Leanne Ford Launched New Cabinets with Semihandmade

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When John McDonald, the founder of Semihandmade, called up Leanne Ford and asked her if she’d want to design a line of semi-custom cabinets for the brand, she had one request: “We have to tackle white oak.” Countless times, the designer has had white oak door fronts show up to a project only for them to have a yellowy orange tint to them (a result of the protective sealant). “One time, 10 of us spent the night with hand-sanders trying to get the veneer off,” recalls Ford. Her goal? To be left with an unfinished, natural look. “I was like, why doesn’t anybody have this ready for us as is?” she adds.

And so, with Semihandmade backing the exclusive collaboration—out today!—Ford drove over to Ohio and worked with some of the makers to concoct the perfect stain formula. Naturally, the designer had to weave in a warm white painted front option, too, using one of her favorite shades: Shoji by Sherwin-Williams. “I wanted this collection to be for anyone, any style, anywhere,” shares Ford. Her edit for the doors was equally tight, sticking to a classic Shaker, a flat slab, and another called Frame, which is basically a skinny version of the Shaker profile. While Semihandmade has been prized as a resource for IKEA kitchen hacks, this collection technically falls under the brand’s own semi-custom line, meaning you get all of the actual cabinet boxes when you place your order. 

Want to put Ford’s cabinet collection to use just as she would? Look no further than her latest project: a historic home on Church Lane in Pittsburgh that the designer bought, renovated, and recently put up for sale. Ahead, in her own words, she shares seven tips for nailing a designer-grade kitchen all on your own.

Don’t Feel Confined by the Kitchen Work Triangle

Photography by Erin Kelly; Styling by Hilary Robertson

Before getting on [Semihandmade’s] website, think about the layout of your kitchen. Are you someone who wants your stove to be in the middle of the party? Or do you never even turn it on? Think about all of that. People always talk about “the work triangle.” I have gone away from that many times in my life because I personally don’t mind getting the extra steps in. 

Hack Your Way to a Bespoke Island 

white closet with island

Photography by Erin Kelly; Styling by Hilary Robertson

This is another fun hack: In the closet, we put the cabinetry line into a vintage island. I literally just threw it in there. And it’s beautiful on all sides. 

Confused About Door Styles? Start With the Knobs and Pulls

white bar cabinets

Photography by Erin Kelly; Styling by Hilary Robertson

If you’re questioning your door style, think about your hardware first. Do you want it to be big? Do you want it to be small? Do you want it to be hidden? That will help you decide. Like this über-simple slab: It can take any hardware, anything. You can have the weirdest, wildest stuff. Or you can do what I did and powder coat the hardware so it goes away. The Frame is similar; it can carry more options. The Shaker is super-traditional, classic, and for that I’d keep to simpler, smaller hardware. 

Hide Appliances at All Costs

fridge cabinet

Photography by Erin Kelly; Styling by Hilary Robertson

My nonnegotiable is panel-ready appliances. I never want to see the dishwasher. I never want to see the refrigerator. I want that to go away and be involved in the cabinetry.

Get Artsy With Your Countertop

bathroom sink

Photography by Erin Kelly; Styling by Hilary Robertson

I always do honed marble, not glossy. Let it get stained, let it get beat up. At Church Lane, we did tons of salvaged marble. We just overgrouted it and did wide grout lines—it’s a beautiful, artistic expression. Don’t worry about trying to be perfect; perfect can get very boring. 

Stock Shallow Closets With S-Hooks

white closets in bedroom

Photography by Erin Kelly; Styling by Hilary Robertson

We want to live this minimalist life, but we all have junk. This bedroom didn’t allow for deep cabinets, so we layered floor-to-ceiling boxes, and inside, we installed bars with S-hooks for hanging items like denim jeans. 

Know When to Stop Your Millwork

cabinets on either side of range

Photography by Erin Kelly; Styling by Hilary Robertson

You don’t have to fill a kitchen with cabinetry, left to right. Semihandmade provides these side slabs that let you close it up so you can have space for a beautiful vintage table or a butcher block island. 

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