Once the dust clears and the grout dries on Main Line Kitchen Design’s customers’ kitchens we send them a thank you, usually a cookbook or a Di Bruno Brother’s Cheese book. One of our designers, Lauren Sciarra, goes one step further and often creates her own personal gift basket for her customers.
When our company was smaller the cheese books we sent out were personally signed by Emilio Mignucci, Di Bruno’s Vice President and head Cheese Monger. Emilio would graciously sit down and sign sometimes 50 books at a time. Many of the cookbooks we send out are written by Julia Child.
I believe Julia, Di Bruno’s, and Emilio share a special quality. Having a passion for your profession is infectious, and an eagerness to share what you love makes people want to learn more. This is why we choose their books to send out.
Stopping at a Di Bruno’s cheese counter and asking a question almost always brings a sparkle to the eye of the counterperson. At Main Line Kitchen Design I try to create an environment like this, where the joy for what we do can be felt by the customers whose kitchens we transform.
I think most kitchen designers love their jobs. Helping people create the center of their home is an honor. It’s rewarding knowing that when we do a great job our customers, their family and friends, will appreciate our efforts for decades to come.
I hope you see a sparkle in our designer’s eye when you ask them a kitchen question. . . .
As we approach what is going to be an unusual Thanksgiving, my wife and I have been reflecting on a number of past Turkey Days. Our most vivid memories often include Main Line Kitchen Design, cooking, home repair, and Thanksgiving destinations.
First to give readers a little background, both our marriage and Main Line Kitchen Design began the same year. My wife and I took on the challenge of integrating me as a new stepdad to her teenagers, and starting a business at the same time. Both took lots of work and love. Now, ten plus years later, we reflect almost every day on how lucky we are.
One of our first Thanksgivings together was actually before we were married. I was to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for my future wife and her children in their home. While my wife ran holiday errands, I prepared an elaborate meal. In between my cooking duties, I did a some minor home repair assuming that my home repair skills would be as appreciated as my cooking prowess.
During my repairs, I needed to turn off the main circuit breaker to her home. Calamitously, the breaker broke, and replacing it required opening the electric meter and a licensed electrician. Without the repair we would be without heat, electric, and a stove on Thanksgiving! My wife returned home from her errands to find her daughter, Riesling, waiting by the front door to report that “Paul broke the house!”
Everything worked out in the end. We found an electrician willing to come on a Thanksgiving morning and make the repair. He left with our thanks, a huge tip, and an apple pie. “Paul broke the house” is now a family inside joke and we keep that circuit breaker along with other “less formal” tangible mementoes in my great-grandmothers crystal bowl.
Another Thanksgiving soon after we were married pitted myself against the rest of the family when my wife and Riesling picked up a special turkey from a farmers market. Due to extended shopping after the turkey pick up, there was a debate on how long a fresh turkey could sit in a car on top of an ice pack and remain safe to eat. The argument was settled when I threw the 23 pound turkey in the trash. No holiday meal now goes by without referencing that famous turkey and contrasting how delicious it was sure to have been, with whatever’s on this years menu.
On two other Thanksgivings, my wife and I devoted the extended holiday weekend to setting up new offices for Main Line Kitchen Design. We built displays, hooked up electronics, and installed flooring and countertops. Sore and famished, we particularly enjoyed our holiday meals at outstanding local restaurants.
Now that the “kids” are grown, their Thanksgivings are sometimes spent with significant others and their families.
We use these “two of us” Thanksgivings to travel. One year we played Duplicate Bridge in broken French followed by a Thanksgiving dinner in Quebec City. We’ve hiked glaciers, explored caves, and sat in thermal baths in Iceland before enjoying a Thanksgiving gourmet chef’s tasting and wine pairing in Reykjavik.
This Thanksgiving will be memorable too. We will stay at home and I’ll cook just for two. We will see our family on Zoom and play our weekly game of Quiplash. Knowing that we are all being safe will help us persevere to better times.
Wishing all our customers and readers the the happiest of Thanksgivings. Please stay safe. Don’t “break the house!” . . and of course . . .
