How much for a kitchen designer?

joannacaDecember 17, 2009

We already paid an architect to design our kitchen, bedrooms and bath, so I'm loathe to pay yet another designer, but I may need some help making decisions about cabinets. I very much want to stay true to the mid-century modern style of the house and I'm feeling overwhelmed and time is short. Can anyone tell me how much a KD charges... just an idea? I don't want to even call if it's going to run into the thousands, like the architect did.


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I'd like to know too. We have a Home Interior Design shop that just opened up down the street from us. For now though, I just want someone to help me with my Dining room window treatment choice. I know it sounds small and I'm afraid they're going to roll their eyes at me! Lol!

But I'm just curious how they would go about helping you figure out what you want. At first I was thinking plantation shutters, now I want silk drapes. I told my DD what I wanted to do and she just laughed and told me she was going to tell Dad on me. Sheesh!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 3:54PM
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The place I bought my tile from is owned by a design school graduate, and she has one other employee who is a designer.

There design as it relates to the colors and especially the til are free.

I don't know how a much a full kitchen designer would cost, but I'll tell you how the design process went for me with the girls at the tile store.

The first question is what style you like. Then they ask what color, then they start to pull together samples. At that point you say you like it or hate it for each element.

It seems that their job is to help you find what you like when you have no idea how.

I insisted that they be honest with me if I suggested something that was ugly.

I would imagine a kitchen designer would work in a similar way.

A kitchen is so expensive and you have to live with it for so long that I would think a good designer is worth some money.

I didn't hire one, but the girls at the tile shop gave me lots of helpful advice. I couldn't have done it without their help.

That's my 2 cents, I'd love to hear what people who have used a designer have to say.


    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 5:14PM
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I did not hire a kitchen designer, but I recently checked into an Interior Designer for my DR. (Maybe this doesn't compare?) Did not end up going with one because the cost was too high. I talked to several and their time was about $125 an hour and they all estimated they would spend about 8 hours on the job, so $1000.

That wasn't the problem though, really. I wanted someone to shop for a rug and have drapes made and cover chairs and figure out a wainscoting. I have trouble trying to coordinate things. My problem was that they gave me costs like $500 each for window treatments, for example. I knew I could do that for less. Everything they would buy was WAY more than I had figured on spending. So it wasn't just their time, it was the overall budget for every item getting kicked up.

I would have liked a little pro help, but I guess I'm too much of a comparison shopper for that yet. Maybe if I win the lottery... :)

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 10:36PM
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We have an Architect and Interior Designer for our project, entire house remodel and addition. We had not always planned on hiring the ID but decided to after the project grew. We originally interviewed KDs, I forget the price but I think $5-$10k. However, we are having our ID do the kitchen design and she is $160/hr, which seemed to be the average rate in our area, we interviewed 4 one was crazy at $225, but the rest were in the $150-$170 range.I think the KDs are probably in that range too.

Hope that helps!!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 10:55PM
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An architect designed your kitchen...Architects are great for structural and architectural details. However, many architects, unless they have a real KD on staff, do not truly understand how to design a functional kitchen. We have had several architect-designed kitchens here that had major problems. Yes, there are some exceptions, but they're just that...exceptions.

I recommend you find a good KD (not just a cabinet salesperson). S/he will be able to look at your design and help you make it truly functional for you and your family as well as aesthetically pleasing. Real KDs are trained in good kitchen design, workflow, etc. and can see problems that the average person doesn't until it's too late...

If you decide not to hire a good KD to "tweak" your design, may I suggest you post the layout here? There are several people here who will analyze your layout and give you an honest critique as well as propose ways to fix any issues you may have.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 12:13AM
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If you utilize a kitchen designer at a cabinet retailer, the design fee is generally built in to the price of the cabients. You have to go to a place who sells a cabinet you like, obviously, and you don't generally get a copy of the design unless you purchase the cabinets from them. When I have utilized this type of service, I have gone in with a design (say, whatever your architect came up with) and go from there.

Biochem, with regards to window treatments and the like--I haven't had a first time client yet that wasn't put off buy the cost of window treatments or reupholstery. But anyone I have been able to get to make an investment in either has not regretted it.

