Main Line Kitchen Design
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Lowes Store

Homeowners often use home centers like Lowes and The Home Depot to design their kitchens and to buy cabinetry. I have often defended home centers as not a bad place to work with if you are designing a kitchen and you do a good job finding the most experienced home center designer in your area. And contrary to what many people believe both Lowes and The Home Depost sell well made cabinets if they are upgraded as needed.

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However due to a combination of poor decisions made at the corporate level, I now feel that particularly Lowes, but also The Home Depot, are poor locations to design and to buy a kitchen. I’ll explain in detail below:

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During Covid-19 The most important reason to be concerned about buying a kitchen from a home center is the amount of in-person meetings required to design and sell a kitchen in a big box store.

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Our company and many independent cabinet dealers now do all our design work with customers via Zoom. Sitting across a desk at a home center working on a kitchen design is simply adding unnecessary risk for both the customer and the designer. A quick meeting for door style, finish and cabinet brand selection are the only in-person meetings that make sense between a kitchen designer and their customer in the middle of a pandemic. Home Depot and Lowe’s need to offer virtual meetings.

The corporate environment at home centers has always been at odds with what is required to design and sell complex kitchen renovations. In the past, home center kitchen designers worked around company policies that hindered doing their job effectively. The reason for the lack of support by home center management is that designing kitchens is very different from retail sales.

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Designing and helping organize a kitchen construction project requires a great deal of knowledge and experience. Unlike selling retail merchandise where only a limited knowledge of the products you sell is required, designing kitchens requires far more expertise. Knowledge of complex kitchen cabinetry, countertop specifications, kitchen design, and of all types of construction is a must. Because of this quite often kitchen designers at both home centers were paid in line with department managers.

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As time has gone by home centers have continued to decrease what they are willing to pay kitchen designers and both Lowes and The Home Depot have tried to limit their responsibility in designing and managing kitchen renovations. For example both locations no longer allow the person designing your kitchen to ever see your home, or measure your kitchen. Both home centers also recently decided not to design or install kitchens that remove load bearing and even non load bearing walls. Despite the fact that over half of all kitchen renovations today involve removing a wall. This policy makes sense when you decide not to employ good kitchen designers, as it limits your liability.

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Lowes, in particular recently made sure that no experienced kitchen designers would work for them. About 5 years ago Lowes eliminated commission for their kitchen designers. At that time, their best designers earned double their salary in commissions, so to avoid a complete employee walk out, Lowes agreed to increase the salary of their experienced kitchen designers by 50% of their commissions from the previous year. So a designer that might have made 70K was suddenly making only $52,500.

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Main Line Kitchen Design’s phone rang off the hook with kitchen designers looking for work following this cruel decision by Lowes Corporate. Shockingly last month Lowes told all those kitchen designers still working for them that they were going back in time and reducing their pay by the 50% they gave them 5 years before. So now a designer that might have been making 70K in 2014 now makes 35K. This guarantees two things. First that no good kitchen designer will continue to work for Lowes and second that any experienced kitchen designer still working for Lowes will be insensitive to their customers needs and angry with their employer.

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The Home Depot has been less aggressive in their devaluation of the kitchen design profession but they have continued to undermine it, and under pay their designers. Designers can no longer measure their kitchens, move walls and doorways as needed, or even take responsibility for their designs. Contractors are expected to verify all measurements and take responsibility for any discrepancies. Home Depot kitchen measures that were once quite detailed and took over an hour are now routinely under 20 minutes.

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Lowes and The Home Depot also continue to have disingenuous sales. Pressuring customers to buy now or miss a sale that is manufactured on a regular basis. These sales drive closings on kitchens often before it’s sensible to be ordering. And home centers are generally not less than 5% from their competitors in price, even with sales. In fact, they are sometimes more expensive. Cabinet pricing from an independent cabinet dealer must be similar, when the independent dealer carries the same cabinet lines.

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IKEA

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The lucrative kitchen cabinet market has lured other retailers besides IKEA such as Costco into selling kitchen cabinets. But again, without the benefit of a true kitchen designer. As is so often the case, greed and a lack of knowledge is dangerous.

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Kitchens are far too expensive and complicated not to have a professional kitchen designer advising you on the important decisions you have to make during a detailed renovation. And investing in a poor kitchen design can not only waste money, it can actually devalue your home. Buying poorly made cabinets like IKEA is no longer even inexpensive, as many better constructed import lines are available. IKEA has also recently downgraded their cabinet construction making them a particularly poor choice in kitchen cabinetry.

