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Cabinet designers...fact or fiction

Carmine Member

I work as lead cabinetmaker for newly expanded company 1500sf/2 employees to 7000sf/5 employees. My job description also includes design and working drawings for all. Which now means I no longer have time to build and barely the time to oversee the product being built on the floor.

So now begins my search to hire a cabinet designer. Whether it be on staff or preferably for now as a sub contractor.

I began my quest on the NKBA site. I search for designers in my area. Place about a dozen calls over the course of a week. Results are not one return call.
Next, through a referral we send a $200. per hour Manhattan "interior designer" to one of our clients homes whose looking to remodel their family room. The budget for the one room is about 100-150K half would go to entertainment center/cabinetry and half on furnishings. After six weeks I meet with the designer ready to turn his cabinet designs into working drawings. He hands me the equivalent of a cocktail napkin pencil sketch!!
This is not an is unusual occurence. Every designer that gives us drawings to build or price is nothing more than some freehand lines on a 8x11 piece of paper.

I am desperate to find an individual that can meet with clients and design cabinetry with some level of detail and specs. I don't expect them to have complete construction knowledge but get me halfway there and I can finalize design and create shop drawings from there.

I'm curious if your experiences are the same. Any suggestions on where to find an actual cabinet designer would also be appreciated.

8/4/16       #2: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

It appears you will keep posting this until you get an answer, but think about it from your perspective - you have the skills not only to design, but to fabricate cabinets.

If someone else possessed similar skills, why wouldn't they do what you do - run a business?

What I am getting at is if a person has the kind of design skills you are looking for they have probably moved beyond the employee stage in their life.

It might make more sense to train someone from scratch.

8/4/16       #3: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

I remember a post a while back where some of you discussed some pretty efficient software for your Ipad or Smartphones that you documented conditions in drawing form, even to scale, during your client visit so you didn't have to recreate dimensions from start later.

Like a lot of technology application, it is way ahead of the human dynamics so few use it or it is not the norm. It sounds like you are probably better training that employee. The problem is the resources (youth), that could excel and benefit from your opportunity don't want to put the time in because they are accustomed to the instant results world that the technology has also created. Their brains have been trained to flutter with the constant data or connection influx and they can't make a decision, so they lack true commitment, can't see the future, and true satisfaction eludes them.

I would suggest using near or retired folks that want to work part time, enjoy it, and have the interpersonal skills. They just need to be comfortable with the documentation that you need.

8/4/16       #4: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
jonathan mahnken

There are a lot of sketchup based cabinet/interior designers out there that may be just what you are looking for. also check on houzz

8/4/16       #5: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
Kerry Fullington

Website: http://www.windsweptprairiedesign.com


I would be glad to visit with you about this.

Windswept Prairie Design

8/4/16       #6: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

Cabmaker if your logic was correct than there would be no architects only construction companies. No??

As to training an individual I believe I need to clarify one of my original statements.
Yes, I design cabinets but I do not consider myself a cabinet designer. Forty years in the construction/cabinetry industry exposed me to many designs and helped me develop intuition. Night classes in drafting and design as a young man taught me some technique. Sleepless nights with some design software allows me to create cutlists. This does not make me a cabinet designer IMO.

Ultimately, I'm looking for someone with formal training. An artistic mind, innovative ideas. I can train software. I can't train vision and problem solving.

8/4/16       #7: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

Kerry we actually use the same design software I believe as I recognize your name when you recently helped me with a staircase file.

I will give you a call. Our companies are unfortunately about 1800 miles apart

8/4/16       #8: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...


I am looking for the same type of person as you. I recently started a thread here discussing how much I could expect to pay such a person. I contend that this person is easily worth 6 figures, what is your perspective on this issue? How much are you willing to pay this person?

8/5/16       #9: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

How about asking the next potential designer for their portfolio?
Before photos, renderings, drawings they have supplied to shops.
If they are in this day and age still drawing with a pencil what does that tell you?
If they can't show you real packages they have supplied shops then why would you pay them $200 an hour.
I understand your frustration though, many times we have received stuff from big time commercial designers that would not have passed muster with my high school drafting teacher 40 years ago.

8/5/16       #10: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

Hand drawn conceptual drawings take a high degree of skill that few posses.

I recall a "designer" handing me drawings in dyslexic revers perspective that would of made Picasso envious .

Computers cant replace everything yet ,that's still a year or two away.

My point is that conceptual and working drawings are different , both have their place .To expect one document to have everything from the start is a tall order ,and doesn't allow for the freedom of creativity that freehand sketches do.

The algorithm for conceptual sketch to full 3d rendering is surely right around the corner as self learning computers are now a reality.Think of it as speech or writing recognition for drawings that understands your inked napkin.

A step further would be cross referencing a massive online data base for like designs completed with available meta data buried in the image complete with everything from copyright to availability of every like image.

In the past I've used my Ipad to show "like" designs of details to quickly move clients through difficult decisions on the spot without drawings ,leaving the dyslexic "decorator" speechless.

The Google will own this world.


