A Holistic Touch to Cabinetry: Meredith Otten’s Tailored Design Philosophy

Meredith Otten is a jack of many trades within the construction and manufacturing business. As the child of a master carpenter, she has been exposed to the inner workings of build sites and project management from the beginning of her life. But her path to becoming a designer and boutique cabinet manufacturer hasn’t always been conventional. With no formal education, Meredith has always passionately immersed herself in hands-on methods of learning. She also racked up an array of experience in the service industry prior to entering the trades, including restaurant management, baking and bartending.

“I’m dyslexic,” she explains, “so I needed everything to be more tangible to me. That’s why I ventured into more of the creative art, the food sector, things that I could literally touch, learn as I went.” Combined with her assorted creative proclivities, Meredith’s immersive and self-driven work style has led to a holistic approach to manufacturing and design; she takes pride in the details at every stage, and attentively follows clients through the whole design and installation process.

A Service-Oriented Approach:

“I talk with a lot of people who are master craftsmen; they really know how to run a shop, but they have difficulty communicating with and educating their customers. They have a difficult time engaging with them and making sure that they have everything they need,” says Meredith. At the same time, she muses, “a lot of designers don’t know how to execute their designs.” That’s why she likes to ensure that she gives customer projects a top-quality personal touch, offering the best of all worlds by having a thorough understanding of design, craftsmanship and customer service.

As an independent contractor and consultant, she is able to offer a high degree of customization according to customers’ needs and specifications. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in her innovative approach to designing for accessibility. Explaining how she assesses the ergonomic and spatial needs of clients with physical disabilities, she says, “We need to make sure that we know the legal codes; what’s the clearance for a wheelchair? I need to see how they can reach their arms. I need to see how much clearance do they have to move in and out, because I’m a custom shop.”  Meredith has even incorporated hydraulic systems to design accessible kitchens with lifting and lowering cabinets for shorter customers.

A Network of Partnerships:

Another aspect of Meredith’s holistic method is that she firmly understands where her own limitations lie, to the advantage of her customers. Over the past seven years, she has fostered a symbiotic relationship with a small European shop, from whom she learned about materials and manufacturing, while she taught them “Canadian ways of customer service.” A strong word-of-mouth reputation has garnered her a network of business partners, including Uniboard and Sherwin Williams, among others. Describing how she leans on this professional network to outsource expertise that is outside of her specialties, Meredith says, “You’ll never catch me telling you that I’m going to deal with something  that I know nothing about. I refuse to even try to cater to the conversation. There are professionals in all categories. Here’s my lane, here’s where I stay, and I rely on the experts as well.”

Meredith leverages her professional network to give her customers an immersive experience with the materials involved in their projects by offering guided shopping tours: “For the shopping experience, I meet with the customer, and we break down the understanding of the function they’re looking for. I bring in stock products, like countertop samples, and from there, I bring them to manufacturers, distributors, suppliers. For tile, I’ll take my clients shopping at Olympia Tile, but prior to shopping, I always make sure I’ve taken the time for them to be happy with what the cabinet colour is, what the counter colour is.”

Instead of basing her client consultations on design trends, Meredith prefers to get to know the client, their individual needs, and the space they are working with. She elaborates, “I’ve pulled out full kitchens that other people have tried to work with, and I’m like, look, you can’t clad a traditional kitchen with European panelling. If you want a European kitchen, we need to have the bones of a European kitchen.”

While she lightheartedly describes herself as “a bit of a control freak,” Meredith Otten’s detail-oriented and curational work ethic pays dividends in quality, unique spaces, and client satisfaction. To find out more about Meredith and her work, visit her website here.

 

 

Joy Doonan is a professional writer with a degree in sociology and technical writing. Her studies have focused on micro loans/ credits and the funding and financing of small buisnesses.

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