The Craft of Personal Attention

02 Jun 2019

Working one-on-one with clients looking for kitchen and bath designs was a natural fit for John and Deborah Wilson


When you first meet someone with the stellar business resume of John Wilson, you might not expect a man so personable and relaxed. Prior to opening Artistic Kitchens & Baths in Southern Pines, Wilson had been a Wall Street investment banker at Credit Suisse, advising on transactions worth over $300 billion dollars. He had also been CFO of Hardees Food Systems. When he finally retired from the challenging demands of the corporate world and moved to the Sandhills, Wilson helped found, run and expand the largest production-builder cabinet company in the Triangle.

If someone wants to keep working after a career like that, he has the luxury of choosing whatever suits him best. Wilson enjoyed the field of custom cabinetry and was proud of his success, but being so innately personable, he wanted to work one-on-one with people. 

“I wanted to focus on working directly with the homeowner,” he says. “The cabinet business in Raleigh was focused exclusively on working with contractors. So, in 2009, we split the business into two pieces.” Wilson's “piece” was Artistic Kitchens & Baths, the success of which was measured as much in personal satisfaction as in profit.

“Our aim, which had a lot to do with my background and my wife Deborah's, was to deal with people individually. We want to not just give people a design, but give them good advice on the rest of their project. That can mean appliances, countertops, integrated lighting, and other things. And with Deborah having been a teacher and having dealt with people individually, it played to both our strengths.” 

Deborah's career had been in education, including as a professor of history at Sandhills Community College. There she developed an entire web-based Social Sciences distance learning program. After retiring, she studied cabinetry design through a program offered by Wood-Mode Custom Cabinetry, a company with a 75-year distinguished history. Today, Deborah does all the designing for Artistic Kitchens & Baths. 

“We believe that we've got the best made product in the industry with Wood-Mode,” Wilson says. “It's certainly ranked by the American Society of Interior Designers as the most desirable cabinetry product.” 

Spending time with John, it's clear he's passionate about what he does. He's quick to emphasize the importance he places on using American made products. “We guarantee our cabinetry is sourced from American forests and produced by American labor. But beyond that, what's important is that the cabinetry is right for the specific space and function.”

If you were looking to build a kitchen, for example, or to renovate your existing one, you would first sit down with the Wilsons and discuss your budget. “It tells us whether you're staying at a Motel 6 or the Ritz Carlton,” Wilson says. “With a general sense of budget, the process is much more efficient.”

The Wilsons would also advise you to bring photos—pictures of kitchens you may have seen that you like and, of course, your house plans. This helps them understand a little more about who you are, what your tastes are, and the specific parameters of your situation. Finally, you would want to understand some things of your own, including the factors that affect the overall quality of what you'll be buying. 

When asked about a memorable project, Wilson doesn't think about a special design or a unique combination of materials. He thinks about a situation where a couple wanted to remodel their kitchen.

“We had a firm deadline,” he recalls. “The couple's son was getting married and the new in-laws were coming to the house. Deborah and I monitored the construction of the cabinets, which were being built by a company in Kansas. But the week they were to be delivered there was a blizzard in the Midwest and everything got shut down.”

“We were faced with a dilemma. Should we go ahead and pull the old cabinets out? If we didn't, and the new cabinets arrived, we wouldn't have time to install them. If we did, and the new ones didn't make it, the kitchen would be a mess.”

“We decided to roll the dice. We tore out the kitchen. The cabinets made it through and we finished three hours before their guests arrived. Everybody was happy and smiled as if it had been planned that way.” 910-691-1666,

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