30 August 2008

Turning vague descriptions into fully functional dream kitchens is a daily challenge. A homeowner who's new to the process, however, has plenty to learn. Every designer needs time to truly understand what the client wants. You can take the same space and get ten completely different kitchens.

So how can you get your kitchen designer to find meaning in your musings? Here's a steps plan that will help you get the most out of the designer-client partnership, turning your time, money, and ideas into the kitchen you've always wanted.
  1. Leave time for the planning
  2. A kitchen is the sum of many parts, not just cabinets and a faucet. Decisions must be made about layout, proportion, storage, and myriad other things.
    Give yourself at least five weeks just to brainstorm, discuss, plan, refine, andjust as importantcompromise. You should know going in that the design process requires numerous meetings, there's a lot to discuss. After that is the neverending wait for plumbing, cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring, fixtures, and paint. Ordering and installing each can put another three to six months between a final design and a finished kitchen.

  3. Start off thinking big
  4. Details are important in any kitchen, but designers like to start with the big picture, how you use your kitchenand let details emerge. Even if your budget will inevitably call for compromises get your wish list on the table. The budget should come later.
    It helps to think about what you don't want, too. Make a list of things that bother you about your current kitchen—the mail piled up on the counter, the stockpot you can never reach. Designers say these negative lists are just as helpful at driving the details as having an extensive wish list.

  5. Set the scene
  6. Designers recommend thinking in terms of activities to pull your dream kitchen into focus. Those images could mean the difference between a low marble baking counter and a raised island bar.

  7. Know what you need and don't need
  8. Just as important as defining your dream is setting a bottom line, things you'd really rather not live without. But you also should know where to set the cutoff. Designers have encyclopedic knowledge of fixtures and materials, and you can get drawn in as they introduce you to the latest gadgets. Be clear about what's an unnecessary extravagance.

  9. Think structure, not just finishes
  10. Kitchen designers know about more than countertops. They are trained to know how to work with flow and traffic patterns and room proportions. They might be able to make you see a space in a whole new configuration by moving doors or walls, so you need to be open to rethinking your layout.
    When a kitchen is already completely torn out, sometimes the added cost of moving a door or window is minimal. A kitchen designer can help you figure out the most efficient and least costly way to make footprint changes within the scope of the work you're already planning to do—and might even save you money if a new configuration means fewer custom cabinets and odd-size appliances.

  11. Be smart about scrapbooks
  12. Most designers recommend clients clip photos of kitchens they like. But there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. A better strategy is to collect pictures showing a range of preferences. One might have your favorite sink/island combination, even if you hate the cabinets; another could have the cabinets you've always wanted, but a refrigerator you don't like. Collect photos with an eye to details like lighting, backsplashes, and hardware.
    Some people don't know what they like about a picture until prodded and that's where the designer comes in. Lindquist recalls a client with a stack of seemingly unrelated kitchen pictures who couldn't verbalize what she liked about them.

  13. Ask for a walk-through
  14. Designers are very good at taking a paper drawing and understanding how it will look in 3-D. But if you're not the kind of person who can translate lines on a page into ¬real cabinets, consider asking for a full-size mock-up, a rendering in cardboard of your kitchen's structures. There will be a fee for this, but it gives you a chance to walk through everything and test out placement, sizes, traffic flow, and clearances before everything is permanent.

  15. Spend money to save money
  16. There may be times when a homeowner feels he or she has overwhelmed the designer with info. But that's actually good—the more the designer has to go on, the better.
    Which is why, if there are any parts of the design that aren't working, speak up now—and avoid correcting a mistake down the line. It's worth going back to the drawing board until it's all perfect, even if it means more money in design fees.

  17. Move on if it's not working
  18. Then there are the times when, no matter how much discussion you have, the design just isn't gelling. If a designer keeps coming back with something that doesn't work, then there's a point where you have to stop giving them the benefit of the doubt. Cut your losses and move on. After all, it's your ¬vision, and you need someone who can give you that kitchen you've always dreamed of.


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