Ten ways to check your kitchen designer’s skills
If you’re remodelling your kitchen, you’ll more than likely be using a professional designer. After all, it’s an expensive home improvement and you want the best.
The cliché tells us that the kitchen is the ‘heart of the home’ but it’s also the most dangerous room in the house. Every kitchen has electricity and water – which can be a dangerous combination. Some kitchen have a gas supply, adding to the problem.
These must be designed and accounted for properly by a professional whenever possible.
In most areas, kitchen designers need no specific qualifications. Most have been trained on the job or by the company they work for. This means that their skill levels can vary enormously.
How can you tell if your kitchen designer is an expert?
Here are a few tips that will help you determine if you have the right person for the job. Note that I refer to ‘she’ to avoid having to write ‘he or she’ every time 🙂
When you have your first consultation with your designer, she should be asking you lots of questions. To plan a kitchen effectively and properly the designer will need to know about your family and your lifestyle.
If the designer talks about the quality of the cabinets she will be using in your kitchen or the beautiful new appliances she can provide for you, then she is a salesperson first and foremost.
Be sure that her first job is asking you what you need and not promoting her products. The fact that she is in your home,or that you are in her showroom, demonstrates that you have done your homework about the company. She should have no need to sell.
One of her first jobs, after determining your needs,is to measure your kitchen accurately. If you have taken your own floorplan into the showroom or studio, your kitchen still needs to be measured professionally.
As she does so, check that she is making a note of exactly where your electrical outlets are. If she plans your refrigerator to be somewhere with no outlet, then expect extra contractor costs.
She should also note the exact positions of your plumbing and light fittings. Windows will be accurately measured too, as will any venting, for instance venting for extractor hoods. This should take quite some time, depending on her experience and skills.
This might sound obvious but it’s important to know that your designer actually works in a kitchen herself. Today, many people rely on takeout or restaurant meals. You might be the same but a potential buyer of your home in future years might be a gourmet cook.
Chat casually about the meals you cook and engage her in conversation. You’ll soon be able to tell whether or not she has practical experience of working in a kitchen cooking regular meals.
Does she consider the practicality of the room and its equipment? You’ll be able to tell from her conversation and chat.
Does your designer accept your ideas? If so, this might be a bad sign. For example, if you tell her that you’d like solid wooden doors on your cabinets and yet you have young children and pets, she should really point out that this is impractical for you.
If she accepts your view, then it’s likely that she gets a commission based on the total cost of the kitchen (solid wood is more expensive than laminate).
Of course, if you’re adamant that you’d like certain features and she points out their problems, then your wishes come first but she is duty bound – if she is truly professional – to point out any problems for your consideration.
Has she asked about other people in the home? Your designer needs to know about the household and this includes regular visitors and houseguests.
For instance, your elderly mother might come to stay with you for regular weekends. Your designer needs to know if anyone in the household is infirm or has special needs.
Children and pets count as ‘people with special needs’. If you have small children, she will recommend childproof catches on the cabinets where you keep household cleaners or hazardous items.
Today kitchens are used for so much more than cooking. Your designer should ask you about these. For example, do you need a desk area in your kitchen where you work or the kids do homework from school?
Will you be having a TV in your new kitchen? Where will that be located? Do you entertain there or eat weekend family brunches?
Your designer will be asking you plenty of questions about your lifestyle if she is truly going to create the perfect room for your needs.
Be aware that if your designer earns commission on the overall cost of your kitchen- including appliances and contractor work – then she may suggest certain things to bump up the price.
Moving a sink, for instance, can be terribly expensive if the plumbing has to be moved from one side of the room to the other. Do you really need all new appliances?
It’s important that you feel satisfied that your designer is working for you and creating the room that you and your family need, rather than working for her own commissions.
In my long career as a professional kitchen designer I found that one of the most common complaints people had about their existing kitchen was that of storage.
Your designer might show you a rendering of a beautiful room but is there storage space for everything? It’s easy for a creative designer to get carried away by the look of a room and ignore the more practical aspects.
She should do this by a) asking you questions and b) checking to see what you already store in your kitchen. For example,you might have a tall cupboard in your old kitchen in which you keep the vacuum cleaner and a broom. Does the new kitchen take this into account?
Ask your designer about the practicalities of the installation of your kitchen. Unless there is extensive building work, the fitting of your kitchen should take no more than a week – or even just one day for a small kitchen.
A professional designer doesn’t just plan your kitchen and then disappear. She should visit your home when the installation is in progress to ensure that everything is running smoothly.
She will also warn you that having ‘the heart of the home’ in a state of chaos for several days can be unsettling and advise you on how to make it stress-free.
When your designer has presented you with the plans and attractive perspective drawings of the room, then you should go over this very carefully. Your new kitchen will be installed from this plan so it must be perfect and professional.
It’s a good idea to imagine yourself in the new kitchen and picture where everything will live. Have provisions been made for those large cereal packets, large bottles and your small appliances?
Compare the plan to your existing kitchen and be sure that everything is accounted for. And be sure that you know the total, final cost and that there are no hidden extras that might pop up.
As a kitchen design manager,I have seen (and corrected) many planning errors. And this has almost always been when I was working with trained designers. I even recall one designer who,on the plan, had located wall cabinets on the kitchen windows. (True).
On every erroneous plan I saw, the client had signed off the plan. Don’t make the same mistake.
You can read more about kitchen planning here.
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