September 12, 2016
Posts that have been popular lately.
September 12, 2016
August 28, 2016
“What kitchen cabinet line is best?” and “What kitchen cabinet line do you recommend?” are the most common questions we receive. The answer depends on several factors including budget, how fast cabinetry is needed, and how long you want the cabinetry to last.
Every cabinet line is trying to fill a certain niche in the cabinet market. About half of them are trying to compete for contractor and builder business. These cabinet manufacturers and the builders they primarily sell to tend to rank construction quality below finish, style, and availability. So, if cabinet durability is a priority for you, these lines should be avoided.
The reason for this is that builders and people renovating to sell homes have less incentive to pay even small upgrades for well made cabinetry as their responsibility to the seller only last 12 months. A good example of how little home builders value cabinet construction is that an expensive home builder like Toll Brothers uses the lowest construction quality Yorktown cabinetry in their new homes.
Cabinet manufacturers that are trying to sell to home owners usually make cabinetry that either comes well constructed or can be upgraded to acceptable standards. The following is Main Line Kitchen Design’s criteria for quality construction:
It is surprising how many higher cost cabinets do not meet these construction minimums. On the other hand, after meeting these construction minimums cabinetry should last a lifetime so there is very little advantage in paying for cabinetry that exceeds the criteria. Generally, the best choice is the least expensive cabinet line with the desired wood species, finish and custom features.
Home owners and kitchen designers must balance the cost to be in different cabinet lines with how well those lines meet design and finish preferences. It is not uncommon for small compromises to save a significant amount of money. For example, the most expensive cabinet lines are high priced because of their ability to customize or to do unusual finishes. This means if you don’t need cabinetry customization or you are getting a solid painted finish, you could be paying for the availability of features you won’t be selecting. Beaded inset doors, furniture grade stained finishes, distressed finishes, and glazes and paints with visible brushstrokes are features only available in higher priced cabinetry. These expensive and distinctive finishes usually aren’t perceived as superior or more expensive by the general public and aren’t chosen when ordering cabinetry. A home owner not opting for these features does just as well in a less expensive cabinet line as long as the cabinetry being ordered meets the recommended minimum requirements.
Main Line Kitchen design sells 7 cabinet lines and all 7 meet our requirements to be considered well made. The 5 major cabinet brands Main Line Kitchen Design carries are Fabuwood, 6 Square, Bishop, Brighten, and our custom line Wellsford. We selected these lines because all are well constructed and all also do more customization than comparable lines at their price point. This also makes each of them a great value for designing more complex kitchens.
Which line is best? Well of course, the most expensive full custom one Wellsford. Can our customers recognize the difference between Wellsford and even the least expensive line we carry Fabuwood? Surprisingly, most can not. So extra money spent upgrading to higher cost cabinet lines often goes unappreciated.
On the other hand, almost all our customers prefer and can recognize a well designed kitchen when we show them one. And, most of the designs we see done by designers from home centers and other dealers are poor. Accordingly, home owners should focus on finding a good kitchen designer over spending time determining “which cabinet line is best”.
It should be noted that European frameless cabinetry is in a class of it’s own and no frameless cabinets meet our minimum construction requirements for a well made cabinet. Because contemporary and modern door styles look so much better with the ultra tight gaps between doors and drawer fronts only possible with frameless construction, they are only available that way. So, The ONLY reason to purchase the lower quality frameless construction is if you are getting extremely modern and contemporary door styles. Main Line Kitchen Design’s Bishop line has the greatest door style and finish selection in European frameless construction. And Bishop, Fabuwood, and Wellsford all make their frameless cabinetry with 3/4″ plywood sides – the best possible way to make a European cabinet.
Since Main Line Kitchen Design’s customers are 90% home owners, we put kitchen design and cabinet construction quality first. We only offer cabinet lines that provide our customers the highest quality at the best price.
Have a wonderful rest of the summer … and of course …
Paul, Ray, Ed, Tom, and Julie
Main Line Kitchen Design
July 7, 2016
Below is an edited response to the question above from one of our blogs:
Kitchen design and cabinetry is complicated. And because customers are always looking to price compare and copy the design work done by kitchen designers, the cabinet industry intentionally makes it very confusing to shop for cabinets. One way this is done is that the same cabinet companies have different names at different locations and even if the brand name is the same the doors styles and finishes can have different names at different retailers.