One client I paid for the bedroom windows myself and am working it off in barter (training sessions at gym). He is so happy to have something that functions and looks good --as opposed to the THREE sets of "budget" options he had tried and ended up on the basement floor-- that we are doing the whole house, window by window. And I have seen more than one nice room posted in here diminished by bedraggled cheap looking or poorly fitting window treatments-- JMO.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 9:46AM
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I offer one hourly "brainstorming session" free of charge to see if the customer and I click. No diagrams or cabinet placement or other design work is done. We just look over the customer supplied floor plan to spot potential trouble spots, bottlenecks, and other functionality issues. Then we move along to aesthetics and what the customer wants to see visually in her kitchen. At the end of the hour I'll usually have enough information from the customer to see if they are being realistic about their ideas and budget for the space and I'll show them a few cabinetry options that will work for what they want. If they want to proceed to design phase, then I require a deposit (varies with scope of project) and an actual physical measure of the space under consideration. (Building plans have been known to change drastically from blueprint to reality.) That deposit will be taken off the cabinet order when the client orders, but they do not receive or own any designs until the order is placed. If the client decides to not use my designs, she is free to go elsewhere, but my designs stay with me and I keep the deposit.

I've had several potential clients with "archtect's kitchens" and "architect's estimates" who didn't end up wanting to use my services--to their regret. Not only did the architect's plan an unusable kitchen, they also greatly underestimated the budgets for these kitchens. I ended up with one client after the builder had his "cabinet guy" install site built cabinets that were falling apart in a year's time. She had come to me originally, but when we talked budget, she balked. Unortunately, she got what she paid for. When we did the kitchen the second time, so many things were literally set in stone (concrete slab) that it was expensive to correct. But, she can now open her DW while standing at the sink, and put the dishes away without a hike around the room.

Your plan may not need any tweaking. It could be one of those exception to the rules. But, it costs nothing to post a copy of it here and have it tweaked.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 10:17AM
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I used a certified KD I found on the nbka website (National Kitchen & Bath Association). He was affiliated with a cabinet store but sold several different lines, so we weren't tied in to one type of cabinets. There was no cost above the cabinets and his design was so thoughtful and maximized the usable amount of cabinet space in our small kitchen. One of my favorite touches was that he left room above the fridge for us to get a larger fridge in the future. On the other hand, we made all other decisions on our own (i.e. colors, type of counter, etc.) so if you're looking for more guidance, maybe you want the other type of designer that you pay hourly.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 10:23AM
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I posted my kitchen here a couple weeks ago and feedback was all over the board... everything from total overhaul to minor tweaks. So, I walked away as confused as ever. The only thing I have changed so far is I removed the desk from the plan completely. It was creating too many headaches, and I found some nifty ideas for accommodating my laptop in another thread. I actually think the kitchen the architect designed is very functional, considering we won't be moving walls. After some comments here I went back to him and he assured me there is plenty of room between the fridge and d/w and the peninsula and the cooking area. Although he did shave off a corner of the peninsula for me, he felt curving or rounding it would compromise the style of the house, which is all straight lines.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 11:25AM
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I didnt contribute to the original thread about this kitchen; I agree that whatever you do has to remain true to the spirit of the house.

What is all the counterspace to the north of the range going to be used for? Its really out of the triangle or work zone of the kitchen. I think this could end up being "desk" because you will end up doing all your work to the south of the ovens and range.

I know someone who has a HUGE MCM rambler and the kitchen must be 30 feet long or more, and it has this situation, with a good ten feet of counterspace outside the typical work zone and it doesnt get used for Anything at all--all the work gets done in a tighter area of the kitchen.

If the lower end of the plan works for you and keeps the spirit of the house, thats ok, but I think you should do something specific with the real estate to the north of the range. But right now it looks to me as if the work triangle is "outside" the "natural" kitchen, like it wants to be above the peninsula and not below.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 12:02PM
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Here are my thoughts - I paid a very low/hourly flat fee to both and architect and a different KD that typically works with very high-end lines. I agree the $100-$150/hr is about right. Architect gave us verbal ideas and concepts, which we put to paper and our contractor built. Then the KD helped w/ developing and fine-tuning layout. The great thing w/ a general layout (like you have already) is that you can email it and start to get bids.

