Interview with Sawhill: The Man Behind the Cabinets
We are excited to bring you the third 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.
The Man Behind The Cabinets – Meet Tim Aden, AKA The Kitchen Engineer
In our third installment of the Interview with Sawhill series, we sit down with Sawhill co-owner and ‘Man Behind the Cabinets’, Tim Aden, to learn about his experience in custom cabinetry and how his role as kitchen engineer ensures quality results for Sawhill clients.
Interviewer: You’ve worked an impressive 38 years in this industry! How did you get started?
Tim: My brother worked for a local kitchen and bath design/build firm, Kitchens By Krengel, as a carpenter. During my senior year in high school I shadowed him at his work and one day on the job site, I met the owner of the company. One thing lead to another and he offered me a job after I graduated. I worked there for 10 years, starting as a “gopher”, then as a carpenter’s apprentice in the cabinet shop and eventually I moved into the office working as a drafter, project coordinator, designer/sales person and finally, as sales manager.
Along the way, I received a diploma in carpentry from St. Paul Technical Vocational Institute (now called St. Paul College). I obtained my CKD (Certified Kitchen Designer) accreditation in 1988, my CBD (Certified Bathroom Designer) certification in 1991 and my CMKBD (Certified Master Kitchen & Bath Designer) certification in 2002. I also became very involved in the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), serving as the local NKBA-MN Chapter Vice-President of Programs, President and as the local representative on the national NKBA board of directors.
Interviewer: You are co-owner of Sawhill Custom Kitchens & Design. How did that come about?
Tim: A colleague at Kitchens By Krengel and her husband discovered that Sawhill was for sale in 1989. They approached me about purchasing Sawhill with them and forming a corporation – Custom Kitchens & Design, Inc. (DBA: Sawhill Kitchens). We bought the company, opting to keep the Sawhill name to preserve the long history and reputation of the company.
Interviewer: You are a ‘kitchen engineer’. What exactly does that entail and where in the process do you fit in?
Tim: My job is to take the vision that the designer has for the overall look and engineer the cabinets to fit that vision. Their vision is not just the outward appearance or layout of the kitchen but also the functionality of it. This includes sizing and engineering individual cabinets to make the most use of the space and maximize storage, access – or both! All of our cabinetry is custom built, so I must specify every detail of every cabinet, panel and molding. For example, engineering a drawer that is large enough to fit the owner’s favorite stock pot. Or engineering a “U-Shaped” drawer to clear a sink and plumbing pipes below. Or engineering a 3-piece crown molding so that it fits perfectly to the ceiling above.
My previous experience in the field as a carpenter’s apprentice and working in a cabinet shop has been invaluable to my position because I’ve seen firsthand how custom cabinetry is created, crafted, finished and installed.
Interviewer: With such a wealth of experience in the industry, I bet you’ve seen a lot of examples of what not to do?
Tim: Ha! Yes. There are several details that you learn from having worked on hundreds of projects. For example, an approximate space of 3” may be designed for crown molding to fit. However, in older homes the ceiling may be off by ½” or more from one end of the kitchen to the other, meaning the 3” space we have at one end of the kitchen is now only 2.5” at the other end. In those cases, we have different options to explore such as using a smaller crown molding or decreasing the overall height of the cabinetry, thus allowing for 3” of space at the lowest point in the room. However, the key is knowing to look for it in the first place!
Interviewer: It seems like the expression, ’The devil is in the details’, is really true when it comes to kitchen and bath design. Sawhill is known for craftmanship and quality, how do you do it?
Tim: At Sawhill, our clients literally have a team of 3 or more people designing, drawing and engineering their cabinetry before it’s allowed to be built. Our designer has the vision, our drafter puts that vision on paper, and I engineer it. That means there are 3+ people paying attention to the details that define quality work. We do a lot of little things, from engineering lights to illuminate the inside of corner base cabinets to extending the sides of cabinets back so they can be scribed to fit the walls where needed. We design “drip trays” into the bottom of our sink cabinets in case there’s a plumbing leak in the future. We make sure that we don’t have cabinet doors that swing against the handles on ranges, thus avoiding damage to the cabinet door. We engineer access for electrical and duct work for hearth hoods, allowing for a cleaner installation and access if the hood needs to be serviced in the future. To put it simply, we pay attention to the details that transform a new/remodeled kitchen or bath from good to amazing.
I also feel our clients end up truly satisfied with their experience with us because our designers stay with the project from the first meeting to the final walk through. With many companies, homeowners meet with someone upfront to get an estimate, then they meet with the designer and finally, once the remodeling begins, they deal with the project manager. At Sawhill, our designers are intimately involved in every step of the project and really act as the client’s advocate throughout.
Interviewer: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Tim: I really enjoy the challenge of creating a new way to build a cabinet to solve a client’s needs or coming up with an innovative way to use a standard cabinet or molding.
Interviewer: So, when you’re not at work engineering kitchen and bath cabinet designs, what is your ‘ideal’ day?
Tim: I love to spend the day with my family on our pontoon on Forest Lake. Preferably a nice hot sunny day!
At Sawhill Custom Kitchens & Design, our job is to alleviate concerns, deliver beautiful and functional interiors using quality materials, and ensure your comfort during every stage of a project. We offer the flexibility to use our entire array of services and products, from design to project completion, delivering stunning results that help you live more comfortably, beautifully and efficiently.