Sunday, August 26, 2007

Top 10 U.S. Cabinet Manufacturers Survey

I'm never one to shrink from controversy. As my regular readers can attest.

I recently aired my opinion on a couple of studies by J.D. Powers on consumer and contractor satisfaction with some low-end cabinet lines.

My opinion is that dealers know which cabinet lines offer the best value and are least problematic better than anyone else.

I also often get emails from consumers uncertain about their choices in cabinetry. They ask my opinion on their choices and I respond with what I know.

Every kitchen designer is going to have brands we prefer, because most of us are also kitchen dealers who represent and sell cabinetry.

As a former dealer who has renounced selling product for pure design, I am in a unique position to critique cabinet lines in ways that dealers wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.

I have long encouraged my clients to use one of three cabinet lines that I have personally represented and found to be reliable, consistent and a good value for the money. These products are, in alphabethical order, Crystal, Woodharbor and Wood-Mode.

All are custom manufactured cabinets in the upper end of the price spectrum, but not ultra-high-end. Wood-Mode and Crystal also offer mid-priced and frameless lines. Woodharbor has three price point offerings (no frameless). All meet or exceed every iota of my minimum cabinet standards. All, except latecomer Woodharbor, are considered in the top tier of desirability by dealers.

Dealers COMPETE for these brands because of their desirability and cachet. Usually only the best dealers carry them.

Now. Because I have been using these product lines for 20+ years, and have dealers in my area with whom I like to work; I do not usually specify anything else. Therefore I am in as much of a rut as almost any dealer who represents a grouping of cabinet products (A dollar range of: usually low - middle- high; or sometimes middle - high- and ultra-high).

Therefore, I propose we do a survey of designers who frequent this blog asking them what cabinet lines they prefer and why. I would also like respondents to categorize the cost of the products as low-end, mid-price- high-end and ultra-high-end. ONLY preferred products are to be proposed for inclusion.

After I get some answers I will conduct a poll in the industry to rank the cabinet manufacturers according to several criteria suggested by the survey.

The winners will be the Top Ten in each price category.

There is another issue: Some great cabinet lines are regional, only selling within a few state area. Somehow I will have to deal with that, by separating the country into regions, if those manufacturers receive a lot of votes. Let's just say too, that cabinetmakers serving a small geographic area are not to be included. The manufacturer MUST be multi-state.

Please either comment here or send me an email to vote your choices. Consumers, this is not a poll for you. But you will benefit from the results, if I can pull it off. We'll see how the dealers respond.


Lighting Questions Answered by Experts

This just in from LightSearch Magazine's on line newsletter LightNow.


If you have a question about lighting, you can have them answered by experts, free of charge, at the website of the National Lighting Bureau.

By clicking on the Bureau’s new “Information Desk” feature (displayed prominently on the website’s home page), visitors can ask any lighting questions they wish and tap into the NLB's network of lighting experts.

To have questions answered, visitors need only indicate their name, the name of the organization they represent (if any), the organization’s or their own address, a daytime telephone number, and an e-mail address. Visitors also need to indicate why they need the information, which permits a more specific response.

Questions will be answered by National Lighting Bureau staff or staff will forward questions to National Lighting Bureau sponsors for a more effective reply.

Specialty Stainless Makes Fantastic Countertops

Browsing around on HomePortfolio I came across Specialty Stainless, a stainless and copper countertop manufacturer that creates some really unique finishes in metal.

They also make wall panels that would make really unique panels to back up an island.

This stuff has my creative juices flowing.


Oh La La & Green Valcucine!

Here is an Italian Cabinet Manufacturer, Valcucine, with some truly original ideas.

I love the countertop backsplash accessories.

They have also integrated the cooktops into the countertops, even though they do not provide them.

They are also doing some really unusual cabinet doors out of such thin veneer or laminate that they are able to create sculptural "bumps" on the surface.

They are touted as a green product too! And available in North America.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Banana Pepper Fry

Raw banana -2 Nos
Onion - 1
Green chillies – 4 nos
Ginger paste – 1 tspn
Fennel seeds – 1 tspn
Dhanya powder – 2 tspn
Crushed pepper – 2 tspn
Turmeric – a pinch
Tamarind paste – 2 tspn
Curry leaves

Remove the skin and cut banana lengthwise of 1 inch long pieces, as we cut for finger chips. (Not very thin)

Take a kadai. Add 2 tbspn oil. Add fennel seeds, curry leaves.
Then add finely chopped onion.

