Design Professionals Discuss Industry Issues

Have a question and looking for feedback from industry peers? This month, Kitchen & Bath Design News listens in on dialogue between industry professionals as excerpted from the online Design Discussion Forum.

Raised Dishwashers

I have never installed a raised dishwasher, but I wonder if they are still popular.

Specifically, I am working on a project and want to know whether I should pull the base forward 1-1/2" and let the lower counter die into the side of the dishwasher cabinet.

Response 1
We have a raised dishwasher in our showroom, and most people like it – until they realize it probably won’t work in their layout.

It really needs to be the last cabinet in a run, or next to a tall cabinet to avoid breaking up the countertop. We usually deepen the dishwasher cabinet from 24" to 27" to provide a countertop stop.

Response 2
I agree that the raised dishwasher needs to be at the end of a run. I once used a raised dishwasher at the end of a small peninsula (in a small kitchen that needed to accommodate the homeowners’ beloved 48" range), and it worked out quite well without adjusting the cabinet depth.

For that installation, I used a 15" base next to the dishwasher to allow enough room for the client to comfortably turn to the left to load the dishwasher. The raised countertop provides the client’s guests with a favorite place to “perch” with a glass of wine while chatting with the cooks and, at the same time, keeps them out of the kitchen.

The depth issue with the countertop and the cabinets wasn’t quite as important in this instance, because, visually, there wasn’t a long run of straight cabinetry to upset the balance.

Hardware Choices

I have a client who wants me to pick out his hardware. Can I get some advice? It’s a full-overlay maple cocoa glaze door.

Therefore, should I use all pulls, knobs or a combination of both?

Another question I have is what color would work well with this type of door?

Response 1
To make this really simple, just put knobs on doors, and handles on drawers. Anything in an antique copper or oil-rubbed bronze would look very nice. Would that go with the countertop?
—Design Diva

Response 2
Yes, that would go with the countertop. This house has a lot of tile, earthy colors, high ceilings, and natural-looking tones in the brick surround at the cooktop. It’s a beautiful home. I just didn’t want to screw it up by choosing the wrong hardware.

Thank you!

Response 3
I like the oil-rubbed bronze as well, but we also just got in some displays featuring Antique Rust hardware.

Depending on what the cabinets and countertops look like, Antique Rust may go well with the design theme. It is definitely worth considering.

By the way, I agree that knobs on doors and handles on drawers are the way to go!

Countertop Supports

I have a client with a granite top that will extend approximately 15" out past the top of the bar. I know this needs additional support and have informed my client of this situation. The kitchen is very contemporary with clean lines, so wood corbels are out.

I need to know where I can get something in a metal – preferably stainless steel or something similar – for a support bracket.

Is there a way to support this without anything showing from the front? The customer prefers nothing showing at all, but if I can find something that is very “designer” looking, then I think she would be happy. Any suggestions?

Response 1
We have been getting a local metal shop to fabricate 1/4"x1" thick metal straps to support our overhangs when necessary – the length is determined by the amount of overhang required. The carpenter notches out the top of the cabinet back and the backer panel so the countertop can remain flush with the top of the cabinets and the brackets get shimmed and fastened inside the back of the cabinets.

Response 2
My clients and I have decided to go with the “hidden” metal supports. Since they really didn’t want to see any supports, this is the best solution. When I asked my granite fabricator about it, they said they do that all the time. I’m not sure why they didn’t suggest it the first time I asked them for their advice. Thanks for all of your ideas.

Base Cabinet Design

I’m looking for a power strip with a flexible cord to incorporate into a base cabinet drawer to hide cell phone chargers. Does anyone know of a manufacturer/supplier?

Response 1
Could you cut out most of one side of the drawer and mount a power strip to the inside of the cabinet that could be accessed when the drawer is open?

I don’t know if this would work or not. It was just a thought.

I was just thinking with the drawer modification, you do not have to worry about the liability issues of a power cord fraying or becoming damaged due to stress from moving.

Custom Downdrafts

I am working on a very small kitchen. It’s 8'x11' with a huge chimney chase in one corner, two doors and a window. The homeowner would like to knock out a wall between the dining room and kitchen and have a two-tier peninsula.

The homeowner wanted a slide-in downdraft Pro-style JennAir in the peninsula. In my opinion, it looks really congested with the sink and dishwasher so close in proximity. One of my co-workers came up with an idea to do an inline blower in the basement and run duct up through the knee wall and place some kind of register/vent cover on the backsplash.

Then we could do a cooktop and put a single oven on the other side of the kitchen. The home-owner could then have pot/pan drawers under the cooktop, too. The homeowner does not want any kind of overhead peninsula hood or any kind of downdraft that would interfere with the cabinet below.

Has anyone done something like this before?

Response 1
A guy I work with told me about the Dacor Preference downdraft, designed for remote or inline blower, so the unit only takes up 3-1/2" of the cabinet back.

Response 2
Find standard grease filters and design it using them. Since most filters are wide, we would put them in on an angle to get the most filter surface. You also have to get them out to clean them.

Response 3
We have not done anything custom, but have done the Dacor downdraft behind a Dacor range and, on another project, a Dacor cooktop. The independent unit itself is fairly compact, about 2"-3" in depth and a full 30" wide, if I recall. But they are designed to pop up from the counter, not the backsplash.

