"I love that more people are choosing to personalize their homes today. Your home should be a reflection of you, not someone else," said Leigh Spicher, national director of Design Studios for Ashton Woods. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Whether you’re buying a newly built home or renovating your home, cabinets can take up a big part of your kitchen spending. We turned to Leigh Spicher, national director of Design Studios for Ashton Woods, a residential builder in Georgia, Texas, Arizona, Florida and the Carolinas, for her advice on how to compare cabinet options when you don’t want to buy too cheaply but also don’t have a big budget.

“Cabinets will be the most used finish in your home next to flooring, and it’s important to invest in this architectural detail that will be difficult to change,” said Spicher in an email. “They are also a focal point in your home. Cabinets should be 20-25 percent of your interior finish budget for a new home.”

In addition, she said, choose what you like and don’t follow trends.

“Chances are you will live in your home longer than the trend,” she said. “I love that more people are choosing to personalize their homes today. Your home should be a reflection of you, not someone else. I personally think white cabinets are a timeless look, even though they seem contemporary today. I like to balance the use of white with a pop of color on the island or add character such as oak or hickory.”

Not matter what you style choose, according to Spicher, there are key features in cabinet construction that will add value and prolong the life of your cabinets.

  • There have been advancements in synthetic materials, called MDF, which can be compared to maple, cherry or oak cabinets. MDF cabinets are known to hold paint better and are considered better in climates that are humid.
  • One choice to make is dovetail vs. stapled construction of cabinets/drawers. Dovetail is known to be more durable then stapled. I like metal drawer boxes, too.
  • Don’t forget the inside! Homeowners focus on the color or style of the cabinet but disregard the organization on the inside. Think about how you use your kitchen and whether you use things like baking sheets or heavy pots and pans, make sure to design the inside of your cabinets to include features to support these items. Spice jar drawers are my absolute favorite accessory and really make navigating weeknight dinners easier.