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Remodeling Your Kitchen? “Piece of Cake” NOT!!!

Posted on May 23, 2015 at 12:37 PM Comments comments (1)
If you’ve ever lived through a remodel in your home chances are you would agree with the above NOT!!! But whether or not you have remodeled before when you hear your contractor, friend or significant other use the following phrases while discussing your project please realize they are speaking Utopian and the translation in English is basically the opposite as shown below:
Utopian versus English
“Piece of cake” means “pain-in-the-butt
“No problem” means “no problems except the ten we didn’t mention”
“Done in no time” means it will take twice as long (or more) than expected
“Will easily cost less than $_____” means “double the estimate”
“We’ve anticipated all contingencies” means all contingencies except for the contingencies we forgot
“No sweat” means no sweat but lots of blood and tears
Now it might seem like I’m saying that all of these people are liars but the truth is that people who use these terms tend to be very optimistic and people-pleasers (those people who tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear). Somehow or other it seems that most contractors and tradesmen always sincerely anticipate that the next job will run almost perfectly. I have been guilty of this myself.
When you hear these optimistic phrases I recommend politely saying to them something like, “Would you like to think about what you just said and possibly amend or modify it? I’d rather have realistic expectations rather than expect you to live up to unrealistic promises.” Generally when you do this you’ll see their face relax a bit, a smile start to form and they will take you up on your offer and hedge their bet.
I have collaborated with a contractor for many years and often we meet with the client together and when the question of time comes up he always underestimates it. I then lean over and with a smile say to the client, “When he said four weeks he meant six.” Both the client and he always thank me.
The easiest way to get through a remodel is to lower your expectations (not your standards though) and have some reserve funds (15%) and it will be much easier. I apply this when I fly on airplanes. I expect that the plane will run late, be uncomfortable, I will have an unanticipated expense and that my luggage will be lost. Most of the time I am pleasantly surprised that everything goes fairly well. If I expect perfection I am guaranteed to be disappointed.
Keep your expectations realistic and you’ll make your remodel much easier to get through. Hopefully when asked how the remodel went you'll reply, "No sweat!"

Cabinet sizes and why they are what they are

Posted on May 3, 2015 at 10:33 AM Comments comments (3)
I often ask myself questions about strange things. You know things like "why is the sky blue?" and so forth (drives my wife and kids crazy). One question I had years ago is why are kitchen wall cabinets typically 12" deep? After all is this the most practical size for wall storage? Those of you who have large dinner plates are replying "Heck, no!"

The answer lies in how the whole idea of built in kitchen cabinets evolved and the short answer is that back in the day when carpenters and trim carpenters built cabinets on site rather than in a shop or factory they used 1 x 12 pine boards for the ends and shelves. And if you have ever bought dimensional lumber at the lumber yard you know that the "nominal" (technical term for "actual") size is 11-1/4" (3/4" lost in planing the lumber smooth and straight). These were attached to the wall with cleats and then a 1 x 2 (3/4" X 1-1/2" nominal) frame was nailed to the faces and voila! you got 12". Now 12" works fine but it wasn't because the carpenter actually engineered it that way, it was just easier to use the board in the size it was already cut to than to add to it or have to rip it down with a hand saw. Chalk it up to efficiency and practicality for the carpenter (that's the PC way of saying "lazy"). 

Base cabinets ended up about 24" deep for the same reason. They would use two 1 x 12 boards cleated together and add the 3/4" face frame  and ended up with 23-1/4" deep. When plywood became readily available they then started cutting them to 23-1/4", added the 3/4" face frame and got 24". 

Factory cabinets today are a standard 12" deep and the interior useable depth varies from 10-1/2" to 11-1/4" depending on the construction. I have done many jobs where, at the owner's request, we built the wall cabinets 13" deep to accommodate large plates and I recently did a kitchen where we made them all at 15" deep at the owner's request. Many factory cabinets offer the option of increasing the depth for an additional charge. 

As an aside, if you have old job built cabinets like this, they may be made of clear old growth sugar pine or 'D' select pine or Douglas fir and are valuable pieces of wood. I have salvaged many beautiful boards through the years from old kitchens. Usually the boards were painted and had to be planed to get to the raw wood but it was worth it. Many of our early furniture in our home when I was a poor cabinetmaking apprentice were built from these boards. 