8/5/16       #11: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

Here's more info for anyone not already aware .

deep mind

8/5/16       #12: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
Pat Gilbert

That is interesting. Exponential growth, the singularity is approaching.

Deep Mind video

8/6/16       #13: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
Carmine Member

Chad if you are referring to the thread about finding someone for your closet expansion, which I read, you are describing someone much along the lines of what I do. Plus maybe even more if you want them to handle initial sales leads. I don't think you would need someone quite as "design savvy" as the individual I seek.

I can tell you I don't earn six figures. In the ball park, but not quite. If I had the design savvy of the individual I seek, in addition to the skills I already posses, then yes that person would be worth it.

The good news for you is I don't think the individual you seek needs over the top design skills for closets. Yes I know you are talking about high end closets. So your search for someone that can design and knows fabrication should be achievable.

I should warn you though, as that is what I do. Should that venture become successful. It will take more than one person to sell, then design, then manage, if that is who you were trying to describe in your thread.

8/6/16       #14: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
Carmine Member

Snaglpuss, this designer (who we will now refer to as interior decorator) was used by our company in the past, on a referral basis to our clients. He is hired and paid for by the customer. He was great for helping with furniture purchases, fabric, color etc.

Cabinet design...I think not.

8/6/16       #15: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

The problem is when the "Designer" represents themselves as something they're not. I've seen quite a few $3-$6 hundred dollar cad drawings over the years that looked as though they came from the free isle at HD.

I've also seen ten thousand dollar kitchen drawings the size of house plans ,showing details of every screw and piece of hardware.Which ironically missed the amateurishly obvious oven refrigerator door opening conflict that any kitchen builder worth their salt would avoid .(nothing like a SS door with a dent in it)

I would think that an interior designer or architect should be capable of coherent cabinet design. Then again I seem to get proven wrong about almost everything these days LOL

8/6/16       #16: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
Pat Gilbert

The time to hire is ahead of the demand, i.e. anticipating not reacting.

Not to rub salt in the wound, have you tried temp agencies, schools, old/retired guys, moms who could work part time?

FWIW there are professional designers that are top notch. Have you heard of Gensler? I have worked with a few designers who created beautiful designs, they also consulted with me on how to design the work for fabrication. And when they were done the jobs were very impressive looking and functional.

8/6/16       #17: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
Carmine Member

Pat, that's why I started the thread. To find out who is doing the designs for other companies. Are they guys like myself or are they professionals?(Hey! I think I would like to rephrase that question..lol)

Joking aside, I posted hoping you guys will be able to educate me some on what is available out there, what to expect, and where to find them.
I tried what I thought were some logical avenues. Nothing has panned out so far.

8/7/16       #18: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...


Perhaps I do not fully understand your predicament, but why don't you become the person you are looking for?

It would seem to me that it would be easier to find a working foreman for a cabinet shop, which would free you from shop duties, than it would be to find whatever it is that you are looking for by way of a designer/salesperson.

If that design person would need to work with you anyway, then you will have eliminated a lot of potential confusion and miscommunication by be becoming that person yourself.

Then you would be able to determine if it is a position that is worthy of remuneration in the six figures. The only people in this business I know of that make six figures are shop owners. Perhaps that would be the next step for you, after your foray into design and sales.


8/7/16       #19: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
Pat Gilbert

Why don't you try what everybody else does?

Look at the job section of the Wood Web and put in an ad for a detailer.

One caveat you need to have a system for the new guy to step into otherwise he is going to be forced to create the system. But if you get an experienced detailer you should be able to get him to set it up the way you want. He will probably cost you $30 per hour or more.

You probably need to get Cabinet Vision depending on how "high end" your work is. This way the detailer can be more productive and you have a system for them to step into.

If you set this up yourself it will be the system you want. The reason you "don't have time" is that you do not have a system. How could you you have just been promoted to this position.

My advise is to COPE and ORGANIZE. And that is what you are doing. Get some of the other workers to take more responsibility.

Do you have CNC? I'm guessing not if you haven't already done this, which is another part of the organization thing.

8/7/16       #20: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
Kerry Fullington

Website: http://www.windsweptprairiedesign.com


I think Carmine doesn't try to become that person is because there is more to good interior design than just the ability to place boxes in a room that fit. That is the job for a draftsman/detailer.
Good design is pretty involved and it would be hard for one person to run operations of a business and provide great design services at the same time. It is all about the level of service you want to provide.
That being said I am sure that many good designers would balk at working for a cabinet shop as they don't want their designs to be limited by the capabilities of the shop. That is why they deliver the concept sketches and rely on the detailer to do the rest.
Note that just because a customer accepts a design does not make it a good design.

8/7/16       #21: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

Kerry Fullington:

Going only by what was posted, the shop has five employees, so I don't know that it even warrants a full-time designer.

At that scale, a detailer/designer/salesperson, such as the original poster, would function until, as Pat says, they have a system in place and then grow to a size that warrants that type of employee.

There is much more to design than creating kitchens using 20/20, but if one is in the trade a long time, and has any furniture or architectural millwork exposure, then one will pick up on some of the design aspects of the business without having to be a designer.

