Envisioning your kitchen

KentWhittenMarch 26, 2013

So, I have a question for you all.

I don't want to break any advertising rules, so I want to be as vague about my custom cabinet business as possible.

I see many of you posting about "My kitchen didn't turn out quite like I expected it to. It doesn't look like I envisioned it" etc.

Most of you who have gone through this process of a kitchen remodel, I assume went to one of the big box stores or a kitchen designer and commissioned them to at least draw up a design and give an estimate or quote.

Is this where you feel the communication lapses on the transferring of the vision of your kitchen? Meaning, does the designer give you a 3d black and white perspective and call it good? Any better? Any worse?

The reason I am asking is that I have always felt that a great, photo realistic rendering would sell itself over a competitor. If you, as the consumer, went to two different places to talk with a cabinet maker or kitchen designer, and one comes to you with a nice photo realistic picture of your future kitchen and the other brought a stale B&W perspective, would that not sway you to go in the direction of the photo realistic person as long as the pricing was similar?

On the flip side of this is the time it takes me to produce the photo realistic rendering. I would have to know on my end if it was worth it to take that extra time to produce this for you. What would you be able to say to me that reassures me that you would be serious about business? It is difficult on my end to make that kind of decision without some form of commitment.

Some clients I talk with, there is no question...they are ready now. Some are on the fence, they are unsure.

So my question is, does a photo realistic photo of your future kitchen make you decide right then and there, or at the least make you seriously consider?

For an example, this photo I attached is a rendering I did for a client in a commercial setting (A restaurant/bar) they wanted a curved seating area. The photo itself sold the project.

This is to get an idea of what I mean by photo realistic. And yes, be assured, that is a rendered model, not a photo of an existing place. It takes me about two hours to do something like this in addition to the design.

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While that is a gorgeous rendering, for me personally it wouldn't make or break a deal. I have good spatial abilities, so I am a lot more interested in detailed schematics of each wall, showing dimensions on doors, drawers, heights, etc.

My cabinetmaker did give me black and white perspectives, as well as schematics as I described. His drawings were exactly what I envisioned, and over the next few weeks, he and I sat down together a couple of times to tweak things, as I made minor changes and took measurements of things going in specific places. Finally, before I signed the contract, we went through the drawings one last time, to make sure his notes matched mine, and to talk about exactly how things would look and function. We didn't look at the perspectives at all.

I think that the time we spent together, either in my house or his office, was far more valuable than any extra time he would have spent making pretty pictures - but that's just me. I knew exactly what I wanted, I was able to convey that to the builder. He was able to assure me that we were seeing the same thing, by describing things, showing me examples in his showroom, and making sketches, if necessary.

That said, I recognize that not everyone can picture things from 2D drawings, or even quick 3D perspectives, so the increased level of detail might be important. And you have no way of knowing right away which camp a customer falls into.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 12:23PM
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That's the kind of service that could help people like me, actually. It all looks great in my head. History has proven I don't have good spatial relations and how things look in reality can differ considerably from how I envision it. This even happens with buying simple pieces of furniture.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 12:49PM
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I think that a rendering like that would make all the difference. After time spent here reading and helping with layout threads, etc., I can NOW easily convert a 2D layout to 3D in my head. However, that was not the case before those hours were spent.

We have been DIYing our kitchen at a snail's pace over the last three years, and I have certainly made aesthetic mistakes in my kitchen (window width, cabinetry sizes/proportion) before I knew any better that it is now too late to change. DH is building our cabinets himself, but I would have loved to have been able to buy a design from you.

For the average person who would hire you for design + cabinets, I would be sure to show them a sample rendering (from a different project) and play up the fact that it's very hard to convert 2D to 3D in your head, proportions, etc, and this rendering will make sure they get the most visually pleasing space possible. That might send you into draft after draft in renderings though, which I'm not sure you want to do.

Finally.. be sure to get a contract and fee before handing over the renderings so you have something for your time in case they shop it around. The fee can be applied against cabinetry, if/when they move forward with you.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 12:50PM
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That is just amazing! I wouldn't expect to get anything like that for free as part of a quote or proposal. You could always have samples of other projects for clients to see, and offer the rendering service for a design fee. You could even subcontract to others (such as local builders) to deliver these quality renderings.

