In past columns, I have focused on the visual aspects of design. As designers, we are driven by what we see – it’s what we love! It’s all about beautiful finishes, great cabinet door designs, exciting lighting, countertop materials, electronics, dazzling tiles and accent pieces. This will always be what we strive for, because it makes us happy and proud.

For this editorial, rather than expounding on visuals, I would like to educate readers on things you can’t see, in the hopes of helping you select the best product for your kitchen project. A lot of heart and soul goes into making fine custom cabinetry, and it’s important that you get the answers you want from the company you select for your project.

That being said, here are a few questions you should ask when scouting your kitchen designer, and depending on the answer, some advice on finding the best fit.

Q. Is your product made in the US?

If not, the exchange rate, shipping costs, fuel consumption and time frame may need further review.

Q. Is the factory participating in environmentally friendly practices for emissions and waste?

The factory should be capturing approximately 97 percent of all volatile organic compounds in addition to having its own recycling program for waste materials.

Q. Does the wood for your cabinetry come from an approved forestry program?

Participating in responsible harvesting of wood shows care for the environment.

Q. Does the material contain any dangerous chemicals?

Some particleboard and finishes contain dangerous chemicals that can slowly leak off gas into your home.

Q. What is the warranty on your product?

A fine, top quality cabinet should  come with a limited lifetime warranty on the entire cabinet (the finish, all moving parts & construction).

Q. Does the factory provide a safe and healthy environment for its employees?

The workplace environment can be a direct reflection on the quality of the product that you are purchasing, as well as the company’s mission statement. I believe that with a little due diligence and awareness, we can not only achieve incredible design with exciting materials, but also support domestic labor while also being respectful of our environment.

Charlotte is home to some wonderful design professionals, experienced builders, remodelers and suppliers of appliances, lighting, slab and tile showrooms, and every accessory needed to complete your kitchen. Let 2017 be the year you decide to design your dream kitchen!

Catherine Whitney is the showroom manager and designer at South End Kitchens. She has 30 years experience in the kitchen and bath industry and works diligently with clients every step of the way. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 704-508-9505 or email Catherine at The design studio is located in the historic Meeting Hall building at 1500 South Blvd, Suite 101-A. You can also visit South End Kitchens at