When we did it with the cooktop, we did put drawers below. You don’t want to cut any of the depth space out of the drawers, because then you would have to make the countertop a little deeper in order to accommodate the downdraft.

I would get rid of the knee wall and use that space for the downdraft instead. Then you could still do your two-tier peninsula behind it. I hope that this helps.

Response 4
We did something like this in my own house about 15 years ago. My downdraft is mounted at the back of the “eating” countertop, and we put the housing into the kneewall, which is beadboard with a removable panel for access on the eating side.

This unit did not pop up. It’s flush to the countertop and you open a hinged flap on the top when you want to turn it on. I did it for the reason you gave. I wanted pot and pan drawers under the cooktop. It works adequately for most of the cooking we do, but I have a Pro-style Five Star gas cooktop and if we really crank it up, the ventilation isn’t adequate.

I don’t know if it is because of the raised location of the intake or that the motor isn’t powerful enough. I don’t know if this kind of non-pop-up vent is still available from another company.

I question if the pop-up kind would function adequately if mounted on the eating top because the vent intake would be pretty high above the cooktop.

Personally, I’d only be comfortable devising the system you describe with an electric top because I’d be worried about the liability issues with gas.

Guiding Clients

How do you deal with clients who insist on choosing hideous lighting, paint colors, bar stools or tile, after you’ve poured your heart into making the rest of the kitchen beautiful?

I know it’s their kitchen, but some of these things are ghastly.

Any tactful yet forceful words of wisdom I can use?

Response 1
Sometimes it works to say the choices they make might date their kitchen. When they start worrying about that, they often reconsider. Then, I breathe a sigh of relief, and reinforce by mentioning the less dramatic choice(s) will be a lot easier to live with for a lifetime. That approach works – sometimes.

Response 2
I will often say “the reason why you hired a professional designer is to get professional advice and this is my advice.” If that doesn’t work I try “it won’t work for resale, as it’s too unusual or different.”

As a last resort, I tell them “I really think you are making a serious mistake.” Ultimately, if they insist on doing whatever it is, I just let it go, and then don’t take pictures of the project. I find that most of the time they listen when I try this approach.

However, there have been a few times when I've been wrong about their selections. Some have turned out to look good or even great!

If this is the case, I really try to tell them point blank that they were right and I was wrong. This always helps the clients feel good about themselves.

Response 3
Can you possibly direct them to something similar? I suppose it would act as some sort of compromise. For example, when I sold paint, some customers would want really bad colors and I would “gently” advise them that their color selection was a little bold.

If pattern and general styling is a problem, you can try telling them the “less is more” thing.

For instance, “If you really like that pink and orange flowery fabric, it will make a much larger statement if you use it only as throw pillows instead of the chairs and the entire couch!” Remember that some customers occasionally need to be educated.

Most of the time the client can’t imagine how everything will go together or how something will look based on a sample chip, so by giving your advice and guidance, you can educate them and they will come to trust you. Show them some similar jobs you have done. This can help build their confidence in your taste and style.

Client Communication

We, for the most part, get great feedback on our designs and installations. One area where we have received less enthusiasm is in the area of communication. It pains me to design a beautiful job, have all the materials show up on time, have a great installation and then have clients disappointed due to their perception of the quality/amount/type of communication that goes on.

I typically do a kickoff meeting and will visit the jobsite when questions come up. In fact, I will visit at least weekly – whether I need to or not. I also try to make phone calls to “check in.”

Where we seem to fall down is when communication is occurring between the general contractor and the client. I cannot be there to witness all of these conversations. It seems that clients are expecting that everything that was discussed between them and the contractor is being communicated back to me. Frequently, it is not. When we sell the job, we sell the benefits of the team approach, but I don’t think we are quite the “team” that clients expect.

What do others do to help clients feel good about the level of communication that goes on?

Response 1
I can relate. The only answer I have found is to call the project manager for an update every day that I’m unable to visit the jobsite. However, I also tend to work with the same contractors (who I will refer).

I have explained that I know how busy they are and can understand why they sometimes aren’t able to check in with me, but I also explain that part of my sales process is to stress that we are providing a team effort when they purchase our joint services and I will look like a liar if I can’t live up to the expectations that have been set.

So, to maintain credibility and the possibility of referrals, I will be checking in with them every day or so and would appreciate a phone call if anything major happens, just so I can be aware. It is actually to the project manager’s advantage to keep us posted so we can both give the same answers to the client or figure out solutions together.

I think the project managers aren’t always aware of what goes into the sales presentation. I’ve gotten positive responses to this approach, but it does add one more thing to the “to do” list.

Response 2
Whenever I work with outside contractors, I try to conduct weekly recap meetings with some, while others only need e-mail communication.

I have suggested to homeowners simple ideas for communication such as the use of a bulletin board at the jobsite so they can post messages and reminders in one place for the contractor.

Personally, I would like to see a communication system through the Internet for the client, contractor and designer. I think Susan Serra uses one in her business to communicate to clients. The problem is some contractors don’t even want to have e-mail.

This is the age-old question of how to provide better communication and better service to our clients.
—KB Design 1