Glass can transform a kitchen, at minimal cost

We asked experts for practical advice that you can use.

Kitchen updates can be expensive, and some do-it-yourself projects like painting or refinishing kitchen cabinets can end up looking bad if not done properly. But by enlisting the help of a professional in a new design option, homeowners can update the look of their kitchen without breaking the budget or getting their own hands paint-splattered.

By removing the recessed part of wood kitchen cabinets and replacing it with glass, homeowners can completely change the look of their kitchen. With a variety of glass options — clear, frosted and etched — homeowners are sure to find a design that fits their budget.

Inspired to update the style of her kitchen cabinets without spending a lot of money, Linda Thomson of Dayton, turned to Affordable Glass and Mirror in Huber Heights to transform two of her cabinets with glass.

“So many new kitchens include some of the cabinets with glass. You can also pick what type of glass you would like. Do you want to go clear, opaque or have a pattern? It gives them a little different look that I love,” Thomson said.

Beth Spegal, owner of House Dressing Interior Design, Ltd., in Centerville, who has done this in her own kitchen, advises homeowners to assess the quality of their cabinets before starting this project.

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“Not all doors can be fitted with glass. Cheaper cabinets will not work, as they are not always plywood or solid enough doors to allow them to be opened for glass inserts,” Spegal said. “Only good quality, thicker quality doors will allow this to work and work correctly. Once the cabinet doors are cut open for the glass, a lip needs to be routed out on the inside to create a lip for the glass to be inserted into. Then, the glass needs to be secured into the opening to be safe to use for years.”

Said Benjamin Spofford, owner of Hudson, Ohio’s Housecalls Home Services (www.housecallshomeservices.com), the type of cabinet will determine the level of professional help needed for this project.

“The most common application of glass in kitchens is with wood doors with flat or raised panels. The panels can be removed and glass put in its place. For the handy person at home a piece of glass can easily be installed in less than 30 minutes. For others who care not to attempt the project there are many shops that specialize in this kind of work,” Spofford said.

Spofford said that any cabinet door with a center panel can be converted to glass, with the right help.

“Most wood doors are made with a wood frame and a central panel. Years ago the laminate cabinets were very popular. Even the laminate doors can be switched to glass, though it would usually require the handiwork of a cabinet-maker to create an opening in what is usually a solid flat panel,” Spofford said.

Spegal recommends hiring a kitchen contractor who understands the construction of cabinets and possesses the equipment needed for the project.

“A Service Glass in Beavercreek has an assortment of glass to pick from and can cut to fit your needs,” Spegal said. “Getting the glass is the easy part of this transformation.”

With so many options beyond standard clear glass, homeowners have the chance to really customize their design.

“There is seeded glass for an antique look, rain glass, obscure glass, crackle, leaf motif, striped glass and the list goes on and on. Don’t feel you ever have to settle for just clear glass. For a contemporary look, frosted glass is popular as it is sophisticated and smart. That mixes so well with Stainless Steel, which is a current trend in appliances and sinks,” Spegal said.

The type of glass will determine the cost of the project for typical panel-type cabinet doors, Spofford said.

“We had a homeowner who had purchased a pair of beautiful diamond-shaped beveled leaded glass panels at an antique store. She wanted to install them in her existing kitchen cabinets. The problem was she didn’t have a door that was of the proper size. We had to fabricate new doors to fit the panels. This project cost $300 per door plus the cost of the leaded glass of which she paid $225 per panel. This would be an example of the higher end,” Spofford said. “A basic door in a kitchen might be 18 inches across by 30-36 inches height. Clear annealed glass might cost $25-$30 a panel and installation of $75-125 per door. Specialty glass (non-clear) would increase the material cost but labor is usually constant.”

Homeowners can even draw on inspiration from other parts of their home.

“I remodeled a kitchen in my 1862 home and had doors put in the dish cabinets that are similar to the original front door. It has helped pull the architecture through the house and made the cabinetry look like it has always belonged,” said Molly Williams, owner of Ivy Designs in Miamisburg.

To increase the design statement, homeowners should play around with light sources.

“If I were doing a kitchen, I would definitely want to be certain that I could get some accent lighting into the cabinet as well. And glass shelves so the effect would be what is currently being done,” said Winnie Cleavenger, owner of Winteriors in Dayton, who opted to have the wood inserts in her front door replaced with safety glass. “It is wonderful how my entry has even more light in it.”

However, the wrong light source can diminish the look of what is being highlighted under glass.

“Most kitchen cabinet interiors are light in color and are suitable as display cases as long as the lighting is not an issue. If the light source in the kitchen is not quite right, a display of crystal vases behind a glass door for example, could be cancelled out by an undesirable reflection. Corrections can be made from outside the cabinet with directional or accent lighting, or from the inside the cabinet with down-lighting such as mini-fluorescence or the halogen ‘puck’ low voltage lights,” Spofford said. “For a dramatic effect translucent glass of color can also be illuminated from within a cabinet, this can be especially pleasing in the evening with the general lighting on dimmers.”

For this design project to wow, not every cabinet door has to be changed.

“In the right spot, glass-fronted cabinets can create a ‘china cabinet’ look right in your kitchen. It’s the perfect spot to house your better dishes or glassware. Decorative pieces such as pottery and colored glass add color and style to your kitchen. Placement of your glass doors is important to make sure you highlight something worth seeing. After all, no one wants to see your canned goods,” Spegal said.

A corner diagonal wall cabinet is the most popular choice to add a glass front, Spegal said.

“This helps soften the corner and add depth by being able to see into a corner. Transom cabinets are perfect for glass fronts and just add some interior lighting and really show off a special collection,” Spegal said.

Since glass fronts will expose the inside of cabinets, make sure the inside stain matches the outside to ensure a beautiful finish.

“When you custom order a cabinet from a manufacturer with a glass door front, the interior of the cabinet will be finished to match the outside. Make sure you aren’t opening up a can of worms when suddenly you can see a nonmatching inside to the outside of your cabinets. Often the inside might need to be addressed at the same time so that the inside of the cabinet looks as good as it should, and it doesn’t take away from the wonderful items you are wishing to display,” Spegal said.

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