Ken Brown, a great builder in our area as well as a good friend passed away last weekend very suddenly…and tragically. This was a great southern man who was well respected in the community and truly and simply will be sorely missed by many. I spoke to him almost every day and cannot quite yet fathom not getting his early morning phone calls asking me “weeeelll,whaddddaaaaa youuuu doinnnnn “…to which I always responded, “Nothing but picking my nose and counting my millions…how about you?” This was our banter into a typical conversation with him working his way into asking me A) where are my cabinet guys today?? B) do you have that bid ready for me yet? or C) heard any dirt on the streets?. Then we might launch into a conversation about crazy clients, crazy cabinetmakers, or the crazy business we both found our way into. Sometimes, he might catch me when I was lamenting the parental nightmares of being mom to teens…and he would always have some good stories from his own teen parenting experiences. Or, we might just shoot the bull for a bit about nothing in particular.

Now mind you, on a work day I typically spend zero time chit chatting about much of anything. But with this special guy, he moved at a pace slower than mine and somehow he made you slow down on the path and walk in step with him…if even for just a few minutes on the phone. I always liked that about him. He could actually slow me down. And he always made me laugh about some silly thing.

The truth be told, this builder extraordinaire, took a chance on me years and years ago. The client wanted me on the job so he welcomed me…..mostly. I had to prove myself to him but once I did, he was one of my biggest supporters and that really meant something to me….especially in the south where the “little women” don’t always garner the same respect in the construction industry. I always maintained that the guy was smart. He recognized that I wanted to please not only my client but also him and earn his respect and I took darn good care of what was important to him on a job. But, really, he was confident in his role and his expertise and never felt threatened by anyone else and this allowed him to utilize the talent around him without worrying someone would upstage him. He always talked about our “team” and how we all worked together for the benefit of the client. If someone asked my opinion on his skills as a seasoned contractor, I would always reply with the same thing. “He is a “can do” guy. He does what it takes to get the job done and make the client happy.” Now, he might have laughed later at some of my crazy ideas but he always said “Let’s do it.

 Last Saturday, we lost one of the best, brightest and finest. He helped shape my business as well as being a friend. My heart hurts for his family and I will miss him.



Bosch and Siemens are recalling about 476,500 dishwashers. An electrical component in certain model dishwashers can overheat, posing a fire hazard to consumers.

There have been 51 reports of incidents, including 30 reports of fires resulting in property damage. No injuries have been reported.



This recall involves certain Bosch® and Siemens® dishwashers manufactured from May 1999 through July 2005. The brand name is printed on the dishwasher’s front control panel. Model and serials numbers are located inside the dishwasher door panel on the upper right side.

Brand Model Numbers Must Begin With Serial Numbers Must Begin With
Bosch SHE43C, SHE44C
FD8503 – FD8507
FD8501 – FD8505
FD7905 – FD8505
FD8407 – FD8505
FD8004 – FD8211
FD8205 – FD8507
Siemens SL34A FD8308 – FD8505

The appliances, made in the United States, were sold at appliance and specialty retailers nationwide from May 1999 through December 2006 for between $550 and $1,100.

Consumers should immediately stop using the listed model dishwashers and contact the repair hotline for a free repair.

For additional information, contact the BSH Home Appliances at (800) 856-9226 anytime or visit the brand’s Web site or

I hate it for my clients when their architect or builder gives them an “allowance” for some category of items in their new home or remodeling project. Invariably, it is not even close to what will eventually be spent and I think it does a huge disservice to the client. I realize that the builder cannot possibly take the time to figure out every item that will be specified then price them all out…especially if he or she is bidding the job. ( I am not sure what the architects excuse is on this subject….but most do not seem to have a real grasp on today’s costs for interior appointments) And certainly, if several builders are bidding the job, they need to be on an even playing field with items that can so drastically change from one sub to another or from one manufacturer to another.

But,who wants to find out just about the time you are getting into the fun part of the build that you have enough “allowance” for a reclaimed, slightly chipped porcelain sink from Goodwill? Or cabinetry better suited for a Motel 6?  Folks, it happens. All too often it seems to me. Just a little bit of planning ahead of time can alleviate this problem. If clients will begin a relationship early on with a Kitchen and Bath or Interior Designer, they can really hone in on a reasonable budget for most interior decisions. These professionals are in the trenches and will have a realistic idea of what sort of budget needs to be allocated based on discussions with the client and reading the plans. It does not have to be line itemed out right away, but a couple of intensive meetings on the “wish list” will go along way to helping the client get a real idea of what their project will cost. The builder will be thrilled that the client is meeting with someone to solidify the decisions and create a budget that meets the needs of the client and is well thought out. It pays to do your homework in advance!

Wow, it has been a crazy week! No time to think let alone blog! Lots of fun stuff going on and some really great projects coming up that I can’t wait to tell you about….many more modern kitchens and baths being done and I am grateful! I love traditional styling but it is nice to have the modern ones to really get your creativity going and I love, love, love to explore new products! We are finishing up two great baths among several and a wonderful mid century modern kitchen. I will post pix when I get them. It has been fun working on the mid century modern bath and kitchen…researching lights and materials. We are using some great 3 form with bamboo rings embedded for door panels. I can’t wait to see it done! Now, that is a fantastic product. I absolutely love the potential for using 3 form in our projects.

