Win Clients With Attention to the Details

All sectors of North America are reporting that clients are clamoring for new kitchens and bathrooms. That’s the good news. The challenging news is that our new clients continue to be cautious shoppers. They are prospective buyers searching for the “best deal.”

Designers should not be distracted or disappointed by consumers’ comparative shopping between design firms, or their “laser beam” fixation on the total cost of the project. I firmly believe that, while consumers may appear to be focused on getting the cheapest price, what they’re really trying to do is not pay any more than necessary to get the room they think meets their style and functional needs. This focus on cost does not mean they will settle for less than what they perceive as the best solution.

In this new economy, while the client’s approach to the design process has changed, the importance they place on finding the best solution has not. Therefore, one of the secrets to our success in the new year is to reorient our approach to the planning process. We must not limit our creativity to meet the budget. Rather, we designers must become better at expertly juggling both the cost discussion and the creative solutions we offer.

Kitchen and bathroom design solutions for 2014 and beyond will be most successful if grounded in the design discipline of paying equal attention to the creative idea we think is perfect for the project under development, and our enthusiastic presentation of the fit and finish details of the plan that will differentiate our proposal from others being reviewed.

To demonstrate the power of combining creative solutions with properly engineered details, I have gathered some great projects from colleagues across North America, with a focus on cabinetry.



Dramatically combine wood species within the cabinetry door styling or sections of the room. In the Pacific Northwest kitchen pictured above, a light colored wood is used predominantly throughout the casework. Specific cabinets are detailed with a cherry wood specie vertical stripe, finished off with a decorative inset. Note the designer’s attention to design continuity – the backsplash features striped mosaic-type tile in a vertical direction similar to the cabinetry detailing.


The Delightful Design Details

  • Hidden in the pocket created above a dropped baking area countertop is a pull-out bread board.
  • The baking area base cabinet is accessed at the end and provides storage for the cook’s mixer. Therefore, the complete counter remains accessible.
  • While wall cabinets at the perimeter of this plan extend to the ceiling, the corner cabinets drop down. This offers a nice relief in a room not enhanced by a high ceiling.



Pull the base cabinets so that a below countertop level window sill does not eliminate the ideal second sink location. This is an excellent solution that allows the entire wall elevation to be available for cabinetry. The extended base cabinets provide room for special storage extending from the underside of the wall cabinet to the countertop – a great way to hide utensils needed for everyday cooking. The designer beautifully increased the impact of the wall cabinet glass doors by featuring glass end panels.

The Delightful Design Details

  • The photo (far right) is an excellent example of why accurate dimensioned elevations are critical in kitchen (and bathroom) solutions. The wall cabinet sizing is carefully laid out to leave “breathing space” between the existing window casing and the cabinet end panels. Attempting to perfectly size cabinets flush to existing casing is, oftentimes, impossible to execute attractively.
  • Specifying a flat window casing allows the cabinet crown to return and finish against the wall trim – an important detail not to overlook.
  • Sizing the countertop surface return to the wall (so that reaching and cleaning space is provided around the window well) makes this space easy to maintain over the years.
  • In another view of this kitchen, we see that the designer also wisely left air space between the top of the crown and the ceiling along the refrigerator/oven elevation. Leaving a 1/2" to 1-1/2" of space between the top of the crown and the ceiling eliminates the need for scribing the molding to the ceiling in a renovation project. Such scribing can eliminate or modify the crown profile so it looks like a mistake. Old houses are not plumb and square. Planning details that accommodate this reality of older homes make sense.



Use moldings and cabinet component parts in unique and unusual applications.


The Delightful Design Details

  • In this 2014 NKBA award-winning kitchen (above), a decorative base finishes off the refrigerator enclosure. As you see in the second photo (at left), it is repeated in the oven and pantry cabinet section along the same wall. Nicely done!
  • Another good use of decorative woodworking is demonstrated in the use of beaded board end panels to finish the sides of the tall cabinet elevations. This detail is repeated at the end of the island support (above). Beaded board or random plank board is an attractive alternative to door style end panels when the end section is intersected by other cabinet components.
  • Most kitchens have corners: Most designers are quite capable of including a diagonal or pie-cut cabinet. However, even in a modest kitchen, the designer winning the client’s approval might be the one who adds an elegant storage area that can provide a decorative display space. In the close-up pictured at right, a diagonal corner wall cabinet is an open unit. Let’s study the details.