Follow Fridays

November 6th, 2009 § Leave a Comment

Sometimes I just nod my head in agreement when reading a fellow Designer’s blog post. So with no further ado, I divert your attention from my blog to go read what Kelly is talking about in her blog Kitchen Sync. 

Managing Stealth Costs

Very well said Kelly! Thank you so much for pointing out the obvious to us but not so obvious to first time remodel types.

Playing poker with your cabinet estimate: "How much is it gonna cost ?"

October 30th, 2009 § Leave a Comment

I am not a betting person but sometimes I wonder if I should take up poker since some client’s like to play it with me. Poker it seems is a game of not revealing your cards and is a game of chance, skill and never revealing your moves.

The problem with playing poker in remodeling is that it just doesn’t work this way if you want me to plan an estimate for you. “How much is it gonna cost me?” “How much do you want to spend?” I could bluff but that just wastes both your time and mine, doesn’t it? You can’t build your budget on a game of Texas Hold-em and I can’t plan a design for you unless I know your budget, pardner. Case in point: You want to buy cabinets from me and you want to know how much it’s gonna cost. You look at my corner 10 x 10 display and you ask how much would something like this cost in my kitchen? Well that’s like asking how much is a bag of groceries!

Estimating is time intensive and if you really want to know the truth, if you think you are getting a deal with getting someone to come out and give you a “free estimate” you just lost the game. Anytime someone says it’s a “free estimate” is playing poker with you. Chances are he is factoring his time into the cost of the project without revealing to you that the time to estimate, the drive time, the payroll expense to pay someone to layout the plans for your “free design” just upped the ante for him. He has to factor his time and labor into your cost. But not just your estimate, you are also paying for everyone else who asked for a free estimate with over all higher prices. Time is money, my friend, and no one is driving around town, spending time with each customer that calls for a free estimate and not building his costs into your estimate. If he isn’t, he won’t be in business  for long.

Do I want to play poker with clients? Nope, I am a straight shooter. I don’t like gambling with my customer’s time or money. I can provide you the option of a free estimate if you bring me your measurements and I can do a take off with preliminary numbers to get you in the ball park of price ranges. A free estimate won’t be accurate to the penny because I have not verified the dimensions my self. It will remain a ballpark range within 10-15% until the dimensions can be verified and the details of your “wish list” versus “must have” list” clarified by you.

If you are not comfortable with measuring your own kitchen, I can do that for you but I charge a measure fee for my time to come out to your house and take accurate measurements of the space and you will get accurate pricing. This is rebated back to you when you purchase my cabinets, which is a fair deal. If you don’t want to buy from me, you get a few rendered concept views and those are for you to keep.

All this makes sense until the customer who wants to have a Mexican Stand Off enters the picture. She wants a price, but won’t bring in dimensions of the kitchen and she won’t pay a measure fee for preliminary plans. She won’t pay the fee because she doesn’t know if she will like what she gets. It does not pay to play poker with a client because I cannot guess how much your kitchen is going to cost until we discuss what it is exactly you want in your kitchen and until I price it out. I cannot presume to know your taste and style without at least having a conversation with you. I have to see it or at the very least be provided pictures of kitchens you like and dimensions to estimate from.

Come on folks, this is like going to see your Cosmetic Surgeon and telling her you want your face to look younger but you are not willing to reveal what part of the face you want worked on and how much you want to spend. A brow lift, a facial peel, a face lift, remove the bags under your eyes, remove the jowels, it all adds up. What do you want to do?

Likewise you can’t go to a Realtor and say “I want to buy a house” and escorted to several homes for sale without knowing what your price range is.  Kitchens, like houses, like cars, like anything you want to buy are available in several different prices ranges. If you cannot reveal honestly what your investment can be, your service provider will not be able to provide you the best service or the best value for the money without these basic facts to work from. Mostly, I want to provide my clients a project and a product they are satisfied with. To do this well, communication is essential and this is no place for a game of poker with your wants and needs.

Also, if a client tells me she doesn’t need a design, she just needs to order cabinets, you can’t place an order for cabinets without a plan. A plan involves a design, a design involves exact dimensions, dimensions require accuracy and if I am responsible for your order, I need to be the one measuring for those cabinets. I suppose you can simply go to your local big box store and place your order with the order takers, but then you are responsible for your dimensions. I prefer not to be an order taker.  

