet for shredder with outlet in the wall behind the drawer.
It looks fantastic! It will be a great hub of home organization. was a little low when we tried to fit a chair under it. I felt a bit sick. We called Joe and he said, "No problem. Let's make it right." So today, he got back to work.

Off goes the middle section.
Attaching the blockers.
The blockers added about 4 inches. Much better.
He had to adjust the outlet cutout.
And cut around the newly painted baseboards
Much better!
He'll go back to his shop to make the baseboard and stain it. By the time the counter is on, he'll be ready to add the baseboard when he puts the cabinets and shelves up.

Other Adjustments:
We really appreciate Joe not making us feel like idiots when we made mistakes or late changes. For example. Joe made our cabinets according to our appliance specifications. Then we changed the appliances because of the great deals we found at MAS. Fortunately, the only issue was with our double oven, which need a little more height. So Joe cut the lip off the frame so the ovens can go in on Tuesday, and then he'll retrofit at the same time he finished the command center. 

Overall, we are beyond thrilled with Joe's work. If we did it again, we would find a way to hire Joe to do all our wood work. For those of you interested in having Joe do some work for you - and we know a few already did so - here is his contact information:

Joe Yoder Cabinet
7690 Hoy Road
Fredricksburg, OH 44627
P: (330) 763-0269
F: (330) 695-2126
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