When onion is almost done, add banana pieces, slit green chilly, ginger paste, dhanya powder, turmeric and salt. Mix well. Sprinkle handful of water.

Cover and cook for 10 mts. With stirring once or twice in between
The mixture will turn dry with masala coated all over the pieces.
If you feel the banana pieces are not cooked well, sprinkle water , cover and cook for sometime.

Add crushed pepper and tamarind paste. Mix and cook for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat.

This spicy dish goes well with sambar rice, curd rice and with chappathis too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

KBIS On HGTV Tonight

I just received this notice from NKBA (National Kitchen & Bath Association).
KBIS is the annual show. This year held in Vegas in May.


Tune into HGTV tonight at 9pm (Eastern/Pacific time) for a special presentation on Kitchens & Baths in 2007. The show will feature a recap of K/BIS 2007 and also highlight what's new in the industry.
If you miss tonight's show, a list of future airings is provided below. The episode will run four times during October, which is National Kitchen & Bath Month!

August 21, 2007 9:00 PM ET/PT

August 22, 2007 1:00 AM ET/PT

August 28, 2007 11:00 AM ET/PT

September 17, 2007 11:00 AM ET/PT

October 7, 2007 9:00 PM ET/PT

October 8, 2007 1:00 AM ET/PT

October 14, 2007 5:00 PM ET/PT

October 17, 2007 11:00 AM ET/PT

For more information on Kitchens & Baths 2007, please visit,1806,HGTV_3909_51400,00.html

Monday, August 20, 2007

Is Now the Best Time to Remodel?

There is an interesting blog post on's Pardon Our Dust called Is a down real estate market the best time to remodel?

Four well known remodeling contractors in the area comment on the current climate in residential remodeling and how it impacts homeowners contemplating a remodel.

I think the biggest impact is the influx of builders into the remodeling sector tempting homeowners with low-ball pricing.

If you are one of those households with enough savings to consider remodeling in this environment of sinking home values and difficult financing, you need to be very careful to vet your choice of contractors by asking for extensive references IN YOUR AREA.

Builders are a different breed who are not accustomed to working on homes with people living in them and having to deal with the homeowners on a day to day basis. Supervision, to them, means an occasional visit from the architect or building inspector.

Major residential remodeling is typically a 3-6 month commitment between the homeowner and contractor. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a project, with your home in shreds, and in such a confrontational situation with your contractor, or his employees, that you don't want to open your door when they get there in the morning.

Best to be sure that those who represent themselves as remodeling contractors really are what they say they are.

There is an article on my web site called "How to hire a professional contractor" that I prepared for my clients years ago. All the advice holds true today. The criteria for selecting your contractor hasn't changed. But the potential for hiring the wrong contractor in an effort to save money or out of ignorance has changed a lot in the current situation. Buyer BEWARE.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Comments on J.D. Power Studies on Satisfaction With Cabinet Purchases

Kitchen & Bath Design news, an industry publication, has an article this month on two studies by J. D. Power and Associates. These studies both involved LOWER-END cabinet purchases, but some results extrapolate to higher end purchases as well.

The first study asked consumers about their satisfaction with their cabinet purchase decisions after their projects were complete (previous 12 months).

The study found that consumers initially were attracted to their choice in cabinetry by the LOOK AND FINISH OF THE CABINETS.

After their experience, however, the important issues became OPERATING PERFORMANCE, EASE OF ORDERING AND DELIVERY.

“While buyers may be drawn to the aesthetic features of cabinets as they make their purchasing decisions, it’s important for them to also consider durability and how smoothly the cabinets operate,” said Jim Howland, senior director of the real estate and construction practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Customers are looking for ease and convenience in the ordering process, as well as timely and accurate delivery of their cabinet orders, especially since late or incomplete deliveries can delay or add costs to construction or remodeling projects.”

