What’s the Diff?

I toured a luxury condo development with my mother-in-law today. “Now this one has all the bells and whistles…” said the property manager after we sashayed through one of the more expensive options. “What does that mean exactly?” MIL inquired. “This unit is all custom cabinetry and woodwork. Custom as in Mercedes-Benz quality.” Not letting on to my occupation, I enjoyed her appreciation immensely.1935164_1235916734617_1594624_n

I had already pulled open drawers, opened and closed cabinets, regarded the make and quality to realize she was correct. Being in an industry where many consumers are ill informed about cabinetry construction and finishing quality is frustrating. (I wrote a blog about the similarities between purchasing a sofa and investing in kitchen and bath cabinetry and it was well received. Seems the word cannot be expressed enough.)
Years ago, I conducted a class for a local group of realtors about assessing the actual value of any kitchen in a property they were marketing. It was a basic class designed to help them appreciate the “work triangle” and evaluating quality cabinetry. It was refreshing to hear my own thoughts out of someone else’s mouth.


Who do you hire first, Designer or Contractor?


We had a potential client a while back that met with one of our kitchen and bath specialists for an initial design consultation. By all accounts, the meeting seemed a success and the designer was excited about the project. Upon a follow up call, the client informed the designer that her contractor wanted her to go in a “different direction”. “I really liked what you offered”, she said. When asked for any helpful feedback, the client simply stated that she didn’t feel she could disagree with the contractor. What??

It’s more fun to come into a beautiful showroom where you see what’s possible… where you can touch and feel cabinetry wood, countertop, and hardware options. It’s no surprise that many customers come to us first before hiring a contractor.  How do we manage the process?  We ask, “Do you have a contractor?” Yes=”Look forward to working with them”. No=”Would you like some names to contact for bids”? “How can we be of assistance?”

Customers should always be in the drivers seat. They should always have the veto power. Unless a contractor can show you an extensive portfolio of 11902542_10207352550111958_1756067603987238508_nspaces that they have designed in-house, decisions about designing your space are best addressed by architects and kitchen and bath designers that customers  connect with.

“Pimp My Ride”?

CustomCarvesmThe show that premiered in 2004 on MTV was pretty straight forward…supersize the ordinary. Episodes featured interesting… to… well, inane customization projects. So, dear reader, what does this have to do with kitchen and bath remodeling you are wondering? Actually, quite a lot.
Client: I’m a cook and use a lot of fresh produce. Chop, Scrap, Miss the trash. Dog eats minced onions… residual not good. Would really love a system that made chopping and disposing more efficient.
AKB Designer: No problem, I can design something.

Too Little, Too Much, or Just Right?

3-bears-cardMy friends embarked on a serious kitchen remodeling project. They met with a professional designer suggested by an acquaintance. Initial meetings were amicable and ideas exchanged were well received. When the contract was signed and check deposited, the wife said all the chummy attention evaporated in a crosswind. Her goals of a “family friendly” space using materials to weather the abuse of her children as well as recycling stations she wanted to employ in the design kept being “changed” for an overall look.  When she realized the designer cared more about creating a “signature” project than a space that reflected what they wanted, she was in too deep.

Professional designers guide AND listen. A client’s personal requests create the perfect space for them… and frankly, that is the way it should be.  If she had called me first, I could have saved her the poor experience.  🙂



What is a Picture Worth?

You see a beautiful image on Houzz and it catches your eye. You’re contemplating a remodeling project, so decide to contact the company and possibly include them in your bid process. One of the first questions you should ask is,

Who designed this project?

The person that created that picture you saved in your Ideabook is more than likely a professional designer, someone with years of design education and experience.  That layout you admire in the photo was developed after many client meetings and trips to their

 home before pencil ever hit paper… and it was created specifically for that client.

That picture is worth a lot of personal hours. Don’t you deserve that attention?

Your Happy Place?

