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First the chaos, then the bliss: part 2

It’s finished! Our amazing kitchen, compliments of Merillat is complete and we survived with our sanity, marriage and sense of humor still in tact.

Kitchen remodels are often the stuff horror movies are made of–contractors who screw things up, delay after delay, unexpected costs that leave your budget in the dust, not to mention the complete inconvenience of having to be without running water, a dishwasher, stove and more for an extended period of time and the steady stream of professionals coming in and out of the house.

If you’re reading this post hoping to hear the gory tale of our experience,  move along. I have nothing but good things to report.

I attribute the success of this remodel mainly to three factors:

  1. Our designer, Amy Wuest, from KSI Kitchens and Bath. If it weren’t for Amy, I would still be standing in front of the wall of cabinet door designs trying to make the first decision! While everything you see in my kitchen was chosen and approved by Michael and me (oh, who am I kidding? It was me.),  Amy narrowed the field of choices and expertly led me to decisions at every turn. She always listened to what I thought and would offer her input when I asked, but would then say, “It’s your kitchen, you have to like it.”
  2. Our contractor, Brian Smith (a.k.a. contractor extraordinaire) and his team. Prompt, courteous, efficient, neat and most importantly, good! You can design the most beautiful kitchen in the world but if the people building it don’t know what they’re doing, you’re sunk. By the way, work began on September 9 and was finished October 12–the exact date Brian estimated it would be done!
  3. It was paid for by someone else! If it weren’t for Merillat, we wouldn’t have the kitchen at all. From the VP of marketing to the interns, everyone we’ve had contact with at Merillat has been amazing. In fact, when they found out we wanted to have a party to thank all of the people who helped us win, they offered to take that on as well. It’s not part of the prize we won, just something extra they’re doing for us (as if a $30,000 kitchen isn’t enough!).

Even at their best, kitchen remodels are chaotic, but once you get through that, the bliss of enjoying the beautiful new space is well worth it!

So here it is…the finished product…drum-roll, please…soundboard.com

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The excitement is building

Well, actually, for me, the excitement is in the planning. Yesterday was a big day in the Merillat Good Life Kitchen remodel process.

We rose early and drove up to Redford, Michigan to visit Brian Dawe at Great Lakes Granite and Marble. Our mission was to choose our slab of granite as well as our sink and faucet finish.

Great Lakes is a fascinating place! We learned a little bit about how granite is mined, how slabs are cut, saw them moving them about their warehouse. This is one of those places that you could spend an interesting day learning about an industry most people don’t come into contact with. But, alas, the cameras were rolling, so we had to move along.

Paul Molnar, of Hanson, Inc. is the photographer capturing our Merillat kitchen remodel

Paul Molnar, of Hanson, Inc. is the photographer capturing our remodel.

Dave McCormick of Hanson, Inc., shooting video outside Great Lakes Granite and Marble where we chose our granite slab for our countertops.

Dave McCormick of Hanson, Inc., shooting video outside Great Lakes Granite and Marble where we chose our granite slab for our countertops.

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Lights…Camera…Action!

$30,000 in stunning cabinetry from Merillat Cabinets!

$30,000 in stunning cabinetry from Merillat Cabinets!

Today marked the official beginning of our journey into kitchen remodel-dom.

We were pleased to welcome Merillat representatives Mark Ayers, vice-president of marketing, Susan Cross, communications and public relations manager, and “Elliot the intern” from Eastern Michigan University. Joining them was Karin Bottomley, marketing manager of KSI Kitchen and Bath as well as several members of  Hanson, Inc. (web developers for Merillat).

The purpose of their visit was to present me with a giant-size “check” in the amount of “$30,000 in stunning cabinetry from Merillat Cabinets.” A check I will be more than happy to “cash” thank you very much!

In addition to all of the above named individuals, the two major tv news channels in Toledo, Ohio, WTVG and WTOL were on hand to interview Mr. Ayers, Ms. Bottomley, Michael and me and to photograph the heck out of the kitchen (the before pictures)! That was also the purpose of the Hanson, Inc. folks being here.

