Norm Abram starts off the new season of ‘The New Yankee Workshop’ with his first-ever kitchen project.


Norm Abram is back for season 20 of The New Yankee Workshop, premiering Saturday, Jan. 5th, on PBS (check local listings for time). Norm is pictured here standing in his completed “Dream Kitchen.” Photo courtesy of Anthony Tieuli for WGBH.

Celebrating its 20th season, “The New Yankee Workshop” with Norm Abram premieres in January, 2008, on PBS, and Abram will build a new custom kitchen in his workshop. Nine episodes of the new season will also focus on the “best tips and techniques” for fabricating basic elements of a kitchen.

Abram says that he has been thinking about building a kitchen for some time. “After doing research and visiting a local custom cabinet shop, we realized that with a well-equipped workshop, which a lot of our viewers already have, and some good materials, they can build their own custom kitchen.”

The kitchen that Abram will build in his studio workshop, “will be a smart kitchen, using innovative materials and hardware,” he says. He believes that the quality of the wood and plywood, as well as the hardware, is very important in creating a distinctive kitchen.

“Don’t cheat on the quality of materials whether wood or plywood or the hardware itself. Get the best you possibly can,” he says.

As part of his research for the show, to develop design ideas and learn about the latest in hardware innovation, Abram visited the North Carolina headquarters and showroom of Blum Inc. During the visit, Abram saw a number of displays that showcase various storage options and the application of the company’s newest hardware.

“Everything was interesting, but I was most impressed by their extensive research on how people actually work in their kitchens and how they use that information to develop new hardware,” Abram says.

Numerous Customized Options

The visit to Blum, which is featured in the broadcast, illustrates for viewers what is available for the modern kitchen in terms of accessories and customized options. According to Abram, there are limitless options in the cases as well. “There are cabinets available for the budget-driven kitchen all the way up to cabinets that are expensive pieces of custom furniture,” he says.

One thing that has helped kitchens evolve over the years is the popularity of cooking shows and celebrity chefs. “As people became more interested in food and cooking, inspired by people like Julia Child, the kitchen became a gathering place for family and friends. People wanted more function, space and a great look,” notes Abram. “So custom design, custom cabinets and high-end appliances and materials became more popular.”

All of these choices can be overwhelming for the homeowner, Abrams adds. But above all, he believes they should consider function first before adding the customized accessories.

It is a far cry from Abram’s early days in woodworking, when he says that a kitchen was more of a “utilitarian space” and cabinets were off-the-shelf boxes assembled onsite. Custom cabinet shops then were more of a specialty business, he adds.

The New Look

For his new kitchen project, no major architectural millwork was done. It has a traditional look featuring face-frame cabinetry. “The majority of the kitchen consists of painted cabinets,” Abrams says. “But for the island we used ‘river recovered’ Heart pine, and for the bar everything is cherry, including the countertop.”

Other features of the kitchen include inset flat panel doors and drawer fronts with a pencil bead around the openings. The face and door frames of the painted cabinets are poplar with MDF trimmed panels with applied moulding. The cabinet boxes are fabricated from 3/4-inch prefinished maple plywood and assembled with glue and screws, using dado and rabbet joints for strength, Abram says.

An important aspect of the kitchen is the communications center, which features a computer, flat screen monitor and storage space.

Abram says that, “The ‘office’ is something that every modern kitchen needs. And in this ‘Internet world,’ a flat-screen computer that also functions as an HD TV should be on the desktop.”

The new kitchen also includes a wet bar and a pantry.

“Some people opt for a separate room for the pantry,” Abram says. “But every kitchen, at the very least, should have a pantry cabinet. Everyone who has been in the kitchen we built loves the pantry.”

To find out more about Abram’s upcoming episodes, check local PBS listings for time and date or visit

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