Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

All of us at Apple Wood Kitchen and Bath wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We know many of you have been dreaming of updating your home, kitchen, or bath for years. 2015 is coming to a close. Maybe 2016 will be your year to realize your dream and start on the project you have thought about for decades.

We are here to help make that dream a reality.

May I suggest that you tune in this week to practical ideas for your new kitchen? There  is no better time to pay attention to what you love about the functionality of your current kitchen. It is the perfect time to keep a note pad available. Write down what you love and want to be able to continue having in your new space. Writing down what does NOT work or irritates you is important too.

Those notes taken in the moments of cooking , entertaining , and living in your current kitchen will clarify what you truly want to change. When it is time to make all your selections referring to these notes with maximize the result and overall satisfaction in our new space,

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the happiest 2016 ever!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Personal Touch - How skilled is your Designer?

Today lets talk about the Design Process

Every Designer has to learn the Kitchen Bath Design Process. Years ago most designers hand drew plans. Computer generated CAD software changed that. Now most Kitchen or Bath Design is done with 2020, Chief Architect, or another software. Each keeps improving. That means true professionals need to continue their education and learn new updates each product strives to add.

Where does a designer learn? Good question! The answer is most are apprenticed. Some are fortunate to actually attend classes. However, that is not always available. Many areas lack a 2020 training center. I am going to give away a secret of the industry and tell you something you probably do not know.

Have you ever wondered or asked why the Big Box retailers and perhaps some Hardware Store Kitchen Departments are willing to do designs for free when other showrooms charge a Design Fee?
Frankly it boils down to expertise and experience.

People love to come into the store and look around. Nearly everyone is curious about remodeling a kitchen or bath. Walking over to the Kitchen department with a sketch is very common. After all, the customer knows they are not going to be charged for a fee for a design. There is nothing to lose.
Since Lowes and Home Depot are very busy stores, their employees are afforded the opportunity to change departments to learn a new field. Often management will just pick an employee and put them in a vacant slot left by another designer who no longer works in the store. That is how I learned kitchen design. It is a trial by fire! Sometimes it is the employee wanting to learn a new area who asks to transfer in to the remodeling department. It is also common for a sales associate in Home Decor or the Appliance department to transfer to the Kitchen Bath department.

These  newbies who transfer are encouraged to learn through practice. Sometimes an occasional store location may still employ a more advanced designer. If so, they will be asked to teach the newbie.
That is generally not appreciated as the more experienced designer's time and earnings are then impacted by splitting their focus.  The newbie usually has to figure it how to design on their own, through repetition.  Usually the vacancy in the department is caused by the more experienced designer giving notice and leaving their job to pursue better opportunities once they gained knowledge and experience in their craft.

The education model used reverts back to learning by trial and error as you play around with the computer software. Obviously, it may not have the best outcome for the customer. To be fair, I need to say there can be more advanced kitchen and bath designers at the big box stores. They may like that type of remodeling model.  If so, they limit their abilities to design truly custom kitchens. The cabinet lines available in big box retailers are limited in their offerings.

Generally, the more advanced and experienced designer who have paid their dues at Home Depot or Lowes long to advance to better cabinet lines only available in higher end showrooms.. After they learn and advance, most promote themselves by transferring their talent and career to a privately owned showroom or Design Build firm. Designing  requires a person a with a rare combination of aptitude and skills. They must be very detailed, know and use math, be articulate, creative, and up to date on all the new trends and products available for their client. The best designers are strong in all of these skills. Why is all this so important , you ask? Well math is necessary because  a mistake in calculations as small as one eighth of an inch can ruin the enter job.

Yes, there are some Kitchen Designers that become very talented and knowledgeable and choose to continue there career in the Big Box Retailer they learned 2020 in. However, the majority of the designers leave when they learn the craft to find greener pastures elsewhere. The turn over in Kitchen Departments is frequent and expected. This is one of the domains where the cliche, "you get what you pay for" truly applies. Always keep in mind the quality and care you invest in your home impacts the value of the same.

When you decide to consult with a higher end showroom and designer, all their "training" has become their foundation to help you achieve your dream project. They are proven professionals.
For the reasons stated above a Design Fee is to be expected.  Those fees can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. It is generally applied to the total cost and not a separate fee.
The difference in expertise, quality of product, and experience of the professionals holding your hand through the entire process is well worth the cost.

