To answer this question I had gone very, very far. I practically explained all the cases of existing panels for furniture, and a fairly long article came out that I thought it would be better to leave it independent, to make reading easier.
The world of furniture and carpentry is in fact a vast world to know, and if you want to understand what is in front of you, you need to have a minimum of smattering. I suggest you read it when you feel like it.
a wrong guess
Let’s get to the heart of the question posed in the title of the article. This question has a very specific origin: speaking with my friends, then with clients, I realized that many people take for granted the following implication, which unfortunately does not correspond to reality:
the more famous the brand (the more the kitchen costs) -> the higher the quality of the materials
Unfortunately this is not the case . The fact that a brand is famous does not guarantee automatically a given consistency of panels. And let’s say that the solid wood kitchen today is almost a mirage. A kitchen from a very famous brand can easily cost from € 10,000 to € 60,000, but it does not mean that the most expensive one is automatically all in solid wood. The reason for these costs exists, they are not figures shot at random (and we will get there), but here, this erroneous assumption denotes that it is important to understand what we are paying and why.
There are differences between brands and brands, but above all often within the same factory we find more than one method of realization, and many possibilities of choice (especially with regard to finishes).
How can we understand what we are buying? The answer is simple: read the data sheet.
To understand the technical data sheets you need to have a smattering of the materials, and for this I refer you to the article above. However, let’s try to understand together how three different brands behave, each associated with a different budget / reputation.
CASE NR. 1 – ENTRY-LEVEL – Ikea
Brand that I appreciate, but whose limits you need to know if you want to make an informed purchase. 90% of its furnishings are made up of chipboard panels covered with plastic sheets; with some rare cases made of real wood veneer. The positive note is that all the technical data sheets and information on the materials are available. It is very easy to read up and understand what you are buying.
The quality of the raw material – such as chipboard – is not excellent; looking at it closely it is possible to notice a mix of very fragile flakes and sometimes mixed with others; but above all, many of the thicknesses of the panels and coatings are at their limits. These last two characteristics mean that some of its products have lower load capacities or durability over a limited time. This is why after a while the wood embarks (bends), does not hold up well, breaks or the surfaces peel off, revealing the underlying part.
CASE NR. 2 – MEDIUM-LEVEL – Scavolini
There is no Italian who does not know Scavolini. Many families have welcomed it into their home and it is part of the history of our nation. As for me, I had the opportunity to get to know her even better, especially from a technical point of view, thanks to the Dandy kitchen project, which I participated in in 2018.
Unlike Ikea, finding ready-to-read datasheets is not that easy. I have navigated far and wide, downloaded catalogs and articles, yet it is difficult to get to the heart of the technical elements. You will probably be given more material during the purchase phase: always ask to the technical support!
In any case, from personal experience, touching some models and reading other articles on the internet to confirm it, I can say that it uses coated chipboard panels for most of the structures. Unlike Ikea, the thicknesses are adequate, and calculated to withstand a certain type of load and time frame. As for the finishes, however, you can find much more information. Over time this brand has greatly renewed the range of proposals, so there is a bit of everything… from basic plastic laminates to nanotechnological finishes, oak woods, ceramics, stone and so on. Here too, since there are so many “fake-something” re-proposals, read the technical data sheet and the quote carefully, to be sure that you are buying a wood cladding and not a faux-wood plastic.
CASE NR. 3 – HIGH LEVEL – Boffi
One of the most sought after and award-winning brands when it comes to kitchen design. Famous designers and architects have designed the most beautiful lines, and every year sets new trends. The finishes are undoubtedly its workhorse. Their quality, and the design one, is very high. They are (almost) all real essences, real stones and real marbles, artfully cut and worked – and there is a series of choices to be missed. There is also a lot of information about it and dedicated brochures. Nothing to say.
The technical data sheets on the “structural” parts of the kitchen are not exactly easy to access. Then, guess what? Well yes. Also in this case we find chipboard / osb panels, and every now and then the MDF also peeps out, as needed. So even one of the most expensive, beautiful and sought-after brands … also uses chipboard panels.
conclusions and advice
As you may have understood, 99% of what you see on the market has a chipboard interior and you will see very little of wood. Some may feel a little annoyed that top-brands use chipboards, but we must consider that:
- chipboard if well calibrated has excellent mechanical properties ; it is certainly less noble, but it does its job if the thicknesses are correct;
- every brand has a great structure behind it: team for technical and aesthetic research, tests and technical tests , support structures and quality control, relationships with dealers, sponsors and dedicated showrooms. This is a service in all respects, and obviously has a cost.
- often to make a furniture more luxurious you work on other fronts , equally expensive: finishes of the exposed panels, important mechanical components (large flap doors with super-engineered hinges, large drawers with metal sides of almost prohibitive dimensions), lights even where not necessary, integrated technologies to work almost with the only touch of the fingers, or activate from apps, and so on.
What I suggest is to always read the technical data sheets, and when these are difficult or unclear (see the wording: laminated, open to different interpretations), ask for info from technical support or the professional who is following you. At least you are aware of what you are buying.
I appreciate the work of these brands, and I also understand the reasons for choosing them, starting simply from the visa-liked. But being able to choose, I always suggest custom-made furniture . First, the freedom of expression is much higher; is a tailored and personal product in all respects that integrates perfectly into your space, without limits of color, effects and finishes. Second, if chipboard, mdf or osb as a structure are not suitable for you, you have the possibility you can ask for the composition of the panels that best suits you, from blockboard to solid wood. At the same cost, therefore, custom-made furniture is much cheaper.
I hope that, between this post and its linked post about materials, I have given you two more notions to understand the composition of a furniture, and make you more aware of it, for any questions or additional information, feel free to write to me.