December Pro to Pro

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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 Designer Discussion Forum.


I have a client who did a built-in media cabinet and, due to the number of components and limited ventilation, the components are now overheating. I have priced out mesh inserts and they are insanely expensive through the cabinet company.

Does anyone have a good source for mesh inserts or other ideas on how to ventilate for media in general? There is an internal fan and a grill cut into the toekick area that vents through the bottom of the cabinet, but this is not enough.

I just did a whole big media furniture piece and made the thing like Swiss cheese with so many vent and wire holes, but they’re all well hidden. Anyway, what I did was get regular vent grills from Home Depot and cut a hole in the bottom of the cabinets. I actually used two in each cabinet, one toward the front and one toward the rear of the cabinet, and the component sat on top of the grill but didn’t touch it. Nothing rattles.

A small fan is very often used, too, as long as there is someplace for the air to flow. In my case, the furniture piece sat on legs, so air flow wasn’t a problem really, but in one cabinet we did have a fan.

In addition to the air flow requirements, some components should be several inches away from each other. In a few cases, there had to be 5" of air space above a component, so if a shelf was installed an inch lower, we put a fan in. The components sometimes have very specific air clearances.

I didn’t have to seek out special grills because the Home Depot ones were totally hidden, but I did have to seek out speaker cloth. So, I can’t give you a lead on grills.

Doug Mockett has metal and unfinished wood grills. Acoustex manufactures acoustic cloth. Outwater Plastics sells many styles of wire grill and woven cane.

If you have questions about ventilation requirements, contact the A/V specialist who designed or provided the components. Or, contact the manufacturer for information.

Here are general guidelines given to me by a high-end media guy:

  1. Allow additional room for all media components. Allow 2.5"-3" for amplifiers, audio receivers, cable boxes and DSS receivers. Allow 1" for CD players, cassette deck and other components.
  2. All component shelves should be adjustable, with pinholes at least every 2". Shelves should be notched in the rear center. (Notch each shelf 3/4 of the width by 2" deep.)
  3. If a fascia will be fabricated, you must have the components on site and placed in the millwork to fabricate the fascia. Do not attempt to fabricate a fascia from written dimensions. Components can be delivered to the mill worker or to the job site.
  4. If there is not a fascia but open shelving, then the backing of the audio and video component sections must be mounted off of the wall 2" so that we can snake wires from shelf to shelf behind the millwork backing. Without a fascia, you can see the wires running from shelf to shelf.
  5. Layout can vary from our suggested layout. However, front surround speakers must stay to the left, center and right of any TV locations. Subwoofers must stay low. All speakers need a grill cloth (which can be selected to match the wood finish of the millwork). Keep in mind that speakers and subwoofers can cause vibration; avoid using slat or metal mesh material that rattles or buzzes when vibrated.
  6. If a cabinet has doors or a fascia around the equipment, an allowance for proper ventilation will be required. A free path for airflow must be used. An intake slot or grille below the equipment section and an output above will be required. A path for the hot air to rise past the components will complete the natural ventilation chimney effect. Call an A/V specialist to discuss this.
  7. All plasma TVs need plenty of ventilation, therefore it is recommended that the cabinets have at least 2" of additional space around the TVs. Make sure there is adequate space and reinforcement plywood to hang the plasma TV.
  8. Allow 3" depth for all flat TV brackets, 5" depth for all articulating TV brackets.



I’m a designer and have been designing for about four years. I’ve worked my way up to kitchen design manager and have been working to get my CKD. I was approached the other day by one of our reps who told me that he was leaving the company. He told me that of all the reps and designers he knows, I was the one he would like to see replace him. He was basically offering me a job. It would be more pay, they would supply a car and gas, I would be working alone and I would have less stress. What I would like to know is if this would be a smart move. It’s looking better and better every day. Any advice would be helpful.

There are a lot of things to consider:

  1. There is a lot of money to be made as a rep.
  2. Will you miss designing? That is the reason I hold back.
  3. Will there be a lot of out of town or overnight travel? If so, will it be difficult for your family?
  4. If you take this job will you continue with your career goals, CKD, etc., or give up on them?
  5. Where do you see yourself in five years – still designing, repping or owning your own company?

