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How do you find the right kitchen designer? [moved from Not About Food]

We're only in the talking stages right now, but we're thinking about doing a kitchen makeover. It's not just the kitchen that will be involved -- we have a little-used sitting area with a fireplace that's separated from my kitchen by a half-wall that we'd like to incorporate into the kitchen, too. I have no idea how to begin to find someone who can work with me on a design. Ideally, this person will be an independent designer who can recommend, but not be directly affiliated with, product suppliers.

Another question -- and maybe this isn't even answerable -- but, what is the "ballpark" rate I should expect to pay for a designer's time? I realize this can vary greatly by region, but I have no idea what I should expect to pay.

And, is this the best way to approach a project like this? Am I better off walking into Home Depot and talking to someone there, understanding full well that this person makes their living from selling Home Depot cabinets, appliances, flooring, etc.?

I'm already overwhelmed and we haven't even begun. I need some guidance, and I appreciate whatever advice anyone can offer. Thanks.

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  1. References...is the only way to go. We found a wonderful kitchen designer through a personal reference, who then recommended a wonderful contractor (a rarity!) to do the work. I would ask around and try to find someone who was happy with their kitchen makeover. If you do know a good contractor, you might ask them for a reference.

    I would not go to any specific store for this service. They will only sell you what they have! You could however go to a large appliance store and ask them if they could recommend a kitchen designer in the area. Do not however retain anyone without getting references, and seeing pictures of the jobs they've done.

    Depending upon the size of your kitchen and the type of appliances and cabinets you choose, you are probably looking at a minimum of $40k for a complete redo...and if you're going to spend this sort of money...fees to a certified kitchen designer are well worth it. It will probably cost you ~$1,000 - 1,500 in fees, but it's well worth it, and it can save you money in the long run, by avoiding costly mistakes.

    In the meantime, start buying home and kitchen magazines, and marking those kitchens that have the look that you like. Also, there are some excellent photo books about kitchen design.

    1 Reply
    1. re: josephnl

      I totally understand the reasoning for not walking into a Home Depot or any other home center and asking for a "makeover." I also agree with you that working with a designer will be money well spent. Thanks for your input.

    2. Home renovation is completely overwhelming, I know from having (semi) completed a full gut renovation, doing a lot of the work ourselves. We did a fully commercial kitchen for $10,000, but we have no kitchen cabinets (we refused to buy into that racket). The most important thing is really knowing what you want and what you truly need.

      As for the Home Depot question, do you like their aesthetic? I'm sure the kitchen they design would be passable, but do you want to go through all of the trouble, mess and expense so that you can have a kitchen that will have the 'Home Depot Look" as I affectionately call it?

      A renovation is definitely in the top ten most stressful life events, so if you are going to do it, avoid half measures. Also, cabinets are outrageously expensive, and not necessarily the best storage solution, so think twice before buying lots of them. When you do buy them if you plan to enjoy them for more than five years avoid particle board like the plague (it is everywhere and well-hidden under veneers). If you have older cabinets consider refacing them, the junk that is out there these days is unbelievable.

      A super-trendy kitchen will date your home quickly so stick with the classics to avoid problems reselling or having to redo the project too soon. Look at design cliches from the past, search for the patterns in them, and try to find the same in current trends and avoid them.

      If you are not the types to design things yourselves it would certainly help to hire a great designer, but try to have a firm grasp on what your needs, aesthetic and budget are and be able to communicate them clearly to the person you hire.

      Also, just because they take the time to create a proposal for you does not mean you are obligated to hire them. For each person you hire to work on this project be sure that that they are one of three that you have interviewed. You will have to deal with these people constantly over a long period of time so make sure that you feel comfortable with them in your home and near your personal items (I would put away anything of value).

      References are a must, Angie's List is worth the money, as is Consumer Reports. I also found Amazon very helpful in terms of finding reviews for just about everything. Be careful of fast talkers and don't commit to anything without a good chat with your partner and a night's sleep. We had a couple of potential nightmare scenarios including almost ripping off our perfectly good,
      but damaged slate roof due to aggressive sales tactics, and almost needlessly replacing our entire heating system had we not taken the time to get a second opinion. Be aware of the building codes in your area as well. Good luck!

      6 Replies
      1. re: suzysue2

        We spent over $10,000 for the appliances alone, and we did not use high-end appliances (a Sub-Zero frig alone can easily top $10k)! Unless you are doing much of the work yourself, and are doing a very limited makeover, I can't see how you can do a kitchen remodel (appliances, cabinets, counters, plumbing, lighting) for less than $40k, and easily a lot more.