Getting an accurate design and paying a Professional Kitchen Designer will save you money in the long run. You can retain a Kitchen Designer to provide you a space plan so that you can get competitive bids from contractors or you may get a great price from that Kitchen Designer and buy from her. Whichever the case may be for you, working with a Kitchen Designer will add value to your project. Contractors will thank you for having detailed plans to bid from, as this saves them time knowing what the details are for your project in advance. There are too many details in cabinet design for a contractor to keep up with or even care about. Most contractors will advise clients to get their cabinets planned out and provide them a copy of the plans. A kitchen designer will be able to best advise on cabinetry, counter tops, lighting, flooring, best use of space layout, seating arrangements, appliances, storage solutions and so much more. Furthermore, an experienced designer that specializes in Kitchen Design will save you from the headaches of not pre-planning the details and not having the materials on the job when the contractor needs them. You can find a Professional Kitchen Designer by searching the National Kitchen and Bath Association website,

How much is it going to cost? Moreover, how much will you save by retaining expert advice? 

photo credit1:
photo credit2:   Clint Eastwood, The Man With No Name

Managing Design Expectations: The Client -Designer Relationship

September 16th, 2009 § 4 Comments

The Kitchen Designer: Hello, this is Laurie. How may I help you?

Client: Oh Hello, before you come out to my house to take measurements, I have one other request for my kitchen design. At our first meeting you asked us if there was one primary cook or two and if we had any special needs we want you to take into consideration.
The Kitchen Designer: Yes?
Client: Well, yes, we thought about your question and realize we do have a family member that uses the kitchen quite frequently and we think we need to take his special needs into consideration.
The Kitchen Designer: Oh?
Client: Yes, you see we have a cat that won’t drink from his bowl. He drinks from the kitchen faucet. Actually, our cat is very fond of water. The only problem we have with this is that he can’t turn the faucet off when he’s finished. We need you to help us with this. Can you specify a sensor into the faucet that will turn off when there is no motion?
The Kitchen Designer: Well… sensor faucets are on the market and they are becoming more popular…I would have to check specs to see how we could make this work…I suppose…can I get back to you with an answer?
Client: Sure, that would be fine. Here is a video we took of our cat, perhaps it would be easier if we could just show you what we mean. If you can just review this, and maybe if you can also show this around to your vendors to get the best deal, we want the faucet to be triggered by a sensor…our water bill is getting pretty high with the faucet on all day. Can you show us all the best possible options to help us out?

This is a hypothetical story, of course, using a very funny cat video submitted on line by Kim Tasky at You Tube. (She is neither a client nor the person in the above scenario.) I use this very amusing cat story to make a “tongue in cheek” point about a universal problem regarding the client-designer relationship.

The point is this:
There are some clients working under the impression that Kitchen Designers should spend time on your project researching, sourcing, evaluating, planning the best possible options to incorporate a client’s every last desire on the wish list before paying for services. There are no professions that work for free. So why do people expect to be dazzled with a design before paying for it?

You can call a plumber for a service call and he will charge you $75.00 just for the trip charge before he pulls out his plumber’s wrench.

You wouldn’t call your attorney and ask him to review your lease agreement
without expecting a bill would you?
And you wouldn’t tell your attorney “I want to see what ideas you can come up with first and then I will let you know if I will hire you.”
Perry Mason

Kitchen Designers receive a myriad of special requests for a remodel project. Some details more complex then the next to specify and execute. And most every time, the client is on a deadline because they did not budget the time to allow for the design details to be fleshed out. All projects, no matter the size, require thought and research before recommendations can be made. Here in lies the problem. How do you value your designer’s time?

How much free design do you think you are owed before paying a retainer?

Solving Design Problems: What is this service worth to you?
There is a perception problem about what a design is worth to the client. Here is the issue Designers are continually facing: a prospective client has a design problem they want their Kitchen Designer to solve for them. Designers expect a prospective client to interview with two or three designers before making a final selection. Qualified designers expect to be interviewed and are able and ready to prove their qualifications to prospective clients. But ask a Designer to pull out the “dog and pony show” for you and you may get a polite response declining your request. Internally the dialogue going through that Designer’s head may be something to the effect of “I have been doing this for 30 years, I don’t need any more practice to prove I can design.”

Ask a Kitchen Designer their opinion about “HGTV” type shows where three designers are trotted out for the client to compare three fully detailed designs and you will get very opinionated answers.

