When Kitchen Encounters owner Mark White meets with new clients, he explains how the design process is similar to what is shown on HGTV; his staff drafts multiple plans, so the customer has maximum input and options. That type of service has helped White’s family-owned business excel since it started in the basement of his friend’s house in 1981.
Relying on the graciousness of his comrade – and a 1967 Volkswagen truck – White launched Kitchen Encounters more than three decades ago because he liked making countertops. Soon after opening, the lifelong Annapolis resident moved to his own location and brought some family members on board. Today, his mom serves as an administrative helper, his sister is a business manager, his brother is operations manager and his daughter serves as marketing and communications coordinator. Along with a few designers, each member plays a vital role in the company’s success.
“We are experts in cabinetry and working out all the details,” explained White, a certified kitchen and bathroom designer. “Then, we partner with contractors, countertop fabricators, suppliants, showrooms and everyone else to complete the job for the client.”
The Kitchen Encounters team members don’t just sell cabinets; they are well-trained, creative experts who come up with plans. And even though kitchens are their specialty, the business also conceives bathrooms, laundry rooms, home offices, bars, entertainment centers and other household areas.
The business delivers satisfaction with every project by utilizing the interactive design method. Kitchen Encounters pioneered the process, which involves gathering information using surveys and having multiple designers draft potential kitchen layouts.
“We take a lot of notes and really learn about the clients and their cooking, shopping and entertainment habits,” White acknowledged. “How do they like to store things? What is the makeup of the family, and what are the long- and short-term plans for the home? All of these factors come into play, and then we learn about the space and what availability there is for making changes.”
Once that information is accrued, the company sketches ideas using professional-quality hand drafting or computer-aided design (CAD) programs. White said his team doesn’t try to sell people on the group’s ideas; Kitchen Encounters works with the homeowner to understand the possibilities and determine the needs of the home and the family.
“The client might talk to three different designers, and they each come back with their presentation and the client chooses one, or they borrow some ideas from the other designers that didn’t get selected,” he said. “By the time that we come up with this composite sketch pulling these ideas together, the client has a lot of ownership and a high level of comfort in moving forward with this design. They know why the project evolved that way and how it came together.”
White enjoys the creative aspect of working with all types of styles and finishes, from sleek to contemporary, traditional and ornate. But he also takes pride in sharing his knowledge with others. He helped Anne Arundel Community College develop a kitchen and bath design course, which he taught from 2008 to 2013. Several of the students became his employees. Other causes the business supports include Maryland Hall, Sarah’s House and the Ronald McDonald House.
Whether they’re designing countertops or developing ways to aid the community, the staff members at Kitchen Encounters take their role seriously. “Our reputation is important to us and always has been,” White insisted. “Every job we do, we feel it’s an opportunity to build and protect that reputation and expand it … It’s not just big fancy jobs. We do a lot of mainstream jobs but still maintain that level of quality, creativity and service that we have been known for.”
A member of the Annapolis Design District, Kitchen Encounters is located at 202 Legion Avenue. Hours are 10:00am-5:00pm Monday through Friday, 10:00am-1:00pm Friday, and by appointment after hours and on weekends. For more information, call 410-263-4900 or visit www.kitchenencounters.biz.