This leads to other dimensional questions. Here's a few for those of you who just have to know:

Why are wall cabinets typically 18" above the counter? Because that's the way it has always been done, dingo! In truth I have no good answer other than "because it works." The only people I have seen complain about it are short people. But there is no hard-and-fast rule here. If you want them lower that can be accommodated either by lowering them or ordering longer wall cabinets. In some cases I have done jobs where we made the space taller in order to accommodate larger appliances like the old Kitchenaid mixers which wouldn't fit in the 18" space.

Why are base cabinets typically 36" high including the countertop? See the answer above. It's always been done that way and overall, except for short people, it works fine. 
I can see the carpenters standing in the kitchen and the carpenter's helper says, "So, boss, how high should we make these cabinets?" 
Pointing to his belt the lead carpenter Joe replies, "I don't know, Bill. About this high I suppose." 
"How about we ask Mrs. Smith, the owner?" 
"Don't complicate things, Bill. Asking the home owner questions like that just makes our lives difficult. About 3 foot works fine, my wife is perfectly happy with that and I'm sure Mrs. Smith will be happy, too." And so here we are today... :)

Note that the appliance industry makes ranges and dishwashers based on 36" thanks to Joe's expertise. If you want your cabinets shorter consider doing one main work section rather than the whole kitchen to avoid problems with the appliances. If you want them taller again I recommend making one work area taller, not the whole kitchen because, while it will work for taller people, it can be a problem if you want to sell your home. 

Is there an advantage to base cabinets deeper than 24"? This can be very nice when you want a bigger work area but in most cases 24" works fine for most people. As to storage I have found 24" deep is plenty deep and making the interior deeper is impractical for storage access. 

Why are bathroom vanities 30" high? The only reason I can come up with is this goes back to the day when homes had only one bathroom and it had to accommodate the children (either that or plumbers were all short and installed the sinks lower to suit themselves!). Of course, there is only about a two year period when 30" high is the right height for kids, the rest of the time they either use a stool or bend over like the rest of us. For years we have made our vanities to the same height as the kitchen at no additional charge and most factory lines offer 34-1/2" high vanities as a standard option. 

Why are bathroom vanities 21" deep instead of 24" like the kitchen cabinets? Again, because that's the way it has always been done! There is also the issue of many bathroom doors are 2'0" and you can't get the cabinet in the room. However, if you can use a 24" deep cabinet it will give you a decent amount of space behind the faucet so you don't need a toothbrush to clean back there. So, consider using kitchen cabinets in your bathroom if they will fit. Your back and your housekeeper will love you for it!

Why are factory cabinets built in 3" wide increments? This is a matter of efficiency and best use of materials and inventory. By maintaining this standard, which works in most cases (except for those dang big fillers that waste space!), they can produce the cabinets quickly and keep their costs down. Many "semi-custom" cabinet lines today, though, offer "odd" dimensions less than the 3" for additional cost (although some are now not charging extra -Showplace Cabinets for one - you just order the next largest size and specify the desired width). With our own custom cabinets we build them to any size needed since we are not working from stock parts. 

I probably have missed a dimensional question here so please feel free to comment or email me and I will add it to the blog. 

Fifty (and more) Shades of Grey

Posted on February 12, 2015 at 8:40 AM Comments comments (0)
Back in January I attended the KBIS (Kitchen & Bath Industry Show) in Las Vegas to keep up with the trends in the cabinet industry. The one trend that stood out most was the shift to grey as a dominant design color for cabinetry. I saw inklings of this at last years show but this year it was an avalanche. Virtually every manufacturer had a version or versions of grey in every style - traditional, old world, Shaker, contemporary and modern. Unlike past "me-too" trends where everyone had the same color of espresso or white this one implied a lack of consensus as to just what shade of grey homeowners wanted. No one company seemed confident and so they they were trying a lot of different versions. Some were beautiful, some were downright ugly and others were just so-so. Ultimately the homeowners will vote with their pocketbooks and perhaps we will see more standardized greys next year...

...or perhaps we won't see any greys at all. 