        We did a complete home remodel, and although it was stressful at times, it was never overwhelming...because we lucked out with a great designer, and an outstanding contractor...very unusual from what we hear.

        1. re: suzysue2

          Suzysue2, can you please share a bit more about your design and how you were able to go without any cabinets?

          1. re: keysdax

            Commercial shelving is one way. Just like in most restaurant kitchens. Bit you really do need to like the "commercial" look...most people don't. I think it would present a problem when you try to sell a home without kitchen cabinets.

            1. re: josephnl

              Not to mention that items not used constantly require a lot of dusting and cleaning off, as do the open shelves. I think well designed custom cabinetry is worth spending on.

          2. re: suzysue2

            I had wondered about using Angie's List -- I've never used it and I don't know anyone who has. It'd be interesting to hear from anyone who's used Angie's List for this kind of project. Obviously, keeping a "cool head" and not making rash decisions under duress is extremely important.

            The last time we remodeled our kitchen (about 15 years ago) we opted for large drawers in place of cabinets below the counters. I'll definitely do the same again.

            1. re: CindyJ

              If you live in a populated area and are planning a project(s) I think Angie's list is a decent value and a good place to start looking for resources. I used it to triangulate on research and found some good contractors that way. I wouldn't take everything at face value but sometimes it is good to see the amount of detail and what your neighbors think.

          3. Any designer is going to have commercial links (if only by preferance) to particular manufacturers.

            We selected ours partly because they were local (and had local references) but also because they were both designer and contractor. This meant that all the construction work (which, like you, went beyond the actual kitchen space) was project managed by a single person. It worked well and I have absolutely no regrets about going down that route but, of course, it was not the cheapest way of doing it - there was no change from £23k.

            1. Cindy, I know we are in the same area so if you would like a reference I can give you one. We built a new kitchen from scratch in our Hockessin house. We did all the planning/design work ourselves, but we did use a designer to help us at the beginning. It was useful for thinking about the basic layout of the kitchen, how much floor space was needed, how many cabinets, where the lighting should go, etc. She came out to the house several times and gave us about six different layout drawings, from which we eventually drew our own plan. We already had a general contractor and an architect, and did not buy cabinets (Mr. travelmad478 built them). We ordered the countertop from a commercial stainless fabricator, and bought the sink/appliances/lighting/plumbing fixtures ourselves from places like Overstock.com.

              I can't remember exactly what we paid the designer, but it was less than $1000. She was quite helpful. She's in Wilmington.

              1 Reply
              1. re: travelmad478

                Thanks for the offer, travelmad. I'd love to know who your resources were. Your kitchen designer sounds just like what I've been looking for, and for the work she's done, sounds very reasonably priced. Our project is still out there in "someday-land," but we're definitely at the stage where we're tossing around ideas. I'll put my email address into my profile.

              2. When we were trying to make major decisions about a kitchen redo, including whether to move it to another room, I consulted with a nationally known designer/space planner who happened to live and work in the area I lived--Providence.. I think she was about $100 an hour and that was 20 years ago. What she did was help us sort out the big picture, since we were quite comfortable with the details of creating a kitchen. All in all, we spent maybe $250 with her and it was money well spent. If you look at local magazines you may well find the equivalent in your area.

                1 Reply
                1. You are just talking about the designer's time, correct? A lot of others have been mixing in the cost of construction as well as the appliances and fixtures.

                  I have been quoted anywhere between $1000 and $10,000 (factor of 10), with services dependent on whether it's just plans or includes oversight.

                  They will have connections to suppliers and constructors (having used certain products and worked with certain teams) but you're always welcome to decline those recommendations.

                  The most important I think are that they're local, they have a portfolio that they're willing to go over with you in detail, and they have references (old and recent) from former clients who are willing to show you what was done.

                  Home Depot and the like would help you replace existing spaces but I'm not sure how well they are at design. it would be a similar experience at IKEA. You can still use their products, but don't expect any valid design help.

                  Given what you're describing as your project - "we have a little-used sitting area with a fireplace that's separated from my kitchen by a half-wall that we'd like to incorporate into the kitchen, too", I would investigate the services of an architect that has experience with kitchen design.