If you know me at all, you know I can not be described as obsessive compulsive when it comes to keeping my house in order. I used to be. Then I had four kids and got a puppy. You relax your standards a little more with each additional mammal in the house. I practice something I learned from Good Housekeeping Magazine. It’s called “Good (Enough) Housekeeping.” I also identify with British sitcom character Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet by her-and only her) from the show Keeping Up Appearances.

So all these people are coming to shoot video and take pictures of my kitchen…so what’s “Good Enough?” Besides your basic kitchen cleaning of counters, stovetop and sink, I dusted, I mopped, I got the cobwebs from the corners, I cleared all the junk that had gathered in the room, I weeded out the “stuff” on the front of the fridge, I washed the windows and I even picked the dead leaves off my plant. That should be “good enough,” right?

Sure! Good Enough for the human eye, but not good enough for those lights (capable of spotlighting dirt my 40-something eyes missed), and that camera–you should have seen the zoom on the camera! Oy! They spent nearly an hour videotaping my empty kitchen! Then, horror of horrors, they started opening cupboard doors and drawers! Oy!…oh-well! My secret’s out!

The lights and the cameras are gone (for now) and it’s time for the action! I have homework. We have to measure the kitchen and I have a questionnaire to fill out before I meet with our designer at KSI (Amy Wuest who happened to go to Cardinal Stritch High School with my husband). I’ve also been looking through the brochures Kim gave me about Merillat Classic Cabinets and I’m finally getting a sense of what I really want to have included in my new kitchen. It’s finally starting to sink in and I’m so excited!

Oh yeah! and I have to thoroughly clean out and scrub my cupboards, refrigerator and stove one last time lest the contractors think I’m anything less than an immaculate housekeeper!

It takes a village, or rather, a network

I know a little bit about social media. My husband is a social media consultant who works from home. You pick some stuff up by osmosis that way, I suppose. Due to his influence, in the last year, I’ve joined Twitter and Facebook and started this blog–all social media outlets. I’ve seen him doing blogger outreach and monitoring content. I’ve stayed home with the kids while he’s gone to Tweetups, breakfasts and lunches all in the name of social media.

But in early June, I got involved in social media in another way. I entered the Merillat Good Life Video Contest with the grand prize being a $30,000 kitchen makeover. Basically, the contest worked like this:

  1. submit your video via Facebook,
  2. hope to be chosen by the sponsors as a finalist and then
  3. do everything you can to get the most votes for your video.

Had I been left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have even made it past step 1. I could write the script and cast some really cute kids and a handsome man in the vid, but I couldn’t star in the video, run the camera or edit it into something “finalist-worthy” by myself.

And so began the network. Michael could run the camera and a good friend of ours, Shawn Sieg, offered to edit the video for us.  We had a lot of fun and ended up producing something we were proud of.

Step 1. Check.

Step 2. What could we do? It was up to the sponsors, so we waited. And I was a finalist!

Step 2. Check.

Step 3. Now the votes. Hmm. How to get the votes? Only one vote per day per person. Well, Michael and me–2 a day probably wasn’t going to do it.

So we turned to our network. Our social network. We asked our followers on Twitter to vote and retweet the message everyday. And they did it! We were amazed at the support we got from people we’d only conversed with in spurts of 140 characters at a time. Most we’d never met in person. Some we’d never even heard of before.

Next, we turned to our friends on Facebook. Amazing support from these people! The relationships are generally stronger on Facebook, so maybe you can expect a greater response. But still the network grew. One friend, Joy Angel, posted reminders on her Facebook page as often (maybe more) than I did.

As a final push, about five days before the contest ended, Michael created a Facebook Fan page called “Help Amy Driehorst win a Merillat Good Life KitchenMerillat Good Life Contest_1248837773421” and in a matter of a day there were about 80 people in the group (there are 94 currently). These good folks committed to help us and they came through. They even asked for daily reminders. Some are our family, some our friends, some we have no idea who they are, but they helped us!

The voting ended. The waiting started. Did we get enough votes? Even if we didn’t it was a fun experiment in social media. But…did we win?

Step 3: CHECK!

We DID win the kitchen! We are so thankful to all of the people in our network and beyond who played a part in our winning.

For me, I learned a little more about the power of social media and the importance of a network. For Michael, he had fun putting his skills to use for personal reasons rather than professional ones. For the whole family, we had fun!

So as they say, “it takes a village.” But in reality, “it’s the network.”