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In my opinion, working with home centers when renovating a kitchen is no longer sensible. Here are some of our related blog posts:

https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/the-customer-that-almost-bought-their-kitchen-at-lowes/

https://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/the-10-x-10-kitchen-and-why-the-linear-foot-price-for-cabinetry-is-a-lie/

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Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to all our customers and blog readers.

. . . and of course. . .

Bon Appetit!

Paul

16 Comments

  1. pmcalary, October 26, 2020 at 10:59 am:

    Hi Damon,
    I would agree that when you work with a home center you know that even though you will most likely be working with less experienced people you are assured that the job gets completed even if individual contractors or people quit, get injured or go bankrupt. However doing a good job researching the reviews of independent kitchen places is probably safe and you will get a more professional result. Since the creativeness and ability of the kitchen designer determines to a large extent the value of your home, working with a less qualified designer could cost you a fortune in lost resale value.

    I also agree – the $99 is just to get rid of time wasters and people looking for something for nothing. If they don’t get the $99 deposit that’s applied to the project, no one would be advised working with them.

  2. Damon, October 26, 2020 at 2:23 am:

    There are pros and cons to utilizing big box stores for home remodeling projects. One benefit is I know where I can complain and raise hell if something goes wrong or is delayed. Use a GC or independent shop, especially as a new resident, and you’re probably flipping a coin.

    To the gripe about the Home Depot & Lowes ~$99 in-home measurement fee, that fee is deductible from the final project cost. It protects themselves from looky-loos and comparison shoppers.

  3. pmcalary, July 1, 2020 at 8:15 am:

    There are many better made, less expensive and better looking painted cabinet choices then Schrock. Unless they have a specific color paint that you “must have” which is a separate issue, I would not recommend them. If you are getting a painted white shaker style door from Schroch you are wasting your money. Any upper tier import will make an off white shaker door far better. Fabuwood would be one of the best choices: All plywood construction, every upgrade available as standard construction, including solid wood dovetail drawers and soft close drawers and hinges. A better style shaker door with an attractive bevel and a wider door frame. And finally a smoother nicer finish. All costing less than Schrock.

    We sell mid priced US Lines ourselves but would never sell a painted white shaker door in Legacy Presidential or Bishop. Fabuwood does that style and color better for less. It is in the stains, different wood species that the mid priced US lines are worth the money. Most custom lines do everything well and their stains are like fine furniture, but they are much more than all these choices.

  4. Peggy, July 1, 2020 at 5:23 am:

    We are remodeling a kitchen in an older home. We are on a budget but want to make an informed decision. We met a Schrock representative at a local cabinet store. She suggested the Entra line Ingalis door, painted. What are your thoughts about this line of Schrock versus Trademark. She also did not feel it was necessary to upgrade from furniture board to partial plywood. Entra also has a full plywood box. Thank you and we appreciate your thoughts.

  5. pmcalary, June 29, 2020 at 9:35 am:

    Hi Victor,
    I disagree. Giving you a detailed estimate requires about 8 hours of the person measuring and the designers time. Homeowners take an incredible amount of peoples time without consequence when kitchen design professionals measure for free. We charge $150 to measure, do preliminary designs, and give customers a 2 hour design meeting where we make design changes and price out the customers kitchen from soup to nuts.

    $150 doesn’t even remotely pay for our time but it does qualify homeowners and give them an incredible amount of advice and expertise for very little. Valuing our time and expertise is important to the working relationship between us and our customers.Just like customers are shopping for designers and cabinet dealers we are shopping for what will be good customers.

    Here’s a funny video on the topic:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2a8TRSgzZY

  6. Viktor Wills, June 29, 2020 at 9:08 am:

    Home depot charges 99 dollars to just come out and measure space. It’s a joke. This should be free to be able to get an estimate.

  7. pmcalary, February 20, 2020 at 8:03 am:

    Hi Sara,
    First we would only recommend frameless cabinetry for modern slab door styles. Is that what you are considering. Thomasville Nouvell is terribly constructed so we would never recommend that line, and Chrystal Encore IS a very expensive custom frameless line, so maybe you need better help in selecting a cabinet line in the type of door style you like. Crystal doesn’t say how their Encore line is exactly made but they are a good cabinet line in general. There will be less expensive lines with the same construction though. What is the door style you are looking for?

