24 January 2008

Out of kitchen cabinetry

It was a hardware afternoon after all. A good time was had by all, at least after the shock of what good cabinet hardware costs wore off.

I sent out a proposal for an office and an armoire today. The builder for this job has been beating me up over costs, but there is not way to bring in a decent-looking office or piece of furniture from a cabinet company that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. A thousand-dollar home office is something you go to Office Depot to buy, not something you order as custom cabinetry. Things don't have to be outrageous, but good stuff is expensive and I suppose everyone has a different opinion of what constitutes "outrageous."

I was reading a British Cabinet maker's blog and he refers to what he makes and sells as "Fitted Furniture," a term I think I'm going to steal and use as my own. Because really, that's what it is.

I am a kitchen designer and as interesting and enjoyable as I find general interior design, selling cabinetry is what pays my bills. Great cabinetry is a gift from the gods. And it doesn't come cheap. Ever. Dollar for dollar, it's no more expensive than great furniture and I don't understand why people think that it should be. I suppose that's something else we have to thank our friends at the home centers for.

But anyhow, I sell a brand of cabinetry called Medallion (www.medallioncabinetry.com) and it's a fantastic product and while not cheap, it is a tremendous value. For about the same amount of money as the disposable crap at Home Depot, Medallion is heirloom stuff. Using their products, I can put together a really functional, beautiful office as I proposed this afternoon. But I can't do it for much less than 10 thousand dollars. To get something for less money than that, then either the function or the beauty has to go.

Granted, $10 grand is a lot of money, I never lose sight of that. It's more money than I would spend on an office for myself, that's why I sit on my sofa and work on a laptop. Hah!

It is funny though, kitchen cabinetry is a pretty competitive product category. A sink base is a sink base and there are some pretty rigid market rates at work to determine how much someone can charge for one. But as I tell my clients all the time, cabinet companies make money from ways that they differentiate themselves from other cabinet companies. Cabinetry for rooms other than the kitchen is a prime example of that. Office cabinetry, entertainment centers, bookcases and the rest are profit centers. Know that going in and you can control your costs a little better. Moldings and carvings are another one. Those pretty cornices and French feet are $400 a pop! So apply stuff like that with a light hand.

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