Trepidation In a Homecoming, Life Without Plans

I worked as a kitchen designer while I was completing my undergraduate degree, almost by accident. I started in the showroom selling high-end appliances, embarrassing my co-worker competition by the sheer volume of product and extended warranties I could sell, even though I worked part-time. A customer once told me that I have the sort of face that could sell anything, there’s a real honesty in my eyes, and I suppose I have no reason not to believe him. In an attempt to boost sales, the manager decided I would attend the training classes to become certified in design, and that I’d no longer be polishing the stainless on the showroom floor.

I already had a love of real estate and architecture, which would later manifest itself in a career in real estate finance and development, and this job was an exercise in designing dream kitchens on any budget: matching paint colors, selecting subway tiles, explaining the purpose of a toe-kick, and working with AutoCAD, making perfect sense of gridlines and building standards to create renderings, blueprints, of what the path to a complete kitchen would look like.

In a consult, I’d make a rough sketch by hand, trying to capture the feel of the space, sometimes grabbing style magazines with dog-eared pages to belabor the design point I was trying to make to an ignorant consumer. When they left, I’d spend hours in front of the computer working to arrange the boxes on the computer screen, knowing all the tricks of a veteran like remembering heat-shields on cabinets next to stoves, the right side cabinet for a micro-hood, and that no matter how much customers resisted the price, kitchen organization is much better with sliding shelves.

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