Why do budgets bloat? A kitchen designer explains the phenomenon . . .

Luxurykitchen_2There’s often tension when a project goes over the projected budget. The homeowners might feel out-of-control, or weak-minded, or confused that it happened despite their resolve for it not to.

Why, why, why does budget bloat happen? Commenter John Beaty has referred to it as “feature creep.” We also got a savvy explanation of this “phenomenon” from Susan Serra, a Certified Kitchen Designer and author of a great blog: The Kitchen Designer.

Susan says: “I think if one WANTS to stay in the budget that one creates early on, for the most part, one can, assuming it’s based in reality.

As a professional kitchen designer, what I see is that once my clients move into the ‘world’ of kitchens, it’s very much an educational process, not having even known about many cool/beautiful/interesting products. The result is a shift in the wish list and oftentimes (usually) a shift in the budget.

I’m very aware of this ‘phenomenon,’ for lack of a better word, and purposely offer choices in a wide budget range. In the end, I want my clients to feel wonderful about whatever they spend on their products and renovation. So, don’t blame consumers, and don’t blame design professionals. It’s just the nature of walking through the gates of ‘renovation world.’

The responsibility of a design professional is to present, not push, especially if an item has a high price tag. It’s a delicate balance, one that I, for one, am very aware of. I’ve got to say, I get into more trouble for casually mentioning something that I chose not to show a client, but mention anyway, later, just so that they are aware. They get mad at me for withholding the (expensive) information and then want it. It’s a tough one.

I don’t want to cause financial stress, and I see my clients also struggle with ‘Should I? Shouldn’t I?’ When you do a renovation once for the very long term, it’s not easy to make these decisions.”

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5 Comments on Why do budgets bloat? A kitchen designer explains the phenomenon . . .

  1. Susan Serra, CKD

    There are kitchen designers and there are kitchen designers, regardless of how they work. Independent kitchen designers are one option, but not THE answer, not at all. There are pros and cons for the consumer with this business model as well.
    The consumer must think carefully about what services he/she wants from a designer. That will lead the consumer to the right path toward their own, personal, kitchen nirvana.

  2. Kathy Price-Robinson

    Cheri, I suggest you go to http://www.nkba.org and find a certified kitchen designer there. That is the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
    You can search for a designer using your zip code at:
    Good luck!

  3. cheri lowre

    how do I find an independent kitchen and bath designer?

  4. pderas

    First, most consumers have little idea what their dream kitchen is going to cost until they talk with someone who will be straight with them.
    Once they hear the reality of what it is likely to cost and come to terms with that figure or range of figures, then establish a budget goal; then we can talk realistically about budget bloat.
    There is also the issue of the consumer hearing only the lower dollar figure when quoted a “range”, as “between $60K and $150K”. That’s a big spread that needs to be nailed down between designer and client. And I can guarantee you it’s the $60K that sticks in the mind.
    I think real budget bloat comes from the inherent conflict of interest in designing your kitchen where you shop for your kitchen: a cabinet showroom.
    Better to establish a realistic budget and do the design work BEFORE you go shopping.
    If you work with a kitchen designer who is up on everything available and presents your options based upon your budget and needs, you can wait to shop for the products until you know what you need.
    This takes the “anything goes” aspect out of the equation.
    I certainly agree with Susan that clients feel slighted if they don’t see everything among all the bells and whistles offered by cabinet manufacturers these days. But, if they have already invested time and effort in the design process, and carried it to its logical conclusion; they’ll know what won’t work within the design scheme they have helped to create.
    Independent kitchen designers, who do not sell product, are few and far between. But we ARE available. Consumers just have to look a little harder because the money, and advertising, in the industry is concentrated around cabinet sales.
    I advise my clients to share their budgets with the other professionals who will help along the way; be they architect, interior designer, engineer, cabinet supplier or contractor. There is one caveat though: I advise them to subtract what is already being spent on other professional services.
    A contractor who hears a budget figure of $60K including materials is going to figure 30K for materials and $30K for him/herself. Better to say $57K if you are already spending $3000 on design services.
    There is also the common issue of hidden defects found during remodeling, like termite-ridden floor joists. Consumers must dedicate 15% of their budget for such eventualities. This is money that can be spent, or saved, if not needed for an unforseen expense.

  5. Susan

    Oh, I didn’t expect a full blown post on my comments! 🙂
    I would also add that if one is seriously on a budget, then it is a good idea to continue that drumbeat of declaration to all professionals involved periodically…architect, contractor, designer, both interior and kitchen, and so on. It takes discipline and oversight and occasional reminders to your team of professionals..
    One MORE thing…if you have a ceiling figure that you will not go beyond, make it crystal clear from the start. It may weed out some people who are willing to work with you if the budget “feels” just barely doable for what you want to do with no room/tolerance for surprises once the work gets started. It then becomes a tense project all around, and it should, and can, be an enjoyable process, really it can!