The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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Kitchen Cabinet Order Process

It was a very busy week last week. Of course, a large cabinet order for a kitchen had to be edited while I was away, which I did (while I was away). Then, it had to be looked at in its entirety again right after I got back, to do the back and forth editing with the factory, which I did, and have just finished.

I thought it would be interesting to give you a little glimpse of what is involved in ordering a kitchen, this stage of the order processing, which is the final stage. It's a stressful time. It's decision time, fish or cut bait, do or die, last chance and all that!

I do things the long way. When I put in my cabinet order, it's probably 95% accurate. Usually, that is because I need to rush the order writing somewhat so that I can reserve a particular week for delivery...timing is always critical in my line of business! At this time, the client and I go over the final plans and they place the deposit with me. In the course of going over every final detail, more issues often arise, changes, rethinking, etc. on the part of the client. I permit that, I never discourage it, because I want my clients to have things "their way." I want them to have every opportunity, even if it comes later than it should, to make their kitchen the way they want it.

Sometimes, as in this case, the client kept thinking and rethinking things well after we first placed the order, and I continued to accommodate this client until the day before I left for my trip (a surprise two hour meeting!) And, then we emailed and spoke again while I was away!

When the factory gives me back their interpretation of my written order, and before production, it looks like the image, here! I need to start from scratch with every single dimension for the entire room, taking another look at a couple of hundred+ cabinet order details, and taking everything else (appliance specs & more) into consideration all over again. That's how I do it.  It takes focused concentration for long periods of time.  As a result, I never, ever, have a problem with a cabinet's fit, and I'll often come up with new, better, ways of detailing a cabinet during this time.

There are four pieces of information that I check, one against the other, constantly: the specifications list in the contract, the floor plan and elevations, my order to the factory, and the original dimensions from the space. Back and forth, one to the other and back again.

Sometimes I have not been 100% clear in the order, and sometimes the factory makes a mistake or misinterpretation on their edited copy of the actual order. They check me, and I then check their final interpretation before it goes into production. We communicate via phone and email. To me, it's not over until it's the last day before production (well, the goal is to have it be over when the factory begins their editing process!) You can get a sense of how detailed a designer is if you ask him/her to tell you how he/she edits their orders with the factory. Sometimes I call it engineering the cabinetry to fit, as I design all cabinetry to the 1/8". If they roll their eyes at the thought of this stage of the process, it's a good sign! Now the order is done, and guess what, when the cabinets arrive, I'm doing the whole thing all over again to remember why I did what I did!



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  • Response
    As Susan has detailed, every conscientious designer goes through a similar process, of painstaking checking and double-checking, behind the scenes, between the time your cabinets are ordered and delivered.

Reader Comments (8)

They say that God is in the details.

September 10, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterpatricia gray

I thought that was the devil! ;-)

September 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLinda from ::Surroundings::

I've experienced both!

September 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I am embarking on a new Kitchen Design career after a decade in management. There is a surprising amount of overlap in the skillsets in terms of client communication and project management. I just completed my first kitchen and this entry really rung true with me. I remember checking our order over and over and wondering, why is this so manual and tedious?

By the way, I really enjoy reading your blog. Your blog is well written, clearly organized, and most of all, interesting!

September 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNew Kitchen Designer

I just got back from a 4 day cabinet manufacturer facilities tour and training seminar. I was surprised, (no I was shocked), to hear from the manufacturer that they see many orders where the acknowledgments never get checked by the designer who placed the order!

To me, this is the most critical stage. Each job I have is placed in a notebook with tabs separating the sections. The thickest section is the purchase order section because of the edit process. Orders are checked by me with a red pen. The reacknowledgment is checked again by my associate with a green pen. Then I look at the order again against the plan and the contract. I have gotten into the habit of calling my customer again during this time to confirm the color with the client. It hasn't happened to me, but I have heard sad stories from others where a client first committed to Alma Latte then changed to Alma Coffee, but this contract note did not get changed on the purchase order. It doesn't hurt to verify with the client one last time that she and I are still on the same page. Some clients I have had who have switched back and forth many times before order, to protect the final order, I have had my clients sign off on the back of the door sample or color chip. There can never be enough checks and balances when it comes to order editing. I have also made sure I get the clients to commit in writing to appliance models before ordering cabinets so that my cabinet sizes are accurate based on approved appliances. We always hope that with two sets of eyes, plus my cabinet installers blessing on the design and the molding and the aforementioned checks and balances that the final cabinet order will make for a clean installation.

Not checking acknowledgments is
the kiss of death for a kitchen designer where we live and die by the inch of a measurement!

September 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie Burke

Hello there:

I *love* this blog, and have been lurking for some time. And while I'm late to this post, it's timely in that we're renovating our kitchen; I simply must ask this Q: WHAT should cabinets be made of? I can't stand MDF, but paying $40k for plywood with a wenge veneer just seems wrong.

I would be interested to hear the experts thoughts on this


April 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNester66

Sorry Laurie and NKD, I didn't respond till now! Somehow it slipped through the cracks. I can't even talk about this now anyway, I have 4 large, highly detailed orders to order, all at the same time. I can't go here.

Nester66, I'm glad you've come out of lurkdom! But, that word "should" that you bring up. There is no should. That said, what is important to you? Is it the overall look? Is it the construction? An eco friendly cabinet? I don't understand what you are saying in the second to last sentence, can you explain further? Sounds like a good beginning to a discussion. Thank!

April 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

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