I work in a business where everyone is afraid to say they are wrong. It has a lot to do with egos, but also there is often so much money involved that inevitable mistakes seem unacceptable. People pass around blame like they’re playing a game of Hot Potato. I get it, however, if the responsibility falls on you, accept it and say so. How hard is it to say, “Whoops. My bad.”?
RE the Cabinet door handles: Whoops. My bad. (This story has a happy ending.)
So here is how a perfectly simple issue got way out of hand. I was looking for kitchen cabinet door handles in Gracious Home just to see what they had. The funny thing about Gracious Home is that, while they really do have lovely options (and a wide variety) their prices are ridiculous. They are the Citarella of housewares. Rich ladies who don’t care about huge mark-ups stroll the isles buying lightbulbs and Miele Vacuum bags. That said, I spotted my dream cabinet handles! They had a cool, interesting cut-out shape, giving them a Mid Century feel (clearly my vibe). And I was drawn to them being white, which I thought could be a stylish feel with the white cabinets, instead of the obvious chrome that I was looking for. I inquired, and was told they were $28 dollars apiece. Ha. I said my goodbyes to the pricey handles and left the store. About a week later I happened to stop by a small kitchen remodel and supply store called Broadway Kitchen & Bath in the Village just below Union Square. There on the wall, were the Gracious Homes door handles that I was coveting! A glutton for punishment, I asked how much? They quoted me at $15 each, more than $10 dollars less apiece?! I needed 24. I bought them then and there. I was beyond excited and more than a little proud of my purchase. When the handles came in, I ripped open a package to hold up my stunning handles against the kitchen cabinet.
What was I thinking?! The matte/almost cream colored handle looked jarring against the pure white of the laminate cabinet.
I had let my excitement of the style fog my absolute knowledge that just because something is white, it doesn’t mean it matches another white. I know this better than anyone. I have spent hours (hours!) looking at the subtle differences in white when picking colors for paint. Hell, I spent hours on picking the different white paints for this apartment, alone. I stared at the knobs until I convinced myself that they worked. Maybe there was something almost elegant about the two toned whites. Maybe they would add to my idea of layering texture to the space. Maybe they are perfect. I reasoned the problem away.
And then, I literally (real definition- not a Kardashian “literally”) woke in the middle of the night with a panic. Shouldn’t there be a mirrored version of the handle to go on a set of cabinets? The knobs I had picked had a cool cut out on one side, making a stout, letter shape, if you will. Clearly these handles were meant to be purchased in teams of two. I literally (Kardashian version this time) called up Broadway Kitchen & Bath the second they opened.
Turns out, I was right, there WAS a coordinating left-side handle that was meant to go with the right-side handles I bought. I picked up half the purchase from the site and brought them back down to the store. There was a 25% restocking fee, but I felt I had no choice, even though I kind of felt like it was a bit of an oversight on the company’s behalf for not showing both examples on the display board. Luckily, the store agreed, and the fee was waved. A few days later I was picking up 12 left-sided handles. Done.
Or was it?
As the Kitchen started to come together, I was becoming more and more aware that I was trying to convince myself that the creamy white handles would work with the white cabinets. I started asking everyone I trusted with design what their thoughts were, but I knew deep down, I would never feel good about it. Why didn’t I do something the first time when I had to exchange half the batch? I took a deep breath, accepted that I had to stop convincing myself (and everyone else) that I didn’t make a mistake, and I walked back into Broadway Kitchen & Bath and confessed my truth. I screwed up.
Kelly (definitely the salesperson you want to deal with at the store) smiled and pulled down the catalogs for us to start looking. A big issue for me was finding a way to not waste money on the new handles and re-stock fee, although my pride told me that I would eat the difference myself if it came to it. I could not deny it way my fault. That said, I felt somehow empowered in acknowledging and fixing the problem. The truth is, decor and design is an ever-changing, subtle beast. There are no absolutes. Sometimes things don’t work in real time the way you picture it in your mind. I had no doubt the handles I wanted were terrific and stunning and special and great. They just were not going to be right for this job. Sometimes a decorator has an idea that just doesn’t ultimately translate. Sometimes the perfect thing doesn’t fit or doesn’t quite work or doesn’t go. Sometimes the whites don’t match. (that’s the title of my next book: Sometimes The Whites Don’t Match. A Decorator’s Journey by Alec Holland).
As I flipped through the catalogs, unhappy with all the possible options, I looked up and noticed the display board on the wall that showcased the one side handle I originally ordered (and still loved), a smaller version in a brushed silver. Did it come in chrome? It did! Did the smaller size seem too small? It did not! Was it less money, and thus allowing me to make the switch (even with the restock fee) and even come in under cost of the original? Ding! Ding! Ding! I took my slow, well deserved bow as I found the perfect solution!
Slightly smaller chrome handles, 12 left-sided and 12 right-sided were delivered to the apartment a few days later. I love them. I even think the smaller size (5 inches instead of 7.5) looks more appropriately scaled to the space. Ta-fucking-da! The mistake was all on me. Mea culpa. That said, the end result is exactly what I wanted.
On an hysterical (not hysterical at all) end note, after spending an hour with one of the workers, laying out exactly where each handle should be placed, a different worker apparently took over the job and “used his judgement” when he didn’t know where to put one of the handles, instead of following the exact notes I had worked out. A new cabinet door is being ordered so as to not make me slowly go mad. Deep breath. Sigh. Thud. Xo.
Next up: Some simple shelving for a final touch.Kitchen, Kitchen Renovation