For me - after I got my KD design/layout, I went around to cabinetry places that gave you a free "verbal" consultation - my thinking here was to: get some ideas for free, price out a few cabinet lines or general budget, and see if that type of operation made sense for us.
* Most high-end places (I'm in DC) won't even start designing unless you pay a deposit. Which irked me b/c I didn't know if they were worth the premium based upon the initial meeting. Some kitchen places give you the design for a relatively reasonable fee - seek out those.
* Then, since I live in the DC area -- I found cabinetry dealers in rural Maryland and more rural Virginia that were established. They put the designs together, had discussions w/ me, and tweaked them - all at no cost.
* Now I'm at the stage of final validation (via GW posting) and then final pricing, then order.

I specifically wanted someone who would come to my home, look at the space, understand the flow, and our personalities. You can't do that at a desk in a showroom. It was worth it to get us going. That said, paying more or going w/ a full-service operation would probably get us a better final solution and take less time for me... we just couldn't afford it.

I do now believe in paying for some guidance - I'm soon going to be a believer in outsourcing a lot more. This process is painful! Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 12:25PM
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Where you see the 'erased' line above is where the original desk was. But I got a few comments that my elbow room might be comprised in a corner, and the chair might interfere with opening lower cabinets/drawers, and I didn't have enough counter space next to the stove. So we swapped it with the pantry. But that meant the pantry would have hard-to-reach deep corners and the desk would be visible from the front door. So we swapped the desk with the oven, but that ate into some of my pantry. So you can see why I eventually scrapped the desk completely.

I do see now that the area north of the stove looks like a lot of unused space. Not sure what to think, because with the desk there, it appeared crowded.

I like where he has the sink and fridge for the easy access from the dining room and the backyard (where the pool will be).

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 1:38PM
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How is the desk going to be used?

Yes, the chair will overlap some of the opening space of the drawers across the 90-degree angle; no you won't have the elbow room of a 5 foot straight desk because its in a corner. A desk chair can be moved; the drawers can be used to hold things you don't need immediate access to for cooking. Is someone going to be working at the desk when you are intensely cooking?

I think you got talked out of something because it isn't perfect, so now there is nothing there (except potentially wasted space).

The 6 footish kitchen desk in the house I grew up in now contains the microwave, the TV and the phone. Sometimes the microwave is being used when someone is sitting at the phone, and the TV is always on. Guess what? There is still room for it to function in all three capacities at once. If you need to get something out of the microwave while someone is using the desk you say "excuse me, its hot" and go for it. One of the problems with lots of advice from lots of strangers is that they will be shooting for perfection. The parameters of your house already exist. Its not a new build and its not just paper. Go ahead and accept the limits. (Less elbow room? Move a chair? Not such a big deal.)

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 3:41PM
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It is getting all-consuming at this point. And I still have a master bathroom to worry about! The desk is for me, and only me. However, wherever I put a computer, my kids will magically appear. It's just life. I maintain all the household finances so I need a workspace for that, and preferably a file drawer. The way the desk was in the corner, there was no room for a file drawer, so I started to wonder what was the point. I've always had a desk in the kitchen but it does become a gathering place for mail, clutter, and children! Maybe I could do without it?

In another thread here, someone's KD (natch!) came up with a neat idea of putting a file drawer and cabinet for the printer at the end of the peninsula and using the counter space there for a laptop. So that's when I cut out the desk.

*sigh* I finally called and left a message with a KD just to ask what she would charge to go over my plans. She hasn't called back yet.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 4:25PM
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Mine charged $125/hour and that did not get deducted from cabinets if I purchased through her firm. I did however get detailed drawings including cabinets, electrical, etc. that were mine to keep upon payment of the design fee. I did end up getting cabinets through the KD because she was fantastic and I wanted to be able to work with her throughout the project. Once I signed on for the cabinets I got a lot of other interior design type advice at no charge - advice on all of my appliance selections, counter materials, flooring, backsplash, lighting - even lighting changes in my dining room, porch and my counter stool selection. It was invaluable and the best $$ I've spent.