Paul and Julie
If you enjoyed this Thanksgiving blog here are two other similar ones:
Listed below are selected quotes from three Masters who influenced, in their own way, the art of kitchen design.
Julia Child Chef, TV personality and the first woman graduate of Le Cordon Blue
“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
“The only time to eat diet food is when you’re waiting for a steak to cook.”
“I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.” Also said by WC Fields
“I was 32 when I started cooking. Up until then, I just ate.”
“A party without cake is just a meeting”
“You’ll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.'”
“How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like kleenex?”
“It is hard to imagine a civilization without onions.”
Pablo Picasso Artist
Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.
Every positive value has its price in negative terms… the genius of Einstein leads to Hiroshima.
It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.
Everything you can imagine is real.
Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.
Leonardo Da Vinci Artist, Inventor, Engineer.
God sells us all things at the price of labor.
Not to punish evil is equivalent to authorizing it.
One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
Kitchen design is a profession I love. Picasso best expressed the most fundamental rule that applies to kitchen design when he said:
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break themlikean artist.”
Every accomplished kitchen designer knows that this truth is vital in designing kitchens. Kitchen designers need to learn the rules of our profession and work as designers full time a number of years before we can become even competent at our job.
Most professionals would feel it was arrogant for a non professional to believe they could do THEIR job without training. Yet many people firmly believe that they can design their own kitchen and manage their kitchen renovation without the help of an experienced professional. Often architects, engineers, real estate agents, and contractors believe their limited exposure to kitchen design is sufficient to create a well designed kitchen. Experienced kitchen designers will tell you that the designs we get from these related professions are the worst ones that we see. Because, as the saying goes, “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
I once received a phone call from an attorney who wanted me to price out his design and use his measurements for ordering his kitchen. He told me that he didn’t need a kitchen designer and was fully capable of designing his own kitchen “as it wasn’t rocket science”. I asked him if he had ever heard the joke about a Lawyer who represents himself in court having a fool for an client. He said of course! Well I said, “A lawyer that designs his own kitchen has THAT same fool for a kitchen designer”. He screamed that HE had never been so insulted in all of his life. “Welcome to my world” I replied.
Our designers look forward to helping customers design a great kitchen and not simply selling customers the kitchen they want before getting the professional help that can open their eyes to what’s possible.
We love what we do, which is visible in the kitchens that we create together.
Kitchen renovations are complex. This is why it can take a professional kitchen designer a decade of working full time to become good at their job. Below is our test to determine your kitchen design and renovation IQ.
Answer the following ten True or False questions. Get 9 or 10 correct and you are a kitchen genius and Albert would be proud of you!
Kitchens need to be gutted and any walls removed before measurements can be taken to order cabinetry. True or False?
Granite and engineered quartz countertops are OK to put a hot pot on. True or False?
If your ceiling is 8 feet high then the largest wall cabinets you can use are 42″ high. True or False?
Your contractor should supply the measurements to the kitchen designer and cabinet dealer. True or False?
Painted cabinets are more easily damaged by water and chipping. This is why it is important to get more expensive cabinetry when you want a painted finish. True or False?
It is important to find cabinets that are Carb 2 compliant and meet off gassing standards. True or False?
For less expensive cabinets, getting cabinets made in the United States is a valuable upgrade. True or False?
Solid wood doors on a slab style stained wood door is important in order to get the nicest looking doors. True or False?
Stopping by a showroom to see what they have is a good place to start before considering a kitchen renovation. True or False?
Researching to find a kitchen designer that can make your dream a reality is always worth the effort. True or False?
Find out your score and your kitchen design and renovation IQ at link below:
All good kitchen designers have one quality in common. Patience.
It takes a very patient person to gently convince homeowners that they need design and selection assistance, because the majority of them believe that they don’t need it.