Why do I say that? In my 39 years of being in this industry I've seen a lot of trends and fads come and go (trends are long lasting, fads fizzle fast). In the 70's everything was practical earth tones, then in the 80's the shift was to easy-on-the-eyes lighter tones (as a revolt against the dark colors). The 90's saw a shift to mid-tones and artistic coloration (glazes, etc.). The early 2000's was a confused period due in part to the explosion of choices (manufacturing advances made larger color pallets more readily available) and the aftermath of the shock of 911. Then starting in 2006 we saw the shift to espresso (thanks to Ikea) and white (in 2013 50% of all cabinets sold in the US were white). And now... maybe... we are gravitating to grey. 

We've been here before. On the color radar grey briefly popped up on the screen in the mid-80's and 90's. I saw it come and then, poof! two years later it was gone. And while it has always had a following in the coastal states of New England, nowhere else that I have seen did it endure long. Why? I think because, while grey is easy to live with and calming, it is also the color of a cloudy day and, like it or not, color affects our emotions. Perhaps people walk into their two year old kitchen or bath and say, "Hey this is depressing!" 

The colors individuals, communities and nations choose reflect their mood. And while the Color Marketing Group ( dictates the colors that most manufacturers of stock goods offer you (clothing, cars, etc.) when we have choices outside their standard offering we choose the color that best reflects our outlook on life or we choose colors that we hope will cause us to change our outlook. 

Make no mistake grey will affect your mood. Initially it will calm you and in light of the constant demands on our time and attention that is a good thing. But ask yourself, "How will I see this color in two years?" before you plunk down thousands of dollars on grey cabinetry. 

There is no wrong or right answer. It is up to you. But if you are feeling somewhat overwhelmed and depressed by the world and life I strongly recommend that you don't choose grey because odds are you won't feel this way forever and you may regret your choice. 

The best way I know to make this decision is to be able to get in touch with how grey makes you feel. And a simple way to do that is to go Houzz here - - and imagine yourself standing in a grey kitchen or bath. Enlarge the picture and imagine walking around in there two years from now. If you like how that feels go for it. If not, look at other tones. 

Good Kitchen Design

Posted on December 17, 2013 at 6:12 AM Comments comments (50)
Good Kitchen Design
Having designed thousands of kitchens in my 37 years in this business I have seen a lot of good and bad designs. Many times when I go to a client's home and I see their existing kitchen I often wonder what the designer was smoking when they designed the kitchen. Too often I see designs that are totally impractical functionally. And very often the designer seemed more concerned with putting a lot of fancy frills that may have worked fine in a living room but made no sense in a kitchen. 

Elements of a good kitchen design

> First and foremost it should be practical and functional - "Form Follows Function" meaning that the designer should make sure the layout is very practical and only after they have done that should they make it "pretty." Many designs may be stunning but turn out to be difficult to work in and maintain. Two that come immediately to mind are massive, overly ornate range hoods that do a great job of collecting grease on the wood work and poorly designed and positioned islands that just get in the way.

> Plenty of storage space strategically placed where items can be easily reached from the point of first usage
> Adequate counter space at each of the primary work areas
> The kitchen should be designed around the individual work areas which are: 1) clean up area, 2) food preparation area, 3) cooking area, 4) storage area, 5) serving area
> Lots of drawers - 80% of what you store in your kitchen will fit better in a drawer than behind a door
> Plenty of clearance for appliance access (dishwasher, refrigerator, stove)
> Consider the traffic flow in, out and through the kitchen and assure that there will be no "traffic jambs"
> The kitchen should reflect the household makeup. A kitchen designed for a young family with 3 children will be different from one for "empty-nesters" or a single parent with 2 children

The kitchen is a constantly used central point for daily activities and should be a very comfortable environment to work and play in. The designer should listen carefully to what you want and design the kitchen for you leaving their own personal preferences and prejudices aside. (After all you have to live in this kitchen for many years not them). 

If I can help you in anyway with a design question please feel free to contact me, Geoff Dunn, at [email protected] (even if you live somewhere else in the world outside of our trade area and wouldn't be purchasing our products). 


Lazy Susan Corners

Posted on April 23, 2013 at 12:46 PM Comments comments (16)
L-shaped corners of kitchens have always presented a design challenge for the designers and cabinet makers have come up with many designs, some innovative and practical and others not-so-good. Below I show the most common design answers to this problem and I have ranked them by practicality and function based on my experience and customer input. 

