Ask Kathy: Where to Get Started With a Kitchen Design?

Tile backsplashQuestion: Your coverage in the L.A. Times and your blog have inspired my husband and I to move forward with purchasing a new house that has everything but one key feature: A Great Kitchen. In fact, the existing kitchen is barely bigger than the one I had in my college apartment. We have a fantastic contractor whom we’ve used in the past, but we need a design plan and don’t know where to start.

Our budget is $40,000, so the idea of hiring an architect, which would eat up a good chunk of the somewhat modest sum, is less than desirable. But we also don’t want to make a mistake by not having a plan crafted by an expert. Where to start? Your suggestions and reply are most appreciated. Kind Regards, Tami R.

Answer: Tami, thank you for the kind words. I’m so excited for you. I’ll give you some ideas and invite other home enthusiasts reading this to add their suggestions.

First, I’d say you definitely want professional design services, and that means you’ll be paying for them, anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. So I suggest when you state your plans from now on, you say something like this: “We have $37,000 for the remodel and $3,000 for the design.” That will help you steer your desires toward the proper price range.

Next, where do you find a designer? If you need major structural work done, you will need an architect or at least an engineer. For the price you mentioned, though, I doubt you could afford to add any new space. So I assume you’ll be taking out a wall between the kitchen and dining room or family room to make the kitchen bigger. If it’s a simple matter of removing a non-load-bearing wall to make your kitchen larger, I suggest you hire a certified kitchen designer, one who has CKD after his or her name. These people are certified by the National Kitchen and Bath Assn., and from what I’ve seen, they are talented and knowledgeable. To find one, plug your ZIP Code into the NKBA search engine and find those in your area. Also, read 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Kitchen Designer, by Susan Serra CKD. You can also get discounted design services at kitchen shops if you buy your cabinets from them. But again, look for the CKD designation. And sometimes you can find certified designers at the design desks at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Also, ask your contractor if he’s worked with any kitchen designers.

And finally, I suggest you do a lot of research in advance and get familiar with what you like and how much it costs. How much are hardwood floors? Good-quality windows? Glass tile backsplashes? High-end ranges? Most designers spend half their time educating clients about the real cost of materials and labor. If you get yourself up to speed first, you can adjust your expectations and not be faced with either disappointment or going into debt to achieve what you really can’t afford.

When you do approach kitchen designers, tell them your budget and the style you want to achieve. If they tell you any kitchen will cost no less than $60,000 to $80,000, move on and find someone else who can work with your budget. And get someone who knows about green remodeling. Nothing else makes sense.

Any other ideas for Tami?