Classic Kitchens of Charleston believes style should complement function


Homebuilder: Riverland Builders

Contemporary kitchen cabinets provide homeowners with an attractive, up-to-date aesthetic that lends style and sophistication to a new kitchen or remodel.

Marked by simplified shapes and sleek lines, today’s fresh designs help create just the right atmosphere to complement modern décor. But selecting the most appropriate style can make all the difference.

That’s where Classic Kitchens of Charleston comes in. Owner/designer Jay Valk and his team know that cabinets, closets and kitchen islands are an investment. Not only must they meet clients’ tastes but their budgets as well. Lifestyle and cost are no less key considerations than in any other room of a home.

“Cabinetry has always been a major element of a kitchen’s aesthetic, of course, but if you don’t produce a really nice product in today’s market, people can spot it right away,” Valk says. “The consumer has become more educated as to what a quality cabinet is.”

Valk notes that for many years kitchen cabinets were seen as utilitarian, offering little in the way of a design aesthetic. He says this began to change after the Great Recession but adds that homeowners in the Charleston area are “stepping up their game” in general.

“There are different styles that are coming into play here and areas that weren’t that common before, like a butler’s pantry, which is a little more decorative than a pantry for bulk item storage,” he adds. “Typically, it will have a sink and second dishwasher and a coffee maker.”

Homebuilder: Riverland Builders

Although Classic Kitchens has handled large commercial projects, Valk says its work is 97% residential, showcasing a wide selection of options that meet clients’ needs. These designs have many practical benefits as well, from improved durability and low maintenance to superior options for organization and storage—a marriage of style and convenience.

Six levels of cabinetry designed to fit any budget are on display in its Mount Pleasant showroom, and Valk is particularly keen on cabinets from Schlabach Wood Design, an Amish company based in Ohio.

Classic Kitchens also offers custom design work—hoods, islands, floating vanities and cabinets. Valk and his three fellow designers create shop drawings and have a local shop build a piece to order. On a typical project, designers will meet with the client three to five times.

Among the styles preferred by many clients are inset cabinets of white oak or, if it is to be painted, maple. Also, flat doors with no raised panels are a modern style that Valk says is coming on strong.

“Now it’s all sleek and everything pulls out. There is nothing that is just there as ornamentation,” he says.

In other words, function is never subordinated to style; every feature has a purpose.

Stylish cabinets demand the companionship of fashionable hardware, which is another important factor in cabinet selection. A complementary combination of handles, knobs and drawer pulls will give cabinets an even more distinctive element. Popular finishes include stainless steel, chrome, brass and glass.

“Our work is probably sixty-forty in favor of new construction,” says Valk, who opened the business in 2012. “But we are getting ready to go into a lot of remodeling here soon.”

The process begins with a builder sending Valk a set of plans. Classic Kitchens reps then set a time with the designer and homeowner to discuss the project and look at different offerings.

“And from that point on we establish a budget for the design they wanted and the layout,” he says. “We believe we can satisfy any budget, but the smaller the budget, the more give and take there will be on customization.”

Homebuilder: Riverland Builders

Completion time on cabinetry is eight to 10 weeks.

Valk’s specialties are cabinets and closets, but the company also does large kitchen islands. Today’s trend: the bigger, the better.

“Large, freestanding islands are very much in style, including those with a decorative ventilation piece, such as a wooden hood,” Valk says. “It provides a focal point for the kitchen. This is another area in which style has really changed.”

Other specialties include both primary and secondary closets.

Baths and laundry rooms, which the company also designs, reflect the same graceful, streamlined approach, with vanities showing a similarly contemporary look. Other rooms offered by Classic Kitchens include a scullery—a small, unobtrusive kitchen extension used for washing dishes and other household work—and a drop zone.

Valk moved to the Charleston area in 2004 and soon answered an ad in the Post and Courier seeking cabinetry salespeople. He had been working in building materials sales, but by 2005 was learning cabinet design from a certified kitchen designer.

“That’s a title that’s been kind of passé for a while now,” he says. “I had been interested in building ever since a shop class in middle school, but not specifically cabinetmaking—until I started training.”

Classic Kitchens’ staff of eight is split evenly between friendly, knowledgeable designers ready to answer any question and highly skilled, full-time installation associates. Whether a client is considering a remodel or a new home, Valk says their goal is to ensure that every customer has an exceptional experience, from the initial consultation and design process through to the finished product.

“With our variety of both moderately priced and high-end options, we have something for everyone,” he says.

And the service to match.

Bill Thompson covers the arts and design.

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