This will be an important change in your career. Do it for the right reasons. I have found that every opportunity is not always a good one for each person. I had the perfect job offer from a cabinet company: 20-20 trainer, which is my specialty; good salary; three or four more days of travel per week; set up every morning in a new hotel; teach a class; unload equipment; travel that night to new location. If I had an assistant I could do it, but traveling alone, it would be very hard. So I got my CKD, and will have my CBD soon, and am still designing.

I have been in the business for 30 years and seen a lot of reps come and go. The factory may decide that it is cheaper to hire their own salespeople, the factory might go out of business, or they might want more numbers and hire a different rep. I’m only giving you one point of view; it’s still your decision. Good luck.

I do enjoy designing with 20-20 and the freedom of creativity. But I’m only 27 and I have two children and a wife to support. I know money isn’t everything, but it certainly counts. I also understand that “repping” might bring my stress level down a notch or two. I’m the boss of two other designers and I feel more like a babysitter than a kitchen design manager. Who knows, taking this step might lead me into a private design firm pulling six figures a year.

I suggest that you call around to some reps in the business and ask their opinions…they do it every day. Is it possible for you to take off work for a few days and ride around with the guy who’s offering you the job?

You are in new construction only now, right? If you still like designing rather than being on the road all day (and potentially being away from your wife and kids), I’d look into a design firm. Maybe because I loved the switch from outside sales to design work, I did about the opposite of what you are thinking. Although the money is far less, my wife actually likes being around me now!

I think that anyone who believes that the rep job has less stress is not informed. The grass on the other side of the fence is always greener. Reps have a very tough job: pressure from the factory to increase sales, problems from the factory preventing the sales increases, travel. Remember how nuts you get when a rep shows up without an appointment? Of course you don’t want to give them an appointment unless they really have something new to show you. The income is based on sales that are tied into how well the company you work for performs, instead of how well you design. Think it over before jumping.


I’m working on a design, and would like to put two dog dishes in a base cabinet that can pull out of the drawer or toekick. This way the bowls can be out of sight when not in use. I’ve seen them somewhere, but can’t find the supplier. Has anyone else done this, and how did it turn out?

I’m planning this for a client, too. My plan was to have the client find the dog dishes and have the carpenter build the dog dish drawer out of loose glides and plywood cut to fit the dishes. Is there a better option?

I’ve done this using regular stainless bowls with a lip. Warn your customer that, unless it’s a tiny dog with perfect table manners, the roll-out and the cabinet above will need constant maintenance because it will be subjected to water and food spills. Having done this for a couple of clients, I no longer recommend it – especially for larger dogs.


The past two weeks has slowed down for us here – we’re in a Chicago suburb. What is the best thing to do when there aren’t tons of new customers to keep busy with? So far, I’ve been tweaking my renderings in 20-20 to make them look better, purging the four foot stack of magazines behind my desk that has been haunting me for several months, getting addresses ready to send a postcard out and cleaning and re-organizing the showroom.

I’m just an employee so I don’t have all of the responsibilities of ownership to keep me busy, but I’m just looking to gear up for the next busy season and curious as to what others do when they are slow.

Do you do follow-ups? Dig back a year or more and give your old prospects a call. Did they buy from somewhere else? Why did they choose someone else? How did it turn out? Are they still satisfied? Do they have any other projects? Not only is it possible to resurrect an old project, but it could help you close a sale in the future.
Other ideas include backing up your computer and starting or updating your project portfolio.

You could go out and take photos of the completed jobs from this past year. You can go visit contractors, builders and architects in your area and see if you can drum up business. There are plenty of Web sites with bidding for commercial jobs going on. You could dedicate some time to see if you can pick up a bid.

Visit your suppliers to see if they have any leads. Network, network and network some more. When business is slow and doesn’t come to you, you have to be a little bulldog and track it down.

You could actually develop some new relationships that will keep you busy in slow times. A good remodeler can send a lot of cabinet and countertop business your way. A lot of them keep busy all year. These are the things I do in down time.

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

To join in this free kitchen and bath industry discussion forum, sign up at, or contact Susan Serra for more information at