Customers with a little bit of knowledge can be frustrating. For example, having a customer tell you that since this is their THIRD kitchen renovation that they don’t need your help can make you want to pull out your hair. Kitchen designers know that it takes years for us to get good at our job. A full time kitchen designer could sell and help supervise 50 kitchens a year. And each one is completely different requiring it’s own unique problem solving skills and construction and budgetary considerations. We simply couldn’t be competent at our jobs if the designs and budgetary trade offs we recommended as experienced professionals weren’t superior to what a novice might propose.
Below are a couple of funny examples of kitchen designers and our battle with patience:
Doug Mottershead is a well known Kitchen Design Professional featured in some of our YouTube videos. Patience should be Doug’s middle name. 20 years ago, when Doug and I worked together showroom walk-in customers would often have the following experience:
“Hello, how can I help you?” I would greet them.
The customer would tell me that they had all their measurements and wanted to sit down that moment and have me do a design.
“I’m sorry” I would explain, “but I work by appointment and to make sure that the design work I do is professional I need to come out to your home, see the space, and measure it. Can I make an appointment for you or answer questions?”
At this point the customer would be both annoyed and frustrated and seeing Doug at his desk, quickly by-pass me and ask Doug the same question?
Doug’s response was always the same if he didn’t have a customer presently in front of him. “Oh I would love to help, please sit down! what’s your name?”
“I see from the measurements of the two kitchen walls drawn here that one wall is 10 feet and the other is 12 feet. I need to enter the measurements into my computer in inches so should I put in 120 and 144 inches?” might be Doug’s first measurement question. “Yes” the customer would reply confidently.
“You don’t have a window on either of these walls, is there one we should put in?” might be Doug’s next question.
“Oh, there IS a window in the middle of the ten foot wall”.
“How big do you think it is?” Doug would innocently ask.
With hands stretched about three feet apart the customer would reply uncertainly “About this big”
“That looks about 36 inches” Doug would enthusiastically reply. “Is that including the window trim? and should I put it right in the middle of the wall?” Doug might sheepishly ask next as uncertainly quickly grew on the customers face.
At some point during this interaction the customer would finally ask the magic question “Could you come out and measure?”
“Mrs Jones I would love to visit your home and measure?” Doug would reply, then Doug’s appointment book would come out and the first two appointments would be scheduled.
Flashing forward to about three months later I might see Doug and Mrs Jones finalizing her cabinet order. “Mrs Jones YOU have designed a beautiful kitchen!” Doug would exclaim. At this point I would lean over to see Mrs Jones’s design on Doug’s computer screen. And of course I’d see another signature Doug Mottershead kitchen design and simply smile approvingly.
Doug’s amazing patience has propelled him to record setting sales at every company he has worked for.
Another person that appears in one of our YouTube videos is Mark “The Pickleman” Mitten. Mark plays “The Engineer” in our video below. As a former stand up comic Mark is very funny and as a good friend of mine he has heard stories about kitchen designers having their patience tried. About 15 years ago Mark used his sense of humor and the information from my stories to torture Ed Sossich a kitchen designer friend of mine that Mark had heard me talk about. Ed is now Main Line Kitchen Design’s Operation Manager.
Fifteen years ago Ed was working as a kitchen designer in a Lowes store when Mark approached him posing as a potential client.
Mark greeted Ed sitting at his desk with the following:
“Hello, since it looks like you aren’t doing anything, I’d like to get you to put my kitchen design on your computer. I have all the measurements in my head and because I have designed a kitchen before and I’m a Real Estate Professional I don’t need any design help from a designer. When you finish putting my design on your computer I would also like to speak to whoever’s in charge to get discount.”
Mark watched Ed’s expression slowly change and the color in his face turn red as he finished his prepared speech. He waited patiently for Ed to absorb everything and just before Ed could respond Mark blurted out. “Sorry man, I’m a friend of Paul McAlary’s and I could’t resist busting your stones. I know you’re a friend of his too.”
Mark’s joke is actually not uncommon. Kitchen designers will sometimes leave voice messages for other designers that they haven’t spoken to recently starting out in a disguised voice and leaving a frustrating message before revealing who they are. As designers we get patience testing calls and voicemails frequently so it never ceases to be funny trying another designers patience. Much like getting a guard at Buckingham palace to smile.
