A Design Guide
Shopping for cabinetry can be a daunting task that may test your patience as you try to find the right match for your budget and expectations.
Your first outing should be just a preliminary exploration; an opportunity to develop a first impression of the dealers on your list. As you will most likely discover, kitchen dealers as with most retailers, vary widely in their product offerings and service approach. There are big box retailers, cabinetry showrooms, independent dealers and custom carpentry shops. The challenge is to find the right fit for your project, budget and service/support needs.
Big Box Retailers
Most carry 3-4 levels or brands of cabinetry from off-the-shelf to semi customizable. The initial attraction is typically a low advertised price. Keep-in-mind that this is usually for one of the lower end product lines which is often limited in style choice, cabinet sizing and customization options. Design assistance will most likely be very limited and restricted to a basic cabinet layout.
The big box store experience is not for everyone, especially if you are looking for a highly personalized experience or a significant level of design assistance. Be prepared to wait your turn especially on a busy Saturday afternoon.
Here you will often find 5 or more full-sized and configured kitchen displays, they will include appliances, lighting, backsplashes, sinks & taps. Many of these dealers also sell countertops, sinks, taps, flooring and tile. They are usually exclusive to only one brand manufacturer. Many of these exclusive showrooms target a higher end market and work predominately with architects and interior designers.
You will most likely be serviced initially by a sales rep or receptionist, do not expect to get into much detail about your project, for this you will have to make an appointment to meet with one of their designers. The overall experience can be mixed, on one hand you will definitely see the most beautiful displays while on the other hand you may feel somewhat intimidated, some of these dealers can be extremely pretentious and judgmental.
There are likely more dealers in this category than all others combined. Showrooms are typically around 1,200 square feet with 2 to 3 kitchen displays; they can vary in completeness. They may or may not carry addition support products such as tiles, sinks or taps.
The shopping experience from one dealer to the other will be highly varied according to the owner/operators background, skill set and target market. Their ability to provide design support also varies greatly and they are not likely to get involved in the design decision process if they are not selling you the product. Make sure to check out their actual portfolio to ensure their design work will meet you expectations.
There are numerous small independent carpenters who own & operate cabinet fabrication shops. They are often located in industrial complexes. If you are looking for full sized displays and brand name cabinetry then this would not be for you. Design assistance will be limited to the cabinets only and drawings can be sketches on a piece of paper or shop type drawings, don’t expect 3d renderings.
Many believe that dealing direct means a lower price. Be careful with this assumption, from prior dealings with several carpentry shops their pricing was actually higher than that of a major manufacturer. The other issue I found was the lack of any documentation concerning the product I was to receive and vague supply & install contracts. Just make sure you are comfortable with this type of arrangement.
Graham T. Korbey
The Kitchen Abode