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The KBIS  Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas was back to its former strength, this year. The recovering economy, the Las Vegas setting and combining the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show with the Builders Industry Show all helped make the show a sellout.

The highlights for me were the gadgets. Hardware and cabinet interior convenience companies like Hafele, Revashelf, Blum, and Richelieu displayed some brand new and many improved versions of past conveniences. Lift doors, fold up doors, pull down shelves from upper wall cabinets are now better made and motorized. Pantry pull outs, sliding tall pantry doors, and pull out and slide pantry doors are also improved and touch activated as well as motorized. Island countertops that  slide out to create island seating and to expose primary and secondary sinks are now also available. It was also exciting to see tables and benches that pull out of cabinet fronts creating an eat in kitchen for tiny apartments. Dozens of under cabinet lighting systems, under cabinet power strips, and pop ups provide more options then ever.

Pop up TV and pop up electric below:



My Three Favorites

There is now an electronic device that can be built into an acrylic countertop for charging your cell phone simply by leaving it on the countertop over the device.  Another option available is an outlet and phone charger that builds into the back of a drawer.

I am also excited about a built in coffee system that fits into a wall or the front or side of a cabinet. It hooks up to your water supply, has an attractive stainless steel insulated pot and uses a very small amount of space. The best part is it retails for $399.


Kitchens are more exciting then ever.  Imagine Julia Child having these options in her television kitchen.

And so as Julia said … Bon Appetit!

Main Line Kitchen Design won two awards in February.  Senior Designer Ray Gardner and A.J. Ahrens owner of Amberwood Builders won the Bucks and Montgomery County National Association of Remodelers CotY Award for the best kitchen between $40,000 and $80,000.  Ray and A.J. often work together and always achieve great results. The kitchen was beautifully photographed by Bob Graham Jr. Photography and appeared in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article on kitchen design. The CotY Award winning kitchen is shown above.

Link to Philadelphia Inquirer article by Samantha Melamed:

Below A.J Ahrens, Paul McAlary, and Ray Gardner with A.J. and Ray’s award:

(Photo courtesy of Bob Graham Jr. Photography)

Main Line Kitchen Design also won the Best of Houzz 2014 award for customer satisfaction.  This is the second year in a row we have received this honor.  Comments such as ”Main Line Kitchen Design has an extraordinary gift for designing kitchen layouts” helped us win.   And what truly makes our profession so rewarding are comments like  ”The end result is a space that blows us away every single morning.”

Hope you have power, a warm home, and of course…….

Bon Appetit!





Determining who is the best kitchen designer in Philadelphia is difficult.  This story about several kitchen designers shows why.

One Saturday, we were having an open house at a showroom I used to work at. The 5,000 sq foot display area was packed with visitors as well as the 10 designers that worked for the company. Some of the designers mingled and answered questions, and about 5 of us had congregated in the middle of the showroom talking amongst ourselves while casually looking around to see if anyone appeared to need assistance.

Apparently we weren’t that observant because I suddenly realized that there was a customer in our little circle quietly listening. I looked down and said “I’m sorry we didn’t notice you Miss, can one of us help you with something?”

The customer thought for a moment and said “I don’t know if one of you would be able to help. Is it OK if we really don’t know the design we want in our kitchen? Even what style cabinetry we want yet?” All five designers immediately started to laugh, and the woman looked a little taken aback at our laughter.

I smiled and apologized telling her, “Miss, we aren’t laughing at you.  We are laughing because YOU are the favorite type of customer for ANY kitchen designer, and ALL of us would love working with someone who is so open to our ideas.  But, we may have a problem figuring out which of us gets to work with you.”

“Well,” she said “I don’t want to start a fight and you did notice me first so why don’t you help me. I do hope you’re one of the best designers.” Again all the designers started to laugh. “Well,” she asked ”NOW what’s everyone laughing at?”

I put out my hand and said “My name is Paul, and I believe we’re all laughing because we know that ALL of us believe he or she is the best kitchen designer.”  With that everyone started laughing and we found out our new customer’s name was Colleen.

Happy Thanksgiving,

and of course………  Bon Appetit!