Diagonal #1 DIAGONAL LAZY SUSAN - My all time favorite! This type provides the maximum in storage space and functionality. Unlike the L shaped ("Pac-Man") lazy susan (see #2 & 3 below) the shelves in this cabinet go almost all the way back to the wall and are typically 30" to 32" in diameter and make the best use of the corner. Compared to the Pac-Man type which are 24" in diameter you get a full circle  and increase the storage space by over 57% per shelf! And this cabinet has the same 36" x 36" footprint as the Pac-Man type so you gain much needed storage space without using anymore square footage.
The one to the left is the type we build. Rather than using the pole mounted plastic shelves which are flimsy (shown below), we make a 3/4" thick round shelf attached to a 12" steel ball bearing carousel rated to hold over 500#. This is then attached to a solid 3/4" shelf. 
Another advantage is that rather than the square corner countertop you get an additional 18" of usable counter space.
Also, unlike the Pac-Man type the door is easy to open.
Diagonal lazy susan - plasticWe almost always do this cabinet in our kitchens with corners and our clients love them. Many people have said that the shelves are so big it takes forever to get back to the beginning once you start it turning!

Door attached lazy susan#2 L-SHAPED PAC-MAN LAZY SUSAN WITH L-SHAPED DOOR - This is the most common cabinet sold in the cabinet industry and many people are familiar with the benefits and drawbacks. While this is better than no cabinet at all it pales in comparison to the diagonal type above. The biggest problem with these is 1) you loose over 50% of the storage capacity because the 24" diameter leaves a 12" dead space around the back of the cabinet, 2)they are wobbly, 3) seldom stay correctly aligned, 4) are a pain to adjust and 5) people get their fingers jammed in them (ouch!). 

Bi-fold door lazy susan#3 L-SHAPED PAC-MAN LAZY SUSAN WITH BI-FOLD DOOR - I see these a lot more nowadays and they are an attempt to answer the problems of #2. However, every solution carries the seeds of its own problems and this one is no exception. While the access seems easier my clients tell me the bi-fold door is a pain-in-the-neck to open and often gets broken (we have repaired many of these - made by other companies - at our shop through the years). . Further, since the door does not support the shelves like it does in #2 the shelves are weaker. While this one does have larger diameter shelves, typically 28", they still don't match up with the space you gain in #1.

#4 HALF-MOON SHAPED BLIND CORNER - While this is better than a standard "blind corner" cabinet (see #6) since the storage comes out to you, I would still recommend a lazy susan cabinet unless there is insufficient wall space for it. The one pictured here could have had a lazy susan but perhaps the client wanted the bigger cabinet to the right and chose this over the lazy susan. 
Half-moon corner

Drawer corner cabinet#5 DRAWER CORNER - I certainly give the designer of this an A for innovation however, I can see very few places where this would be preferred over #1 except perhaps a kitchen with no other place for drawers. It provides about 6-1/2 square feet of storage space similar to #2 & 3. While this packs a lot of WOW factor when people see them in the showroom the honeymoon is soon over when they start dealing with the drawers getting out of alignment and that weird V-shape at the front where stuff loves to hide. And insult is added to injury when they think about the fact that this cabinet costs $700-$1,000 more than any of the lazy susan cabinets. "I could have had a V-8!"

Blind corner cabinet#6 BLIND CORNER CABINET - Most people have seen and/or had these and remember how much stuff disappears in there (someone said that when they tore theirs out they found all their missing left socks!). These are great if you have a head lamp on and can twist like a pretzel to get inside them. Outside of that, I guess they beat having no cabinet at all. 

These are the primary ideas I have seen and used through the years. I'm sure there are others I have not seen (or left out because they are similar to these). If you have a seen other unique answers please let me know. Oh, and if anybody knows how "lazy susans" got their name let me know. I have researched this in vain but would love to know. As always, if you have a question do not hesitate to email me. 

Having Trouble Deciding on Your Cabinet Style, Wood & Color?

Posted on October 1, 2012 at 10:13 AM Comments comments (7)
Are you having trouble deciding which door style, wood and color to use in your kitchen or other project? Do the choices seem overwhelming? Well, don't feel bad, many people find this very difficult. My clients often stand looking at our door samples and stain choices with a perplexed and lost look on their face. I have found the following helps a lot though.