“Ideas are free but designs must be paid for.” Laurie Burke

Home improvement shows have done a disservice to the design community and have built up unrealistic expectations for clients. You would be surprised to know that a majority of potential clients expect that several design options be presented in detail before paying a retainer to contract for design services. It happens at all ends of the spectrum from the high end client to the budget minded client.

A fully detailed dimensioned design plan with elevations and renderings, before a retainer is paid is just not a workable business model for designers as it involves time without money, and giving ideas away with the ‘hope’ of getting the business is just bad business.

Charles Schulz

Hiring your Kitchen Designer should be based on several factors, creativity being one if them. Secondly, the ability to complete projects in a timely manner and within budget. Third, the ability to communicate with you, your architect, your engineer, your GC or subs throughout the job as needed. Fourth, the ability to manage obstacles as they arise, and lastly the ability to see a project to it’s completion.

A Renovation Check List

September 15th, 2009 § Leave a Comment

Getting ready to remodel? I will point my readers in the direction of a “MUST READ” article posted by my friend Paul Anater of Kitchen and Residential Design about renovation expectations. I too have received the phone calls from clients who are in a state of panic over the tile going up, the color of the cabinets, the floor, the paint and so forth. Paul has made sane points, so with no further ado, I point you to Ready To Renovate? Take A Moment And Breathe First.

I highly recommend you print out these “10 Points of Reason ” when you feel like you are going to loose your mind. Print it, post it where you can see it, your bathroom mirror, outside the plastic wall of your remodel zone, your check book.

Remind yourself that long after the remodel is over with, the dust and muss is gone, what remains is a beautiful space. And above all else, remind yourself to breathe! Thanks Paul!

Save the Date: Professional Designers Host 4th Annual Tour of Kitchens

September 4th, 2009 § Leave a Comment

Ventura County, CA (October 18, 2009)- While the weather is “hot, hot, hot” in September, mark your calendars in October when balmy temperatures return that make living here in Southern California so desirable. A perfect time to attend the 4th Annual Tour of Kitchens to be held on Sunday, October 18, 2009 - 10 am to 5 pm, organized by the local chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. The Tour of Kitchens will be twice as fun in 2009 because we’re going to double our territory. This year will be TWO tours- One in Santa Clarita Valley and the other in Ventura County.

So how does one experience a home tour? Ronni Fryman, Chairperson of this year’s tour advises, “I always like to gather my favorite pals into a carpool to make a day of it. We start at one house and work our way through each and every one – stopping for a nice lunch in the middle. We always have a vote at the end of the day for which home was our favorite, which one we could move right into and which had the most innovative features.” Other people may enjoy meeting the designers, artists and contractors who planned and built the projects. “I guarantee everyone will walk away with several new ideas that they will want to incorporate into their own homes.” Unlike reading a magazine for ideas, the best part about attending our tour is you will see architectural styles that are likely to be similar to your home.

The Tour of Kitchens’ projects may be reviewed on the NKBA-ccv website and tickets for
the event may also be ordered online. Tickets are $20 for advance sales and $25 on the day of
the tour. For more information, please go to

The Tour of Kitchens is a charitable event benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County and Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children’s Cancer. The 2009 tour will be held on Sunday, October 18 from 10 am to 5 pm.

About the National Kitchen & Bath Association
The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) is a non-profit trade association that has educated and led the kitchen and bath industry for more than 45 years. With over 40,000 members and growing, the NKBA owns the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show & Conference (K/BIS®). The mission of the NKBA is to enhance member success and excellence, promote professionalism and ethical business practices, and provide leadership and direction for the kitchen and bath industry. For more information, visit


Asking for a discount:: How not to do it.

June 2nd, 2009 § 6 Comments

Kelly at KitchenSync posted this first, and she found it at another site. Spreading fast through the internet; I had to revisit this You Tube Video again for grins. Haven’t we all been there with clients? There are better ways to negotiate price. This video is a prime example of what not to do.

There are ways to save money so be up front about it. Your service provider will appreciate your honesty if you are up front about your budget and be able to look for ways to save you money. Looking for angles to get a discount after the fact is just bad behavior.

Lead times: How soon do you need it?

May 19th, 2009 § 6 Comments

There are times when I scratch my head in disbelief when do-it yourself remodeling types do not plan out the project details. Here is my “fly-on-the-wall” experience with a moral at the end of the story.