JMAY0254For the last child living at home, my current philosophy on bedroom maintenance is … close the door.  So I was a tad surprised last weekend when my youngest daughter pulled into the driveway and proceeded to unload storage containers and hanging systems from Target out of her SUV.  Offering up a heavy dose of smirk and one eyebrow raised at her, she responded, “What?? I’ve got to get organized!” Amazing. Even the evolving brain of a teenager reaches the point of wanting to bring order to chaos.

In the adult world, bringing order to chaos is one of the best things about designing spaces.  I fantasize about some of the laundry rooms, home offices, pet grooming stations, and incredible family storage projects we have done.  I remember guiding hours worth of groups through a grand remodeling project AKB played a part in with its gorgeous beamed ceilings, balustrade and banister in the upper gallery, super sizedLaundryAKB_003 fireplace… and the mudroom.  The mudroom was where everyone stopped and stared.  They envisioned, like I did, what it would be like to live there.  An elaborate family locker system with closed and open cabinetry for storage, pegs for hanging coats, backpacks and sports bags, seating and shoe storage, extra large washing tubs, floor drain, hose system and adjacent laundry room… all there to cater to the pets and people and their comings and goings.  If your happy place is an organized place, we can help.

Couch or Kitchen… My Analogy

Wolf, Sub Zero, Dacor, Miele, LaCanche, AGA, Aske, Bosche, Le Creuset, Staub, All-Clad, Shun, Wusthof.. a random list of high end kitchen items.  Is their price worthy of their performance?  Multiple reviews over ten renovations for my own personal spaces,  I conclude that there is no lack of argument for or against many of the choices I have made. The one thing that gains the most favor, other than resell name brand recognition is performance quality.  When investing in cabinetry, this is critical.  I use the following analogy:
You’re hunting for a new family room couch. Comfort and style are at the top of your list. Price tag is key. Maybe your husband is a big guy and your kids are young. You have two dogs. Your couch will takes heaps of abuse and you know it. The difference in your next step is critical. Bought cheaply and treated poorly, you will be disappointed to see the sagging springs, cracked joinery and flattened fillings in a very short time frame. Poor construction is just… poor construction.

Cabinetry is No Different.  The sweet widow whose builder installed her lovely white kitchen cabinets lasted less than four years after renovation.  Cabinetry sagging off the wall, drawers that were crooked closing- not what she was expecting.  Moral of the story?  She is happily entertaining again after we took care of her.

Daily Use!

Daily Use

Design Wisdom

AKB_MMC_SmallYou can pour through as many online sites and magazine resources as you want… share “boards”, “like” images and create folders of photos. Nothing replaces the services of a knowledgeable designer. In our industry, meeting you, hearing your story, seeing your space and knowing the cabinetry product , doesn’t add to your bottom line. It gives you the best cost effective measure… a little thing called Design Wisdom.

What & If…



Two of the most non threatening words in the English language. But to borrow from a recent old movie I watched, if you put the two together, they have the power to really get you thinking.  I enjoyed a recent FB post of a friend who took a picture of her steaming pot of dinner because she was enjoying a cold evening at home cooking in her new kitchen, custom built for her. She posted “Everything I’ve ever wanted right here right now”. I loved it. Reminds me that life is too short not to make hay while the sun shines!28-im-Image_Lacanche_conseil-8828

One Stop Shop…

I have noticed over the last seven years at AKB that in the design business, initially contacting an architect or a builder regarding a renovation is just as typical as reaching out to a trusted designer.  It has been rewarding to see that many of AKB’s repeat customers are “greenlight” clients.  They want and TRUST us to do it all.  (Spoiler Alert: AKB’s owner is a board certified architect.)

Design, Demolition, Installation.  AKB can offer an all-inclusive approach involving fine cabinetry, countertops, flooring, fixtures, sinks, hardware, lighting, paint & more.  We enjoy an excellent working relationship with many of the area’s building professionals and suppliers and can professionally and personally refer a MENU to our clients to easily choose from… keeping them in the driver’s seat, out of the stress zone and our eye on the quality of the finished product.


Corner of Euclid and Lafayette Avenue

Corner of Euclid and Lafayette Avenue