Getting reliable cabinet reviews is also hard because Consumer Reports and other review sites don’t ask professionals to rate cabinets, they ask consumers. And reviews are written by staff reporters that know nothing about cabinets. Often customers that aren’t aware of what to expect complain when surveyed about the construction, style, and finish they selected, or about problems that their installer was responsible for. Here are the two most extreme examples of misleading and inaccurate cabinet company reviews:
IKEA is constantly reviewed favorably by almost everyone except professionals, here’s why:
No one follows up 20 years later and sees the IKEA kitchen that is falling apart. And even if they did they would need to compare it to the same kitchen in a better made product to understand the profound difference in cabinet longevity. As a professional I see these IKEA kitchens 20, 10, and even 5 years later when I am called upon to replace them.
Kraftmaid (which Main Line Kitchen Design does not carry but is the best example of the other extreme) consistently gets bad or mediocre reviews from consumer publications and home owners. There are several reasons for this:
The issues above create a recipe for consumer dissatisfaction.
The best example of this disparity between what is real and perceived was 11 years ago when Consumer Reports gave IKEA a top rating while Krafmaid received a relatively low rating. At that time Kraftmaid was on a 7 year winning streak for the best value in cabinetry as rated by cabinet professionals. Those same professionals would agree for the most part that IKEA was just junk. Kraftmaid may not be quite the same cabinet line it was then, but IKEA is, and IKEA continues to be rated near the top in Consumer Reports and in JD Power rankings.
Some consumers mistakenly focus on a cabinet lines warranty as a way to judge quality. However, many well made cabinet lines have the industry standard 5 year warranty, while IKEA has a 15. A lifetime Warranty doesn’t mean much either as all life time warrantees on cabinets are limited lifetime warranties, and cover very little. And, several terribly made cabinet lines offer a limited lifetime warranty.
For a consumer wanting a great kitchen, shopping for a kitchen designer and cabinet dealer is a better strategy than focusing on a cabinet line. When looking for a kitchen designer to work with make sure that they have a minimum of 10 years experience, and because kitchen design is such a complex profession a bright well educated person often makes a better designer than one with a design degree or certification. Some of the best kitchen designers I have met are on second careers or never studied design in college. The best designers are all very bright people with great spacial relations skills and a willingness to learn and to teach. Educating customers about what to value and expect is the hallmark of a good designer. So learning a lot from a designer in a short time speaking with them is a good sign. And if they give you a few ways you can save money without compromising on quality, that shows that they also are looking after your best interests.
Hoping your research helps you find the best designer and the best cabinet for you… and of course…
May 27, 2016
With so many types of countertops available we thought shedding a little light on the topic would be helpful.
Here is a comprehensive list of the most common types of countertops used in kitchens, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and approximate pricing.
Laminate – Sometimes referred to by the brand name Formica, plastic laminate countertops are actually made by several different companies. Formica and Wilsonart are the most popular brands. The popularity of laminate countertops in the past was due to it’s substantialy lower cost than solid surface countertops like granite, quartz, and Corian. However the price for laminate tops has gone up over time while the cost of many solid surface tops has gone down. Nowadays, laminate tops rarely make financial sense.
There is one exception – If you have a galley type kitchen, straight premade laminate tops called blanks are much less expensive than custom tops. They can look very similar to solid surface tops and cost a fraction of the price. L-shaped or U-shaped tops are more sensibly done in an inexpensive granite if you are trying to stay on a budget.
Granite – Granite is a natural stone and is very hard to scratch or chip. It does not etch (lose it’s shine from exposure to acidic liquids like lemon juice) and especially with the less expensive colors does not stain easily. Granite should be sealed yearly, an easy process that takes about 20 minutes. Now that most granite comes from third world countries, it can be the least expensive of the solid surface tops.
There is no limit to how much exotic granite patterns can cost. Level 1 colors start at around $43/sq ft in our area. The more expensive colors are higher priced not because they are “better”, they are simply less common, or more fragile and so harder to fabricate or mine.
