When Mike Dougherty tells one of his clients how long it will take to totally renovate a kitchen or give a bathroom an entirely new look, he can be fairly certain that his estimate will be correct. Unlike many of his competitors in the Lowcountry, he doesn’t have to be concerned about when subcontractors will be available to work on his projects. He relies instead on his in-house team to make sure the job is done right and finished on time.
The owner of Magnolia Kitchens & Baths in Mount Pleasant, Dougherty has complete control over the work he does for all his customers because his team is qualified to do everything necessary to renovate kitchens and bathrooms, from electrical and Sheetrock work to plumbing to painting to installing a wide range of flooring options and countertops—even hooking up appliances.
Dougherty learned—inherited might be a better description—his trade on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. A fourth-generation cabinetmaker and designer, he was garnering firsthand experience in the family business by the time he was 10 years old. Three years later, he was already adept at cutting, building and finishing cabinets, and he was the shop foreman at the age of 18.
More than two decades later his profession is the same, but the place he calls home has changed. After he traveled back and forth between the Northeast and the Charleston area for eight years, he and his wife decided they preferred the weather and lifestyle of the Lowcountry to that of the Northeast coast.
“We fell in love with Charleston and the surrounding area while we were vacationing here,” Dougherty says. “And we finally mustered up the courage to move here three years ago.”
Magnolia’s showroom, situated at one time in a warehouse in Mount Pleasant, is now located in The Shoppes at Seaside Farms, just off Rifle Range Road. In addition to upgrading the look of existing homes, the company’s handiwork can be found in new construction along the Carolina coast. When the local and national economies began to slide downhill in 2007, renovations became the bulk of Dougherty’s business, but he points out that Magnolia Kitchens & Baths is again a major player in the Lowcountry’s revitalized new-home market.
For Dougherty, each project starts with a detailed conversation with his clients, whether he’s bringing new functionality and a modern look to a kitchen or new life to a bathroom. First he meets with the homeowners to determine what they like and what they don’t like. After obtaining as much information as possible about his customers’ preferences, he puts his design skills and experience to work to decide how the finished product will look. He might have to move a wall or two, cut some windows or doors and possibly install a skylight to create the perfect kitchen. If the project calls for updating a bathroom, gutting the entire room and relocating the fixtures could be part of the plan.
“We do whatever we need to do to make it the kitchen or bathroom of their dreams,” he says. “We can do anything our customers want. I enjoy being creative, especially on the renovation side.”
Knowing how difficult it can be for a family to be without their kitchen or bathrooms for an extended period of time, Dougherty puts a premium on finishing his work as quickly as possible, without sacrificing the reputation for quality that has followed his company from the Northeastern United States to the Lowcountry.
Among the trends Dougherty has noticed in recent years is that many people now favor kitchens that are simple and functional and open into a great room “where the family can congregate and catch up.” Granite countertops are now popular, as are quartz and marble.
“But we’re capable of satisfying any taste—contemporary, formal, beach and casual,” he adds. “We can take care of the needs of our clients.”
Though he learned the trade as a young boy and is an accomplished cabinetmaker, Dougherty has noticed a trend away from custom and toward manufactured cabinets.
“It’s difficult to compete with the quality,” he points out. “They have baking machines that give you a smooth, durable, dust-free finish. Manufactured is now the way to go, when you consider quality and price.”
Did Mike Dougherty ever fathom breaking away from the family tradition and doing something else with his life besides building cabinets and renovating kitchens and bathrooms? Probably not.
“It’s what I know and what I enjoy,” he says. “I’m confident in my abilities, and I get a thrill out of the joy I feel when my customers see what their project looks like. I know it’s a big step for them.”