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 Design - A Brief Pause | Main | An Amish Kitchen - Via Quality Custom Cabinetry »

Green Kitchens - Little By Little

Last Monday and Tuesday, I attended a series of workshops, presented by Quality Custom Cabinetry, whose custom cabinetry I use in many of my kitchens. They make a wonderful product Not only that, the entire (and I mean entire) culture of this company is something special. They will go to the very fringes of their ability to accommodate their designers. And, they will do so happily and willingly. I really love this company, and have been carrying their products since 1997.

I'm not so sure Quality would want me to shout this from the rooftops, but, I learned that they employ a Chaplain full time to attend to the needs of all of their employees, in the factory and the office building, complete with his own cubicle.  He is there to be called on as needed. Quite impressive, I thought.

One of the workshops (to Quality's credit) was on green kitchen design and thinking green, as is being implemented by Quality in their products. They referred us to easybeinggreen.com and we went around the room and talked about how we are making changes to green thinking in our homes and businesses, a good start to the workshop, and here were some of what people are doing (I'm in there too!)

  • recycling
  • changing light bulbs to flourescents
  • turning lights off
  • saving energy other ways in the home
  • composing
  • recycling
  • carpooling
  • walking or biking to work
  • learning about green issues
  • talking to clients about green products
It is interesting to note that 15% of homes now include green specifications. To me, that's a WOW! In the residential kitchen and bath realm, demand for green products has yet to take hold. We are seeing designs becoming more "natural" in styling, with more interest in texture, natural products, clean lines, clearly a change from recent years. I always ask my clients if they are interested in green design and green products for the kitchen and bath, and have a prominent (green text) section on my main website about green kitchen design. I do not see mainstream thinking yet, in terms of green kitchen and bath design, at least not in my geographical area. But, it's coming, I know that.

Quality Custom Cabinetry is seriously, and always, looking at finding better ways to produce a green product. Much of their plywood is now Pure Bond, formaldehyde free. Quality is the first company to partner with Columbia Forest Products. Quality's finishes on their cabinetry are still solvent based, although the VOCs are continuously dropping, as they find new ways to make a more environmentally friendly finish. They only use FSC certified wood materials as well, guaranteeing that the wood comes from a certified well managed forest, which comes at a premium cost.

I was impressed and surprised at the continuous research being done to create, if not a completely green product at this point, then, a product which incorporates ever increasing green attributes. And, in my world, it's admirable, and I'm glad to see this very strong interest.

When I later took a tour of the factory (see the slide show here) I saw stacks and stacks of Pure Bond plywood, which was nice to see it in a big way.

One more interesting tidbit: The speaker at the green workshop noted that it is sort of a paradox that, living alongside a large Amish community for these many years, with their strong beliefs and a self sustaining and conserving lifestyle, Quality recognizes that perhaps their Amish neighbors have more valuable insight on living responsibly than previously thought...
 Enjoy the slide show of the factory, the people working there (so many women!) AND, I cannot close without showing you my pictures of the Quality trucks and vans (one of each in these images) which has a kitchen I designed a few years back, emblazoned (I must use that word) on the sides! I was not thinking of this, when our tour crossed over, via the parking lot, from the factory to the tour of the office building and WOW, there they were!



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Reader Comments (8)

That's great to hear about a shop that's trying to make a difference! We've been working with Stark Mountain Woodworking (http://www.starkmountain.com) in New Haven, VT on our kitchen cabinetry, and have been really impressed by their green commitments as well. They use renewable energy to power the workshop, encourage employees to bike to work, and use local or FSC-certified wood when possible. For our maple cabinets, they've been experimenting with a locally-made, low-VOC whey-based finish: http://www.vermontnaturalcoatings.com/ It's great to work with people who are as interested in green kitchens as we are!

September 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRae

wow ~ this sounds like a great cabinet company. i'm quite impressed! i'll look into utilizing them at our offices.

September 24, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterstudio wellspring

Great feedback, thank you! What impressed me was that there is a continual commitment, not a stagnant "good enough" position, toward researching more, and better, products to produce a product which is healthy as well as environmentally responsible, the two of which do not always go hand in hand. Quality recognizes this distinction. The last image in the slide show shows stacks and stacks of pure bond plywood.

There are certain people at quality who are into the "science" of green components and supplies, and, as I saw it, if not on the cutting edge, then they are very close to it in terms of knowledge, interest, and procurement in many areas. What I saw, later backed up what I heard, which is why I'm writing about it.

September 24, 2007 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

LOVE this blog, and this post is fantastic. Thanks for your hard work; keep it up!

Nice to e-meet you!

September 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDesign For Mankind

Green is fast becoming mainstream. At least 50% of my prospective clients (i.e. interviews) ask about green design. Much fewer actually follow through though. The cost of going green is usually outweighed by the desire to have "more" and "bigger". As the cost of green products and technologies come down, the demand will certainly increase.

September 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMark R. LePage, AIA

Thanks DFM! Yes, it IS hard work! I'm a reinvent the wheel type, often, but, love it too.

Mark, you bear out what Quality said too, which I didn't mention. They said that, even though it's only 15% who are building green, it's a huge number, and the demand is outpacing supply, keeping prices at a premium, so you're right about that, there is a ways to go.

September 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

It's certainly interesting that so many clients ask about green design, but so few follow through. I've heard that the green features are the first to be dropped when budget constraints come into play, which is such a shame! I'd love to know more about affordable choices that one can make when designing a kitchen, that make it more eco-friendly without raising the price too far. For example, we're using plywood instead of MDF for the cabinet carcasses, to avoid all the VOCs and formaldehyde, and choosing Marmoleum over vinyl flooring.

September 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRae

Rae, that's the best question right now...how can we make kitchens a) eco friendly AND with a reasonable cost. A great idea for a post. I'm already coming up with a few things...more to come on this!

September 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

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