Marble – Recently marble has become a popular stone to use for kitchen countertops. But be careful and make sure you understand it’s limitations. Marble looks beautiful, but is very soft. A dinner plate dragged across a top can scratch it. It also stains easily and so should be sealed often. The biggest complaint about polished marble tops is that they etch. Etching is when acids like lemon juice, cleaners, or even ketchup remove the shine from the top. If you decide on a marble top then treat it gently and expect it to have a worn and used look over time. Many feel this is still beautiful, and as long as this natural look is something that appeals to you, there will be no surprises. Marble prices start at around the price of level 5 granite so approximately $85/sq ft.
Quartzite – Quartzite is a natural stone that can look like a marble but has more of the properties of granite. It is very hard, and like granite is difficult to scratch, chip, or stain. However some quartzite tops can etch (lose their shine) when expose to acids. Ask you sales person or better yet test a sample of your quartzite with lemon juice to see if the color you are considering etches easily. Quartzite prices start at around the price of a level 5 or 6 granite.
Serpentine – Serpentine is a striking and veiny natural stone sometimes used for countertops. While it can be quite beautiful, it will also scratch, chip, stain, and etch easily. Choose it understanding this. It is also not inexpensive and prices start around the cost of the more expensive stones.
Quartz – Quartz countertops, also called engineered stone, are man-made tops composed of pieces of quartz, glass, and a bonding resin that glues everything together. The resin is a not stone and melts at 440 degrees Fahrenheit. So don’t treat quartz tops like other stone tops, they can be burned. Since quarts tops are artificial they have some advantages. They never need to be sealed, can’t be stained, and are almost as hard as granite. They are also somewhat flexible and don’t need the exacting installation requirements that real stone does because they are less likely to crack. There are many quartz manufacturers such as Zodiaq, Avanza, Silestone, Cambria, Ceasarstone, and Hanstone. All engineered quartz tops use the same patented manufacturing process so the differences from one line to another are purely aesthetic. Quartz pricing starts at about $70/sq ft with the most popular colors costing much more. The exception is the Cambria line where all the colors are the same price. Presently Main Line Kitchen Design sells Cambria for $80/sq ft.
“Green Tops” – Beware of the over priced “green” and “recycled” tops. The construction of these tops vary with the majority being quartz tops with some recycled glass or paper added to their resin mix. Other type tops include, 100% paper tops, Bamboo tops, recycled glass tops, and new ones pop up every day. The companies making these tops are smaller and less reliable than larger manufacturers and many of the claims to be green are dubious upon close inspection. Most reputable fabricators steer clear of these products even though consumers ask about them constantly because they find the tops through Google searches.
Concrete and resin tops – These tops will be more expensive than either concrete or quartz but have unusual finishes and unlike concrete are not porous. These tops usually start at at least $100/ sq ft.
Concrete – Concrete countertops have some beautiful acid washed finishes. They also start at the cost of the more expensive stone tops and the need to be sealed to be sanitary. Usually bees wax is used as the sealer.
Acrylics – Corian, Wilsonart Gibralter, Formica, Meganite, HiMax, and other brands make 100% acrylic countertops. The difference in brand is only aesthetic, but the bigger name brands definitely have nicer and more dramatic patterns. Be careful with hot pots. The melting temperature for acrylic is just over the temperature of boiling water so things taken out of the oven or off the stove cannot be placed on the countertop EVER! Pricing for acrylic tops will range between $60 /sq foot and $100 /sq ft depending on the color.
Glass – Solid glass countertops can be as dramatic as they are expensive. $200 /sq ft is not an uncommon cost for a glass top. Modern and Contemporary kitchens are usually the style that compliments a glass top.
Solid Wood or Butcher block – Butcher block and single piece wood tops can be beautiful. They start at around $80 /sq ft. Particularly striking solid slices of old growth timber can cost twice as much as butcher block tops. Wood tops come polyurethaned or sealed with oil. Tung oil is a common sealant. If you plan on cutting or chopping on your top then use the oil sealant. Wood tops scratch and burn easily.
Stainless Steel Countertops – Custom stainless steel countertops are most often used in restaurant settings. While they can be used in residential applications, finding an installer that will fabricate custom residential stainless steel tops can be a challenge. Tops start at over $100 per square foot. Outdoor kitchens frequently have stainless steel tops although most are pre-made tops incorporated into the design.
