CWB April 2004
Infinite Designs of Van Nuys, CA, is known for providing its clients with artistic, intricate hand-drawn plans.
By Lisa Whitcomb
Infinite Designs focuses on designing and fabricating high-end projects, including kitchens, closets, home theaters and libraries. However, Abdalian says it will take on other projects as well. The shop opened its doors in the Los Angeles suburb in 1994. Abdalian first worked as an architect designing homes and then began working with interior designers, focusing his designs on home interiors. "I enjoyed working in that field and began designing cabinetry," he says, adding that he was also inspired by other family members who were involved in the woodworking industry.
Initially when Infinite Designs opened, the shop did not focus solely on high-end custom interiors. "That was the phase where we built our reputation little by little," Abdalian notes. "Then we began to get jobs in Beverly Hills. This is a community where people have money to spend and, because they do, designs can be more creative." He says his business has grown exponentially in the last four years as a result of this market.
Custom Project Plans 'Draw' Clients
"The drawings look more custom as well, and they are pretty much what sells a job to a homeowner,"Abdalian adds. Drawings provided to clients include plans, elevations, perspectives, reflective ceiling plans, and electrical, mechanical and lighting plans. "We input a lot of fine details into the drawings, like mouldings and cross sections that cannot be created on a computer," he says. In addition, he incorporates details such as plants, books, drapery, dishes and the like into each picture to insert the homeowner into the scene, so he can imagine himself living there.
He asks clients to look through magazines and cut out pictures of elements that they would like to see incorporated into their project. "I ask them what they want to do with the room and also ask what is the negative part of the space that they would like to change," he says. Once Abdalian understands how a client wants to utilize a space, then he will draw three different preliminary plans from which a client can choose. Clients can either accept one of the plans as is or ask him to combine elements from each into a fourth design. Once a design has been finalized and approved by a client, then Abdalian says he will measure the space for accuracy and begin drawing the final intricate plans.
Because the drawings he renders are so detailed, Abdalian charges an extra fee for his designs. "This is because customers can take them anywhere to have them fabricated. The drawings are very, very accurate. Clients typically receive six 34- by 24-inch vellum sheets from me that include room elevations, project specifications and designs," he says. For a kitchen design, Abdalian charges $1,500 and up, depending on the size of the kitchen and the scope of the design. For a paneled library design, he charges $3,500 and up.
"The key to a good start in any project is measuring," Abdalian says. "You have to be so accurate and take into account that you are not just measuring for the cabinets you are building, but also for the clearances for stone tops, ceilings and flooring that will surround the cabinetry."
Bringing a Project to Life - from Rendition to Reality
The average cost of entertainment centers ranges between $10,000 and $30,000, kitchens between $25,000 and $85,000, and libraries from $35,000 to $200,000. Entertainment centers and libraries are usually made from stain-grade walnut, cherry or maple and finished with a stain and topcoat or multi-step glaze finish. Kitchens are fabricated primarily from paint-grade alder or maple and finished with a multi-step glaze finish. All stains are applied using a hand-rubbed technique. Glazes and topcoats are applied in the shop's spray booth using Binks equipment. "We hardly do any kitchens that are just one stain," notes Abdalian.
Most kitchens, though, are finished with a light bone or beige color with darker glaze accents to enhance details found on crown moulding and raised panel doors. Abdalian hand-selects veneers that bookmatch well from GL Veneers. Infinite Designs lays up its own veneers using an in-house method.
"Once I have the best sheets, I will lay them down and take a drawing of an elevation and reflect it onto the veneer sheets to find the best locations for the nicest grain details. Then, I tape off those areas using blue tape and number them according to the cabinet door that they will be made into," he adds.
Cabinet boxes are made in-house using a frameless European construction. Blum glides are used on dovetail drawers and Blum hinges are used on cabinet doors. Infinite Designs outsources its drawers and doors from other >shops in the area. The company uses Hafele hardware for any custom interior or heavy-duty applications.
Shop equipment includes Grizzly's tiltable oscillating edge sander and tiltable spindle sander; an AEM 36-inch widebelt sander; Powermatic table saw, sliding table saw, shaper and planer; Holz-Her edgebander; Ritter boring machine and Jet dust collection units.
Having good employees in the shop is key to building a business' reputation. Most notably, though, Abdalian says, "The key to being successful is to first enjoy this business. You have to be really involved in the measuring and specifications. A woodworker should know how to take measurements and include the other trades on a job site into his project."
Another key is to give customers more than they expect. "If a customer has spent quite a bit of money and then asks me for something extra, I just throw it in," he says. "Customers feel well taken care of and appreciate the extra effort. For them, it is a good feeling to get something nice and not have to pay for it. For me, it is almost like a thank you to them."