Interview with Sawhill: Comparison Shopping for Custom Cabinetry

by | Nov 22, 2016 | Kitchen Design and Remodeling | 0 comments

We are excited to bring you the second installment in a series featuring interviews with our talented Sawhill staff about remodel and design topics they are passionate about.  The interviews offer a unique opportunity to get to know our team and gain insight into their expertise on home design topics.

Our second interview features Sawhill certified kitchen designer and Sarah Malyexperienced project manager, Sarah Maly.  We sat down with Sarah to discuss what homeowners should understand and consider when choosing a custom cabinetry supplier.  

Interviewer:  Sarah, let’s begin by having you tell us a little about your professional experience.

Sarah:  I’ve worked as a designer for Sawhill for 8 ½ years and this industry for over 13 years.  I have a degree in Architecture with a minor in Art from the University of Minnesota (GO GOPHERS!) and an Interior Design degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.

Interviewer:  What do you enjoy most about working for Sawhill?

Sarah:  I enjoy working for a small local company that has good morals and that really cares about what they do and the spaces they create.  They always stand behind their work/products and take care of the client first.

Interviewer:  What aspect do you enjoy most about your job?

Sarah:  I love the initial “getting to know you” meeting with the client and finding out all about their dreams, what does/doesn’t work with their existing space, and the excitement they have for their new project.  As I am listening, my mind is painting pictures of their new space and it starts to come to life.  This gets me so excited!

Interviewer:  When you’re not at work, what is your ‘ideal’ day?

Sarah:   At this stage in my life, my ideal free day is to wake up in the morning, enjoy breakfast at home with my husband and two little girls, take a leisurely walk to the park, and then spend the afternoon making plans- for meals, for time with friends, for projects at home.  I’m a planner through and through!  

Sawhill Custom Kitchens & Design

Interviewer: Let’s talk about our topic for today, what to compare when shopping for custom cabinetry.  Cabinetry options are numerous and can be overwhelming.  What do you consider the most important factor when analyzing cabinetry suppliers?

Sarah: I think most people have an understanding that cabinetry construction and materials will impact the cost, but I consider comparing the designs a company provides equally as important when analyzing which cabinetry supplier a person should go with.

When investing in cabinetry for your home, the bottom line isn’t always the only thing that should be considered.  Because the cabinetry should last for many years, you want it to be built to last, and built according to a design that suits your needs.  A good designer will go through an extensive process to find out how you live, entertain and function within your home, and then use that information to create a design that is just right.  Once the design is finalized, all of details should be thoroughly accounted for in the drawings.  

Interviewer:  Okay, we understand that the design is key.  Then what should we be looking for in the drawings?

3 Piece Crown Molding

3 Piece Crown Molding

Sarah:  The drawings are an important tool that will help a consumer compare apples to apples when requesting pricing for their cabinetry.  They should be very detailed and include elevations with every detail drawn out and specified. 

One person quoting a project may use 3 layers of moldings, while another might just use a simple L-Shape.  This greatly impacts the price.  If you have each detail developed and drawn, the person quoting your cabinetry will know exactly what to price and you can get an accurate number for your overall budget. 

Interviewer:  What can homeowners to do avoid any surprise costs or misunderstandings about the end product?

Decorative Outside Corner Treatment

Sarah: You want the person providing your cabinetry to include all of the items that will make your space more functional up front- a pull-up mixer shelf, a “magic corner”, tray dividers, etc.  These should all be factored in right away so that clients won’t be “nickel and dimed” for any extras after they have already agreed to make the purchase.  Are the knobs and pulls included?  How about crown moldings and other furniture details which will give your space a refined, finished look?  Knowing exactly what you’re getting is critical.  It is too easy for a cabinet supplier to give a low bid to win over a client, and then charge for add-ons after the fact.

Interviewer:  Beyond the design and drawings, what components of the cabinetry construction are important?Decorative Outside Corner Treatment

Sarah: First and foremost are the cabinetry finishes- how are they finished?  If they’re enameled (painted) cabinets, how is this finish created?  Is it a baked on catalyzed conversion finish?  Is it finished in a dust free, humidity controlled environment (and definitely not finished in your home!)? What is being painted?  Is it Maple, Alder or MDF?  There are huge differences in how these materials hold up and how they change in our drastic Minnesota climate.

You need to know what you’re getting and how it’s going to hold up over time.  What is the box construction?  Do the drawers have full extension glides?  Is there a lifetime warranty on the drawer glides?  Often, these will be the first thing to fail if they’re not of proper quality.  Good cabinetry providers warranty their products beyond the one year warranty governed by law.

Interviewer:  Any last words of advice?

Sarah: Don’t forget to compare supplier’s benefits or services that accompany the provision of cabinetry.  Some things to consider are:

Does your supplier have a showroom to view their cabinetry? It’s important to see the construction, run your hand over the finish, feel the sturdiness of the drawers, etc.  Many suppliers can match the look of any cabinet finish, but can they match the quality?  You cannot get a feel for the quality with just a single door sample. 

Does your supplier offer cabinetry that is made locally? Not only is local a “green” attribute, but it also means less freight costs and faster delivery of products and add-ons, not to mention you’re supporting the local economy.

Finally, it is important that your supplier install their own cabinetry. Cabinetry installed and supplied by one source leaves no questions when any problems may arise.  It is also important to ask if they warranty the installation as well as the products.  When a drawer slide is loose, or a hinge is crooked, will your supplier be there to make it right?

To conclude, just remember, when it comes to price, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting, what services come with it and the dependability of your supplier. 

At Sawhill, part of what I do is help clients navigate the comparison process, ensuring that they are getting exactly what they envisioned at the price they agreed upon.   I love putting on my planner hat so that my clients can enjoy the process rather than stress about the decisions.

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Sawhill Cus­tom Kitchens & Design is the premier provider of kitchen and bath design and custom cabinet building services for clients in the Twin Cities, Upper Midwest and beyond.  We deliver exceptional spaces by taking a holistic approach to meeting your needs and exceeding your expectations. With skill and experience, your Sawhill team of designers, space planners, custom cabinet building experts and project managers will invest in your design plan from concept to final installation.

The result will be a gorgeous working interior you’ll love, without the headaches you won’t.  Give us a call at 612.338.3991 or stop by our showroom at International Market Square in Minneapolis. We’d love to hear about your home ideas and dreams.

Learn more about Sawhill Kitchens & Design at