How one simple design decision for your home in Michigan can up-level your style, your home, and your entire building process.
When it comes to high-end building and remodeling projects, it’s no secret: cabinets are expensive. That’s why cabinets are often the place builders and homeowners choose as the place to trim money from a home-building project budget.
Justin Sharer, of Sharer Design Group, hears this all the time. And while he understands the impulse, he urges builders and homeowners to resist it: “Sure, you can drive a Kia, or you can drive a Porsche. Both will be reliable cars that get you from A to B. But when you look at design, performance, craftsmanship and ‘wow’ factor, most drivers will tell you there’s no comparison.”
After years of apprenticing with master craftspeople, Sharer, an artisanal cabinet maker, and his wife, Nicki, opened their custom cabinet business nine years ago to build the Porsche of cabinets. The two realized there was a growing audience of luxury home builders and buyers who were looking for more customized options that were ethically built right here in Michigan, and knew Sharer Design could deliver. It was clear an increasing number of homeowners were willing to invest in a tailor-made, built-from-scratch product—and were happy to know that they’d have custom cabinets that were a reflection of their personal style instead of cookie-cutter options.
In addition to carrying his own line of exclusive cabinetry, Sharer partners with cabinet maker Paul Kropp of Bakes & Kropp Fine Cabinetry to serve as the exclusive dealer in Michigan for Bakes & Kropp’s high-end line. The two collaborators share a love of craftsmanship and beautiful materials, and their styles vary; Sharer’s line focuses on frameless designs, which can be considered more contemporary, while the Bakes & Kropp line features inset construction, which is generally more traditional.
Here, Sharer and Kropp explain how going custom with your cabinets can be the design decision that leads to lasting, hand-crafted, sustainable, one-of-a-kind design elements that make your living space sing.
Sharer Cabinetry Full Overlay Kitchen
Sharer Cabinetry Serving Tray
Big-box cabinets mean choosing from a limited range of doors, hardware, finishes and sizes. With custom builds, the sky is the limit. “This is where you can get completely outside the box,” Sharer says. “We’ve worked on old farmhouses and new modern builds. We’ve done renos on historic homes where we match the finishes on existing woodwork. Or my personal favorite: Arts & Crafts style projects. Whatever your design scheme is, we can tailor the cabinetry to fit it perfectly.”
With that customization comes the ability to build precisely to fit every space, so there are no dead corners or false door fronts to cover up for awkward room sizes or wall shapes.
That flexibility also leads to personalized touches that let your space work just for you: pull-out spice racks, drawers with built-in slots for cutlery or K-Cup pods, or hidden charging stations for electronics.
Think of your cabinets as a foundational piece of your home’s look and feel, much the way a pair of gorgeous designer shoes sets the tone for an outfit.
“The kitchen truly is the heart of the home,” says Paul Kropp, whose work was recently featured in celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s home kitchen in the Hamptons. “It sets the tone for the home. All those decisions—the design style of your doors, the finishes, the crown molding … when you start with the cabinetry it flows from there, and you can really customize that room.” Cabinet schemes can influence flooring and rug choices, color palette and even be carried through into bathrooms and office built-ins for continuity.
Starting with a beautiful cabinet element can really set you off on a design path that feels cohesive—and richly satisfying.
Sharer Cabinetry Full Overlay Kitchen
Unmatched Individual Service
For most builders, providing custom cabinetry is a fresh way to add value for their clients with very attentive and personalized service, Sharer explains. From design and concept to measuring, installation and overall level of interaction, it’s a much more human-centered process and one in which clients and builders can experience a high level of creative collaboration.
To begin the process, builders can send their plans to Sharer directly, from which his team can work to formulate quotes. Sharer’s staff will travel anywhere in Michigan to do a remeasure of the project before installation, and ensure the details are perfectly aligned. They take care of the ordering process for the builder or contractor, which adds peace of mind, and Sharer’s company will ship anywhere in Michigan.
Custom cabinetry is a naturally green choice for a variety of reasons, and to create the Sharer Design and Bakes & Kropp lines, Paul Kropp and Justin Sharer take conscious steps in production that make for greener outcomes.
One of the biggest is the use of quality, solid-wood materials, which don’t have the toxins found in the glues and resins used in cheaper composite woods. Kropp takes time to advise clients on wood choices. “Take rosewood, for example,” he explains. “It’s a tropical lumber that should be used in small quantities. When we educate clients about not only its cost but also some of the logging practices, usually they’ll say, ‘You know what? Maybe that’s not the best choice.’ We often steer them to domestic hardwoods including cherry, walnut, maple, oaks, hickories—these are extremely environmentally friendly options. With hardwoods like these, a forester goes in and selects just a few mature trees in a family’s wood lot. It’s actually good, sustainable forest management.”
Both cabinet lines are all made in America—handmade in Michigan. Sharer and Kropp feel that keeping production in Michigan just makes sense, according to Sharer. “We really strive to promote Michigan and promote Michigan-made products,” says Sharer. “And watching our employees grow in this industry is really a passion for both of us.” And since it’s increasingly rare for people to have the traditional training in skilled crafts, Kropp’s solution has been to set up an apprenticeship-like program to train employees from the ground up.
Lastly, there’s the issue of carbon footprint, which for Michigan-based installations drops dramatically. Ensuring there is no shipping from overseas or cross country keeps environmental impact low.
When it comes to cabinets, there will always be good-looking quick-fix options and less-expensive choices, Sharer admits. But for clients that prioritize quality and design, Sharer has seen custom choices pay back countless dividends over time. He cites things like durability, sturdiness, ethics and design are of course important, but so too is the sheer “joy factor” of having something uniquely yours that looks exactly as you dreamed it would, and works just for you.
“You’re embodying a feeling with a custom cabinet choice,” says Sharer, “and that’s where the value difference is.”