All righty...in the last 5 years I've been through the design process on 2 large commerical kitchens, 4 convenience stores, 5 espresso units and 1 residential kitchen (mine).
I can tell you what works, what doesn't work and who *not* to use. Our kitchen is functional and a thousand times better than it was, not to mention far more attractive, but there are a LOT of things that I still want to change.
Over the years I've also purchased several million dollars worth of kitchen equipment and know what will last for a very long time and what won't. Would be happy to share
Can't compete with DD. . impressive!
Depends on what you want to do..re-do cabinets..new appliances..complete overhaul?
When I built my home, I went around to the different kitchen studios with built out kitchens for ideas and then implemented them into my own.
Design Studio West in LJ is a great place to get ideas and I have used their designers on some schematics.
Pacific Sales has some great deals on ss appliances..
Use a licensed contractor...lots of Dbags out there.
We did our kitchen a couple years ago. We randomly won a 4 hour kitchen remodel consultation in a silent auction. I made the minimum bid and no one else bid, so we got it to our surprise! I guess if you aren't about to remodel your kitchen you wouldn't bid on it... there you go. She did great work but I can't find her name anywhere right now. I will dig around some more and see if I can find it. Anyway, that auction made it really cheap, but even without this discount we have used this same approach for our yard - hire someone to help us with ideas and sketches and designs, then act as contractor doing much of the work and jobbing out specific tasks. Saves a TON of money and lets you keep absolute control!
In this case, we met with her twice, and she gave us two sets of sketches. First meeting, first set of sketches, second meeting look at the first sketches make more suggestions, then she just sent us the final sketches. They were not technically to scale, but they were full of great ideas and helped us decide what we actually wanted to do.
Also she gave us lots of tips most non-professionals wouldn't know about. For example, our cabinets under the counter are spaced about 4-5 inches from the wall so we have a regular fridge, but it is flush to the counter like a built. Genius! Also turns out that gives you a few spare inches on the back of the counter to put your kitchenware, keeping the front part open for actually using (even after our remodel we are scant on counter space).
From there, we used IKEA software (free, you can download) to play around with specifics. We were planning to use IKEA cabinets - can't get much better quality without tripling the cost. You can add your own dimensions for appliances or whatever if you are not using theirs. Plus you get visuals. Could be worth playing with even if you aren't committed to buying from them (although it is a bit time consuming). If you do use IKEA just be prepared for LOTS of trips there... thrice what you might expect. Home Depot offers similar free service, which is good for visualizing, but you provide them the dimensions, so you can't "play around" in the same way.
Then we did most of the work ourselves: cabinets, backsplash, etc and jobbed out specific tasks - the counter, window, etc. The result is probably a $60k kitchen (my guess on a retail quote price from full contractor) for probably $25k.
Good luck! it is fun... and a lot of headaches :)
P.S. Great idea to ask on here for suggestions!