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High end wood look laminate cabinets?

last month
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We are doing a full kitchen remodel. Our home is a classic midcentury home, and we are updating to bring in a more modern look while also giving lots of nods to the original roots. We are doing a combo of wood and painted matte kitchen cabinets, all in slab style. Likely something in walnut or teak - pretty standard stuff for a midcentury home.

Our cabinet maker will do anything we want - he builds the boxes, and either buys doors from various distributors, or will make them himself - depending on what finish we want and what his distributors can offer. For wood doors, he brought some samples of high end european laminates, and I legitimately could not believe they were not real wood. I am not looking for a super euro style kitchen, so I was skeptical about laminate. But I had to ask him three times that the sample wasn’t real wood, and I even checked the manufacturer webpage after the fact. I have renovated several kitchens over the years, and perhaps more importantly, I have done quite a bit of wood furniture refinishing - including wood veneer repairs. So I am not completely clueless on this subject (tho certainly no expert). But I was very surprised by the product.

Like I said, I am not looking for a super modern high gloss euro look, but this product does not look like that. It just looks and feels like wood in a matte finish. Does anyone have any thoughts on these products? pros and cons to real wood? I spent some time on some woodworker forums, and it seems there are a handful of comparable brands - Salt, cleaf, wilsonart…. and the woodworkers say good things about them.

Pros could be durability, and also no surprises in the finish (i am not having to rely on a cabinet maker for consistency). Cons could be that while the original finish is stronger than wood, once damaged, they cannot be fixed. Also, they cannot be refinished. And will they really look like wood? My cabinetmaker says the laminates are less expensive than custom real wood veneer cabinets.

Anyone care to chime in?

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