The daily5REMODEL recently ran an article on a presentation given by Main Line Kitchen Design President Paul McAlary.  The speech, given at the spectacular Fretz Wolf and Subzero showroom in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and the article are sure to prove controversial.  The title of the presentation: Murder by Kitchen Design!  The talk was meant to be humorous, but not the topic.   Here is an excerpt from the article written by Leah Thayer:

It’s a wonder Paul McAlary can sleep at night, so troubled is he by the high-end “designer kitchens” he sees every day in the media. It’s not necessarily the builder grade cabinets and sloppy grouting and cheesy light fixtures — e.g., the usual fodder of design criticism — that get to him. Nor is it the DIY budgets and airbrushed timelines so often claimed for TV remodels.  Instead, it’s some of the kitchens that are designed by award-winning architects, certified kitchen designers and even, as he learned at a NARI chapter event last week, fellow NARI remodelers. Too often, they incorporate dangerous code violations and other hazards that “inspectors don’t know anything about,” said the owner of Main Line Kitchen Design, a design firm in the Philadelphia suburb of Narberth. “It’s just not on their radar.” Apparently it’s not on a great many designers’ radars, either. “Show me almost any kitchen, and I can usually rattle off 10 blatant errors before I even take a close look at the floor plan,” McAlary  said. For a mid-century retro example, take Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s kitchen, shown below. See if anything strikes you as wrong.


The problem?  The range under the window.  In most jurisdictions, it’s a code violation to place a range less than 12 inches from a window, for a number of reasons. “A fire on the stove can jump to the curtains,” McAlary said. “Or a breeze from an open window can blow out the flame on a gas burner and allow gas to accumulate, potentially causing an explosion.”

Leah Thayer’s article went on to describe many of the other dangers covered in the presentation.

Below are two other beloved TV family’s kitchens.  Can you find the issue that makes them both dangerous?


Hoping you don’t have any of these issues.  And of course……

Bon Appetit!


When most kitchen designers talk about custom cabinets, they are referring to cabinetry made in large production facilities with the ability to custom make individual cabinetry pieces and to modify cabinetry as desired.  These large custom cabinetry plants are fine furniture manufacturers able to mass produce durable consistent finishes on all their kitchen, bath, office, and furniture pieces.  Most custom cabinet companies that make framed cabinetry (the more durable way to manufacture cabinets) specialize in inset, beaded inset and lip cabinet doors. These are door styles where the cabinetry specifications need to be the most precise.


Often people shopping for a new kitchen don’t understand that a small cabinet shop or an Amish furniture maker is not what  kitchen designers are referring to, or what customers are seeing when they go to a kitchen and bath showroom and see a “custom” cabinet.  Small and what most kitchen designers refer to as ”homemade” cabinet makers have a wide range of skills and abilities.  However, most of their cabinetry doesn’t compare with a higher end, larger manufacturer’s.

Homemade cabinetry makers aren’t large enough to afford the ovens needed to bake and dry cabinetry and finishes.  Their equipment and the shop conditions can’t produce consistent quality cabinetry and finishes.  Their warrantee is also less valuable because they are individuals who can die, get sick, or change professions.  Cabinetry warrantied at a traditional showroom or at Main Line Kitchen Design is warrantied by both the selling company and the large cabinetry manufacturer.

The construction specifications at small shops can be the same as those at larger cabinet companies.  In fact the hinges, drawer tracks and all the cabinetry hardware will most likely be identical in all these lines.  But, because of the differences in available equipment, the finishes on the cabinetry from smaller cabinetry shops usually doesn’t approach the quality level of even the lower level semi-custom cabinet lines.


This difference in finish quality is the main reason why kitchen and bath showrooms don’t sell this type of cabinetry.  Kitchen designers can see the difference instantly and, were the cabinets side by side in a showroom, consumers would be able to as well.

Occasionally we get a customer that takes our designs and brings them to a small cabinet maker or friend to copy what we designed in a high-end semi-custom line or custom line for around the same price.   In their desire to get themselves “a deal”, they end up paying the same money for an inferior product, without a reliable guarantee and from a home furniture maker far less knowledgeable about kitchen cabinetry and design.  These customers often become our best referrals when problems eventually arise.

Wishing everyone a great fall and of course as Julia said……….

Bon Appetit!



All photos for this article are of Jim Bishop Danbury Cabinetry.  Kitchen designed by Ray Gardner - Senior Designer  Main Line Kitchen Design.  Installed by A.J. Ahrens of Amberwood Builders.   Photographed by Bob Graham Jr. – Copyright  Bob Graham Jr. Photography.


This forth of July week had fireworks in the sky and some on the web as well when many kitchen designers disagreed vehemently with each other on a LinkedIn debate.   The question that got everyone up in arms?

Would you allow or have you EVER allowed a customer to make a HUGE mistake?

As a kitchen professional  I found it disheartening that not all designers could even agree that selling a dangerous kitchen was unethical.  One designer stated:

“if someone comes in ONLY to buy cabinets.  I don’t interrogate them, I sell them exactly what they asked for.  If they kill themselves with them, that’s their problem.”