The kitchen and bath are small but well done. We had to be very creative in the bath and we are using a great tub from Neptune called the Wind tub. It is very unique and has a neat curve to it yet it will fit into 5 ft alcove. In the kitchen, we used metal laminate to create a “table” effect for the cooktop to sit will post that pix too. It is way less expensive to do than stainless but my cabinet man said tough to work with because of the metal shavings.

The other bath that I am JUST loving is a joint effort by one of our other designers, Laura,..she may be posting here sometimes as well. It is fun and has been a treat to work on as the clients are so open to everything! Laura and I have worked hard on getting just the right light, just the right paint and just the right “look” to this 5×8 typical bath..but it anything but typical! We did some interesting things and will post pix when complete.

Bamboo rings

Today at lunch ( what’s that again?) well, the time of day usually reserved for lunch anyway…I went to return a pair of shoes at a local department store. WHAAAAAATTT? I can just tell you, there was a lot of stimulus spending in the shoe department! WHO are these people?? I mean, seriously, there were not enough sales people to handle the crowd…it was a sale but nothing earthshatteringly great. I could not even get a place to park outside. Sure gas is high, consumer confidence is down, lending is tight..BUT THERE IS A SHOE SALE AT DILLIARDS!! Priorities, right? And this is not a exclusive store…there were working women, housewives, a few husbands, some retirees…at least that is what I perceived.

Ok, so about business. Here is my pep talk. Granted, at my shop, we are busy. Can’t even keep up with the work at the moment without working into the evenings. Knock on wood, or maybe ceasarstone…but the truth is business is up 40% from last year. I may be slinging hash at Waffle House in 6 months but right now I am grateful for the busy days and (some) evenings. Some of my subs are slower…but my REALLY good ones are busy too…partly because I am busy. It seems as if the good subcontractors DO indeed stay busy. But, For what it’s worth, this has been my plan of action for past year when the media started the recession hype and fuel prices became outrageous. Since I am a small business owner it mostly applys to smaller businesses.

  • DON’T stop advertising. BUT DO evaluate each advertising dollar carefully. Make sure your staff tracks the referrals. Make this non-negotiable. You must know what is driving the customer base. Then do a report on it and really see what you are getting in return for your investment.
  • DON’T give up the marketing and PR. I am differentiating from advertising because, well, it is different! Marketing is about building your “brand”…about putting forth the image of your business. It might mean that you as the owner or manager needs to be more involved but you have to keep building your brand even in a down market. In fact, even more important to illustrate staying power in the community. Work the committees, Trade associations, neighborhood gatherings…the more the better and make sure your staff does the same. Pay for them to go to events where they can help promote your “brand”..get them out in the community as well. For my business, this means I do NOT give up submitting projects for editorial, do NOT cut the photography budget ( prof photography is key to any designer publishing their work) and keep your website up to date.
  • Cut payroll if you can but make sure key people are well taken care of…reward them for their skills and “thinking outside the box” to help promote business. Get rid of slackers. You don’t need them and they will keep you from maximizing your sales. Not only that, slackers are cancerous to the rest of the staff. Cut out the cancer. Early detection is the key.
  • Treat each potential client like they might be your last. Don’t take anything for granted. this is the secret to small business success in my opinion. I CARE. My BUSINESS cares. We try and project this to our design clients as well as the retail customers. Even if it is for a 5 dollar hinge that some scroungy guy comes in and trys to find and we spend an hour searching for….that 5 dollar hinge can represent thousands of dollars in future sales if that scroungy guy turns out to be the lead trim guy at 3 million dollar house and YOU spent the time earning his business. True story.
  • True, some people will shop you for competitive pricing on the internet. They will use and abuse you and your good nature. Stop trying to fight the internet. DO start giving people a reason to buy “local”. Work with your sales people and staff to understand how important is to support local businesses…as local businesses support the community. Many sales people don’t get this and try to fight internet pricing on THEIR level….which is simply pricing. Don’t do it. Create your USP (unique selling point) on the merits of your business relationship…and you can always, without preaching, segue into the “buy local” mantra. And practice it yourself. I only buy internet when I cannot get it local. I am religious about supporting my local businesses. I “get” it and you can help your bottom line by making sure your people “get” it too. BUY LOCAL.
  • If you are a design oriented business, invest in good looking postcards to have a “leave behind” for customers and to drop off a stack at businesses that might refer people to you. Be reciprocal too. Modern postcards is a great site if you do not have a local printer to work with on printing. Put some good shots on the cards then have someone go around and ask to put them out in places that make sense. Cheap cheap cheap. Also, make sure every single person who ventures into your business takes one with them…never know who might see it on their counter!  Yard signs are also good…and cheap.
  • PR is important..send out press releases on contests, publications ..anything newsworthy. It takes little time and again, it’s free.
  • Don’t forget your most important advertising source..existing customer base! Keep in contact! Send a note pertaining to something relative to “remind” them you are there…don’t be afraid to ASK for referrals either….people LIKE TO HELP OTHERS when it is genuine…I myself bend over backward to help someone when they ask or give me the idea they value my business enough to ask for a referral.

Just as illustration: Friday I have appointment with new client in neighboring community. The referral? One of those postcards dropped off at local appliance store. Yes, it works. I have now, with the initial visit paid for the entire run of postcards. Good ROI!!

Most importantly, try not to buy into the hype and “woe is us” environment. Of course it is tougher times but your attitude towards the business impacts your employees’ attitudes too. Get creative and get going!