Designers Talk About What Makes Them Better

Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed the question to dealers and designers in the kitchen and bath industry: “What is the biggest mistake your firm has made and what have you learned from it?"


We try not to make any mistakes. We're very meticulous about measurements and about contract details with customers. That has come by way of making a mistake, and ordering cabinets in the wrong stain.

From that we've learned a few things. We follow the old adage of measure twice, cut once. All field measurements are taken twice. Initial measurements are done by the designer. A second measurement is taken – in tandem so there are two sets of eyes – once the design is complete.

Also, when we sit down with customers to go over contracts, we work hard to make sure there is no breakdown in communication as far as stains, door styles, etc. This is especially important if, for example, there are two different granites used in a kitchen. It's important to make sure they don't get switched. That can be very costly.

Ann Waldron, designer

Kitchen Art, Inc.

Richmond, VA


I've been in business for 40 years. When I think back, the biggest mistake I made was early on, when I was hiring inexpensive subcontractors. That turned out to be a big mistake. Sometimes we ended up with lousy contractors who didn't do a good job, didn't show up, were rude, etc. It hurt our reputation.

I learned I needed to forge relationships. I learned it's important to find the best talent, at a reasonable price, to find tradespeople who do good work, are polite and neat, and have a good reputation.

Now I work with a core group of subcontractors. It's a team concept. I keep sending them business and they will take care of me and, ultimately, make me look good.

Jim Corthouts, CKD

Holland Kitchens & Baths, LLC

West Hartford, CT


One mistake we've made, and one I think a lot of people have made, is that the showroom gets filled up with products that aren't promoted. Everyone gets a lot of vendors who come in and want you to promote their products. You get them into the showroom, and if you don't educate your people on those products, or have them educated, they don't promote them. You end up just filling space that you could utilize for displays. You're just wasting it.

I think that happens too many times. It's important to be upfront with vendors. If you don't promote products, get rid of them. It's not fair to the vendor or the showroom.

It might not be the biggest mistake we've made, but it is an annoyance.

Kirby Clarke, CKD

AAAH! The Kitchen Place

Fort Collins, CO


I think we all underestimated the depth of this great recession. We have been put in this position by our Washington leaders' inability to work together to resolve our economic problems.

I will never again think we need a big, beautiful showroom in order to sell kitchens and baths. As wonderful as it has been to own and work in this type of environment, our next generation of consumers will certainly not expect this. They have been raised to purchase everything they need on line, and this will continue to play a big role in our industry.

Our existing generation of clients, now watching every dollar more carefully, is looking at the large showroom as something they are not willing to “pay for.” They certainly continue to visit these beautiful showrooms, but they question whether there is value there for this experience. They are not willing to pay more, just for the luxury “experience.” If they can purchase elsewhere for less, many times they do. This is true for kitchen and bath showrooms, appliance showrooms, car dealers, furniture showrooms, etc.

It is vital for us to continue to sell our expertise, in design, project management and installation; since those items are not for sale on the internet.

Debbie Nassetta, CKD, CBD, CID

Roomscapes, Inc.

Laguna Niguel, CA


We have a lot of independent designers who all have their own way of doing business. I think one mistake for us is not putting a proper structure in place. We're too busy to get on the same page. That can lead to inconsistencies.

We've been looking at getting a software program that will improve organization. But it's hard when you're busy to focus on things like that. But being consistent, being on the same page, would lead to greater efficiencies and ultimately help us save time.

Dawn Gertz, AKBD

Kitchens by Design, Inc.

New Brighton, MN