I'm still enjoying the benefits of working with her - almost five years later. Her partner was out this week to do some adjustments of a trash pullout that was kind of catching and also to repair a recycling pullout that was separating a bit in one corner. This was at no charge.

Now I'm trying to convince myself to spend the money to get her professional guidance on my little 7 x 7.5 foot bathroom. It seems so small but there is a lot that could go wrong in there. I'm sure the benefit of her many years of experience was a big part of the reason our kitchen project was completely problem free.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 4:29PM
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Mine also charged $125/hour. She came up with three different scale drawings, and we chose one. It took her about 11 hours to do that, but because we ended up hiring her as project manager, she only charged for three hours. She would have charged for the whole 11 hours if we just wanted the plans.

She also did the shopping for the cabinets, counters, floors, backsplash, fixtures for a small bathroom, and pretty well everything else. As an ID she got discounts on products and we never discussed it, but I'm guessing she kept those discounts, which is how she got paid for all that shopping she did for me.
I paid $125/day for her as the project manager, and it was worth every single penny. She handled the GC and all the subs, made sure everyone was here on time, and she had them redo things that I didn't even know were wrong!

Considering I like things to be nice, but don't have the foggiest notion of how to accomplish this, it was the best money I ever spent.

It seemed extravagant, but I spent a lot of hard earned money on the kitchen, and for the sake of a few thousand dollars, I didn't want to be penny wise and pound foolish.
I know my own design limitations!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 6:04PM
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I'm the one from your first post who originally freaked on your new design because it reminded me of my old kitchen.

Despite having two architects for neighbors (including one who designs kitchens for his firm) and I ended up using a certified KD. Mine charged a fee based on the kitchen budget for a design you could take elsewhere (along the lines of 10%) and no charge for cabinets through her. Originally we had a cabinet maker lined up but we ended up using her cabinets and we are thrilled beyond belief with the results.

If you are pressed for time, perhaps you could find someone like my designer who always came on site for meetings, brought the samples with her and really helped to move the project along. She had a sterling reputation with all of the trade people who were famililar with her designs (good, detail oriented planning makes everyone's life easier) so maybe you could get a name thru that route.

Your kids will be in middle school soon and their homework needs are going to change dramatically. You might want to consider their future situation as well as your need to manage finances when considering a new layout.

Don't worry - eventually it will all work out - good luck!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 12:51PM
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I don't remember the details of the original thread, but I suspect a couple of things may have happened...

(1) Without actual measurements, it's difficult to give good advice and

(2) Did you specify certain things couldn't change? Often, if someone says certain things cannot change, you'll get two sets of advice...those that stick to the constraints (probably the ones who advised only minor tweaks) and those who, while they respect your constraints, may also think more needs to be done to fix it (the ones who probably advised more extensive changes.) Like I said, I don't remember the details...

The other issue is the windows...while they are nice, their locations and size do limit what you can do on that wall.

OK...what you have right now... There is a lot of counterspace where it will not be the right of/above the range. Actually, the entire inside area will probably only be used when baking...but even then, it will be a pain b/c there's no water source nearby. The primary Prep Zone should be b/w the range (Cooking Zone) and a water source...or at least very near the range & water. In your case, this means the space b/w the Main/Cleanup sink (only sink) and the range...approx 36"? The refrigerator should be near both Prep Zone & Cooking Zone as well as somewhat near the Cleanup Zone (where the Cleanup sink is). The range, right now, is right in the main path into the kitchen from the DR and, possibly, the LR and at the narrowest point...b/w the peninsula and wall cabinet/counter run. It's dangerous there b/c that's where people will be trying to pass by while someone is trying to stand at the range to cook or making their way to the sink to empty a pot of boiling water.

Of all appliances & work zones, the range & Cooking Zone should be the most protected. Personally, I would move the range much further into the protected area...but with the window taking up most of the wall space that can be problematical.

Do you have detailed measurements? That would help immensely! (Widths of walls, windows, doorways, openings and the distances b/w those walls/windows/doorways/openings.)