What I've found most useful envisioning a new kitchen are the programs that allow you to look around or walk around the design. Those really help to get a sense what it would be like to stand at an island location or to sit at a stool location. That has helped me see where appliances look better and worse from a standing and sitting prespective.

Sounds as if you take your work seriously and professionally, and I hope you do very well with these renderings.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 1:12PM
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I would love something like this, especially when drastically changing colors. In my case I am changing a white laminate countertop to a dark granite, and new oak cabinets will be a little darker brown finish, possibly white subway B/S. In my mind I THINK I can envision this, but who knows what the finished product will look like...

I would definately make a charge for the service/time spent on doing something like this.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 1:19PM
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I agree with ogrose. I can carry the spatial ideas in my head but not the colour or texture in my head. If I had been shown a true colour rendering of my kitchen rather than a board of samples I would have know how devoid of colour my kitchen actually is. A kitchen of neutral doesn't cut it for me and I would have understood that with a photo such as you have suggested.

I think this kind of effort would have to be part of the process and certainly have a fee attached to it. Once you have the basic template such as above is it then easier to make minor modifications to it to show a client how a change would affect the entire look?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 2:00PM
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The bottom line is, all things being equal as far as price, would I go with you because of the rendering?
The best kitchen remodel experience I had was actually going into homes of satisfied customers. This was a local small kitchen remodeling company. I actually copied a kitchen, although mine was smaller. I knew exactly what I was getting. So, a realistic rendering for me would be amazing.
As suggested above, if you are charging for this service, you will have nothing to lose and everything to gain if it tips the scale in your favor.
Better still, if you have a friend who you have provided this service and is willing to show off your work, that would assure me that yes this picture will produce this result.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 2:54PM
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If you could have a portfolio matching a rendering with a photo of the finished project - wouldn't that be cool?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 2:58PM
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I am going to be doing over my very small kitchen and I personally would love to see it as you have shown. I also am not very good in visualizing and this would be very helpful. To be able to see it in almost real life like this would be great - different woods, colors granites etc and would definitely be helpful to me. I love watching Property Brothers on HGTV - they also show a visual like this and I find it really amazing!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 3:25PM
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Would be a selling point. DH is good with elevations and spatial relations, I'm good with color, but blending our two visions in words that the other can understand is hard; throw in proportion and light and it's difficult for us to talk through what a finished project will actually look like.

Having said that, the tipping point for me with any professional is my perception of their competence/talent/"rightness" for my project, and our mutual ability to communicate. A photo-realistic picture would be a minor "plus" in the positive/negative column but not enough to sway a decision in favor.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 3:26PM
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Thank you all for the responses. It is always a catch 22 with the renderings. On my end, it seems that sometimes I get caught in the trap of someone wanting to tweak things just a little more ...."can you make that counter a little more mauve?" ...and it is a forever back and forth with much time invested and little gained.

I knew that some people can absolutely see it before hand, so it doesn't affect anything. I can see every detail in my head as we are talking about it, but relaying that verbally is never 100%. I guess it would behoove me more on my end to promote the rendering service. I have already offered this question to others in my field, i.e., contractors and it is a no go surprisingly. Probably since most are like me and can envision it in their heads.

I don't know anyone that does this, and was figuring that there was a good reason. It would probably add $500-$1000 per project, depending on how many renders the client would want. The rendering takes time. It takes another 2-4 hours above the design time to compute everything. Not to mention the software, the training and any type of redraw. That is a huge deal.

If it can be nailed on the first render, great. There have been some clients that it goes back and forth a dozen times before any final decision is made.