Tile Countertops – Ceramic, Porcelain, or granite tile countertops have lost popularity because the costs to build and install the tile no longer makes these tops less expensive than lower level solid surface tops. If you are making a tile top yourself the materials will be inexpensive but be prepared for a lot of work. If you are hiring an installer then you may be spending the same or more for what most people consider a less desirable top.
Soapstone – Soapstone may seem familiar to you since it is typically used for high school or college chemistry class countertops. Soapstone can’t be damaged by anything hot found in a kitchen. It also is not porous and so can’t be stained. Soapstone colors range from dark black to grey/black with white or green veining. Soapstone turns grey over time. However, it’s original finish will return when treated with mineral oil. Soapstone is also soft and scratches and nicks easily, but scratches are minimized when it is refreshed with oil. Soapstone top prices start at level 5 or 6 prices and go up from there.
There are positives and negatives about any type of countertop. So don’t be afraid to ask your designer or stone supplier questions to make sure you are getting the right top for you.
Hoping your countertop selection makes you as happy as our cabinets will ….and of course…
May 13, 2016
Realtors, HGTV, and home magazines often quote numbers on the return home owners receive on their home improvements. A 70% or 80% return on investment for kitchen renovations is a commonly quoted figure. But be careful. Simplistic formulas placing values on renovations are misleading.
Lets examine why these numbers are meaningless using a few examples:
A beat up kitchen that’s 30 to 50 years old was designed in a era when kitchens were usually small and overcrowded with tall cabinetry. Typically, they didn’t have enough countertop and had soffits built over the tops of the wall cabinets. Installing new cabinetry, countertops, and appliances, without updating the kitchen’s floor plan will probably not make your home much more attractive to prospective buyers. Often the new owners would plan on gutting the room you just renovated. Possibly removing walls and soffits, or moving doorways, to change the outdated floor plan you reinvested in. In this case you would most likely get very little of your investment back.
Another example is when homeowners select a style or type of wood that’s very unpopular. Oak cabinets, cabinet doors with arches, or white thermafoil doors are presently so unpopular that any kitchen remodeled in these styles will recoup almost nothing. Outdated stains and paint colors will also severely limit how much of your investment you get back when you sell. Choosing a pink color kitchen cabinet would obviously be unpopular. Choosing a Burgundy stain on a raised panel cherry cabinet might not be obviously out of fashion to people other than kitchen designers. But since that color and style is identified with the 1980’s and 1990’s it also has less resale value.
What types of renovations pay off?
Transforming a kitchen by removing a wall, adding part of another room, or making other major design changes is much more than an update – it can fundamentally change your home. Even simpler but less substantial changes like moving a doorway or raising a window to allow cabinetry and countertop below make dramatic changes in a kitchen. When Main Line Kitchen Design designers eliminate serious problems in prior kitchen layouts, it is actually common for Main Line Kitchen Design customers to get over 300% returns on their kitchen renovations.
And, any additional construction costs for the new floor plan that make a kitchen space work have little impact on what people spend on their complete kitchen. Instead, nearly all overspending occurs on cabinets, appliances, and countertop decisions that break a budget while having a smaller effect on how much a prospective buyer actually likes a particular kitchen.
Being a good kitchen designer means understanding the value of design changes and helping your customers maximizing the impact of the more expensive materials used in their renovation. Less experienced designers and non professionals tend to focus on what matters less, often placing great importance on subtle color differences, brand names, or design preferences that don’t work in a particular space.
Kitchen design is a challenging, and complex profession. And much like Julia Child felt rewarded sharing her love of cooking and fine food, it’s very rewarding creating kitchens that transform homes, maximize their value, and improve the lives of the people using them.
Hoping your kitchen renovation is the best it can be… and of course…
Paul, Ray, Tom, Ed, and Julie
Main Line Kitchen Design
April 30, 2016
On Wednesday evening Main Line Kitchen Design and Eric Spiro Inc won The National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s 2016 DelCY award for the best kitchen in Delaware and Chester counties between 60 and 100K. The kitchen was designed by Paul and the construction and installation done by Eric Spiro. The kitchen’s open floor plan required removing two walls and installing a 18 foot long laminated beam comprised of several beams “sistered” and bolted together.