The primary thing to remember is that aesthetics - how something looks - is interpreted by our minds as  feelings. Think about it, when you look at something - a picture on the wall, one of your children or a friend, a sunset, or a grizzly war video - your mind doesn't read what it looks like, rather, it reads it as a feeling. Few of us looks at something and analyzes it for color, grain, technique or style. We interpret how it makes us feel. 

When you are browsing an interior design magazine you may suddenly come upon a photo and you say, "I love that!" Ask yourself why you love it and chances are your subconscious mind will say, "It makes me feel good."

I realized this years ago when a lady came into our showroom 5 days in a row and just wandered around looking at all the displays. When asked how I could help her she said "I am just trying to figure out how I want my kitchen to look - I'll know it when I see it." Our efforts to help her were unsuccessful until the fifth day when I asked her (by instinct not design - I wasn't that experienced yet) "How would you like to feelwhen you are in your kitchen?"
She stopped, thought for a minute and replied, "I want to feel the way I felt when I was a little girl in my grandma's kitchen."
I then asked, "Are there any displays that do that for you?"
She immediately pointed to a white traditional kitchen and said, "That one!"
I then asked her, "What are the features of that display that make you feel that way?"
She immediately said, "The color and the door style...but something's missing."
By instinct I asked, "Was her kitchen big?"
She said, "Enormous."
"So," I replied, "If we can provide that door style and color and make your kitchen feel big would that you make you happy?" "Ecstatic!" she replied.
We were able to provide that for her and she loved her kitchen. She had a small, dark kitchen but we raised the ceiling, enlarged the kitchen window and those elements along with the white tinted lacquer to make it feel much bigger.

Too often people spend time looking at door styles, woods, stones, stains and so on through a magnifying glass when trying to determine what they will use in their kitchen. But in the daily course of living we don't look at things (or life for that matter) with a magnifying glass. Rather, we look at it in sweeping glances and acknowledge it as to how it makes us feel.

I recommend to my clients that instead of using a magnifying glass and staring at details, they should look at things in a broad perspective and ask, "Do I like how this feels?", not "Do I like how this looks?" It will simplify your decision making. And the easiest way to do this is to look at photos of kitchens and other rooms in brochures, showrooms and websites until you find one that makes you say "Wow! I really like the feeling that gives me." Once you've done that then get out the magnifying glass and determine the elements that make you feel good.

This is why we post a lot of pictures. But if you don't see something here check out or Houzz they have lots more.

As always, if we can help you in any way do not hesitate to contact us.

New Kitchen Design Blog

Posted on April 24, 2011 at 9:59 PM Comments comments (10)
This is very humbling. A little over two years ago I opened a website for my business, The Cabinet Guy, LLC, in order to promote my business. Since that time I've had over 10,000 visitors to my site, something I never expected (if 1,000 people had visited I would have been thankful). About 50% have been local searches in my immediate business area (Colorado front range - Denver to Colorado Springs). The other 50% have come from all over the world - New York, California, London, Moscow, Koala Lumpur, Xian, Christchurch, Paris, Bangkok, Delhi and many others.
I asked myself, "Why would people all over the world visit my site, let alone spend over 5 minutes looking through it?" It turns out, based on the statistics that my web host provides, most people were looking for pictures of kitchens which I understood completely. After all, if you are looking to change your kitchen seeing pictures is a huge help in making decisions. But what surprised and has humbled me is how many people read my pages titled Cabinet Basics 101 and Kitchen Design Insight. Apparently people from all over the world have the same questions that these two articles address.
Many clients have told me they appreciated my candor about this business and how to navigate it as a customer. Further, they were thankful for making them able to be smarter consumers. One client recently said, "You really should start a blog." I had been thinking of doing so and her suggestion gave me the push I needed.
I have always maintained that my job when working with a client is not to sell them anything. Rather, it is my job to give them enough information to make decisions
that work for them. I will attempt in this blog to provide information and insight to that end for anyone in the entire world who is interested. In my over 35 years in the cabinet business I have seen and learned a lot of things. In these blog articles I will deal with different topics. If there is a particular topic you would like me to cover or you have a specific question please feel free to let me know and I will respond as quickly as possible.
Thanks for visiting my site. Kitchens and custom cabinets are my passion. It is a privilege to share a little of what I have learned with anyone who is willing to listen!
Me-Geoff Dunn