Of the prospects who visit Cook-Dahl's showroom, between 80% and 90% go on to remodel with the 30-year-old company, of Brockport, N.Y. What's unusual is that the showroom is a working kitchen in owner George Dahl's home, and prospects visit by appointment only, after Dahl has already pre-screened them in their own homes.

“We're a small company and do just six or seven kitchens a year, and all are custom,” says Dahl, who is also a long-time underwriter of the TV program This Old House. He couldn't justify the expense of a commercial showroom, so he used to take potential clients to see kitchens he had remodeled for past clients. Then the confluence of two factors led him to turn his own kitchen into a high-end showcase: his youngest daughter's wedding, which she wanted to have at home, and the fact that Cook-Dahl's office and workshop were already located in his 1835 brick farmhouse.

The kitchen has a period feel while featuring an appetite-whetting mix of modern amenities. For instance, the five counter materials include marble for the baking center, butcher block for the island, and custom concrete in the clean-up area. The 36-inch Sub-Zero refrigerator is framed with oak and has brass hardware. The ceramic tile floor has electric radiant heat; the wall-mounted pot filler is finished in oil-rubbed bronze; and the cabinets were built on site.

So not only can prospects see the workmanship up close, but they can tour the workshop, enjoy fresh-baked pie in the kitchen, and then move into the office, where Dahl unveils ideas for their kitchen. “Usually by that time they're confident that they're going to go with us,” he says.