Think custom-made kitchens and cabinetry and you immediately think big dollars. This is not necessarily the case according to award-winning kitchen designer Dale Gardner from Seaside Cabinets, Anna Bay. Dale has a secret weapon, a tool that other kitchen designers and builders seem to have forgotten how to use. It’s not his skillful use of CAD kitchen design programs, his precision lathe, or even his 20 years experience – it’s imagination.

”It’s not too difficult for anyone to apply the working triangle theory and durable materials to produce a modern, practical kitchen today – it’s thinking outside the square to fit a clients lifestyle, needs and budget and delivering the ‘wow factor’ that keeps it interesting for me.” says Dale.

And think outside of the square he does – brilliantly! In fact, since Seaside Cabinets first foray into kitchen design awards they have won at least one award a year for four years running?? Surprisingly – one of their winning kitchens from the 2007 HIA Hunter Awards was for a kitchen under $12,000. ‘The reason we entered a lower-budget kitchen last year was we felt people needed to know you can have a great design and a stunning kitchen without having to spend a fortune,’ says Janelle Gardner, Dale’s partner. ‘And you don’t have to settle for a mass-produced kitchen just because of the budget.’

This year Seaside Cabinets won a national award – “HIA Australian Kitchen Designer of the Year” for their Andrew’s Kitchen Design in Port Stephens. A truly unique design with a difficult brief not only left the home owners delighted but impressed the seasoned HIA judges. “The designers have met and exceeded the brief with this innovative design that marks a significant move away from the traditional kitchen…. a wonderful example of a difficult brief resulting in a spectacular finish”.

From the moment you walk into one of Seaside’s finished kitchens you get the “wow factor”. Take a closer look and you know this is the precise handywork of a perfectionist… something that Janelle finds can be both Dale’s worst and best feature. “‘Dale is very particular – his attention to detail is bordering on obsessive, especially in the area of design. I look at what he’s done and think ‘that looks great’ but he’ll keep tweaking it until he is totally satisfied.”

Everything is custom made and pre-fitted in their factory. After the cabinets are built the whole kitchen is assembled to ensure all appliances fit and that everything is just right. It’s then disassembled, sent away to be painted, and then installed. This important quality control process leaves no room for errors, avoids problems during installation and guarantees time saved on site. Dale says “The rangehood, the oven and microwave always fit perfectly. Appliance sizes can change without notice from time to time, so it’s best to double-check everything.”