Thursday, December 28, 2006

Comparing Wood-Mode to Local Custom

At 12:19 PM 12/28/2006, you wrote:
I am in the process of doing a total remodel of my 33 year old kitchen including extending kitchen some 200 feet.
I have a quote from a kitchen designer for Woodmode for $83,000.
I also have a quote from a local well respected custom cabinet maker for $43 000.
I am inclined to go with Woodmode for all the reasons you described, but am having a difficult time swallowing the $40,000 gap.
I suspect the difference is due to the kitchen designer's mark-up.
Are there any acceptable benchmarks for Designer mark-ups on Woodmode products?
The arrangement I have with my interior decorator is that I pay her an hourly fee of $100 plus a 10% mark-up over wholesale price.
That arrangement seems very fair to me.
Also we intend to paint the cabinets.
Does that mitigate the problem of the catalytic conversion varnish finish?
Thank you for your help.
This is a difficult subject for an amateur.

There is absolutely no advantage to buying Woodmode over fine local custom of similar quality if you are ordering Woodmode unfinished. The real reason to buy manufactured cabinets is the finish.
I'd keep your 40K for another purpose IF the cabinet quality is truly comparable.

You can compare by getting the Woodmode specifications (material dimension details are in the catalog) and asking the cabinetmaker to build to them.

Thing is, there are a zillion ways to cut costs in cabinetmaking, and Woodmode is made to their spec.
The only way to find out if the dealer is overpriced (unlikely in the current environment) is to go to another dealer and compare.

Using the shopping template on my web site makes that easy.
Dealers don't typically give interior designers much of any discount unless they are doing ALL of the work the dealer would normally do.

Wow! 200 feet! That's 2/3rds of a football field! :-D


Mansion Ghosts

In 1991 I was asked to co-design my first decorator's showhouse.
The property was notorious in our area.
The Carolands Chateau was built by the heiress to the Pullman fortune in 1915.
It was reputedly the largest home west of the Mississippi and had fallen into disrepair after the death of it's longest inhabitant, Countess Dandini, an eccentric music lover.
In the 1980's it was the scene of a horrific crime involving a caretaker and two teenage girls, one of whom did not live to tell the tale.
Needless to say I jumped at the chance to work on such a home.

The room we won was a former bathroom that the Countess had made into a makeshift kitchen, removing the tub, sink and toilet and adding a large stove and hood and covering the grand mouldings with a sheet of stainless steel.
It was a disaster with good bones.

My co-designer shortly announced that she was getting a divorce and moving across the country, so I was soon left on my own with the room.
I relied a great deal on the generosity of other designers there to help me through the ins and outs of such an endeavor and managed to complete the work in time for the grand opening gala (no small feat).

I am not much of an interior designer (she chose the colors), so it wasn't until after my photographer (David Livingston) came in and restyled the room that it really showed it's best.

The house was open for six weeks of mobs coming through, everybody curious to see the notorious house.
I was there every day, and always opened the windows because it was so stuffy everywhere else in the house in our Indian Summer.

Visitors would literally RUSH to the open window to catch a breath of air.
Throughout that time I never had a problem with the windows at all.

When the showhouse was over I had to remove everything from the room and restore it to its previous state, at the owner's insistence.

We had done that, and I was doing a last look around the forlorn pink room to make sure nothing was forgotten.
I was warm after many trips up and down the stairs, so I went to the window to open it one last time and look again out over the Bay.

As I opened the window it was ripped from my hand by an ill wind.
I can not characterize it any other way and have never forgotten the feeling.
I struggled with all my might to close it, but could not.
I had to call my contractor friend, who was helping me, to get it closed and properly locked.
And he needed to go down and get tools to accomplish the task.

I couldn't help but think that the ghosts of the house were unhappy that we were all leaving with our beautiful adornments and crowds of admirers.

The fleeting room, that was left to its ghosts, won a first in the NKBA design competition the following year.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Contractors More Available

Here's an interesting article from the WSJ about remodeling contractors being more approachable lately. Particularly note the sentence about builders moving to remodeling.
These are NOT your best remodelers!
They are accustomed to being in CONTROL and not with dealing with homeowners who are living on THEIR jobsite.

"Finally, the Contractor Will Take Your Calls"
Wall Street Journal (10/12/06) P. D1;
Munoz, Sara Schaefer

The slowdown in housing construction will benefit homeowners interested in remodeling, as contractors now have plenty of time to take on new projects.
"Rather than saying 'call me next spring,' they'll be more likely to say 'I'll be over this week to talk about the project," says Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies senior research fellow Kermit Baker.

The drop in new-home building also has sparked declines in the prices of such materials as framing lumber, gypsum, and plastics, shaving anywhere from 5 percent to 10 percent off renovation costs, according to economists.
In an effort to generate business, custom and speculative builders increasingly are doing remodels, with experts underscoring the importance of hiring a contractor with actual remodeling experience.

In addition, experts are urging homeowners to put off renovations if they plan on moving in the near future, as they will not be able to recoup as much of their investment as they would have during the housing boom.