                  1. Do most of it yourself - Ikea has useful free software, and you don't need to buy their kitchens of course. It does work best with simply shaped rooms, but I managed to design round a stairwell and 2 chimny breasts.
                    I used it to plan the layout of my kitchen - it lets you 'walk around' the room, and you get a good feel for the spaces. When you're happy with the layout - then find a designer and maker to add the details and construct it.

                    1. The woman I used was a "spatial design consultant" so she was excellent at figuring out the best way to use the available space. My experience with many of the kitchen design places is that cabinets are the focus and the layouts tend to be traditional and very "inside the box." And if that is what you are looking for, it is certainly less expensive because most "fold" the design fees into the overall cost.

                      1. I used an Architect who also had an Interior Design background. She actually came recommended from my contractor as someone who could design something I could afford. Who ever you hire it should be someone who can understand how you will use the space and design to that regardless of the products or materials you choose. We ended up building custom cabinets designed by our architect to exactly fit the space and our requirements. These were not that much more expensive than pre-fab custom cabinets and meet our needs exactly.

                        As others have recommended start collecting ideas from books and magazines both things you like as well as things you don't like and be able to explain why. Also be prepared to explain how you use a kitchen what works in your current space and what doesn't. I recommend taking this approach when it comes to choosing appliances as well. We purchased applicances based on function first then cleanability and finally price. Our appliances are from different manufacturers. I highly recommend the Fisher & Paykel dishwasher drawers and the Fisher & Paykel oven. The Miele stainless cooktop is the easiest to keep clean.

                        My last recommendation is to make all you decisions before you start from the paint for the walls to the knobs on the cabinets it will help to minimize last minute panic decisions and helps you keep a handle on costs. In some cases we picked two options one with a lower cost so that if we were panicked about money we could choose the lower cost option and still be satisfied.

                        We love our kitchen and it is really satisfying to have a space that was designed to fit our needs exactly.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: pairswellwithwine

                          Unless Fisher-Paykel has improved greatly in the last 10 years, I wouldn't recommend anything they make to my worst enemy. How long have you had your F-P appliances? I loved my dishwasher for about 6 months, and then it broke over and over again. Several of my friends had the same problem and we all eventually got rid of ours.

                          I love the idea of the dishdrawers, so I hope they've improved.

                          1. re: Isolda

                            I have had mine for two years and never a problem.

                          2. re: pairswellwithwine

                            I've known, first hand, the problems that can arise when a home project is not completely thought through before beginning. It turns out to be a constant reminder of what to NOT do again. I hope I've learned that lesson well enough to not make that mistake again.

                            1. re: CindyJ

                              I got a lot of great ideas on what to do/buy and what not to do/buy from the gardenweb forum website as well as posting there: http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/kitch... While the info on that website can be overwhelming at times, there is a lot of great information out there. In fact, if you scan and post your current floor plan and ask for suggestions, most likely you will get several replies with drawings back in return. The site also provides useful information on virtually everything you will encounter in relation to a kitchen remodeling project. Their other forums contain great information, as well.

                          3. I do search for my preferences of kitchen then I'll go to references....

                            1. I am a kitchen designer, and some clients come through referrals, and some find me through my website by doing a google search for local kitchen designers. Some just walk in the door - I am an independent contractor, but through a local showroom. Looking at my work in the portfolios on my website helps potential clients see if I do the kind of design work that they are looking for.
                              Other clients come to me through the builder, interior designer or remodeling contractor that they have chosen to bid the job. I have several builders and designers that I have worked with for years.
                              Talking to a designer, just to see if your personalities click, is the first thing. I've had so many women tell me how refreshing it is to have a woman design their kitchen, especially one who cooks. Believe it or not, there are kitchen designers out there who don't cook - and I haven't seen a workable kitchen yet that has been 'designed' by one.
                              Good luck in your search. It's kind of like looking for the perfect therapist. Your kitchen designer gets to know all the intimate details of your life and how your family interacts - you want to find someone who 'gets it'.

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: jmcarthur8

                                It's occurred to me that one of the first steps a kitchen designer would need to take would be to interview the client to determine what works well with the present kitchen, what doesn't work well, what's missing, what's unnecessary, and how the space is used by the cooks in the household, other family members and guests. And yes, I understand your point about having a designer who also cooks at home. So maybe it's also MY responsibility to interview potential designers to get a sense of where they're coming from, personally and professionally. A portfolio only tells a part of the story.