Below is Main Like Kitchen Design’s variation of this inside joke:
What do Kitchen Renovations and Pandemic Haircuts have in common? Both turn out much better when done by professionals!
As a kitchen designer I know how difficult doing a good job at my profession is. Unfortunately many homeowners do not.
People know enough to seek out professional help when they need their car repaired, a complex tax return filed, legal advice, or getting their hair cut. But when it comes to designing and renovating a kitchen, many believe they can do that themselves. Why is it that spending more than $30,000 on a project without professional direction can make sense to some homeowners?
During the pandemic we are all getting to see the results of amateurs cutting hair.
As kitchen designers we see amateur kitchen remodels on a regular basis. I’m sure that to a hair stylist the results of our attempts at cutting hair during the pandemic look much like the amateur kitchen designs we see as as kitchen design professionals.
Unfortunately as Doug Mottershead says in the video below. At least poor haircuts grow back while bad kitchen design choices stay with us for a LONG time.
During this stressful time don’t compound the stress by not getting the professional help you need considering a complex and expensive kitchen renovation.
Doug and Paul explain why managing a customer’s regret is one of the primary jobs of a kitchen designer.
Below is a video of Doug Motterhead and Paul McAlary discussing managing customer regret when designing a kitchen and doing a kitchen renovation.
I think it’s surprising to most people that being a truly good kitchen designer is not about giving customers what they think that they want. This is why I don’t like the catch phrase less experienced kitchen designers often repeat. “That they want to make their customers dreams a reality.”
Being a great kitchen designer is about showing customers things they hadn’t considered and helping them to make sensible choices once they have all the options. Seldom do customers choose the design they initially dreamed of once they are better informed. We simply wouldn’t be good kitchen designers if customers didn’t choose different ways to spend their budget and different designs after getting help from a qualified professional.
I think it is also surprising to most customers that telling them what is bad about any particular kitchen design is more important than what’s good about that design. And ALL kitchen designs have there good and bad points. This is what we are speaking of when we talk about managing regret. IE Making sure that whatever the design choices a customer makes, that they are fully aware of that designs pluses and minuses, and have no regrets when their renovation is complete.
Looking forward to helping you get a regret free kitchen.
Paul, Julie, Ed, Chris, John, Lauren, Tom, and Stacia
The most valuable part of your kitchen renovation is the design of the kitchen itself. Professional kitchen designers understand that it takes a decade for anyone, no matter how talented, to become proficient at designing kitchens. And yet many people believe that coming up with the best design for a particular space and spending their renovation budget effectively should be easy for non design professionals.
Homeowners, contractors, architects, engineers and real estate agents often believe that a kitchen designer is not needed for their project. And even though professional assistance from a kitchen designer comes free with the purchase of cabinetry from most kitchen cabinet dealers, people can still stubbornly refuse to accept free input from someone who’s been designing and selling kitchens for decades. They believe that they know how they use their kitchen and as every kitchen designer hears several times a day that they “know exactly what they want”.
Here is our funny video that tries to put that belief in perspective. Click on image below:
At Main Line Kitchen Design we know that you can not be an expert in everything. This is why we refer our customers to expert sales people for appliances, flooring, lighting, and backsplash tile. It is also why we subcontract to or simply recommend expert installers.
When you are working on a complex renovation you need experts in every field. We hope you will let Main Line Kitchen Design be your experts for designing your kitchen and selling you the cabinets that best suit your needs and budget.
Have a great Labor Day weekend and of course . . .
Kitchens are where many of our memories take place. Even the simplest kitchen will host some of our best times and the warmest memories of friends and family. Here is a story written by my mother who passed away this fall about the simplest of kitchens and the happiness that she remembered there.
Our fist apartment was a small, old but affordable, walk-up. Although it left much to be desired, as newlyweds, we were satisfied and even excited about moving in — except for the kitchen! It contained only one cabinet which was situated above the sink and its exposed pipes. We improvised by buying a large standing cabinet and sewing a floral fabric to elastic and wrapping it around the sink. The area under the sink could now be used as storage space for cleaning products, pots and pans, etc.
