Designing and executing a home project like a kitchen can take a village. Often times, nay, most always kitchen projects – big or small, complex or simple involve a collaboration of individuals to bring a concept to life. As you might know, I am a Kitchen and Bath Designer and I work full time for a Kitchen and Bath Studio – Bell Kitchen and Bath Studios to be exact. Bell is a family owned and operated a business and besides the design studio, they specialize in custom cabinetry, which is made right behind the showroom in Alpharetta, Georgia. In general, we do A LOT of projects, specifically kitchens and we work with builders, contractors, remodelers, decorators, and architects on a regular basis. While each and every player listed above is relevant to the smooth and successful execution of the project, it can be difficult to figure out who should be involved at what times and for how long. After observing many different approaches to this question I am here to share what I believe to be the recipe that will allow you, the homeowner, to get the best of each player on your team.
So, what’s the secret? It’s simple really…consider the following:
Let each player on your team do the job you hired them to do:
Often times homeowners select one member of the team before the rest and have the tendency to latch on to that person for decisions outside of their wheelhouse. For example, you may be really excited about your kitchen designer but that does not mean they are the one to rely on to estimate how much sheetrock you need for your project. At the same time your interior decorator may be great at selecting paint colors and window treatments but often times they do not have the technical experience or knowledge to adequately design the kitchen. Before you know it the water has been muddied and now a task or decision that could have been checked off smoothly becomes much more confusing, time-consuming or worse expensive. Plus, it is possible you are paying for the expertise of one individual without benefiting from the knowledge and experience they would bring to the table because they are being overshadowed by others.
Understand the roles of your various team members:
Architect: All kitchen projects will not require an architect, but if yours does the architect will likely be the first person you will need to work with. Architects are necessary for new construction projects in addition to large remodels, specifically those that require structural changes.
Builder/Remodeler: If your project does not require an architect OR if you have already enlisted the architect and have your set of proposed plans it is time to meet with your builder or remodeler. Because this person will be executing so much of the project it is important to find a builder or remodeler that you really like and trust. This article goes through some tips and suggestions for picking the best remodeler for your project. The best time to bring the builder/remodeler into the fold depends on a few factors, let’s look at the two main scenarios:
- You have plans from an architect. From these plans, the builder will be able to estimate pricing. This is an important step as it will allow you to see if the plans you have are within your budget or not. IF you have already met with the kitchen designer the cabinetry estimates would be incorporated here. If you have not, then your contractor will assign you a cabinetry allowance based on what he/she thinks it will cost.
- If you do not have plans from an architect then my advice would be to select your remodeler/contractor but hold off on having them give you pricing UNTIL you meet with your kitchen designer. Because the entire project is centered around the kitchen it is important to lock down the design layout and cabinetry you want to ensure the pricing you receive from the builder/remodeler reflects your wants/needs.
Kitchen Designer: The kitchen designer is focused on making the kitchen the best it can be, both functionally and aesthetically. They will look at the “bones of your space” and determine the best layout for your needs. Cabinetry will be a big part of this phase as it really sets the tone for the overall Specifics regarding appliances, plumbing and storage will all be integrated into the plan and design principles such as balance, symmetry, and scale will all be applied.
Interior Decorator: Often times decorators are brought on board to help homeowners tie everything together. Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty details of function, they are more concerned with the overall aesthetic vibe. They will be the ones working to ensure all elements – paint colors, lighting, tile, countertops, barstools, etc…work together to bring your desired vision to life. So, while they are not needed to figure out the appropriate walk space between the island and the perimeter cabinets, they will be influential in the final selection of the paint color for the cabinets.
Identify the leader:
Projects, especially kitchen projects, have a lot of moving parts and pieces. There are a lot of details and timelines to organize and coordinate thus a successful project must have a leader. The leader, whoever that ends up being will need to be able to wrangle the various players and tasks in order to execute a stress-free and seamless project. In most cases, the most obvious choice for a leader is going to be your builder/remodeler as they will be the ones moving the project from phase to phase. In addition, while they will likely be very invested in your project turning out just the way you had envisioned, they will bring less personal vision to the table, making them less emotional and more focused on the big picture. The leader will be in charge of laying out a timeline and then coordinating said timeline with the various trades. Timelines are especially important for remodels as you do not want to be without your kitchen any longer than absolutely necessary. A great project considers lead times and plans accordingly, so there are a few “dead days” as possible. The leader will also keep their eye on the budget which yet another reason the remodel/builder is likely your best best. As I said above, the contractor is going to set a lot of your allowances based on the information you give them, so who better than them to monitor spending along the way?
Don’t pay people to observe:
A lot of designers and decorators are paid by the hour, so as the homeowner/customer, it is not in your best interest to have every member of your team at every meeting. It is important to distinguish the different offerings each professional brings to the table and then bring them to the table only when necessary. I have sat through many meetings where there are more than seven people involved in the cabinet/design phase. These meetings always last entirely too long and by the end, no one is sure what has been accomplished. It is money and time wasted and an easy way to find yourself more frustrated and confused than ever.
Kitchens can be complicated, expensive and overwhelming, yes but if you plan to invest the resources into a team of experts to help you execute your project then LET them do their jobs and EXPECT and DEMAND the results you are paying for. Do not stand in your own way and do not let the players on your team get in the way of each other. Everyone should know their place and work towards the same common goal: A beautiful and functional kitchen.