Regarding the refrigerator & DW distances...what is that distance b/w them? Right now, with all due respect to your architect, it really does not look like there's enough room to have the DW & refrigerator open at the same time. This will be an issue at cleanup time as you put things away in the refrigerator while you're also loading the DW.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 9:08PM
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Something quick...

I'm sure it could be tweaked, but something to think also restores your desk, only now, it's not in the middle of the kitchen and it's also your Message Center. Perhaps put your phone, etc. in the corner, put computer CPU (if desktop) under the counter in the corner where it would be hidden.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 10:01PM
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A kitchen designer will usually save you money by preventing you from making silly mistakes that can be costly to repair; and improve the flow and functionality of your kitchen.

We build 25 kitchens a year, and while small, simple kitchens probably don't need a designer, we would not think of building anything larger than 12' x 15' without one. Fortunately we have a few on staff.

Neither Architects nor interior designers are kitchen designers unless they have special training. Interior decorators certainly are not.

Hire a kitchen designer like you hire any trade: interview, check references, check the BBB and their trade association, the National Kitchen and Bath Association. In fact the NKBA website is probably a good resource for finding a qualified designer.

However, if you are the risk taking type: skydiving, under-water demolitions, para-sailing, base jumping, and so on, then you may be the type to try designing a kitchen without a professional. But the rest of us cowards would prefer the security of having a professional design.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 11:29PM
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Buehl, that's a nice alternate plan you came up with. It seems to be a more logical use of space. I do miss the refrigerator so close to the pool entrance, but I suppose a small fridge for drinks in the mudroom would fix that. I had not thought of putting a prep sink so close to the main sink. I've never had one. Do you put a garbage disposal in the prep sink, too?

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 1:14AM
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I would. It's one of the mistakes we made in our kitchen...we thought we'd save some $ not putting a GD in the Prep Sink, only the Main/Cleanup Sink. That was a mistake...we should have put one in the Prep Sink. If we wanted to cut one, we should have cut the Cleanup Sink...I have to peel potatoes, etc in the Cleanup sink or transport the peelings to the other sink.

The other mistake, and a bigger one, is that we didn't put our trash pullout in the Prep Zone. It's in the Cleanup Zone across the kitchen (a 6' plus aisle). I end up dripping my way over to the trash from the Prep Zone! We should have either had one in each Zone, tried to centralize it better, or just had the one in the Prep Zone.

So, I recommend that you put both a GD on the Prep Sink and a trash pullout in the Prep Zone. I would put a double-bin in the Prep Zone (one for trash + one for recyclables) and a single-bin in the Cleanup Zone for trash.

As to the Beverage would be a good idea. For one, it will keep snackers, etc. out of the kitchen proper. If you don't need the desk, you might consider putting it where the desk is...convenient to everyone. Depending on the measurements, you might be able to have a desk & Bev Ref in that location.

There is one thing that might be an issue...the "dark corner" b/c of the tall oven cabinet (the one w/the MW & Oven) closing off that end. However, you have that nice big window there so I don't think it will ever be "dark" during the day & if you have a good lighting plan, it should be fine at night.

If you don't like that corner, you might consider an upper cabinet that goes down to the counter (b/w the window wall & oven cabinet)...maybe an appliance garage or something like that. Or, it could be a place to store things that you want accessible all the time but not necessarily "front & center" in your mixer if you bake a lot, or toaster/toaster oven, etc. You might even consider a glass-doored cabinet with some nice dishes or other decorative items or even for normal kitchen storage...if you get vision-obscuring glass you would have the advantage of glass w/o seeing the items inside very clearly (if at all).

The corner susans would be great for... Storing pots & pans in the one on the peninsula (I did this in my old kitchen...the susan held all of my pots & pans, colanders, and some serving pieces) Storing small appliances in the one by the oven cabinet

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 2:50AM
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I vote for a kitchen designer or to use plans vetted here. You should come up with more detailed drawings though. In my previous home, I hired an interior designer and an engineer to develop the plans for my renovation (required for the permit). I kept looking at the drawings thinking there was something wrong (too many cabinets on the long run). When I forced the designer to put measurements on the drawings, I realized he somehow had added an extra foot in the space. He of course, said I mis-measured -- well he was wrong.