A bar area and a home office were also part of the project. Cabinetry was the Bishop Utica birch door style in a light finish. A two level island, color coordinated granite countertops, and a distinctive porcelain tile floor and backsplash helped make this simple functional design an award winner. Photos below:
March 27, 2016
Recently my sister Alison remodeled her kitchen. While her kitchen was one of more than 100 kitchens Main Line Kitchen Design sold this year, the intimate perspective I got from working with a family member helped me better appreciate the value of taking the necessary time to make important decisions.
During the early stages of the design process, Alison and her husband Kevin wrestled with some of my design suggestions. Removing the load bearing wall between the dining room and the kitchen was something everyone agreed on, but closing a doorway and choosing a peninsula instead of an island were two recommendations that were difficult for them to feel comfortable with. It took examining other alternative designs and time before these choices felt right for everyone.
Once the design was done, as with many of our customers, there was some delay while all the pieces in a complex renovation were resolved. Finding a contractor was especially difficult since my sister lives several states away from me. I recommended using Houzz.com, Angie’s list, and her friends as the most reliable resources to find a general contractor. After several meetings with contractors that just didn’t feel right she met Terrence. Alison’s willingness to devote time until she found a capable contractor paid off! The help she got from Terrence and his attention to detail were invaluable.
As with many of our customers, Alison’s kitchen continued to change as she and her husband made all of their selections. The traditional door style they originally chose became a more transitional style. The color of their cabinetry became an egg shell instead of a beige. And the tile design over the range became simpler and less dramatic.
The granite countertop they picked was also affected by Alison’s extended timeline. She began to notice the level one granite colors used in restaurants and hotels, and as she became familiar with them she began to like those colors less.
In the end, my sister got a beautiful kitchen that she loves. She told me she sometimes finds excuses to go down stairs just to look at her kitchen, and it always cheers her up if she is stressed. But some of the elements that she loves the most wouldn’t have been her selections if she had rushed into her renovation immediately.
Often time is the investment people aren’t able to make to get themselves the best kitchen for the best price. Plan carefully and get professional help making your selections and in learning about the products you are considering. And if you give yourself a little more time like my sister Alison, your kitchen can be a place that will lift your spirits each and every time you enter it.
Hoping you take the time to get the best kitchen… and of course …
February 23, 2016
Kitchen renovations are one of the most expensive home remodeling projects. And, regardless of economic conditions and interest rates, financing a large home renovation can be challenging.
A recent development helping homeowners to pay for large renovations is online banking institutions offering nearly instant financing at competitive rates. While we don’t endorse any of the many lenders that offer these programs, below is a video on one such lender – Lightstream. We met a Lightstream representative at the January 2016 National Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas. Their rates seem good and they get great reviews considering the fact that everyone they turn down could easily post a negative one.
Homeowners should also beware of predatory lenders offering free financing for 12 to 18 months and then charging retroactively over 20% interest rates on the balance. Many kitchen companies and home centers promote this deal to their customers through lenders like GE. This is unfortunately not the only unsavory deal promoted by GE. For example, GE is paid by The Home Depot to allow their brand name to be used to sell low quality knock off water heaters.
Hoping you find reasonable financing for the project of your dreams……and of course…
Paul, Ray, Tom, Julie and Ed
Main Line Kitchen Design
January 24, 2016
KBIS – The National Kitchen and Bath Industry Show was held last week in Las Vegas. This year’s changes included an increased presence of Asian made cabinetry often sold by US companies and a decrease of American cabinet manufacturers. The quality of the Asian cabinetry and countertops also dramatically improved.
The Fabuwood display particularly stood out. Close to 50 salespeople were on site answering questions and providing product demonstrations. Their extensive displays of custom finishes, hoods, and other features showcased Fabuwood’s move into the higher end cabinetry market.
Appliance manufacturers were in higher attendance than I have ever seen. Below are photos from a tiny sampling of their displays:
The Rev-a-shelf display was also a standout and included new and unusual cabinet interior conveniences.
And faucets, showers, and tubs were everywhere. Several convention goers could be seen taking a break in an empty tub. Some of the water displays were fun to watch:
But nothing seemed to impress this shower occupant.
The Main Line Kitchen Design team wishes you a warm and safe winter and of course a hearty …
January 9, 2016