                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  Well put, CindyJ. I am looking forward to hearing that you have found the right designer.

                                  1. re: jmcarthur8

                                    I promise to follow up once we're ready to move past the "talking stages."

                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                      The starting point is nearly always budget. When I was in the business we always ballparked projects at about 15% of the home's value (makes sense, when you think about it, it's the most furniture/appliance-intensive room in the house). Spend any less and you're limiting resale value, spend substantially more and you're not likely to recover it on resale - but if you're going to continue living there do what makes you happiest. Baseline costs for appliances range from $5,000 to $15,000 (and up, up, up). Cabinet costs can be anywhere from $50-$250 (and up) per linear foot.

                                      So you can start with an interior designer, architect or dedicated kitchen designer. All 3 are acceptable routes. The kitchen designers are usually cabinet dealers. They will help you select finishes and will also likely have contractors who'll do the work. Appliances are generally outside the contract (as they should be). A good kitchen designer will have sales contacts who can usually get you a discounted price when buying a package of appliances for the kitchen.

                                      1. re: ferret

                                        My only concern with kitchen designers who are usually cabinet dealers is that the kitchen then becomes all about the cabinets since that is where their profit lies. We did one kitchen with two closet pantries--framed, drywalled, lots of shelves, and simple doors--that eliminated the need for upper cabinets at half the price. I just would worry that cabinet people would never mention such an alternative.

                                        1. re: escondido123

                                          A good designer will give you a workable space within your budget. Framing out a pantry is certainly economical but you're compromising on base cabinets and counter space, so it's still a tradeoff and one that might work for some people but isn't a universally-applicable rule. As is true with any design compromise, the less conventional your solution the less desirable it might be to a subsequent buyer. We talked people out of all sorts of budget-driven alternatives that made the kitchen less attractive for resale.

                                          Some people can live without upper cabinets, others expect to have them in a kitchen.

                                          1. re: ferret

                                            For good or for bad, we have never considered resale when buying a house or renovating it. Our new French blue with orange handled Blue Star is an example of that. I think that's because I grew up in So Cal where everywhere we lived was cookie cutter homes and everything was Navajo White--my parents made all their choices based upon resale. In the example I gave, we had a huge space that opened onto other spaces so we needed mass. The pantries turned out really well because we used one as a breakfast "bar" where we kept the toaster and coffee maker set onto a butcher block counter. Close the door and the mess was gone.

                                            1. re: escondido123

                                              It's not only about resale but you certainly need to consider that in doing any remodel. If you plan on living in a home until you're carried out of it in a box then there are different considerations than if you have a 5 or 10 year plan to relocate. It's another piece of the equation. That's why the 15% rule-of-thumb is the best starting point. If you never intend to resell then you can go as far below or above as your sensibilities dictate, just be aware that if you stay in the sweet spot you should recover your costs fully, too far below and your home will be less valuable; too far above and you're spending only for your own comfort.

                                  2. re: CindyJ

                                    The spatial designer I consulted with had a 5 page questionnaire that asked all sorts of questions about how you lived, cooked, ate, dealth with recycling, how often you shopped--it was extremely impressive how much she wanted to know before she started working.

                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                      Part of the story is also "pet peeves" IE the LARGE carving,cutting board you don't often use,
                                      doesn't fit the sink at any angle so you end up washing it in the bath tub.
                                      Or a past neighbor that has many very large pots and pans and a sink that her architect husband chose and installed that is lovely and useless,a trip to the basement slop sink to wash said pans,for 3 years.PEOPLE THAT DON'T COOK can be a menace in kitchen design.
                                      Thumbs up to jmcarthur8 recommending a team that "gets it" ,you will want some support even when all is done.
                                      Been through this with many clients,ask away,you are paying for answers so you can be well served.

                                      My sister called me a lot,my nephew was the contractor,all with "product" questions.Often my answers didn't matter because: corian or granite,if $$ isn't at play,you like both,you choose or where with wine,start pricing wine coolers,smallish ones were totally unsuitable for her lifestyle,so a tiny one in the pantry and a very large one in the basement etc.We made her think about her kitchen life beyond just more space.She grills 250+ days of the year,the how to of that door area needed personal use input.