I also wonder if there is any reason to do a side by side comparison of "this is rendered....this is real" since the render would look realistic and a viewer would be looking and be confused. I'm not sure many "out there" even realize the service is available. I am certain it is not at any big box stores. Or kitchen design centers. They all usually use 2020. I have a completely different software setup that accommodates me, and as you can see, it has some serious benefits to it.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 3:26PM
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Nice work! I think it would help a lot of people. My advice...give them one rendering for free (or one of each area you're showing them) and charge them for any additional changes. 'More mauve' would mean more money :)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 3:31PM
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I would love a photo rendering of my kitchen before remodeling. That said, I think it would be poor policy not to cover your costs. I think it would be reasonable to show a client their kitchen design then, offer them this additional service. Have a few examples to show off, maybe the typical L, U galley configerations. If they have to pay for the rendering, and any changes to it, they are more likely to take it seriously. Myself, I would pay for a "photo" of my kitchen once I had all the details determined. But I wouldn't use the "photo" to plan the kitchen. I have no doubt my very frugal husband would pay for your kitchen photo if it would ensure I didn't have regrets he would hear about forever. You should definatly use this skill to market yourself.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 4:05PM
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Nice renderings. Thea?

We use decent color renderings to help clients. I no longer use them to "Sell" a job. Prefer to wait till we have a layout and use them to help them compare choices.
I do find it necessary to be emphatic disclaiming color accuracy (even with IPS monitors as you know) and making sure that they are looking at actual samples AT THE SAME TIME. And then take them home and see them in context with their lighting.

We do this as normal part of day to day service on any job, even if it were one that is competitive with the box store.

The renderings are soso in comparison to what you have. I find that offering multiple versions tends to be more useful to the client than absolute photorealism. (Attached)

I have Thea but use it so rarely so not good with it, stick with Raytrace in Chief Architect. I know half a dozen KD's who do decent color around here and you will be seeing more. ProKitchen has made good renderings more accessible to designers, I'm looking at adding it to our list.

Below are variation on counters and floor, as I said soso. The slabs are from actual current photos (Hawaii, verde peacock, and ayers rock), the furniture through the doorway is an actual photo of the clients home. For this job we also had several renderings with the clients yard in the windows as it was important. Not the best ones I've done but representative of what I'm willing to include.

BTW, I also know a few KD's who answer the phone Sunday night :)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 4:25PM
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Hey Kent, I agree w/Steph2000. A rendering of what my kitchen would actually look like would expedite my project.
I have been trying to work out a plan on graphpaper for over 2yrs. I just can't visualize it! !! I have read just about every post on GW longer than that.

If you are in CA, PLEASE email me!!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 6:07PM
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No, it is VRay, but have you checked the thea website lately? Has been down a very long time. CA is also very good at designs.

Those are decent renders. Puts the point across well.

I am glad to hear others answer their phone. A little surprised, but not shocked. I am glad I am not alone.

Yes, the color issue is really a big issue. Lighting is the biggest culprit. I do also agree on the disclaimer and feel the necessity is there for actual samples in hand before going on.

I think that it is necessary for us to do our due diligence as cabinet makers and be more than thorough. Any side of the business transaction that is unhappy is never a win-win situation.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 6:10PM
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Sorry, I am not in CA, I live in southern Maine. I know a few really good cabinet makers out there, but I don't believe they have "great" rendering capabilities. They use cabinet vision or sketchup for their presentations.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 6:15PM
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I would have to say that based on the show on HGTV where the 2 brothers show customers the dumpy before properties, and then convince them to buy them to remodel --the show is Property Brothers--that the rendering, hands down, is what makes the homeowners believe it is possible.

I would also have to say as someone who works in a field with a business pipeline process of design/quote/revise/approve/order, that you run some risk. Risk of not covering your additional costs with the many iterations that choosy potential customers will ask you to do. Then there is business risk in potential clients using you to get the free ideas, and then price shopping you on "product". And of course there are the "just lookers" who will waste your time because what you do is interesting to them, and then not really be qualified or have the budget to do the scope of project that they "say" they want to see. I'm sure if you have been in business a while this is nothing new to you.

So the business question is if the additional time/money to do this increase profitability. More jobs sold, jobs with fewer changes during the job, more satisfied customers with better recommendations and word of mouth referrals for you.

Will your firm make more money doing fewer designs that have a higher potential close rate?

I will say that it is likely that this technology will become prolific, and you would be well positioned to be on the cutting edge. It helps position your company as innovative.

