how to extreme

Rustic Doors for Cabinets & Drawers

Cabinet, Construction How-To, Kitchen, Remodeling August 5, 2016 Sonia








How To Build Rustic-looking Doors on a Budget

By Rob Robillard

I was recently contacted through with an email that started something like this: “Can you make me rustic looking cabinet doors quickly, cheaply, but built real well?”

Fast, Good, Cheap Triangle

I’ve always tried to avoid doing anything cheaply and have half-jokingly followed the “Designers Holy Triangle.” The DHT is used when pricing a project; clients must choose only two out of the three options. They can’t have it all!

The Fast, Good, Cheap Triangle goes like this:

  1. Good + Fast = Expensive: Choose good and fast, and we will postpone everything else and make you our priority. We’ll work 24/7/365 to get your project done! But don’t expect it to be cheap.
  2. Good + Cheap = Slow: Choose good and cheap, and we will do a great job for a discounted price, but be patient because we want to do it during the winter while we’re having our lull.
  3. Fast + Cheap = Inferior: Choose fast and cheap and expect an inferior job delivered on time. You truly get what you pay for, and in my opinion this is the least favorable choice of the three.


Fishing, Shipping, a Love Story, and of course Beer!

While I would normally run away from a project request like this, I was drawn to this man’s story. He and his wife had recently purchased their dream house in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Located on the southern bank of the Merrimack River where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean, Newburyport has a long and rich history. Originally the area was inhabited by the Pawtucket Indians and later became a city in 1851. It was once a big fishing port, shipbuilding and shipping center, and was known for silverware manufacture. It’s also the location of NBPT Brewing Company—one of my favorite “beeaah” makers (said with a strong Boston accent).

According to my new client, his wife took ill and passed away. He really wanted to follow through and finish the dream project according to her original plan. Every time he spoke about her or the project his eyes would well with tears. How could I say no?

Designing the Doors

When we met, he brought a sample of the current French provincial style cabinet doors, which he wanted to replace. His plan was to keep the cabinet boxes and face-frames and apply new, rustic-looking doors. The doors would copy the old overlay design and be painted an olive green color.

The new cabinet doors were made from rough sawn lumber purchased from a mill.

The new cabinet doors were made from rough sawn lumber purchased from a mill.

I explained to him that I preferred to build my doors in a “Stile and Rail” or “Frame and Panel” method with a floating door panel. This method allows the door panel to fit into groves along the doorframe. Frame-and-panel construction, a method developed hundreds of years ago, deals well with the expansion and contraction that seasonal humidity has on solid wood cabinetry.