Setting out to create a new or remodeled kitchen, one of a homeowner’s first choices is: what sorts of professionals should I enlist?
Three options are available.
The first is to deal with individual vendors, on your own. One business might provide granite countertops; another sells plumbing fixtures; a third, the lighting; and a fourth sells cabinets. Appliances come from yet another and you pull all of the pieces together yourself.
The second option is working with a “big box” home-supply store, which offers kitchen design along with the cabinets and countertops, fixtures and appliances. It may be a one-stop shopping experience; however the product selections and design expertise can be very limited.
The final choice is working with a specialized, professional kitchen design firm.
Meredith Shaver is a design professional with one of those specialists, Markraft Cabinets of Wilmington. Before joining Markraft, Shaver worked for one of the “big box” stores and as a result has some perspective on the pros and cons of each approach.
For Shaver, the decision hinges on three considerations: convenience, cost and expertise. “If you have to search and research,” she points out, you’ll likely find that working with many companies can be much less convenient than finding project guidance and design help in one place.
One seeming big-box advantage is that a customer sometimes can drop in to the store and get help without an appointment. A specialist such as Markraft, Shaver notes, typically works by scheduling a time, convenient to both the client and designer, to meet and discuss the client’s wants and needs. That ensures that each client has the designer’s undivided attention, without distraction from a huge store’s hubbub. Even so, Markraft welcomes and encourages drop-in visits to its new Design Center. Would-be customers can take time to get to know what Markraft has to offer by browsing through many state-of-the-art sample kitchen and bath areas and seeing and touching a wide range of product lines. They can take a break and relax in the new “Markraft Café,” complete with a wide screen TV and refreshments. Markraft knows that a customer’s home is one of their biggest investments, and it wants customers to be able to make an informed decision as to whom they will trust to work with them on their project.
Not only does the specialist clearly win on convenience, Shaver says, but also with the quality of its products, and even the quantity. By that she means a firm like Markraft represents manufacturers that have much deeper product lines, offering more choices and greater customization.
When it comes to cost, Shaver notes, “You could spend the same amount at either place.” However, different businesses think about cost in different ways. At a big box, she learned, the marketing strategy is aimed at pulling a customer in and using price as the primary lure to make the sale.
“The focus is on ‘buy more and save more,’ not so much on the customer’s wishes,” she said.
At Markraft, the focus is reversed. “We start from the kitchen of your dreams,” Shaver explained, focusing on the ideal solution for the customer’s ideas instead of on the volume of a sale. “Here it’s more of a thoughtful process,” she said, with fewer distractions, and not driven by pushing particular product lines.
Finally comes the expertise, which Shaver called her company’s top value proposition. In her prior job, “I got to see how many people were not trained designers,” but mostly just trained in using the chain’s computerized design software. Markraft, by contrast, only hires experienced professionals with design degrees. At a big retailer, she said, “You’re trained to do a job.” With her current employer, “It’s a career.”
Another important distinction is field experience. A big box’s designers rarely leave the store. They’ll send a technician to measure a kitchen, but never see the space in person. Cabinets and counters are installed by workers who never interact with the designer.
Markraft requires that the designer visits the prospect’s home and works directly with the measurement specialist. Then, after the sale is made, the designer returns to supervise the installation.
Often a designer will see possibilities at the site that weren’t obvious from just measurements or descriptions. Visiting a customer’s home, Shaver said, “opens a personal connection with the family,” helping the designer truly understand their needs and wishes.
In one recent job, the preferred cabinet layout would have left the kitchen without a natural light source. But she noticed how some small, high windows could be aligned with the top cabinets. Her idea: cutting out the backs of the cabinets so sunlight illuminates them from behind. It was a unique, creative solution to a unique problem. An expert designer’s imagination was inspired by seeing the possibilities in person.
Since 1985, Markraft has specialized in cabinet and countertop design and installation in residential and commercial construction and custom remodeling. To learn more about Markraft, go to www.markraft.com. Contact Markfraft at 910-762-1986 and like Markraft on Facebook at www.facebook.com/markraftcabinets.
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