Over many years, I have worked with designers and architects whose design sensibilities I admire, and some who would be better identified by the moniker "decorator". Whether one is called on to design within the Classical Orders, or to provide period furnishings, or just to make something that is functional and fits in the space, one still has to do what the client wants, and one needs to be able to discern what that is.

The original poster states that he finalizes designs and creates shop drawings. Is it such a great leap to provide more of the design and sales, or is he looking for creativity and interpersonal skills that he may not have? What does his employer do to contribute to the process, other than provide funding and shop infrastructure?

Perhaps now is the time to wear one or two additional hats, since he is being particular about the available talent pool, and shed the role of cabinetmaker/shop foreman. This would free up time to focus on what he wants done.

Some designers are intrinsically creative, and some borrow and steal from other sources, but all have the ability to "tie the room together", to borrow a phrase from Dude Lebowski. The original poster is already presenting himself as the last link in design before production. He would need to supply the missing links, if he has that willingness and capability.

Just my view.

8/7/16       #22: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
Pat Gilbert

Hey not everybody can pick a rug that will tie the room together.

8/7/16       #23: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

Pat Gilbert:

Prior to the release of “The Big Lebowski”, I would mention to designers that a particular element of their cabinetry or millwork “carried the theme” of the room design, which would cause them to pontificate on their struggle to get the corresponding design features “just so”.

These days, “that (insert element here) really ties the room together” gets me a look as though they don’t know if I am screwing with them or not, which is how I prefer to be thought of by designers.


8/7/16       #24: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
Pat Gilbert

Kidding aside, there are situations that you want one item to be the focus.

I used to get into that with store fixture designers when I would say that they designed a beautiful fixture but the point was to draw attention to the product.

8/8/16       #25: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

Pat Gilbert:

Perhaps towards the end of trying to create an ambience whereby the customer feels pampered, and worthy to be in an environment that conveys luxury equal to the expense of the item that they are purchasing, sometimes it seems designers go a little overboard and forget that the primary objective is to sell merchandise.

Conversely, you probably don’t move a lot of Rolexes out of melamine, aluminum and glass display cases. People will disagree on the level of balance between practicality and pure design considerations.

There are different design sensibilities at play in designing fixtures in Beverly Hills for stores like Escada or Prada than there are in designing fixtures for Walmart.

Nonetheless, the designer probably has a sense of what the owner is looking for, and has been able to coalesce those ideas into a reality, whereas maybe you have not had that conversation with the owner.

Sometimes practicality and sense of purpose seem to be secondary or tertiary considerations. This must be the moment when we say "I don't design them, I just build them".


8/9/16       #26: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

First lesson in Art school ......presentation elevates the importance of the piece .

A" High end" case gives the product context .

Think about it ,a worthless Jackson pollack Drunken bird dropping splattered canvas framed and stuffed into an "art museum " makes it somehow credible.......and "educated" people fall for it.

8/9/16       #27: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
Pat Gilbert

Yes and No

Giving a product space gives it value. Some sort of art axiom? Either way something I have found to be true.

I have observed that another axiom is that art has a focal point. A painter will detail the focal point but not the background.

If you have a fixture that becomes the focal point, the fixture robs attention from the product.

To borrow a quote: "It defeats it's own purpose".

The purpose trumps any other considerations.

8/9/16       #28: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

"A painter will detail the focal point but not the background"

Have you ever seen a Pollock ????LOL

8/9/16       #29: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

Couldn't one argue that the fixture draws the viewer "consumer" in for further inspection ,much the same way a composition draws a viewer to an artwork from across the room ???

My understanding is that one of the purposes of composition is to grab the viewers attention for further inspection.

8/9/16       #30: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

"Giving a product space gives it value. Some sort of art axiom?"

That would depend on the space "context". Remember the truck driver on sixty minutes that bought the pollock at a garage sale, for like 5 bucks ?

And the Art dealer that proclaimed "its not a Pollock untill I say so"?

8/9/16       #31: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
Pat Gilbert

You would call a Pollock painting art work?

I guess I'm not a sophisticate.

As to your argument, maybe but I'm pretty sure the stage should not outshine the actors.

As to your space argument, I'm not talking about context, I'm talking about distance.

Look at most high end stores they give more space to their products, Walmart not so much.

8/9/16       #32: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

"You would call a Pollock painting art work?"

The loose definition of art is, whatever one says is art ,just "is". In pop art objects out of context are art.

Your right, museums also use distance to great effect.

actually his paintings may of b a weapon

8/14/16       #33: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...

Anyone can fill a room with boxes in increments of 3", but there's a learned skill that's needed (and only comes from experience IMHO) in designing boxes to fit a room while simultaneously designing the room to fit the customer...

Many kitchen designers or cabinetmakers in general will "design" a space without really digging down on the spaces variables and limitations including specifics for the customer that really makes it their space...

8/24/16       #34: Cabinet designers...fact or fiction ...
Mikhail Member

Website: http://www.cadcabinets.com

Take a look at our website. May be you will find what you looking for.

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