Steve and Marilyn Emanuel enjoy living in New York’s Westchester County, just north of New York City. Their Larchmont house is convenient to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, yet their 2.5 acre property includes a small wetland and makes for a welcome, tranquil setting. They share their home with three dogs, including Herman the Great Dane puppy, whose beautiful gray and white coat served as the inspirational color palette for their kitchen remodel.
When their 8000-square foot home was built in the year 2000, zoning laws required that a wetlands buffer zone be observed. This meant an unusually wide-but-narrow design for the home, resulting in a smaller-than-optimal kitchen and dining area. The Emanuels had lived in the home for about 15 years when they decided it was time to remodel to enlarge the kitchen and its dining area.
They added an extra 400 square feet to the front portion of the main floor. This allows the kitchen to be reconfigured into an elegant and spacious cooking and eat-in-dining area. The dining area was to include a computer desk and a window seat, both built to match their kitchen’s cabinets. Instead of trying to match the color and style of the home’s original cabinetry, the couple chose to start fresh and create a “unified kitchen design.”
Local Kitchen Cabinet Showroom Sticker Shock
Marilyn and Steve’s first stop was a local kitchen showroom that had supplied the original premium-brand high-quality cabinetry to the builder who had constructed the house. That showroom was known throughout the community as the leading source of high-end kitchen design. However, when the couple saw the initial six-figure estimate that didn’t even include the desk and window-seat cabinetry – they hit the pause button.
Steve, before he became a lawyer and a nationally-known author and publisher of law school study aids, had majored in economics as an undergrad. So he did an economic analysis of their where-to-buy-the-cabinets issue. “Everything I knew about the business world, and status of Internet retailing, told me that there had to be somebody selling high-quality semi-custom cabinetry. In addition to being internet direct to the home-owner, without a retailer as an intermediary.”
After less than an hour of research into online kitchen cabinet retailers, Steve was quite surprised. He found only one Internet vendor that seemed to offer the same level of high-end semi-custom cabinets sold by upscale local showrooms. “There are a lot of low-end cabinetry sources online. However, I was not able to identify any other credible source to match the same quality as I would get by going back to the house’s original local high-end supplier. So CliqStudios was the only real contender if we wanted to buy online.”
Before the Emanuels were ready to make a full commitment, Steve continued his due diligence of CliqStudios. First, he ordered free corner door samples in a couple of colors. When he and Marilyn had settled on Blue gray/green as the color they wanted, he ordered a full door with that color. Finally, they purchased a single fully-built, functioning CliqStudios cabinet, one that had the same model, door-style and color they proposed to use.
Cabinet Quality Was Meticulously Inspected By The Emanuels Contractor
They then submitted that cabinet to their “quite demanding judge,” Vito Luongo, their general contractor. Vito would be installing the cabinetry into the new kitchen he was building for them. Vito is a true Italian craftsman; he immigrated from Italy in the 1970s as a young mason. Over the last 35 years, he has built Luongo Enterprises into one of the premier residential contractors in the Westchester area. Vito did a meticulous inspection: he and his sons Peter and Joe scrutinized all the wood components, tested the hinge and glide mechanisms, and reviewed the overall cabinet construction. When the review was complete, Vito announced that he was really surprised with the result. Primarily, to see that a “dot com” cabinet company could produce a semi-custom cabinet that was on a par with the ones furnished by the local high-end showrooms.
Throughout the cabinet-selection process, Max Parangi Architects , of White Plains, NY and Englewood, NJ, was addressing the challenges of grafting. Grafting is an extension onto the front of the house while preserving the home’s overall curbside look. The firm’s experienced staff would ensure a seamless addition.
Max and his staff created architectural plans, including placement of appliances. But, they decided to leave the specific cabinetry details to whatever cabinet supplier ended up with the job. The Emanuels’ friend Jitka Exler, a Czech-born interior designer, helped them at this stage. She coordinated the proposed cabinetry with marble countertops, tile flooring, lighting fixtures, and their location.
The Emanuels then brought the architectural plans to CliqStudios, and left it to CliqStudios to figure out all of the cabinetry details. For example, the kitchen and dining area, including final color selection, door styles, use of glass fronts, and the layout and arrangement of the various cabinet types. (Typical issue: “How many horizontal slide-out utensil drawers should there be, and where should they go?”).
Perhaps the biggest design issue was cabinet color. Luckily, there was a generous amount of natural light entering the space. Because of this, Marilyn was able to convince her traditionalist husband to forego classic white cabinets in favor of a bolder color. Steve was eventually won over by Marilyn’s idea to balance the Blue-Gray cabinets with the lighter-colored features of the rest of the kitchen. The cabinets, combined with a very light gray floor and a set of one-of-a-kind Italian marble black-white-and-purple countertops with matching backsplash, all blended to create a stunning space.
Unit Pricing Allowed The Emanuels To See Exactly Where Their Money Was Going
Here’s how Steve describes the couple’s design experience on the cabinetry: “Even though we were working with an architect and a freelance designer, we made major use of the kitchen designers at CliqStudios, with whom we had many conversations over more than a month. The designers were happy to do sequential versions of proposed plans, even though we had not yet made any financial commitment to buying from CliqStudios.
We never felt that going with an ‘online vendor’ led to any sacrifice in the level of complexity, care, detail or customization compared with a local showroom.” Steve continues, “In fact, I would say that CliqStudios’ obviously-large investment in technology, and its ability to generate and revise elaborate kitchen drawings showing the full detail of each cabinet, gave us a feeling of greater control over every element than I think we would have had with a local showroom.” He adds, “An extra bonus was our ability to get a matching bill-of-materials-and-unit-pricing document with each iteration of the plans – that way we could see exactly where our money was going, and we could choose feature-by-feature based on whether the item was a true ‘have to have’ or just a ‘nice but not worth the cost.’ ”
Steve sums up his final take on the local-showroom-versus-CliqStudios choice this way:
“It’s true that there are some important merits to the ‘local retail cabinet-shopping experience,’ like the ability to inspect a range of samples in the showroom, and the ability to have the showroom’s design personnel visit the roughed-out kitchen space during the design process. But I ultimately concluded that these advantages were vastly outweighed by the advantages of working with a technologically-advanced, much-lower-cost, large-scale supplier like CliqStudios, especially since CliqStudios assigned us a pair of patient, highly-skilled designers. ‘Buying on the Internet’ turned out to be perfectly consistent with ‘getting high-quality semi-custom cabinetry to match our exact space and needs.’ If I were a local kitchen showroom operator, I wouldn’t want to compete with the folks at CliqStudios.”
Steve’s final assessment: “The cabinets are gorgeous. Westchester County is certainly a ‘fancy’ part of the country where people are used to a high level of fit and finish in home construction and renovation. Our neighbors and friends, including folks in the building trades, have been universally impressed by our CliqStudios cabinets.”
Here’s how Marilyn sums it up: “A total wow! I have no words. It’s absolute perfection. I recommend CliqStudios to anyone who is doing a kitchen.”
You can see the results in the accompanying pictorial. By the way, this kitchen has already been named a finalist in the traditional-kitchen category of Westchester Magazine’s 2017 Design Awards.