  8. Sara, February 19, 2020 at 7:16 pm:

    Hi, enjoyed reading your comments/responses. we are starting a kitchen remodel and are conflicted about which cabinet company to use. We want the full access/euro style cabs and designer recommended Crystal Cabinets/Encore. Then checked out Home Depot’s Thomasville Nouveau line which is cost 60% less. Can you pls provide your opinion? we do want good quality cabinets that last 20 yrs but is it worth paying the extra amount? thanks!

  9. pmcalary, January 22, 2020 at 1:59 pm:

    Hi Johnny,
    Glad your managerial skills allowed you to catch a typo. I’m returning from the National Kitchen Show and sitting across from one of many former Lowes kitchen designers. Being a former Lowes kitchen designer myself I have to agree with him that Lowes store managers are, in general, part of the problem and not the solution to all that’s wrong with the kitchen departments at Lowes. Neither one of us knows any remaining good designers still working for Lowes and lots of angry former commissioned employees from appliances and other departments that just lost 25% of their salaries. Licensed contractors by the way are not qualified to design kitchens.

  10. Johnny Roach, January 22, 2020 at 1:15 pm:

    As a manager at Lowe’s, I can assure you this article is horse crap at best. We still have most of our designer’s. We still pay them supervisor pay. They still learn CAD and most know more about kitchen design than licensed contractors. BTW its PAID* not payed!

  11. pmcalary, January 12, 2020 at 9:55 pm:

    Wow that’s a long time! A two week delay makes our customers incredibly upset.

  12. Unhappy customer, January 12, 2020 at 7:29 pm:

    I have to concur. It took home Depot over 5 months to install my kitchen. Someone else did the flooring/plumbing and demolition. Cabinet installation took 5 months. Extremely stressful experience.

  13. pmcalary, December 1, 2019 at 8:21 am:

    Hi Scott,
    Thanks, I can’t believe that with the recent salary changes that the Lowes designers could be putting up much competition.

  14. pmcalary, December 1, 2019 at 8:16 am:

    Hi Megan,
    I have a couple of issues with your comment:

    First, yes Canada is a very different place than the US and also your store could be an exception to the rule, even in Canada.

    Knowing many US kitchen designers from Home Depot none of us would ever call Home Depot PK’s and their limited training extensive.

    On the job training is a poor substitute for the knowledge and years of experience needed to make a kitchen designer competent. And designing kitchens that remove load bearing walls requires construction knowledge from the designer that Home Depot does not give, and experience from the contractor that Home Depot does not test for.

    And finally, your comment is so well thought out, and addresses marketing and advertising issues so effectively, that Home Depot Corporate couldn’t have done a better job. Your email is listed as info @Homedepot.com which makes me suspicious that there might have been some direction from above in creating your comment.

    If not, you are as good a marketer as you might be a kitchen designer, and exceptional people are always “the exception to the rule”. The best kitchen designers I have met have always been exceptional people so your customers are very lucky to have you.

  15. Megan, November 30, 2019 at 1:28 pm:

    Hello, I realize that this article pertains to matters in the US, however I work at a Home Depot in Canada and we can absolutely move walls and door ways as needed, load bearing or not. We have experienced installers that do the measures, construction and installation. Yes it is unfortunate that designers can no longer go inside the customers home, however the measure form that the installer fills out is extremely detailed and always has pictures of the existing space accompanied with it.This provides more than enough information for us to create beautiful renderings using 20/20 and to ensure the customer gets their dream kitchen. We do have time sensitive sales that pressure the customer into buying their cabinets, sometimes this is exactly the push the customers need to get their project started especially if they have been waiting for years to update their home. Home Depot also has extensive instructor led training to ensure that each and every designer is aware of NKBA standards and best practices when it comes to designing kitchens as well as bathrooms, offices, closets or whatever other room the customer may be interested in doing. I have never worked on commission, so I cannot speak to what a loss that might have been. I can say that because we do not work on commission, I have a great partnership with the other two designers I work with. The only competition is with ourselves and with our sales last year. Home Depot has tons of incentive programs and contests to inspire us to be the best we can be. I of course cannot speak on behalf of all Home Depot stores, but mine is pretty great.

  16. Scott Mass, November 26, 2019 at 11:55 am:

    Excellent perspective and useful for my designers as an independent kitchen dealer with Lowes down the street

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