                                  3. I used an architect who is a friend of ours. We did pay him for his drawings and consultation. This was a while ago, so the price wouldn't be current. After looking at our kitchen, he drew up 3 sets of plans, covering low, medium, and high end renovations. We worked with a contractor, and we went with custom cabinets, as our configurations would cause stock cabinets to cost the same, as we required custom sizes. I went with the highest rated appliances, which weren't the most expensive.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: CookieLee

                                      I think it would be the exceptional architect who would have the same set of skills/contacts as would a certified kitchen designer. I'd be inlined to go with the later.

                                      1. re: josephnl

                                        A good residential architect should have the requisite skills, nothing exceptional about it.

                                    2. We are about to start our kitchen remodel, and already I could write a book.

                                      First, don't go to Home Depot or Lowe's, they just don't have anyone near qualified to provide the level of help you want or need.

                                      Second, determine just how much help you really want, I'm a degreed industrial designer and hobby woodworker, my wife has very strong opinions on what she wants in a kitchen, we don't really want or need a lot of help. We can pick colors and surfaces and I know enough about wood and cabinets to know good condtruction and the relative prices of raw materials. Knowing how much help you need and want is critical. The two kitchen designers we tried to work with came up short on the help we needed and long on the help we didn't. On the other hand, if you really don't have strong opinions and ideas of what you want in your kitchen, they will make those decisions for you.

                                      Thirdly, get an architect if you are moving a wall, even a stub wall. They may not be up to date on the latest kitchen gadget, but they can and will pull together the design aspects of your home and make the new space fit with the rest of the house, afterall, you don't want the kitchen to look like it fell from the sky.

                                      Fourth, look for some local cabinet makers, they will know way more than you might think about what works and doesn't in a kitchen. We found them to be much more receptive to our ideas and wants for the kitchen, and their custom cabinets were less than the semi-custom cabinets the kitchen designer was going to use.

                                      Fifth, get reference and see their work and look at it closely. We got a reference from a designer that worked part time out of the appliance store where we were shopping. Followed up on it and decided, they were not for us. The two cabinet makers had displays in a local home store, so we were able to compare side by side, they were very compriable.

                                      Sixth, spend a lot of time talking to whoever you narrow it down to. You shouldn't have to put a bunch of money up front to determine a cost and what exactly they will include in the price.

                                      I know there is a kitchen designer that frequents the site, and if I lived close I would use her in a flash as she has been much more helpfull than the two I've actually tried to work with, so I'm not down on designers. I really expected the one to hit a home run, unfortunately, he bunted and didn't run out the throw to first. His design wasn't inovative, it wasted much needed space, and didn't incorporate many of the items we requested when we talked in his office for a couple of hours going over what we wanted in the kitchen.

                                      In the end, I'm saving thousands, not using the kitchen designer/contractor who wants to come in and do a turn key job. I can hire a tile guy as easy and as cheeply as he can. But he could get me the same price on the Blanco sink as I could get ;) what a deal. Just choose wisely.

                                      14 Replies
                                      1. re: mikie

                                        I think the trickiest part for a lot of people is acting as their own contractors. Knowing who to call when, being sure you've thought of everything--in my first renovation I completely forgot to have the electrican wire up the space for the frig so had to have him back a second time--getting the good subs to work on a small job when designers can provide with many good size ones, the list is a long one. I've done many renovations at this point and so has my husband so we were able to manage it ourselves. My sister just finished a total redo of her kitchen. She could not have done it without a kitchen designer and their crew--who got it done on time and within her budget--because there is just too much she doesn't know.

                                        1. re: escondido123

                                          Second that. I have done several remodeling jobs in two homes, and even now I would not act as my own general contractor. Particularly in a kitchen job, where so many subcontractors are required to coordinate with each other (architect, demolition, framing, electrical, plumbing, tile, paint, flooring, millwork/cabinetry, etc.) it can be overwhelming. Just trying to schedule everyone in the proper sequence is a full-time job, and requires a lot of specialized knowledge on how construction projects go together.

                                          1. re: travelmad478

                                            I agree. I've done my share of remodeling as well, but not a kitchen to the extent this one is. However, I'm not mooving walls, so it's not as big a job as the OP. In my case the cabinet makers act as the general contractor, they coordinate the tile guy, take care of the plumbing and electrical, sheet rock, etc. as well as make the cabinets. The granite company won't do anything until cabinets are in place, so I can manage that task. What the cabinet makers don't medel in is the stuff they can't controll, like the granite, and the appliances. They don't want to deal with the light fixtures other than install them in the cabinets, that's fine for me, I want to pick them out anyway.