And the afterglow of selecting your design, and having the new kitchen Mommy and Daddy showing everyone their kitchen Sonogram would be a great selling point. I suggest putting a QR code and weblink on each page so that their friends can find you.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 9:49PM
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No haven't checked but did get newsletter not long ago. Had kyrathea and grabbed Thea when it was a deal. Don't use it much. Some are switching to Lumion, seen talk of Optimus.
I find the lighting to be so differant from one prog to another, makes the learning curve worse.

Go-figure there are folks who specialize in renderings. A web search will bring some up. 3D diva is one. Fun to just see.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 9:53PM
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This is amazing. I have terrible spatial reasoning abilities and would love something like this. Know anyone in Houston? :)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 10:27PM
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No, unfortunately I don't know anyone in Houston. I am just going by what I have heard, but Texas seems to be an area that is down and dirty inexpensive and high end custom cabinet makers are few and far between.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 12:47PM
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Two people who do high end renderings. Only know them from another forum. No idea of price or what you need to supply to get them done.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 3:49PM
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I would think in a high end market this would be quite valuable, but I wonder at throwing it in before the buyer is committed to you. I think that I would offer it as something they will get when the contract is signed and the planning is fairly firm. (of course if it is high enough end then it makes more sense to have it as part of the initial package since it will pay off in the end with happy customers and more referrals)

For someone in my budget range, oh yes I would love to see this because visualizing, even imagining changes is very difficult for me but I also would not want to see myself getting you to put in those extra hours while I am stringently budget shopping. I am sure that there are plenty of people who would take advantage of you here.

I had two contacts where I was very upfront about my budget limits, but the designers wanted to persist, and came back to me with a quote double what I told them I was in the market for. Those guys I didn't feel bad about their wasted time; they wasted my time too.

I thought of your offering this as a stand alone service, but I bet that contractors in general don't want to go to the expense since the usual plans are "good enough"; you would have to sell it directly to the homeowner somehow.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 4:39PM
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I've been using an old BH&G program to help design our retirement house and the ability to use the camera view has been essential for me. You're offering a much better option but having any sort of mock-up to envision is well worth the money, in my opinion. (my program doesn't make island overhangs an option--so we have to imagine them)

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 8:02AM
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I really think something like this is so valuable, it could be marketed as a separate service. And, marketed on the internet for a huge clientele.

If I had the ability to have someone design with me, using my dimensions/blueprints, over the net to play with layout options but perhaps even more importantly, material choices and color schemes, I would hire. I would be prepared to pay for each rendering - or a package of 3 different looks or something like that.

Right now I am wrestling back and forth trying to picture my kitchen with a 2-tone look, walnut, white, various backsplashes and floors that might work with these various choices, tiles I love, etc. It's making my head spin. And, while I am impressed with what is out there now with these free 3D software programs like Lowes and IKEA offers - or like mizmcd is showing above through BHG - they are very limited in terms of material and even cabinet colors they will show in the renderings. They help out a lot in envisioning basic layouts in my space, but not so much as I move to material and color choices.

A few months ago I came across a group that is basically using outsourcing/crowdsourcing of designers. It's called arcbazar. People can submit their project to the group, ranging from a kitchen project to an entire house remodel to an addition or new build. They offer a financial prize for the winning design. Architects and designers from all over can then can enter the competition, with entries which have the visual appeal of your rendering above. Whoever the owner picks, wins the moola. They have a FB page announcing the current 'contests' or whatever you want to call them. It's an interesting project and one that appeals to me for exactly the same reason your service does - I would love to be able to really see what various choices would look like before biting the bullet.

It all looks great in my head, but I have learned not to trust that.

Here is a link that might be useful: Arcbazar

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 11:56AM
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Kent, you are probably right about Texas in general, but Dallas and Houston aren't necessarily that way. We have very high end homes here (not mine! But River Oaks in Houston is one of the country's priciest zip codes) and the businesses to support that market. I've met/seen the work of a couple of carpenters that do beautiful work, but I have to tell them what I want, I can't seem to make up my mind, and buying just a design from someone has proven difficult.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 9:13AM
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