Interior Designer Etiquette re: Change in Cabinet Supplier

abby_224March 11, 2012

Background - we're building a new home. I'm brand new to the whole process and my in-laws, who've built a couple of houses, have been guiding me as we go along. Our architect designed a kitchen that I didn't like and in changing the layout on our own there were so many new decisions that had to be made which really overwhelmed me. (At the time I didn't realize a site like GardenWeb existed.) At that point I decided to bring in an interior designer to help me. Together we redesigned a much better layout and we're now at the point where she's helping us select all the materials.

Her first round of material selections included a laminate cabinet finish that I fell in love with, but it also came with a super high price tag (couldn't believe laminate cost this much). Not her fault since we didn't really have an idea of what the budget would be so she must've started at mid-level pricing. I asked her for a comparable finish at half the price which she found, but it wasn't quite the same. I looked around and found something very comparable to the original expensive cabinet AND it has better pricing. Now for my questions:

1.) Do I have to purchase the cabinet selections my interior designer suggested?

2.) I found another cabinet pattern I liked and it was cheaper based on a rough estimate - can I suggest this to her? What's protocol on how this should be handled with the interior designer in terms of cost? Should I have her negotiate a rate with the kitchen store and then she'll charge me her marked up price? I paid her a flat fee to come up with my revised drawings and then purchases from her include her markup.

3.) OR do I/can I just buy everything from her that she found for us, with the exception of the cabinets and buy directly myself?

I'm not sure how to handle the situation or how it all works. Any input would be very helpful. Thank you!!

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You seriously feel you have to buy something you don't like from a person you are PAYING to make SUGGESTIONS? I do not really care what "etiquette" says. Cabinets are something that is a once in a life time, if at all, decision. No way would I purchase something I am not in love with. If you chose well when bringing on a designer her interests should be totally focused on what you want. She should be happy to ensure you get exactly what you want no matter what it means for her bottom line. It is her job to see to it you get what you want.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 6:12AM
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The cabinet store may charge her less than they would charge you. So, let's say the cabinets are $10,000 for you, they may charge her 15% less since she is a designer. You would buy them from her, and pay the same %10,000 you would have paid, but she keeps the difference. Find out if the cabinet store offeres discounts to designers or contractors.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 11:06AM
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I guess I'm asking if I should involve the designer in the process of getting the set of cabinets I found. Or if I should work with them directly to avoid her upcharge.

@andreadeg - that's a great suggestion!!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 12:48PM
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What does your contract with her say about the payment process?

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 12:54PM
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Yes, the question is, does part of her fee involve markup? If she is not linked to a particular cabinet company, she should be able to order from whoever, and they may give her better pricing as a professional.

I would probably want to order through the designer simply because then it is her job to troubleshoot and make sure all the extras are ordered and deal with any issues. Just make sure the compensation on how this works is clear.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 2:47PM
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I would just tell the designer you found these cabinets which you love, or speak to you.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 3:25PM
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I'm contracted to pay her a retainer for the revised layout and materials selection. This is hourly where she provided her estimated hours upfront. She also charges her markup for any purchases.

Upon reviewing my notes I'm not obligated to purchase anything I'm not comfortable with. And technically I haven't voiced my hesitation with her 2nd option, so I haven't given her the opportunity to look again. How many times can you tell a designer you don't like something?

I guess I'm wondering now since I'm the one who found these new cabinets if I should still involve the designer in the process. I don't believe she's linked to a particular company since the first 2 cabinets were different brands. Palimpsest makes a good point that it's the designer's job to troubleshoot and make sure everything's in order which would be a huge help because my 'free time' is limited given a full-time job and family to take care of.

I'm going to call the cabinet company on Monday to find out if they work with designers/contractors. Hopefully it's a win-win for everyone.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 5:07PM
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