                                            It is a bit more work, but it avoids what appears to be a power struggle over where to shop and what to buy. My cabinet maker has already told me I'm not his typical customer. He has "allowances" for just about everything, but I've already told him to skip the stuff where we have already made selections. I can get back splash for a dollar a sq. ft. or thirty dollars a sq. ft., that's really up to me. What I found was twelve a sq. ft. but how would he know that when he's giving me a price. Most people it seems want a single number to deal with. I'm reasonably bright, I can add the pieces to get the total. ;)

                                            1. re: mikie

                                              I wouldn't base your singular experience to set a general rule as to how the process works. It's general practice to get a sense of budget before you start on a project like this (or any project). So it's not a matter of "adding the pieces to get a total" - it's getting an understanding of what the total is and then determining what' possible within that parameter. You'll go over - because every project goes over, but you control how much when you understand where the give-and-take is (e.g. more expensive appliances means you cut back on the finishes or cabinets).

                                              1. re: ferret

                                                " So it's not a matter of "adding the pieces to get a total" - it's getting an understanding of what the total is and then determining what' possible . . . "

                                                Everyone has a number they don't plan to exceed, I don't know anyone who has a number and then tries to figure out how to spend it all. Be it me or the contractor or kitchen designer, someone has to add together all the pieces to get a total. I don't see where it does much good for the contatctor/designer to make allowances for items with no idea what I want. For example, the contractor can make an allowance of $4000 for counter top based on knowing we want granite, but granite prices vary widely from contractor grade slabs to exotic slabs, meaning it could easily cost twice as much for the counter. That's nothing compared to appliances where the costs vary even more wildly. You have to know up front what level of appliances you want and how much that's going to cost. This naturally depends on how much you have in your budget and how determined you are to have exactly what you want. If you just tell a contractor you want a kitchen remodel, they are going to figure in their typical allowances for items and sure enough if you want more expensive stuff, you're going to go over budget. Both cabinet makers I've been working with have expressed the same concerns, clients with unrealistic expectations when it comes to the cost of "up grades". The cabinet makers don't include hardware in the price, because the average handle or knob is about $3.50, but you can get handles for easily $10 to $15 more than that, times the nubmer of doors and drawers you have and you're talking an easy $500 difference in cost.

                                                Even my cabinet maker has these issues with his bathroom remodel. He and his wife saw some nice tile, but he didn't want to spend $10 /sq ft, but he did see a tile that he would spend $10 /sq ft on, only when he checked the price it was $30 /sq ft. There is a lot of give and take, that only the one paying the bills can decide on.

                                              2. re: mikie

                                                I absolutely, positively do NOT want a single price for the complete job. I've managed enough work in and around my home in the past 30+ years that I know how necessary it is (for me at least) to know where every dollar is going. I want to know -- and deserve to know -- how much of a profit my contractors are making. I want a cost breakdown for everything -- down to the smallest details. Here's the thing -- all along the way, there are choices to be made, and each choice has a cost implication. Budget really DOES matter to me, and if there are places I can save money without sacrificing the integrity of the project, I want to have the option to do so. If this is too much for a general contractor to deal with, then he/she is not the contractor for me.

                                                1. re: CindyJ

                                                  Do you have the luxury to act as your own contractor? You'd be doing a lot of the shopping and would be paying the bills for materials and so forth, but then you'd have to deal solely with labor costs for individual workers. Saves the 15-35% overhead some contractors will attempt to make on you.

                                                  1. re: wattacetti

                                                    15-35% of a kitchen makeover is a substantial savings, and I'm willing and able to expend my own time and effort to save that much. I've done it before and I've found it manageable. Last year we had a new deck built. I first shopped for materials ideas, then checked my preferences out online. When I was ready to shop, I checked prices within about a 25-mile radius of where I live, and then went to talk to the decking folks at the place that not only offered the best price, but, as it turned out, had the most knowledgeable sales people I encountered. The salesman even "tweaked" and improved the design very slightly, and saved me money on materials. My deck builder had no problem with working with me on that basis -- he's someone who has done a lot of work on my home -- interior and exterior -- and we've always worked well together.

                                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                                      On the deck project, it sounds like you only had to work with one person who actually did the project--the deck builder. On a kitchen, the number of people you will be working with could easily be a dozen, and you have to get them in the right order, at the right time, with the right materials, completing the appropriate tasks to the right standards. It is not an easy job. Just some thing to keep in mind if you have not been through a process that involves so many different specialties. And all of this is being done in the room you want to be able to renovate and be able to use as quickly as possible. PS Before you start, make plans for a temporary kitchen that really works.