I went straight to a NKBA designer and had the plans redone by her. She saved me a lot of headaches and she introduced me to pullout cabinets, deep drawers (my favorite), and a garbage pullout (this is back in 1998). She also provided a much better layout for my family.

That said, this time around I did not use a designer but spent seven years designing the kitchen (while saving money) and walking through it (both literally and figuratively) to make sure it worked for us. I also spent hours (days actually LOL!) reading this forum. And I have lots of deep drawers and a garbage pullout that is in between the prep zone and the clean up zone.

You learn a lot from reading this forum.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 6:44AM
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Here's another design...

This one gives you a corner prep sink.

I like the corner prep sink b/c it gives you room on both sides for working (adding another prep zone!) and makes it more convenient to the range, at least IMHO! It also moves the refrigerator down so it's a couple of feet closer to the DR. However, it would mean losing the Desk & Message Center b/c the Main/Cleanup sink would have to move down so the DW isn't in the path b/w the end of the peninsula and the window cabinet/counter run.

OTOH, it begins to add too much space again in an area where it won't get used very often.


Or, you could do something like this...

Keep the refrigerator where it is and move the MW next to the refrigerator (where it gets used the most) & it's near a water source (two actually).

The oven cabinet is either still a tall cabinet or at least a 3/4 height cabinet (to raise the oven off floor).


If you don't mind an undercounter oven, then you could do this:

Personally, I don't like undercounter ovens b/c they're even lower to the floor than an oven in a range. If you and all your family are short, it may not be a problem, but if you're at all above average, it will be a definite negative.

++++++++++++++++++++ the layout in my previous post, there was a mistake...the third seat (on the short side) won't work...I forgot to delete it when I added the corner susan. So, only two seats in that layout as well.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 8:04PM
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So can an "interior designer" be equally good as a "kitchen designer" when part of the renovation involves putting a door to a new deck/stairs and otherwise integrating into the rest of the floor? In my neck of the woods (NYC) most kitchen designers are part of kitchen design stores so they are "localized" focusing on cabinets and perhaps other aspects of the kitchen but they aren't holistic. We have an architect and I just don't think he'll ever "get it" and really start asking us how WE want and need to use our kitchen but I met with a potential interior designer who does kitchens all the time, and she was so thorough and holistic and seemed great. But she's pricy. I've already paid for our architect's time to get through kitchen/deck drawings, coordinate permitting issues, help with contractor bids including the package, and we have spent so much money and don't even have a kitchen designed - now do we have to double up with an interior designer/KD too? I've gone to Ikea, gotten a design or two from a kitchen store - it isn't clicking. I also have been checking out cabinets and there are a lot of cabinet manufacturers that would be fine (highlights are medallion, kemper etc.) but for me the issue is, the DESIGN part, my kitchen is small and in a 100 year old brownstone and it's going to be a squeeze, so I'm really leaning toward paying a higher (too high!) design fee for design of Conestoga cabinets for someone to assemble, so at least the cabinet price is not too pricey and it's basically custom, but instead of custom price for the cabinets, less than half the price is cabinet and the other half is design time. Is this crazy? (it feels crazy but I just want to get to the next step of our renovation and keep coming up with dead ends). I'm also going to start a new thread about this, since it seems appropriate for a new thread.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 8:59PM
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Holly- Kay

My kd works for the cabinet company and most likely works on commission. He did a previous job for us and we were extremely pleased so we wanted to use him for the kitchen as well.

We signed a contract in February. It seemed as soon as the contract was signed he became almost invisible. Calls from me go unanswered and suggestions are not taken without resistance.

I would never go with a kd who works on commission again. I do understand that he wants to bring in as much business as possible as that is how he makes his money, but my questions still deserve an answer and my suggestions for changes need to be ruled out as impractical or impossible, or incorporated into the plan.

Because of my not so happy reno experience I couldn't recommend this company even though their cabinetry is lovely and well made.

I would say definitely get a good kitchen designer that you pay by the hour because they can see how to make things work that the average joe just can't see. IMO a good kitchen designer is worth their weight in gold!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 9:32PM
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