Finding Kitchen Design Help
Read on to find excellent sources that will help you get started on your dream kitchen.
If designing a kitchen were nothing more than figuring out where the cabinets should go, Jim Krengel would be out of work. Instead, the Minneapolis-based author and consultant is busier than ever. He spends more than 200 days a year on the road conducting seminars on kitchen design. "The big question is how a kitchen should function," Krengel says. "Most kitchens in this country are designed by builders who don't know how to burn water."
It is easy to decide to remodel. The big issue is getting started. Where to begin? We spoke with homeowners and designers and other professionals from all over the country. Our question: What are the best sources of kitchen design information for someone about to undertake a remodel?
Books and Magazines
A good way to build a library of features you want is to cull magazines and books. Don't worry if the kitchens you see seem unrealistic for your budget. Some feature high-end appliances and enough pink granite for a small patio. But substitute high-quality, moderately priced appliances and laminate for granite, and the same kitchen offers solid design ideas for just about anyone.
Magazines, such as This Old House routinely feature kitchen design information. In addition, there are even more specialized publications that cover the topic.
Designer Kitchens & Baths and Kitchens emphasize high-end work and top-quality appliances and materials. Advertising is limited. Kitchens represents a wide variety of styles, and the front part of the magazine features helpful articles on faucets, stoves, ventilation and related topics.
Signature Kitchens & