January Pro to Pro

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Have a question and looking for feedback from industry peers? This month KBDN listens in on dialogue between industry professionals as excerpted from the KitchenBathPros.com online Design Discussion Forum.


I have a customer who has been getting input from her decorator and architect friends and is now totally confused. They are telling her that she must have a pantry, but she wants a decorative “hutch” looking area.

I’ve tried a couple of different layout options, but I really don’t see a good way to incorporate both into the design, so I’d like to see her do the hutch instead of the pantry.

She’s opening up the room by tearing out part of a wall and adding about three 30"-wide base cabinets, so she’s already adding a good amount of storage.

The other thing she’s bringing up is the Rule of Three. She wants to put glass doors in her kitchen somewhere, but her friends told her she needs to have three of them because when you group items, it should be in multiples of three.

I’ve heard this for decorating and landscaping, but it’s never come up for me in designing a kitchen before. I’m a big fan of having everything balanced and symmetrical, but this multiple of three thing is something I just don’t think is necessary for the glass doors.

I’m not crazy about just a single glass door because, in my opinion, it just looks like it was plopped into the kitchen. I generally like to do double doors on the end of a run or sandwiched between solid door cabinets, or flanking something else, like either side of a window or cooktop. So I’m going to ask you, the pros, what do you think? Does the Rule of Three apply to cabinet design?

I don’t want to discredit her friends either, but I don’t think three glass doors are necessary; I think two is fine and will fit into her design nicely. I have a meeting with her Monday morning, so any advice would be helpful.

I’ve heard the Rule of Three before. More universal in interior design is the idea to group similar items in odd numbers. However, I think applying this “rule” to glass-front cabinet doors in counterintuitive because of the way doors work - either single-hinged doors or butt-hinged pairs. To try to do three glass doors would mean an odd hinge sequence: one single and one pair, three singles, etc.
I think the only time odd numbers of glass doors work is if all the doors are glass, or all the doors in a run. I hope this helps.

Yes, that’s a good way to present it. In my head, the Rule of Three doesn’t matter for kitchen design, but I wasn’t sure how to say it to the customer without just giving my standard Mom answer of “because I said so.” Thanks for
the input.

Any time I’ve seen the group of three applied, it was with three similar items but of different sizes. You might want to explain this to her and then tell her it wouldn’t look good if the doors were all different sizes.

Boy, I really wish you could either upload that section of the plan as a jpeg here or link to a separate photo image site so I could see what you mean. It’s hard to comment without seeing it.

I think the proportion of the doors, whether there are two or three doors, has to be the right proportion with surrounding cabinetry. For example, to have two 24"-wide doors and several 12" or 15" base doors looks awkward. I think it’s more about proportion and balance with surrounding cabinetry than it is about the Rule of Three. And, that doesn’t mean that everything always has to be perfectly symmetrical. If you did another proportion in a different color, that would be better, if it doesn’t relate to surrounding proportions.

I do use the Rule of Three quite often, now that I think of it, but in another way. More of a 2/3 and 1/3 thing, like 1/3 would be an open shelf cabinet, 2/3 might be one door on either side of the open shelf cabinet, a very basic example. Having two components, where one is 2/3 and one is 1/3, but each is a different component, grouped together, works well.

So, I think there are two interpretations of the Rule of Three, especially in designing openings for cabinetry.

The Rule of Three is often used in interior design.

It’s used a lot for grouping items, for instance, using three, five or seven pictures together. You see it on HGTV a lot. I think you are right, Susan, that sometimes using two glass doors looks better. As kitchen designers, we use symmetry, asymetry and balance.

I think the client is getting confused. She has a lot of input from designers and architects, and she is trying to assimilate what they have told her and use it in her design. It sounds as if she doesn’t want to make a decorating mistake. I would do the design the way you feel it would work the best.

You could also show her how it would look with what she is asking for. When clients see the difference, they can easily make sense
of our ideas.

I’ll never forget when my clients brought in their interior designer right before they ordered their cabinetry. The clients and I had spent about 40 hours creating the kitchen of their dreams. In one hour, the interior designer changed the staggered cabinet height to 42" wall cabinets. She moved the glass doors to a different area, and made a few other changes.

After the kitchen was installed, the homeowner asked what happened to our staggered-height cabinetry. I reminded him that he brought his interior designer in and she changed everything, and he had agreed with her decisions. Unfortunately, this was not what the client wanted, it was what the interior designer wanted.

I have used three glass doors in a corner application, but regardless of how many glass doors I use, I like to balance the room with open space as well. Glass creates the feeling of openness, even when there is something behind the glass or when the glass is ribbed or opaque. Unless the glass is used for a hutch, or desk arrangement, or is flanking either the sink or the range hood, I like to use more than just two glass cabinets.

As for interior designers, I tell my clients the ground rules: The designer can pick all the color combinations and materials, but I am the professional when it comes to the design itself. If they can live with that, fine. In most cases, I find that establishing the boundaries at the outset makes everyone more productive.

It probably won’t hurt to remind the clients that cabinets, even glass door cabinets, have a function... I can’t keep my mac-n-cheese and rice-a-roni looking neat enough to be behind glass doors. You should review the overall design and placement of the glass doors in regard to what will be kept inside the cabinets.

The guideline of space planning versus color and texture with interior designers is a very good guideline. It allows each specialist to focus on his or her own specialty.


We coordinate with a number of countertop manufacturers. Over the past six to 12 months, one fabricator has been causing us a lot of problems. He is a fabricator used exclusively by one of our prime contractors and somewhat used by many other contractors. Problems have included:

  1. Beating up our cabinets.
  2. Complaining that our cabinets are built wrong and that’s why the undermount sink/deck mount faucet/3cm backsplash won’t fit in a 21"-deep vanity that can be no deeper than 21" because of adjacent door casing.
  3. Insisting we should cut away the side of a vanity cabinet because the sink won’t fit in the cabinet (we caught that the sink was too big and advised the homewoner to choose a smaller sink, and she did...but the granite fabricator’s paperwork had the old sink listed so he said the plumbing people shipped him the wrong sink).
  4. Insisting we moved/rebuilt cabinets after he measured (not templated) them, and that’s why the tops don’t fit.
  5. Cutting sink holes where there are no sinks.
  6. Cutting sink holes in the wrong place.

His mistakes are causing us grief in call-backs, onsite repairs, wasted trips and schedule delays. Worst of all, somehow we are being blamed for a lot of it. The contractor who uses him exclusively thinks the granite guy can do no wrong. How do we handle this?

From my point of view, it’s not that you should make the fabrictor look bad, you just need to defend yourself and try to avoid future problems. First of all, you could try to have all communication documented. For example any changes the fabricator wants you to make, you have him write on the floor plan with initials and dates. The same goes for if you and/or the customer want to make changes - make sure the fabricator looks at the floor plan notes and initials them (you may want to always post a current floor plan in the work area so that everybody is on the same page).

Try to include the contractor in your communication. Talk to the main contractor and let him know that there have been numerous miscommunications with the fabricator and play it off that you want to make sure you are doing a good job for him because you want to show your loyalty and professionalism to the contractor (to heck with the fabricator, keep a sturdy relationship with the contractor).

When there is a phone conversation with the fabricator, include the contractor in a conference call, or if it’s onsite, include the contractor. This is tough to do since most contractors don’t want to mess around with this piddly little stuff, but that’s why if you talk to him and ask him how “we” can all work together to avoid mistakes, this might catch his attention.

This is where “this business” can be very difficult. I don’t really have an answer for you. It sounds like the stone fabricator is a classic prima donna and somehow has the contractor buying into it, too. While I can see speaking professionally and directly to the contractor has its merits, there has to be a fine line between doing that and being perceived as whining...I’m just putting that out there, so I’d be careful in the presentation.

Tinkerbell’s advice is right on: Tighten up documentation where you can, even take lots of pictures of the cabinets after installation, or bring the client or contractor around to show them the clean installation and say that there are many different trades around and you would like to just show them a clean installation. At this point, I’m not too optimistic, though. I think if this guy and his company have a culture of blaming others, that won’t change. Sometimes we have to live with these things.

All of the advice is right on. We make a habit of sending final drawings to the general contractor to disseminate to affected subs – countertops, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc. I try to fax or e-mail everything so I have a hard copy of the communication. Most fabricators are easy to work with.

Speaking of “culture of blaming,” in the case where he said we moved the cabinets after he measured, I followed up by re-faxing the original cabinet drawings that were computer stamped with the date, and a cover letter that detailed when our installation began. The fabricator replied to the general contractor, “Someone can put any date on a fax they want to.”

As far as damaging the cabinets, our installers have the clients examine the cabinets and then they tape the shipping cartons as protection around the base cabinets.

Their contract states that once the cardboard is removed, the person removing it takes responsibility for damage. This has really helped cut down on damage and buck-passing, but may not work in every situation. I understand why they have to do it, but of course when I visit, I’m dying to rip off the cardboard so I can see how pretty everything looks

Khat, that’s a really good idea. I will have to pass that one along to my crew.

I document a lot via e-mail...and I always copy the general contractor (if he has e-mail). In the beginning, I had a general contractor go berserk on me because he thought I was talking behind his back (can you say paranoid?) So, now, I copy the builder on major decision e-mails (i.e. layouts, materials, quotes).


I know we’ve all designed contemporary kitchens with those long, stainless steel pulls. Does anyone have a formula for determining how long to make the pulls if the client wants them to be extra-long?

Do you use a percentage of the height or width of the door or drawer, or do you maintain a uniform reveal to determine which size to use?

When I had this come up in a kitchen, I maintained a uniform reveal. More work, but it cheats the eye, and looks more streamlined than using a one size.

These long stainless steel pulls tend to get pricy. If budget is no issue, this would be my suggestion to the homeowner.

If using one size, (let’s say 8"- 12" length), I would double up on the wider drawers, so they don’t get swallowed up in the large expanse of the drawer head. Let us know what you decide on.
—KB Design1

This can get tricky. My experience has been to use one size because it can be difficult to find hardware sizes that allow exactly the same reveal on various sized doors and drawers.

It is somewhat easier if you know from the beginning the client wants the look of the long stainless pulls and you can examine the available hardware sizes and try to plan the cabinet design around it. A compromise would be to use one size on doors and one size on drawers. The good news is that many more hardware manufacturers are making these handles (we call them “towel bars”) in more and more sizes.

Editor’s Note: Material for Pro to Pro has been excerpted from the online Designer Discussion Forum at the KitchenBathPros.com Web site under an exclusive agreement with Kitchen & Bath Design News.

KitchenBathPros.com is an online networking community for kitchen and bath professionals whose goal is to create a central forum for industry professionals, open 24/7, through which they can collectively share knowledge and information. This sharing of resources enhances the industry’s value to the public, builds more successful businesses and raises the bar of excellence in the industry.
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