Anita Colby: CabinetWorks
When certified kitchen and bath designer Anita Colby gets a call for a job, her first priority is not to measure the space, but get to know the people who live there.
“I’m not your average designer,” says Colby, who founded The CabinetWorks in Stratham, New Hampshire in 1990. “I measure for five minutes and talk for fifty-five. I ask people questions about their lifestyle and find out who they are and what they want. People want to be heard and they need someone like me to find out exactly what they need and want.”
Her personal approach to clients, down to earth personality, and ability to make challenging projects happen, won the hearts of Lisa and Mark Thompson, who waited 25 years to redesign the small, galley kitchen in their 1950’s ranch house in Brentwood, New Hampshire. The Thompsons had already consulted two kitchen designers who wanted measurements and told the Thompsons they didn’t need to see the space. “Anita said I have to see the space and we loved her for that,” said Lisa who wanted a lavish, dream kitchen with sleek white cabinets and a large island with a wood counter-top that she saw in the 2003 movie, “Something’s Gotta Give,” starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton.
“When I told Anita I wanted a kitchen I saw in an old movie, she said, ‘I know the movie. I have the DVD.” That kitchen is one of the most referenced kitchens by clients, Colby told her. By removing the two walls that separated kitchen and dining areas Colby was able to complete the design with white painted maple flush inset shaker style cabinets from Plain and Fancy Cabinetry, green slate countertops, a white subway tile backsplash, and a large island with the Iroko Spekva wood countertop for entertaining, just like in the movie. The Thompsons were thrilled!
Colby got her start selling cabinets on the road in the 1980’s when she was a 28-year-old single mother and had two little boys to support. “I would literally drive around looking for houses that were being framed and get the courage to go up and talk to the builder about the cabinets I was selling. Sometimes I’d drive around for 10 minutes just trying to get the courage to pull up and give them my business card.” The builders weren’t used to working with a woman and they liked it, she says. “I knew interior design. I was organized. I was accurate. I didn’t didn’t make mistakes.” In three years, her accounts grew from three to eighty-eight.
In 2017, she gained national recognition as the third-place winner of the Dream Kitchen sponsored by Plain and Fancy Cabinetry contest for her design of a $150,000 state of the art kitchen in Cape Neddick, Maine. The kitchen had black stained cabinets, Chicago brick, a hand-pressed copper sink. “It was a once in a lifetime,” Colby says.
Colby has an A.A. in Interior Design from the Colorado Institute of Art, a B.F.A .in Interior Architectural Design from the California Institute of Art, and she is a nationally accredited certified master kitchen and bath designer.
She has worked with clients throughout New England and across the nation, including Wyoming, Kansas, California, Florida, Idaho, the Bahamas, and Martha’s Vineyard. One client, whose kitchen she designed in New Hampshire, was so impressed with her work that when he relocated to Kansas, he had Colby design his kitchen, five bathrooms, a mud room, a laundry room and a butler’s pantry long distance, and had her ship 64 cabinets to him. “It’s easy to do in today’s world,” she says. “You can do your work anywhere. You can facetime with a client and even show them how to measure and where to put the measuring tape.”
And as for future projects, she says, “I’m always looking ahead for the next contest and the next opportunity.”