The second study questioned builders and remodelers about their experiences with cabinet purchases over the previous 12 months. Their problem areas turned out to closely mirror the consumer study. TIMELINESS, ORDER ACCURACY, and billing topped their lists.

"The occurrence of problems in these areas negatively impacts overall satisfaction and, ultimately, the bottom line".

J. D. Power was rating customer satisfaction between specific cabinet lines, but the message you should take away from these two studies is that you need to ask more questions of your chosen cabinet dealer than "how much and how long?".

Reading between the lines tells us the 842 consumers, and 1,416 builders and remodelers in these surveys, learned after the fact that quality issues and errors, omissions and delays, caused them memorable headaches in a stressful time.

Further, the studies laid these problems at the feet of the cabinet manufacturers studied...

No mention of the cabinet dealers, home centers and big box stores that ACTUALLY ORDERED AND SUPPLIED AND DELIVERED THE CABINETS.

In fact, as every experienced cabinet dealer well knows, the responsibility for these problems lies squarely on the dealer's shoulders.

Consumers expect that a cabinet showroom experience is WYSWYG (what you see is what you get).

But dealers know better: They deal, day in and day out, with the cabinet manufacturers they CHOOSE to represent.

When there are problems with quality control from a manufacturer from delivery to delivery, they know first. When their employees make mistakes from job to job, they know it. When their warehouses consistently damage cabinets or are lax in their inspection procedures, they know it.

A competent cabinet dealer dumps, or stops selling, a product line that causes such problems before the damage reaches more than a few customers. Or provides more training and supervision of an employee who is not following proper procedures of check and double check. Or fires a warehouseperson who damages too many cabinets.

A competent cabinet dealer monitors his or her cabinet lines, watching for signs that the manufacturer is slipping in quality control, and provides feedback to keep them on course.

A competent cabinet dealer doesn't even take on cabinet lines known in the industry to have "issues".

Cabinet dealers, home centers and big box retailers spend huge dollars creating showrooms to showcase cabinet products for the consumer. Cabinet displays are not free. Neither are the countertops and flooring and accessories free. It costs in the hundreds of thousands to set up a new cabinet showroom.

Dealers get discounts buying their displays, but still have to pay a lot of money out every time they change a display that has become obsolete or "tired". In return for their cash outlays and commitments they are entitled to expect certain performance standards from their manufacturers, along with some "territory" protection from competition.

In return manufacturers offer training and advertising support and, most importantly, quality products, predictable deliveries, and accurate communications.

If any of the promises break down, on either side of the partnership that brings you your cabinet order, YOU and your contractor are the ones who will suffer.

So, if you are shopping for cabinets, ask the dealer how they handle problems with their manufacturers, with delivery, and with warranty issues. They'll be surprised at the question, but the thoroughness of their answer might give you an idea how they will handle YOUR problems down the road.


Some other best practices:
Stick with known brands. Their success tells you something about their performance.
Avoid new cabinet showrooms. Their owners need to gain experience before you let them "learn" on you.
Listen to your contractor, if he or she advises you to stay away from a particular dealer becuase of past problems.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Copra kalathupodi

Kalathupodi/parippu podi is a traditional powder mix which is made in all South Indian homes. Podi recipes varies from state to state, what even from family to family. I am sure every family will have their list of podis.This podi I believe is native to Andhra. I learnt this from mother-in-law. This podi is to be eaten with rice, mixed with ghee. Health freaks can substitute gingely oil for ghee. It also tastes good. I am a big fan of any kind of podis. My mom also makes different kinds of podi. Her recipes will follow soon.

When I started to write about podis, this podi came first to my mind, since it was an integral part in my college hostel days. Whenever we were able to smuggle rice
out of hostel kitchen, we mix podi and ghee with rice. Our room senior used to make rice balls and pass it to all the room mates (We were 8 of us in a room).
You require
Grated copra - 1 cup
Roasted Chana dal/Pottu kadalai - 1/2 cup
Red chilly - 15 Nos
Hing - 1 tbspn
I use the Hing piece instead of powder. The piece when roasted and powdered retains the aroma much better than the powder version.

