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Conversations with the Inspiring Jan Atkin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jan Atkin.

Jan, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My career story started later in life since I married young and raised my five children as a stay-at-home-mom. Not until my youngest was a teenager and I was in my forties did I become ready to start the journey into building a skill set I could bank on. I hoped to spend the second half of my life working in a field in which my life experience would be useful, but I had no idea what that was. Raising children, I knew a little about a lot. I hoped, like most people, to be able to make a real difference in people’s lives in some way.

Without a firm direction, I jumped into school. With the support of family and friends I finished a few years later with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Interior Design, magna cum laude, and a certificate in Kitchen and Bath Design. I loved many aspects of school but since I was a “non-traditional” student, I wanted more time working, which is what the applied science degree is all about.

My first job fresh out of school was designing kitchens and baths with a focus on cabinetry layout and design. This suited me really well. Designing cabinetry layout is a puzzle, whose parts are both physical and non-physical. Measurements, boxes, trim, moldings and inserts are the components, with parameters established through assessing the needs and desires of clients, and finally designing a custom kitchen/space just for them. I loved this so much I continue to do it today.

After going through a divorce and learning to navigate life on my own terms, I found it especially satisfying and stimulating to partner with women and men ready to create the kitchen they hoped for, dreamed about, and worked toward for many years, assisting them in making it happen “on their terms”. From personal experience, I knew well the frustration of muddling around in poorly designed kitchens. I discovered my talent and passion for zero-ing in on the specific needs and wants of people ready to improve their daily experience with food preparation. When you think about it, the kitchen as a whole is the most used “tool” we own, and having it designed well and suited to the needs of the cook(s) and the family using it is a life-changer!

I continue to learn more every day about the intricacies of kitchen design. I have attended KBIS (Kitchen and Bath Industry Show) every year but two; the NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association) is a big part of my learning experience and also gives me the opportunity of mingling with others in the business of home design; I have flown or driven to many cabinetry manufacturing facilities to tour and get training; and I have worked with some of the best in the business – which brings me to my current business partner (and life partner – we are engaged!), Roger Hubert, the “R” in R & J Cabinetry. We opened our own showroom last February. Both of us have been at this a long time now; I’m in my 7th year, and Roger has been “the cabinet guy” for close to 42! We work together well and our complimentary talents have formed a great partnership. Every day brings the gamut of the cabinetry experience, and that’s just what we want.

Has it been a smooth road?
I have not had an easy life, but I have not had a hard life, either. I battled depression for many years, not knowing what it was. I felt overwhelmed with the basics and often wondered what was wrong with me, adding my own judgment to the weight I felt. It wasn’t until I realized I had not been living well but hoping others would make it better for me, that I began to take the action that propelled me forward and out of the eddy of depression. It was extremely scary; even terrifying. I had high anxiety through much of my college classes, feeling anything less than an “A” was unacceptable. I know now that grades and any other outcome of effort are good to look at and acknowledge, but then, just keep moving. The “keeping moving” part is the lesson that counts. Every path has its disappointments, pitfalls, and dead-ends, but don’t let that stop you for long; locate the alternate route and keep moving.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into R & J Cabinetry story. Tell us more about the business.
The creativity involved, the excitement women exude when we collaborate to design their kitchens, getting out to measure, and having a beginning, middle and end to each project, are the best parts.
I walk onto larger job sites to measure an 8-plex for cabinets; my tools are tape measure, carpenter pencil and pad of graph paper. I pull out my tape measure, squat on the floor, brush it clean of framing sawdust, mark out the cabinetry, and write my notes. It is apparent the men doing electrical, etc. are surprised. A woman providing cabinets is still unusual. But I relish the role I have taken on; of putting thought and personal experience into what I refer to as the “end-user”, the cook – who is generally a woman. The cabinetry niche has given me an opportunity to use my passion around helping women in a way I hadn’t anticipated when I first started; namely, putting thought into and advocating for more usable kitchens, even in the smallest spaces; or I should say especially in the smallest spaces. And with homeowners, nothing gives me more pleasure than making sure a woman has her say about the kitchen design. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of men cooks also, and they are delightful to work with in creating their new kitchen, as well. But I get personal pleasure from seeing a woman’s eyes light up at the thought of smoothly-operating, quiet and stable cutlery drawers; of neat and handy storage spaces for the unruliest of cooking utensils; and drawers large enough to contain soup pots and frying pans set within easy reach of the range! Not to mention the soul-pleasing beauty of fresh, gleaming, brand-spanking-new cabinetry!

For good reason, society often focuses more on the problems rather than the opportunities that exist, because the problems need to be solved. However, we’d probably also benefit from looking for and recognizing the opportunities that women are better positioned to capitalize on. Have you discovered such opportunities?
Our position as a workplace minority has given us deep empathy for others and also a fierce determination to make things better for ourselves, our daughters and granddaughters – and they are better – but we can’t slow down until they are all the way better. We need to continue to encourage each other; we are smarter than we know, stronger than we feel, and kinder than our experiences. We can do anything, but not everything. Choose for yourself and do it on your terms.

Pricing:

  • $3,000-$70,000

Contact Info:

  • Address: R & J Cabinetry
    11373 Colorado Blvd.
    Thornton, CO 80233
  • Website: randjcabinetry.com
  • Phone: 7207689604
  • Email: jan@randjcabinetry.com

Image Credit:
Roger Hubert

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