                                                      1. re: escondido123

                                                        That's an important distinction between the kitchen and deck projects, and I'm aware of the differences. I've been through a kitchen renovation before, and I learned a number of important lessons from that experience.

                                                        1. re: CindyJ

                                                          That's good, then you know what you're in for.

                                                          1. re: CindyJ

                                                            Having just been through a total kitchen remodel using the services of a excellent independent certified kitchen designer and a wonderful general contractor (a rare bird), I can't imagine doing this without this kind of expertise. I think we actually saved money doing it this way (appliances, plumbing & lighting fixtures were wholesale + commission), and by working with experienced professionals potentially costly mistakes were avoided.

                                                    2. re: CindyJ

                                                      Nobody works with an unlimited budget. Any good contractor will give you a breakdown for this type of work - they don't just walk in with a total and expect you to pay. However, there are enormous differences in labor costs depending on a number of factors. The key to keeping prices as tight as possible is identifying your needs and picking your materials, cabinets and fixtures as early as possible before you bid any of the work. That's not always possible or practical, but once you figure out your materials/fixturing costs all that's left is labor/construction.

                                                      The classic film "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" is painfully accurate at showing how an improperly timed decision can wreak havoc on a budget. There's a scene where they're trying to account for a substantial cost overrun which the architect tracks to a flower sink. Mrs. Blandings had told the contractor that "it would be nice to have a flower sink" in a mudroom and they had to bring water lines and drains from across the property to the area to accommodate it, turning a $100 project into thousands (in 1950-ish dollars).

                                                      1. re: ferret

                                                        «« Nobody works with an unlimited budget. »»

                                                        I thought that too, until I met this one individual who is renovating a townhouse interior. I estimate that the property probably ran $600K and I was told that the initial renovation budget was $200K. However, I do know that they are now upwards of $750K with no end in sight.

                                                        The increase is not due to unforeseen errors or bad decisions at critical junctures: the owners changed their minds and asked for full do-overs. They don't seem to be hesitant about the money either as I have heard that they're reviewing how an entire completed floor might be used otherwise.

                                            2. We redid our kitchen a couple years ago. Our project involved taking out a wall, repurposing a laundry/utility room as a pantry/baking area and repurposing a walk-in closet in bedrooms area of the house as a new laundry room.

                                              I talked to several designers some of whom came with references from people well known to us. Every one of them told me they were cooks themselves but it soon became clear that their idea of "cooking" and mine were not the same. It also became apparent that if they weren't representing specific companies they were clear where their biggest commission lay. Bottom line: I just didn't get the confidence that they were going to give me what I really wanted.

                                              So, I laid out my own concept on the existing floors and counters in color coded masking tape taking into account things like the swing of doors and specific measurements of appliances with the space their doors needed to swing in. Then I moved about in the scenario I had created. I did my actual meal prep as I would in my "new kitchen" and noted where new lighting arrangements would be needed. Finally, I turned my attention to the best general contractor I could get -- "best" being the person I felt good about working with.

                                              I gotta tell you, I made very few mistakes and the ones I made were minor. The decisions I made about the way I cook have stood me in very good stead. My GC got me a good cabinet maker and rode his *ss (thank god! he was the lead weight on the whole project but provided lovely cabs in the end). We had a good working relationship and he was flexible about changes that grew organically out of the project. We have been good friends since.

                                              I don't know what I saved or, even, what it might have cost me to do my own designing. I just know that a couple years down the line I continue to be happy with the aesthetics and, most importantly, the way my kitchen works.

                                              The kitchen remodel forum at Garden Web http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/kitch... is a fantastic resource for ideas, expertise, appliance info and many kinds of resources you may not yet know about. But don't discount what you already know about your individual needs.

                                              PS I have to add REALLY, when you've "lived" in your idea for a while and gotten a real picture in your head or on paper, DON'T discount what you know you want. I can't tell you how many people -- including my beloved husband -- listened to what I was thinking and said "Are you really SURE that's the way you want it?". When it was done every one of them came back and said "Oh, now I see what you were doing!" (What that was about is that I have a very narrow galley kitchen and the cabs are done in 3 different colors/finishes. Sounds disjointed and too busy, I know, but, in fact, it keeps the eye moving around the space and makes it seem less boring and constricted.)