Let’s face it… any kind of kitchen project is going to cost money. The question that more and more of us are asking is: “How much value will I get in return?” This represents a real paradigm shift for high end consumers. Excellence was always the hallmark, but now we must ask ourselves this:
Has value surpassed excellence on the continuum scale of our customers’ desires?
So what is value? The best definition I can find is this: “To consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness, or importance”.
Today more than ever, I think most of us value “lifestyle”. That is to say that we want our investments to actually improve the way we live every day. Where once we may have wanted to impress others, now we place more worth on our own enjoyment and feeling of security.
Security (or you might say comfort) seems to be a growing concern for many of our customers. We may want to build or remodel, but we want to make sure we can afford to do so no matter what happens.
So how do we insure that we get the most out of our investment? How do we infuse value into our projects to insure the best return? Below I have listed four areas that I think demand our consideration. If we get the mix of these things right, value is insured.
Good design pays for itself. It always has, and it always will. When thoughtful design principles are applied, we can be assured that the space will function in the desired way. This may sound over simplified, but the truth of it can’t be over stated. Think of it in terms of fashion… if a dress is made of the finest material but is cut incorrectly, it won’t fit and it won’t look good. The fine materials have then gone to waste! It’s the same with any room. A kitchen for instance may very well include the finest appliances, but if they are not positioned correctly the kitchen can’t function to its full potential. Always invest in design.
In some ways this could fall under the above, but I think it so “valuable” to most families right now that it deserves its own discussion. Often in the process of design we are tempted to head in a given direction based solely on style. We can get caught up in a particular look and forget that we’ve got to live there. No matter what, our homes must not complicate our lives. Design should not ask you to live with something that is inconvenient or uncomfortable. Excellent designers press forward until they find a beautiful and functional solution. To do otherwise is lazy.
When we get to talking about materials and finishes, I hope you will see how the principles of “spending for value” build upon each other. Materials should be practical. Defining “practical” however is no easy matter because the definition lies within the individual. For instance, we have many clients who opt to go with marble for counter tops, and just as many would decide against that material… both sighting practicality as a deciding factor. To one, marble is a literally ancient material choice that is timeless and beautiful. They appreciate the visible patina of time and see marble as a wonderful living finish that only gets better. Others will consider marble to be too soft and porous to be used on a counter top. They imagine that they would have to clean marble every day to keep it looking its best, and would always be worried about scratching or staining it. Both of these perspectives are correct for the specific individuals. Some of our other material choices are much less subjective
Let’s take a moment here and talk about appliances as it relates to convenience. Some people will want very sophisticated appliances that offer many settings and options. For instance, some may prefer an oven that has an on board computer that can figure out how to cook things for you… I’m thinking of Miele’s Master Chef line in particular. These ovens are smart! You tell them what you’ve got and how you like it done and the oven makes it happen. For some, that’s the very epitome of convenience and the money that it costs is well spent because “value” has been achieved. Others will find the Miele almost impossible to cook with because it has so many options. A simple temperature setting will get them where they need to go and paying extra for something so complicated wouldn’t make any sense…. They would rather spend that extra money on marble counter tops!
Most of the time, you get what you pay for. Still, it is possible to find a tipping point where the cost of something exceeds its importance within your project. As much as I love high line appliances, I think this is an area where people often over spend for the scale of their project. Wolf builds a great range… in fact I think they build the finest range in the industry. The thing is, if we are trying to keep the over-all budget of the kitchen in the 40k bracket, then it hardly makes sense to spend 25% of our budget on a single appliance! Excellent quality can be had at a considerable savings if one is willing to work with appliance brands such as Samsung, Kitchen Aid, or General Electric. Even at the entry level of the market, Frigidaire is producing some good looking product.
Cabinetry is likely to be the single largest purchase in any kitchen project. In many cases 40-50% of the total budget is spent on cabinetry. I find that most customers are initially surprised by this fact. However, when you think for a moment, it begins to make sense. First of all, the kitchen is the only room in the house that is purchased completely furnished, and following that logic the cabinets will be the largest piece of furniture in any home. Besides holding our dishes off the ground, cabinetry that is properly designed can add considerable convenience to our day to day. And speaking of the day to day… I think it important to point out that the cabinetry, (especially in a kitchen) is the one thing that we physically interact with several times a day. Drawer construction, door thickness, hinge and glide quality, all of these things contribute to an overall feel of quality that our customers expect and appreciate.
Has value surpassed excellence? I don’t think so.
Rather, value has become an important component of excellence. If it does not represent a value to our lifestyle, then the excellence of any given thing is intrinsically reduced. Like I said at the beginning, any kind of kitchen project is going to cost money. In light of that fact, invest first in design in order to discover your priorities. Next, consider your lifestyle and make sure that your project is as convenient as it can be for you and your family. Then select materials, appliances, and cabinetry that meet your needs. This orderly method will insure that your project represents a great value by the only measure that really counts…your own!