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Should I Hire a Kitchen Designer?

Are you changing the configuration of your new kitchen or are you planning on using pretty much the same layout as your old one? Many people expect that new cabinets and appliances are all that are needed to get a great new kitchen. After all, the basics of a modern kitchen haven't changed all that much in the past hundred years; a sink with a well pump, an oven and an ice box aren't too different from a 21st century kitchen. Is there really a need to create a new plan?

It is true that kitchens haven't changed that much in the past hundred years, but those things inside the kitchen have changed a lot. In fact, improvements in materials and technology have changed substantially every couple decades. While prep, cooking and clean-up are still the core functions of any kitchen, there are many enhancements that have been made, enhancements that you might omit from your plan, without the input from an expert in the field.

Another point to consider is your old kitchen may have been well thought out, but more likely it was designed by a builder to get the best looking kitchen for the least amount of cost. Tract houses were not built with people in mind so much as with cutting costs and still looking nice. Typically, little or no thought was given to ergonomics, workflow, lighting or storage. If for no other reason than this, you should consider hiring a kitchen designer to help you plan the best possible new kitchen.

A kitchen designer's expertise is all about making a kitchen work efficiently, comfortably, maximizing appeal, storage and function. Kitchen designers know about what works and what doesn't. They learn from new and past clients what they do and don't like about their old kitchens. Additionally, a good kitchen designer keeps up with the latest trends and products. They can help you to choose and incorporate features that are right for your particular needs and how to avoid pitfalls in kitchen design. Finally, a kitchen designer will draw plans for your kitchen. The plans help you to better visualize the new kitchen as well as providing the necessary documents to obtain a permit and plans for your contractor to work from.

How Much Does a Kitchen Designer Cost?

The first question on most people's minds is, "How much will a kitchen designer cost?". There are many different ways to hire a kitchen designer, and their cost will range from nothing to $150 per hour. The expense depends mostly upon whether they are selling you their design service or if the service is bundled with something else, for instance your kitchen cabinet purchase. When the price is bundled in with other products or services, it sometimes drives up the product cost, but in other cases, such as with home centers, the design service is included and the product prices are still competitive with other retailer's prices.

An architect is typically the most expensive choice, and as we describe below, may not be your best option either. At $150 an hour, an architect's services could add $3,000 to $4,500 to your project cost. Other kitchen designers are likely to be roughly half the cost of an architect or even less. At $75 an hour, a professional, certified kitchen designer could add $1,500 to $2,200 to the cost of your kitchen. However, their insight and product knowledge, coupled with knowledge of low priced retailers could result in a net savings for your entire project. Free service providers will vary in quality, so be sure to get recommendations and choose a retailer with a large showrooms and selection to ensure access to the products that are right for your project.

Who is Qualified to be Your Kitchen Designer?

There a lot of people who claim to have the skill to design a kitchen, however, their skill levels vary. Here is a list of professionals who often take on the task of kitchen design: architects, builders, kitchen contractors, cabinet sellers, appliance sellers, kitchen designers, interior designers and interior decorators. While architects require licensing in all states, the requirements for other designers vary by state and in many cases anyone can offer their services as a kitchen designer. There is a certification program offered by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) to certify kitchen and bath designers based upon their level of experience and the completion of various courses.

Architects have excellent technical abilities, but not all have the specific knowledge to help you achieve kitchen nirvana. In addition to the higher cost, most architects do not keep up on kitchen products and trends, nor do most have the critical insights offered by a specialist in kitchen design. The selection of a kitchen designer may be made a little easier by selecting a certified designer, but communication is critical, so your interview of the designer and recommendations from friends are paramount is selecting the right person to assist you.

Don't rule out the design services provided by cabinet and appliance retailers. While some of the "designers" who work at these retailers may be little more than glorified order takers, many retailers hire certified designers who are well qualified to assist you. Often retailers treat this as a cost of doing business, and still compete on price for their product offerings. The chief disadvantage of using an in-house designer is that they will rarely suggest a product if they don't offer it or if it might otherwise reduce their total sale. Choosing a retailer with a large selection is a good way to overcome this problem.

Whatever the hourly cost of an independent kitchen designer, they may very well end up saving you money, by helping you to get the very best prices on the cabinets, appliances and contractor services. Because some kitchen designers may have an affiliation or receive a commission from some retailers, it is still wise to compare prices to make certain you are getting a good deal.


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