To powder
Slightly roast the chana dal. This is just to make it crisp.
Add a teaspoon of oil (I use Gingely oil). Fry the chillies.
Blend the copra in the mixer.
Remove and grind the chana dal. Seive it so that coarse particles can be grinded again.
Finally grind the red chillies. When it is alsmost powdered, add all the ingredients and salt as required.
The powder should not be very fine.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tomato Chutney

I don't usually follow a fixed recipe for tomato and onion chutneys. It keeps changing with my mood and also the availability of raw materials. It is very rare that I repeat the same recipe. There will be some change in the list of ingredients used. Usually I don't give much thought to this. But once I started blogging, I am taking to my mind what all I use while making chutneys. I shall keep posting the variations as and when I make.
The first version goes here -

Urad dal - 1 tb spn
Red chilly - 4 Nos
Onion - 1
Medium Sized Tomato- 2
Curry leaves - 2 strand
Oil for frying

Take a pan. Add one tablespoon oil.
Add urad dal and red chilly. Fry till urad dal turns brown.
Remove dal and chilly from the pan.
Add chopped onion. Saute till it turns transparent
Add curry leaves.
Add chopped tomatoes and cook till tomatoes are done.
Grind all the ingredients together with salt to a fine paste.
Add a teaspoon of coconut oil to the chutney.

Wheat Rava Adai

An easy to prepare nutritious adai. (Adai is a form of dosa with little thickness)

You need

Wheat rava - 1 cup
Green chilly - 5 Nos
Small Onion(Sambar onion) - 10 nos
Tamarind paste - 2 tspn
Onion - 1
Coriander leaves


Soak wheat rava for 2 hours. Just add enough water to cover the rava.
Dry grind green chilly,small onion, tamarind paste and salt in a mixer grinder.
Add the soaked rava to the grounded mixture and run the grinder once. This is just to blend all the ingredients.
The mixture should be in a semi solid state. It should not be watery at all
Add chopped onions and coriander leaves.
Mix well.

Heat an iron girdle or a non-stick pan. Grease with oil.
Take a lemon size of the mixture. Place it on the pan.
Flatten it using your fingers to the size of a puri.
Depending on the size of your pan, you can make 2/3 adais at a time.
When it is cooked on one side, flip over and cook the other side also.

You can serve the hot adais with tomato chutney or any pickle of your choice

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dagger in the Heart of the Remodeling Industry

I hate to have to write this: But I really think it's about time to contact the Federal Reserve and Ben Bernanke to tell him what's going on underneath the brouhaha about sub-prime lending.

It's awful enough that hundreds of thousands of homeowners are losing their homes and the greedy lenders are dropping into bankruptcy like flies.

Worse yet is the impact this debacle is having on homeowners who are securely ensconced in their homes, have a goodly amount of equity, and are able to pay their mortgages with ease.

These are the people who are my clientele. Not the wealthy, but the middle class homeowners who formed the bedrock of our economy...until now.

They have kept the economy going, ever since the horror of 9/11, by spending their money on making their nests as comfortable as possible. The trend spotters call it cocooning.

In the process they have funded the livelihoods of contractors, architects, designers, suppliers, like Home Depot and lumber yards, appliance manufacturers and stores, cabinet makers and dealers...on and on.

Most of this economic activity has been funded, not from savings, but from home equity loans.

Now, as a result of the sub-prime debacle, there are no funds available for home equity loans for anyone with the eensiest stain on their credit much as 9 years and 364 days ago.
And even those with impeccable credit are finding loans to be less affordable and harder to come by at all.

And, now that the wealthy with their pocketed tax cuts are driving the economy, nobody is even noticing that the trillion dollar remodeling industry is grinding to a HALT!

If this doesn't scare you enough, have a look at Kathleen Pender's 7/31 column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Expect more woes with prime home-equity loans.

And, I suggest, if you are contemplating financing YOUR planned remodel with an equity loan; you may want to check into the availability of same before you spend any dollars.


GaGa for Eleek

Blog cruising today I came across Eleek, Inc. out of Portland, OR.

I don't normally go gaga over knobs and pulls (with the exception of the Manhandles).

If you've seen one pull you've pretty much seen them all.

But Eleek's pulls are something SPECIAL.

Eleek also makes very cool sinks and lighting fixtures.
Or anything else your creative mind can dream up.

Best yet: Eleek uses recycled metals for its products.

