Custom Cabinet Design Tip: Blue Painter's Tape

Use blue tape to layout the custom built in cabinet system on the wall. This will not only help you visualize the installation of your custom cabinets, but also determine where existing outlets, vents, cable and related items will "fall" within the cabinets.

built-in cabinet design help with blue painter's tape
Built in window seat outline in McLean VA

In McLean, VA, a client uses blue painter's tape to outline a window seat corner angles.

Customer in Fairfax, VA adheres blue painters tape on their wall to help visualize overall design, size and placement of outlets for their custom built-in cabinets.

In this photo we look to the right side where the cabinet depth will clear the window.

Tape "X" shows where future outlets will be placed and/or moved.

Custom Cabinet Design Tip: How to design and layout

Keep in mind, your custom cabinets will last many years but what you store within them will change, therefore keep cabinet sizes generic....

A built-in with a desk knee hole (chair) spaces should be 36" wide. In this 36" wide space you may have a pencil drawer, open keyboard slide or our drop down keyboard (conceals the keyboard and appears like a pencil drawer).

Allow approximately 24" of space from the desk top to a wall hung custom cabinet above.


Wall hung custom cabinets directly above the chair space/desk top area should not exceed 12" in depth.

Using our keyboard slide, a 24" desk depth in most cases is satisfactory. Use a 30" depth for working at home full time if space allows.

Allowing  an open desktop space width of 60" provides enough space to "spread out".

Protect the desk top working area with a piece of glass (placed on top of finished surface). Consider a plastic laminate surface for full time usage.

On one side of your desk area / chair area have 1 file drawer and 2 box style drawers for "current hot files and everyday stuff". On the other side, consider a single, pocket door base cabinet to house a tall cpu tower.

Don't have a computer yet? ...still opt for the drop down style keyboard slide which will act as a pencil drawer but provide the option later.......

30" high base cabinets work well for a desk height. Office chairs are often adjustable in height to assist for the best comfort level.

Typically, 24" deep cabinets will house most printers, cpu's and fax machines. It's better to have too much space than to be searching for components to fit. Components will change and/or be replaced however your cabinets will last a very long time!

Use a pull-out slide shelf for any equipment where you must access the top of the machine. Do not needlessly add pull out shelves, as they limit the vertical space adjust ability in the future.

Lateral style file drawers are easier to design with than front to back file drawers. Also, as you are sitting at your desk, they are easier to read the contents as you will not twist your neck!

Most home files are letter size. The few legal size files you may have can be folded to fit in a letter size file.

Carpenter cutting wood. General Design Tip for Built in Cabinets: Keep in mind, your cabinets will last many years but what you store within them will change, therefore keep cabinet sizes generic....
Hands on a keyboard. Built-in Cabinet Desk width: Allowing  an open desktop space width of 60" provides enough space to "spread out".
Hands on a keyboard. Office Built in Cabinet: Typically, 24" deep cabinets will house most printers, cpu's and fax machines.
Custom Cabinet Design Tip: Built-in or Free Standing Custom Cabinet

All of our furniture is available either built-in or freestanding (so you may take it with you or change its placement). There is no right or wrong answer to this often asked question.

However, please take into consideration "the more it looks built in..... the more difficult it will be for you to move later".  Also, you must find an appropriate location in your new environment.

If moving is not in your immediate plans (6 years +),  it is often desirable to purchase the built in configuration. You will enjoy the additional storage and appearance. In addition, upon selling your home, it will be an added sellers promotion. Home buyers love our built ins (proven fact) and they photograph well for the home sales advertisement!

Free standing cabinet, not built-in cabinet in Fairfax, VA
Free Standing Cabinet
Built-in cabinet example
Built-in Cabinet
Custom Cabinet Design Tip: Find an Idea Picture

Submitted picture with request

for estimate

Customer's submitted built-in cabinet design idea from Houzz. Installed in Fairfax, VA

Customer's space for built-in

Built in cabinet space. Installed in Fairfax, VA

Our final product

The copied, finished product. Installed in Fairfax, VA
Design Tip: Use a Remote Extender

Instead of having glass doors to allow access of remote controls to your electronic devices, you can use a simple remote extender (also referred to as a remote repeater). Many cable providers remote controls having an option of changing the settings in your remote form IF (infrared) to RF (radio frequency) which would accomplish the same thing. Both of these alternatives provide you the choice of solid doors instead of glass saving you money.

Remote control extender for use with built-in cabinets.

If installing the TV above the fireplace is the only option, we suggest using a motorized mount, such as the ComfortVu, that pulls the TV both out and down from its resting place. This type of mount will pull the TV out about 24 inches from the wall and can lower it by as much as 38 inches from its above-the-fireplace height, and it will clear a 12-inch-deep mantel with the TV mounted just 3 inches above it.

Installing a TV Above a Fireplace
Comfortvu TV mount for custom cabinets with a TV over a mantel.
Design Help Forms and More Information on Custom Built-in Cabinets
Form graph paper. Custom built in cabinet design help