Next week, we will compare the "Build Team", or installer and project management between big box retailers and Kitchen Bath specialty showrooms.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Big Box Stores and Kitchen Bath Projects

Finally the day has come for you to find who you want to award your Kitchen or Bath project too.
Where do you start? How do you compare when there is so much you do not know? Who is the best choice for you? Who can you trust? So many critical questions! This is daunting because it is probably one of the most stressful times you and your family will endure together. It is also changing your biggest portfolio item, your home. This is the house and property you count on to appreciate and secure your future. The choice you make has everything riding on it.

The hard truth that can lead to either being thrilled with your project, or feeling frustrated , possibly ripped off, is hidden to most. When you begin your research and walk into various showrooms all the kitchen cabinet displays look great. In fact, they look very similar. It is hard to understand why the same size and shape kitchen  can vary in price dramatically. The confusion is on purpose. It is called PR and Marketing. Let me help you translate the hidden differences. Hopefully in the process I will educate you about the best choice of  cabinet lines and construction professionals for your specific need. You may find different places meet different needs. You may have improvement projects over the years for properties you own and live in. It is possible that you may need a Design Build contractor for one of the projects, yet on another a big box retailer's level of product and project management might be fine for another. Lets explore the differences.

There is a niche for every customer and every cabinet retailer. Everyone has a different need and taste to fulfill their expectations. Thus, there is plenty of business for every level and type of Kitchen and Bath retailer.

I frequent Big Box stores myself such as Lowes and Home Depot. They are so convenient, aren't they? They play an important role in taking care of  homeowners wanting to update and improve their entire home. They also offer remodeling kitchens and baths. There are some important distinctions to consider.

Let's compare the details in product, design, service, project management and the security of your home and family during any project you may be interested in. We will begin with Products in this post.

I would choose to purchase cabinets in a Big Box Retailer if I were an investor in rental properties.
Landlords need to spend money to repair, replace, and update their income properties on a regular basis. Stock cabinets available in Lowes and Home Depot are perfect for this application. They tend to stock the same cabinet in common sizes in four to six selections of wood species and finishes year after year. If a tenant damages one of the cabinets, it is not to difficult to pick up a replacement.

Another application that makes sense is investors who flip houses and want to maximize their profit. This can be tricky but it makes sense to get the best "Wow Factor" with the least investment.  After all, this is not your home. You are not going to live there. Your goal is to make it as appealing as possible for the least amount of money.  The cabinet lines available in Big Box retailers are equivalent to "Contractor Grade" cabinets sold to most new home builders. These cabinets are not custom cabinetry. They are limited in sizes and attributes that are readily available in truly semi custom or real custom cabinets. Here at Apple Wood, we have this lower level cabinetry available,
for our new home builder customers building "Spec " houses to sell. Rarely are our normal home owner customers wanting to limit themselves to these basic choices.

Big Box Retailers cabinetry lines, even name brands are manufactured differently than the product the same company manufactures for privately owned Design Build firms or Mom and Pop showrooms. Why? In the home improvement business it is common knowledge that every major manufacturer of products sold in big box stores has a "knock off" level of product built to lower standards than the original  higher end product being copied. This is the reason you may find a faucet, a light fixture, a cabinet, flooring, and any other component to improving your property that appears like the same one you see being much more expensive in a private business showroom.
They look the same. However, the manufacturing standards are not the same. Big box stores leverage the power of volume sales to negotiate lower cost. That often translates into being made with lower standards and cheaper parts.

In cabinetry the knock offs may have lower standard cabinet box and drawer construction. The joint
construction of the doors may not be as tight and strong. They may not hold up to use, especially with young children. The matching of grains in the wood stave's that make up the doors may be much more random than a better cabinet lines doors would be. Higher end cabinet lines spend time and money to hire specialists who pay attention to such details. The finishing steps may also be less. There are many steps to the smooth strong finish that resists scratches, fading or the surface becoming dull prematurely.

Although it is possible to do some modifications on cabinets lines designed and sold in Lowes and Home Depot, they are very limited. If you want taller wall cabinets, you will still be limited to heights of 36 to 42 inches. Truly custom lines often range from 30 to 60 , even 72 inches.
There are so many considerations that translate in to your satisfaction over the years as you live, cook, and eat in you new kitchen.

See what I mean? Were you aware of these facts? Next week I will post about the human element.
Anywhere you select to help you with your projects, you will need to work with a designer/sales person and a project management team. Who you choose is crucial!

Please don't lose any sleep over all this, we are here it help you!