"Eleek castings are made of recycled metals whenever possible, with the highest possible post-consumer content. Pewter, bronze, cast iron and aluminum remnants are utilized in casting. We recycle all other scrap metal."


ThinkGlass Countertops

I LOVE the concept and reality of glass countertops in the right kitchen or bath.

ThinkGlass really does them right:

"Single seamless pieces made up to 7' x 10'."

And there's a showroom right here in Concord, CA!

Tip: Mounting mirror under the glass will eliminate shadow lines of cabinets showing through, which distracts from the beauty.



Here's a site that has it all when it comes to sustainably manufactured flooring materials.

It's GreenFloors!


KBBGreen - A Great New Green Resource

Kitchen & Bath Business Magazine has scored another hit with its new KBBGreen Blog by Jeff Holloway, CKD, CBD.

Jeff is blogging on all things green in kitchen and bath design and products.

Especially useful in his current articles is one on countertops, COUNTERTOPS: 12 materials to choose from…which are eco-friendly? where he compares ALL commonly used countertop materials and analyzes their relative green-ness...Credit where crdit is due. This article originally appeared in the blog (another great resource). Thanks to "dput" for the correction.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Wikipedia Tool Lending Libraries

For you Do It Yourselfers out there (I used to be one and still dabble when called upon), Wikipedia has a listing of Tool Lending Libraries that lend tools to local residents.
This is a great resource! I read a while ago about one in Berkeley, CA, and thought "What a great idea!".

The right tool for the job is everything in efficient DIY.
Not have to BUY the right tool is priceless.

Wish we had one in South San Francisco.


Taking Small Steps Toward a Large Goal

More blog-browsing today.

Daughter Lisa, (the J.D., almost-a-lawyer daughter) put me on to this organizing site by Half Moon Bay, CA professional organizer Jeri Dansky.

Here's Jeri's great piece on Taking Small Steps Toward a Large Goal

(image from the great Brownstoner Blog, thank you)

Now, if I can just file away these piles of client files on my desk...


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wheat Coconut balls

A healthy sweet- Unlike most sweets where maida or besan is used, here it is wheat flour. Also ghee used is very minimal. And sugar quantity is very less. Usually in sweets, the proportion of sugar is twice or equal to the the quantity of flour. So overall, it is a healthy sweet that can be quickly made with the ingredients which are readily available in the kitchen

You require

Wheat flour – 1 ½ cups
Sugar – 1 cup. You can take a heaped cup of sugar, if you will like it sweeter.
Milk – ½ cup
Grated coconut – 2 tbspn
Cardamom – ½ tspn
Ghee – 2 tbspn


Take a heavy bottomed pan. Add ghee.

When it melts, add wheat flour.

Fry till it turns light brown . You can smell wheat then.

Add sugar. Mix well so that the flour and sugar gets mixed evenly. Sugar should not melt.Then the mixture will have a liquid consistency.

Add milk. Keep mixing so that no lumps are formed.

Add cardamom powder.

Mix evenly for another 3 minutes.

Transfer the contents to a plate greased with ghee.

Spread it and let it cool.

Make lemon sized balls.
Don’t wait it to really go cold. You should make balls when your hands can withstand the warmth of the mixture.
You should be fast in making balls. If it cools, you will find it difficult to make balls.

Microwave Tips

Some tips for microwave oven usage, for our daily chores in the kitchen.
I shall be updating this post as and when I come across new tips.

To bake corn, keep the corn with the skin for 2 minutes (micro power high).
Tilt the corn so that the upper part moves down. Keep for another 2 minutes.
Remove the peel and brush butter and salt

To melt jaggery – Keep the jaggery in a microwave safe glass bowl. Add 2 tablespoon water. Keep for 2 minutes. You can strain the melted jaggery to remove the dirt, which are usually found.

Sometimes we need grated coconut to be fried brown to add in curries or for making chutney powders.
Keep 1 cup grated coconut in the oven for 3 minutes. You can mix once in between. Coconut will be fried.
You may not get the brown color.
For that, take one spoon oil in a pan. Add the oven fried coconut.
Fry for a minute. It will turn brown.
If you have to do the whole process on the stove, you will need lot more oil and time