What I found the most distressing of all was that some CKD’s and even a MCKD (Master Certified Kitchen Designer) felt that cabinets not fitting or placed at mistaken heights was  not their responsibility. One said: “Bad design pays the same commission as good design.  If a client is hell-bent on buying a bad design, they might as well buy it from you, as long as the bad design does not include safety concerns.”

One designer told a near tragic story that ended as follows:

“Within six months, the whole house was lost due to a fire that began on the top of the indoor gas grill. The occupants were not home and there were no injuries. This story may be an extreme example of what can happen when advice is ignored but it may explain the differences between somebody that will or will not order a kitchen with out weighing the possible consequences.”

Dangerous kitchen breaking building code.

As a kitchen designer, it is our job to help our customers create a kitchen that they will enjoy for many years.  That job includes gaining an understanding of what they like and how much they have to spend in order to help them get the best kitchen available within their budget.

I strongly believe that our job also includes protecting potential customers sometimes even from themselves.  Certainly if a design is dangerous Main Line Kitchen Design will not sell that design.   We also will not sell a kitchen with known design errors, such as cabinets not fitting.

I believe all professionals should be held to the same ethical code they use in medicine: “first do no harm.” And I want my doctor, my lawyer, my accountant, and my auto mechanic all to care more about protecting me then they care about making a buck. 

It was after I posted this comment in the design forum that the sparks started flying and Fourth of July was off to a bang in the small world of kitchens.

Hoping your kitchen designer has your best interests and safety at heart!   And of course as Julia said……

Bon Appetite,


Below is a list of the 10 worst ways to go about designing your new kitchen.  The list was compiled from a LinkedIn dialog among professional kitchen designers.  Thanks to all the kitchen designers that contributed their expertise and years of experience to come up with these top answers.  Some of the anecdotes they told were hilarious, but that’s another blog all together.  Hope you gain some insight from our list…and of course …….Bon Appetit!   -Paul

1) Design your kitchen yourself and then price out that unprofessional design many places.

2) Pay an architect to design your kitchen.

3) Purchase the appliances you are getting first and design around them.

4) Keep your existing floor plan exactly as it is now.

5) Hire the cheapest contractor.

6) Get your permits then layout the cabinets.

7) Don’t use fillers or flat stock  in your design to allow for ceiling and walls being out of square or out of level.

8) Make plans dependent on your kitchen being completed in an unrealistic time frame.

9) Rely on kitchen cabinetry information from Consumer Reports.

10) Design and buy your kitchen from IKEA


Most people believe they can’t do it or that it will be too expensive.  And, they’re wrong.

It’s almost always doable, usually costs nothing and can even save money.

What IS the best investment your in your new kitchen?  It is changing the lay out!

Barely a day goes by that a customer doesn’t  say to us ”I have a small kitchen so there isn’t much that I can do.” or “We are on a budget so we need to keep the layout of our kitchen the same.” Actually, there are many design possibilities with nearly every kitchen and improving the layout costs next to nothing.

Most of our customers don’t realize that just moving a sink, an appliance, or a doorway can dramatically improve an entire kitchen and incur little or no addition construction costs.  A kitchen renovation includes installing flooring, drywall, lighting, cabinetry, backsplash, molding,  fixtures and appliances.  Changing the location of a sink or appliance rarely impacts the total construction costs.  Even moving a doorway which might cost $500 could be offset by design improvements that make the cabinetry more standard and less expensive.

Many choices make kitchens expensive but improving the layout is not one of them.   Homeowners  frequently select a doorstyle that is 25% to 40% more than that of a similar less expensive style.  Adding a glaze to cabinetry generally adds 10% or more to the cost.  Higher price level granite, quartz, soapstone, or marble countertops can cost thousands more than similar looking selections that wear equally well.

Upgrading appliances can have the greatest impact on a kitchen budget.  But all these expenses have a very limited effect on what the finished kitchen looks like.  For example, the difference between a stainless steel shallow depth GE profile refrigerator costing $3,000 or a Sub Zero costing $9,000 is barely noticeable.  Good designers want to see you get the most for your money and will suggest similar, less expensive options.


The layout of a kitchen can change an entire home for the better, sometimes increasing the home’s value far more than the cost of the renovation. Even removing a wall which can cost a couple of thousand dollars could save overall costs because it reduces the number of wall cabinets.  If because of the reduced wall space, the design also switches from having a wall oven and cooktop to a range, the reduced price of the appliances and cabinetry saves far more than the cost of removing the wall.