When our first baby began toddling around, it became his favorite destination. He enjoyed crashing through the curtain, playing with the pots and pans and eating the soap powder. I could not wait to escape from this hazardous kitchen. Eventually we converted the space to a toy area where he sat playing with his cars, trucks and blocks. In fact, that’s where he said his first word, which was “car”.
One night, my husband arrived home from work with a bottle of champagne and wonderful news. He had just received a big promotion and a very substantial salary increase. While eating dinner at our little kitchen table with the baby next to us in his high chair, we toasted to his new job and our new house.
It is now more than 50 years later and I still remember that antiquated kitchen and the joy and happiness we experienced in it.
Jean McAlary passed away in October, but the little boy under the sink still loves kitchens and is of course the founder of Main Line Kitchen Design.
Hoping all our kitchens bring our customers the kind of joyful memories my mother’s 1960 kitchen brought her.
Main Line Kitchen Design asks the question: “Do crazy kitchens have anything in common?”
I was looking for an unusual topic for this months blog, possibly with a humorous bent, and so I was inspired to try a Google image search for “crazy kitchens”. Not surprisingly there was no shortage of search results. The 6 photos of kitchens below were the oddest and most unusual.
Being a kitchen designer for going on 30 years, I suspected the results I would find would all share some common traits on top of just being wild looking. Namely:
The kitchens would all be modern, contemporary, or eclectic in style.
The kitchens would use strange and unconventional colors, I am not labeling them as tasteless, although some critics might.
The kitchens would not be very functional or convenient to work in.
Useful storage would be at a minimum.
They would not obey NKBA (The National Kitchen and Bath Association) guidelines.
Each of the kitchens below do in fact have these characteristics in common.
How could I predict the offending kitchens would all share these traits? Because the inexperienced people who create the worst kitchens are most often architects and interior designers and these styles and lack of design considerations are common among those professions. As the saying goes “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
The worst design offenses for each kitchen are listed below each photo.
No storage areas for food. Improper venting of cooktop. Freezer door hits wall not allowing complete access. Faucet on side of sink ruins work zone. I suspect cabinetry is not being properly supported.
An eclectic mix of cabinetry and appliances that looks ridiculous. Little storage space for food, plates, and glassware. Drawers on back of island pull out under countertop overhang. Sink and cooktop are too close. Inadequate cooktop ventilation. Sink faces wall with window too high to see out of. Many more issues.
Sink faces wall with no good work space on either side. Cabinet left of the sink will be ruined by water damage, Refrigerator door sweeps counter left of sink Freezer door hits cabinet. Window and curtains next to cooktop are a fire hazard. Lack of useful storrage. Seating extends into work area. Just curious, why not put the sink in front of one of the windows?
Tasteless mix of color. Sink faces wall. Inconvenient storage. I suspect cabinetry is not properly supported. Venting of cooktop uncertain.
Effective design for a live-alone octopus. For human beings, not so much. The biggest crime here is that the materials for this tiny kitchen exceed $40.000.00 Other issues include once again no venting for cooktop and most of the function issues listed in the previous kitchens.
Why the posts? They are in the way and prevent a decent work area on either side of the cooktop. Refrigerator placement has door hitting counter and everyone going to the refrigerator interferes with the people at the sink and the cooktop. Storage issues, and like all the poor kitchen designs above, this would be a terrible kitchen to work in.
The bathroom above won Best Bathroom in the 2014 NKBA national competition.
Unfortunately this demonstrates that kitchen designers and the professionals judging kitchen and bath competitions can be just as crazy as the designers for the kitchens we highlighted above.
At Main Line Kitchen Design we try to do more than fulfill our customers’ dreams, we sometimes try to temper them. A dose of common sense can make the difference between something you might see in a design magazine but would never want your home to look like, and a kitchen you love that you would want to spend time in and enjoy every day.
Hoping your kitchen designer has the strength and common sense not to design you anything like the designs above!