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How to choose a kitchen design firm for your project

You want a new kitchen. You need a new kitchen. With so many different places where you can get a new kitchen, the choices are overwhelming.  

Do you choose a home center, lumberyard, kitchen dealer, or custom cabinetmaker?  More importantly, even small kitchen projects can be complicated, with the multitude of design options, products, colors, and textures available today. How can you be certain that you are getting the best value for your money?  

Buying a new kitchen is not like buying a new car; you do not get to test drive it before you choose which one works best for you and your family. Your kitchen project will consist of hundreds of component parts and design decisions where the right advice and guidance along the way could determine the success of your project. Here are six criteria that will help you make the best decisions for you and your project: 

  • Educational Approach: We recommend you interview several potential kitchen designers before you choose who to work with. This will enable you to get a feeling for their approach, their professionalism, and if their firm offers the type of products and services that you are looking for. The best designers recognize that customers are looking for objective information so they can make intelligent decisions. They should be willing to inform you about the pros and cons of all products and design decisions and be good listeners, incorporating your ideas into the project. Their showroom should function as an educational center with up-to-date displays, informational booklets, details about the kitchen design process, and consumer magazines.
  • Design Process: The best designers perform a thorough interview with you to determine your needs and wants for your project. They should be able to discuss 2‐3 different design solutions that may work for you on the spot and provide approximate budget numbers for your project. They will also show you how to get the best value for your investment, so sharing your target budget will benefit both you and the designer.
  • Experience:  This may be the single most important aspect in helping you get the most value from your investment. The designer must have enough experience and knowledge to ensure that the products selected for your kitchen design will work as intended. Ask them to show you a portfolio of their work and explain the range of projects that they have successfully completed.  Designers who are committed to continuing education will offer you the best design options and newest products for your project. Typically, the most experienced designers are found at independent kitchen and bath firms and the likelihood that they will be there for you from start to finish is much greater.
  • Documentation: The designer should be able to show you examples of the documents provided for other jobs. These should include detailed floor plans, elevation and perspective drawings, as well as detail specifications for all products included in the kitchen design and the document spelling out the terms and conditions of the sale.
  • Business integrity: Does the firm do what they say they will do? Look for a firm with a solid reputation, ask the designer for testimonials or references from past customers. Check with the local Better Business Bureau to see the firm’s record of performance.
  • Personality: A kitchen design and installation project may last 6 to 12 months from conception to completion. It is important that you find someone who you feel compatible with. Do they listen to your ideas and concerns? Will they offer ideas to you that will make the project better, even if it means less money for them? Will they be responsive if there is a problem?  Will they give you the kind of service that you expect and deserve? 

When deciding to complete a project as lengthy and detailed as the construction of a kitchen, selecting a designer and firm who combines the attributes above will have a bigger impact on the success of the project than the materials chosen for the project or the price paid for it.