Since the financial meltdown of the fall of 2008, I have been mulling over the future of kitchen design, kitchen cabinetry, appliances, etc. What follows are my ideas of what the short term marketplace will look like.
We are not as rich as we thought we were. The real estate bubble made many of us think our real wealth was greater than it has turned out to actually be. There are many reasons for this circumstance and many parties/people to blame for the situation. While I have my preferred list of culprits, that list is probably for another post. What has not changed, however, is our desire for new and better things in our lives. We still want to surround ourselves with cabinets, countertops and appliances that are better than what we currently own. We still strive for the new kitchen that will make cooking, entertaining and family life easier and more enjoyable.
The problem with meeting those desires is that we have less money than we did just two years ago. We are also, prudently, I might add, more averse to borrowing to satisfy our desires. We want to, and in many cases, have to, pay cash for any new luxuries in our lives. I still think for most people that a new kitchen is a luxury, for a few it is a necessity. For those whose need for a new kitchen is a necessity, the same loss of wealth effects purchase decisions.
So, in order to get that new kitchen of your dreams, there is only one route to go: assume more risk.
By assuming more risk I mean taking a more active role in the entire project. You will have to act as the General Contractor of your kitchen project. You can shave 30% to 40% off the cost of the project by purchasing materials direct from the source. You can save even more if you provide significant labor as part of the project. Assuming more risk means that you are going to be the one who pays for the mistakes. When I had my own kitchen dealership I was the one who had to pay for mistakes in the project, not the homeowner. The reality of job pricing was such that every homeowner paid a premium for the risk my company assumed. For any particular job, if things went well the company’s profit margin was robust. If, on the other hand, things did not go so well that same job may have been completed at a loss to the company. At the end of the year it was hoped that the risk premium more than covered the total cost of mistakes (Mistakes are here meant to be anything that required money spent on unforeseen problems, problems that were both my company’s fault and/or the fault of the customer, where the best course of action was for my company to just buy its way to a resolution).
So how do you go about assuming more risk? You lay out your kitchen design yourself (or pay a fee to someone like me to do that for you). You then take your list of materials to Ikea or the cabinet shop out in the country and buy your cabinets. You either install them yourself or pay someone to put them in for you. Ikea will likely have a list of installers. The local cabinet shop will have a crew you can hire. Purchase and install your own appliances. Hire a countertop company to install your new granite tops. Provide the granite company a sink for your new kitchen. Make certain everything will fit. Have a plan to address all instances of where two disimilar materials meet (such as the cabinets and the floor). Select your paint colors and paint. Make any plumbing and electrical changes necessary.
See, it’s not too tough! You can also, as you plan your project, begin to understand why it is so expensive. When I was operating my kitchen dealership, customers would spend hours in the showroom pouring over door samples, color blocks, and layout alternatives. Who do you think paid for that time? It didn’t come out of my pocket I can assure you.
So maybe taking on the entire planning process is too daunting. You can always hire people to handle pieces of the project for you.
Also, think about the things you want in your kitchen. Sub-Zero refrigerators are really cool, and they are the best, but at 2 to 3 times the cost of regular refrigeration, are they worth it? They certainly won’t keep your beer colder than an LG or GE.
I will make this part of a series. Further installments soon.