Question: Help! We plan on remodeling our kitchen and opening it up to the family room, which will require removing a wall. My question is where do I start? Do I contact the architect, the contractor or the kitchen designer first? We are in the $90,000 to $100,000 budget range. — Karla
Answer: Good question, Karla. I’m going to answer it, and then ask readers here if they agree or disagree with my take on it.
If you asked this question of each of those these professionals, they would likely say they should be the first one contacted. And they would be right. You could do well to start with any one of these people and, if they are competent, they would bring in the other professionals, and your project would turn out well.
If it was my project, I’d start with a design/build firm who had an architect or a Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD) on staff. The latter are certified by the National Kitchen and Bath Association. In a design/build firm, you’ll find the designers and builders all in the company, and all on the same team. This will help you avoid the contentious environment that can ensue when designers and builders who don’t know each other, and may not trust each other, come together on a job.
I still recall the couple who started with an architect for a $60,000 kitchen remodel. They got a gorgeous design for about $5,000, but when they got bids on it, the bids were in the $150,000 range. And the couple were mad at the contractors! It’s very painful to fall in love with a design you can’t afford to build.
The truth is, while architects can be extremely gifted, they get virtually no building education in college. They can draw lines on paper without any real understanding of the financial implication to you. The best situation is to have the creativity of the architect tempered by the pragmatism of the contractor. If the two can work together from the very beginning, you will get that amazing blend of talents. So if you happened to find a contractor or architect you really like, ask them to recommend a counterpart they work with often. And let them begin the design process together.
You can also start with a high-quality kitchen shop, again looking for employees with the CKD designation, and then hire the builders they work with on a consistent basis. Either way, the services of a structural engineer will likely needed to make sure the house stays sound when the extra wall is removed.
Good luck with your project.
Any more insight for Karla? She and I would love to read your comments.
(Photo: Dave Fazio, architect)