Selecting the doorstyle, finish, countertops, and appliances is the easy part of a kitchen renovation but not the first part.  Layout possibilities, available materials, and many of the details kitchen designers help clients with have the most impact on your happiness with the finished project and the cost.  That is why it is so important to shop for your kitchen designer first, and cabinetry and materials second.

The path to getting the best design and spending a kitchen budget effectively can be elusive.  At Main Line Kitchen Design we look forward to finding and taking that path with you.

All the best, and as Julia said……

Bon Appetit!




For many years there was a silent conspiracy between architects, contractors, countertop fabricators, fixture suppliers and the kitchen and bath showrooms where customers worked with designers.  Every professional wanted to get paid for handling every aspect of a customer’s job.  I was recently at meeting of construction professionals where many contractors still felt no guilt in refusing to install any materials that they didn’t order, ie make a profit on.  One general contractor said he was intentionally absent when a homeowners granite countertop was templated and installed, because it hadn’t been purchased through him.  What a recipe for disaster for everyone involved including that contractor.

By hiding the true cost of everyone’s services in the cost of materials or kickbacks, the public is kept in the dark about what they are really paying for.

A great example of how this system can be counter intuitive is that up until a couple of years ago all granite shops needed business from kitchen showrooms so badly that they had to inflate the cost of granite to their own walk in customers or else risk letting kitchen showroom referral customers find out that they were being charged a 20%  markup by the showroom that sent them.

Many home builders charge three or four times the value of cabinetry and countertop upgrades pretending that the inflated charge was for material costs.

Everyone involved in a construction project needs to get compensated appropriately for a job to run smoothly, but under this system of hiding labor costs in material costs and hidden kickbacks, there ends up being an incentive to sell nice looking things that can be made cheaply and so don’t last.

Sadly well made cabinetry, fixtures, and other building products are often only 5 or 10 percent more than their poorly made cousins.

If only architects, contractors, countertop fabricators, fixture suppliers and kitchen and bath showrooms could be transparent, then homeowners would be able to make informed decisions about the professionals they chose to work with.  And if consumers were paying the true price for better materials they would almost certainly be selecting them more often.

Happily this whole system is now being undermined by the ease of pricing things on the internet.  Of course other new problems arise when customer’s don’t understand what they are pricing and are possibly ordering online.  However just being able to better price things easily makes the old system problematic.

At Main Line Kitchen Design we  try our best to be completely transparent and we nearly succeed.  Occasionally,  we are asked to pay a referral fee to an architect or builder, but we take it out of our profit as the cost of doing business.  Our customers pay the same discounted pricing they always would.  We also refer our customers to granite showrooms, lighting, flooring, and appliance specialists, but unlike other traditional showrooms we ask those specialists to sell to our customers directly and at our cost.

Our business model helps us be able to accomplish this, but soon all professionals will have little choice, and we hope this antiquated system will then truly be a thing of the past and professionals and consumers alike will benefit from the refreshing transparency.

Wishing you a transparent 2013,

………..and as Julia said “Bon Appetit!”


“You HAVE to see our new kitchen” is something many of our customers say not only to us but to their friends and family after their kitchen is completed.  However, the customers that are this excited are not the ones most people outside our industry would suspect.

Durasupreme Shaker Cherry Kitchen

Almost all of our customers come to us believing that they know the floor plan and even the door style and color of the cabinetry that they would prefer.  Sometimes they have even selected all their appliances.   The easiest thing for any kitchen designer to do is simply to make that customers dream a reality.

However the initial kitchen of a customers dreams is limited by their own design experience and the products that they know about.

At Main Line Kitchen Design, we always tell our customers that we aren’t doing our job if we’re not shocking, or at least surprising them with alternative designs and materials.  We simply wouldn’t be good at what we do if our many years of experience didn’t translate into a better kitchen at a better price than our customers could come up with on their own.

When we do make our customers initial dream kitchen a reality then and the project is complete we usually get an warm thank you.  However, when our customers allow our designers to spend the hours with them considering alternative designs and materials, the result is a kitchen that is a combination of  our designer’s knowledge and experience and what our customers truly like after considering all their options.  And, this is when we get the phone call or email that makes our work so rewarding and customers tell us “You HAVE to see our new kitchen!!!!!”

We smile when we hear it or read it because we really don’t need to see the finished kitchen – we have our customer’s  kitchen on our laptop and in our minds eye, and know it like the face of an old friend.

Hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful summer, and of course as Julia said ….. Bon Appetit!




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