The excitement of finally knowing that I’m about to have the kitchen of my dreams has been severely tempered by the thought of finding the right person or company to create this kitchen. Before I could even allow myself a little jump for joy, my feet were weighted to the ground by the idea of interviewing contractors and/or kitchen designers. It’s not that we don’t have contacts — after 20 years as a decorator, and 10 years in the fireplace business, we know a few good men who could handle this job. But who to choose? We have one contractor with whom we’ve worked on small projects, and to whom we have referred a few clients. We have another contractor who buys quite a few fireplaces from us, and we feel we should give him a chance, too. And then there are the kitchen design-build companies that we like, one of whom we have referred to clients, another of whom buys product from us. If we call any of these people out to give us a quote, will it be awkward to turn them down? Worse, if we use one of them, and then we’re not happy with their work, how will we deal with that? We would hate to jeopardize any of these relationships. Then again, we’d rather work with someone we know than start interviewing strangers. We recently joined BILD, our local homebuilders’ association, and there are scores of renovator members and kitchen companies on whom we could call for this job, but we don’t yet know any of them personally.
To be honest, my first inclination was to turn to a kitchen company, rather than a general contractor. Even though I’ve been through many renovations with my clients, I’ve done so from a decorating perspective, to guide the homeowners to the selection of finishes and colours that best suit their style. I’ve always believed that kitchens are a specialty in themselves, with many technical details about which I know nothing, and I have shied away from giving advice or designing layouts for kitchens. My husband has more faith in my ability to plan our kitchen (or perhaps he’s just too cheap to pay another designer!) and is skeptical that we can benefit from a kitchen design specialist. For now, I’m ordering a copy of Robin Siegerman’s book, Renovation Bootcamp: Kitchen. Robin is an Interior Designer and Certified Kitchen Designer and her book comes highly recommended.
With all of this in mind, and knowing that it was going to take a few weeks to schedule meetings with whomever we wanted to get quotes from, we wanted to get out and do some baseline research on costs. With a store of our own that’s open 6 days a week, we have precious little time, and only on Sundays, to visit showrooms. That’s how we found ourselves at IKEA with what seemed like thousands of other shoppers, on the Sunday of a long weekend in February. Unlike millions of homeowners who love Scandinavian style and a good bargain, we do not enjoy visiting IKEA stores. Not since the excitement of buying first-apartment furniture have we looked forward to a trip to IKEA. We have occasionally ventured in to purchase wall units, but we always came out of the store grumpier than when we entered. It’s not that they don’t have some good-looking, functional pieces at great prices — they do! But we feel like mice trapped in a maze once inside the store, with the winding one-way paths guiding us ever-so-slowly toward the exit. There is no quick escape once you’ve finally figured out what you want to purchase. It’s like being in a Vegas casino, where there are no windows and no clocks, so you have no idea how many hours you’ve been inside spending your money, and all the paths lead through the casino floor, no matter where else in the building you wish to go.
I’ve been seeing an increasing number of IKEA kitchens in design magazines, and have personally been in one or two over the years, and I thought their quality was sufficient to warrant closer inspection. I was also secretly hoping for a one-stop solution. The fact that none of the kitchen vignettes were to our taste, along the winding path leading — eventually — to the kitchen part of the store, should have been our first clue that we were not going to have an IKEA kitchen. When we finally found all the kitchen components laid out, we discovered that there were no door profiles or finishes that excited us. I finally settled on a black-brown solid wood door that I thought I could live with, and of course, it was the most expensive one in their line. You see, I’m just not interested in a white kitchen, and that seems to be IKEA’s strong suit. Likewise, I don’t like the orangey wood tones of most of IKEA’s wood veneers. I’ve never been a fan of the ‘espresso’ dark wood craze, as I think it will have a limited shelf life (pun intended), but there I was, saying it was the best of the lot. Even more disappointing than the finishes, though, was learning that no one in the store could advise us on the renovation work, as that is contracted out. If we wanted to pursue an IKEA kitchen, we would have to call their contractor for a quote. (Yet another candidate to add to our ever-growing list!)
The next 2 stops on our day of research were at appliance retailers (more on that in a future post). At the second one, we happened upon a small display of kitchen cabinet doors, in various finishes. Both my husband and I were immediately drawn to the maple door with gray stain, similar to the one at left. And that was when the final nail was hammered into the coffin containing our IKEA kitchen. Their black-brown doors were no match for the lovely gray with subtle wood grain showing through. At that moment, it became clear that we would have to go the route of contractors and kitchen designers. Although our IKEA outing hadn’t netted the expected results, our research day was a success because it helped us to realize what we did NOT want, which has helped us to focus our efforts on finding the right company to build what we DO want.
We have decided to meet with both of the general contractors that we like, as well as a kitchen company. Stay tuned to find out who will win the job, and why.