This weekend I was in a plumbing store with a client, helping with her plumbing selections for an upcoming project. What happened next placed me in a suspended state of disbelief.

A lovely woman walked into the store and explained she needed a lavatory sink and faucet and another faucet for the kitchen. Nothing too unusual about that.
The sales person proceeded to ask the customer the usual questions:
S: Are you looking for a self-rimming sink or under-mount?
C: Self-rimming.

S: Ok. Do you have a preference for wide-spread faucet or single faucet mounted on the deck of the sink or on the counter?” Do you know what your new counter surface will be yet?

C: New granite top. White self-rimming sink. Single hole faucet style mounted on the sink

S: Ok, great we have several options we can look at.”

S: Next, is this for new cabinetry or are you replacing an existing sink and counter and keeping the cabinets?

C: Existing.

S: Alright, do you know what are the existing sink dimensions?

S: “‘What’s that? your existing cabinet is 15 1/2″ front to back?” What’s that? Oh, It’s for your boat?
Oh, I see. Hmm, would you mind if I made a suggestion for an undermount with the single faucet mounted on the rear left or right and not centered. Or we could look at some stainless steel bar sinks that could work. Self rimming sinks with a faucet mounted on the porcelain are just not made that small. We can check the catalogs, but I am pretty sure it is a tall order to fill, I can think of two or three small sinks that may work.

C: No, no, we have that style now, and I really don’t like it at all. I really want to change the style.

S: “How soon do you need it?”

“I am running out of time, I have the granite fabricator coming this Monday and need to get this done today.”

When the customer said she needed it by Monday, the salesperson could have been a deer struck in headlights. That was Saturday with a customer looking for a specialty item she could take with her or have by Monday.

There was a line of people needing help and this customer insisted on going through all the catalogs to prove to herself that the salesperson indeed did not have a sink in stock that met her requirements.

Ideally, when planning a remodel, the cardinal rule is to plan in advance to have all the components on site or in stock ready to ship to you.

Lead times: Not all plumbing stores stock inventory. The specialty plumbing stores carry thousands of models from the plumbing manufacturers they buy from and most will have a lead time from as short as two weeks and as long as 6 weeks for special order items. Chances are, unless you walk into a big box store with product on the shelf ready to buy, there is little chance you will be able to walk away with it the same day.

Check ahead: Not all competing stores carry the same stock. One store may stock Kohler and another down the street may stock Grohe. Call in advance, save yourself the aggravation and wasting gas and time driving all over town. Ask the store manager or head of the dept. what brands they stock or that you can get within the week. Sales people should be able to help you over the phone with these basic questions. Check with your plumber where he buys from. Industry insiders are the best people to ask.

Getting the best service: Don’t abuse a salesperson’s time on the phone. Yes, that’s right. To get the best service and best price keep your questions over the phone, simple and direct. Most will not be able to quote prices, but will be able to take care of your general questions. Ask your salesperson what’s the best time to come in. They want your business, but if you need more handholding in product selection and need to look at every catalog and get a price on multiple styles, showing up during prime time hours means they have to hustle to take care of several customers and cannot focus on you alone. Most salespeople are knowledgeable and want to help. If you find yourself in a busy showroom, write down model #’s. Tell the salesperson you are working on a large project and have several things you need to order. Ask if they can fax or email a quote back to you. If you are willing to be flexible, you can get a lot more in the way of service and probably a better price.

Unfortunately, waiting till the final hour before the plumber arrives, can lead to some very unhappy compromises in your selections.

Better idea yet, if your request is for the unusual and your taste is very selective, your best value is hiring a designer to begin with. A designer has the capability of sourcing out custom features and will be able to recommend the best showrooms to find product. In addition, a designer may be able to recommend a much more efficient floor plan, so that you are not at the mercy of unusual dimensions.

There was more delays in her selection process. Most all the faucets had a red and blue dot indicating hot and cold and she needed one that did not have that. A few more customers came and went, not able to stick it out waiting for service. While the salesperson, (poor chap- he did the best he could in the limited amount of time he had), went off to assist another customer, I felt a little sorry for this lady’s predicament. I whispered quietly to the lady looking for the unusual sink, “that is a very uncommon sink, have you tried a specialty plumbing supplier that carries sinks for marine and rv equipment?”

Answer: “Oh, I didn’t think of that! I had no idea it would be so difficult.”

Moral of the story: When you fail to plan, plan to fail.

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