Some years back my wife and I used to watch quite a bit of HGTV because they used to have shows that were actually worth the time. They had design ideas a body could use and occasionally showed you how to do things. They even had a show they called "Modern Masters," which featured working artisans in various fields: glass blowers, pottery, tile, and so forth. They also featured a fair number of woodworkers on that show, and with my own experience in the field I could see at once that these people actually did that kind of work for a living. On one occasion they featured one of my instructors at Palomar College! Russ Filbeck got a chance to show how he makes his bent wood ladder-back chairs. When we watched it, I told my wife it was just like being in one of Russ’s classes.
But that was then.
Now they have the home improvement version of reality shows, which is to say that there is no reality at all in them, just something to space out the commercials. The popularity of so-called reality shows has always escaped me. Start with the basic premise. We’re going to follow people around with a TV camera and get their honest reactions to whatever the subject matter of that particular show happens to be. Please. Even worse, though, is the public’s failure to grasp one essential point: those shows are largely scripted, and even if they’re filmed in actual homes, those homes are little more than sets for bad actors reciting ridiculous lines and doing preposterous things. I have actually watched some of the so-called experts on those shows doing things like throwing hammers through windows and knocking cabinets off the walls with sledgehammers during the demolition phase. How anyone can place their trust in such an "expert" is beyond me, but there it is.
How people spend their time is, of course, entirely up to them. So, in that sense, these shows are no worse-and frankly no better-than shows like "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." Where HGTV becomes detrimental, though, is when they show kitchen remodelings being done for considerably less than is actually the case.
People have to face reality when it comes to a kitchen remodeling. First, there is the quality of the components themselves. Only a handful of us are able to say price doesn’t matter. For most of us it not only matters but matters a lot, but kitchens are like anything else. You will get what you pay for. I see ad after ad for entire kitchen suites of stove, dishwasher, refrigerator and range hood for prices that are not just low but insane. And this for items that will be used daily or weekly for decades, although that decades bit is more in theory than in fact, and especially so when one has been foolish enough to spend perfectly good money on a product that cannot last the month!
Potential customers walking into a kitchen designer’s showroom are already a bit apprehensive about the experience. Their fear is that they are going to be talked into spending more money than is actually necessary. But when they honestly think they’re going to get that completely remodeled kitchen for $20,000 just like they saw on HGTV, well, it’s hard for designers to work with them. That kitchen, with the many items provided free in exchange for the air time, may well go for triple that modest budget. I will make my own cabinetry and install a Formica countertop (because I can do it myself for less than $1000), and even at that, the total price will probably exceed $20,000. And we’re looking to NOT spend a fortune on our remodeling!
People who think they’re going to get that kitchen they saw on HGTV for $20,000 are absolutely shocked to learn that the bulk of that particular show revolved around items donated to the show producers in exchange for an on-air mention. So they panic; they go to a Big Box Hardware Store because those people have low-priced stuff all the time, right? And it’s just as good, right? Half wrong and completely wrong. First, they do actually know what they’re selling, and if they charge substantially less for their products, it is surely because the quality is substantially less. That lesser price so rarely lands a bargain that I feel justified in advising people not to fall for it.
So, what happens? Lousy appliances. Kitchen cabinetry that. oh, my! Two years ago Joe Dusel and I went to KBIS in Las Vegas and looked at some of the Chinese cabinetry now beginning to flood the market. I wouldn’t put that stuff in a garden shed, let alone a kitchen. The other aspect of it is the things one gets with an experienced kitchen designer. Go it alone, and you can spend a lot of money and get very little for the effort.
I once knew a lady who decided that a new countertop would be just the ticket to spice up a rather bedraggled kitchen, but she could see no reason to spend too much. She spent $4000 for a countertop that should have gone for $10,000 to $15,000, and the finished job looked just as cheap as it was. But once that countertop was in, her hands were tied for the next part, because she then decided that the cabinetry needed refurbishing as well. Truthfully, it was very old and very cheap and very much in need of being replaced altogether, but doing so would have destroyed her new countertop, so she decided to have it refaced, which cost her $9000. She then had a "new kitchen" that really wasn’t much better than the old one (she kept the old appliances!) for which she’d paid $13,000!
The wiser course of action would have been to consult a kitchen designer. When we were on the San Diego NKBA Kitchen Tour last year I came across a truly wonderful kitchen that occupied the same small space as that lady’s. I was very impressed with it and even more so when I learned that it had been done for about $30,000. I know for a fact that that particular lady could have afforded the $30,000, but if, for the sake of the argument, she could not, the wiser course of action would have been to hang onto the $13,000 until she had the rest of what was needed. You are in kitchens every day of your lives. You touch those cabinets and those appliances pretty much every day. Why touch junk? And especially why touch junk when you’ve gone to the mess and expense of a new kitchen? Because if the new stuff is not much better than the old, the wiser course would be to just keep the old dilapidated kitchen and invest in a new TV. But don’t watch HGTV!
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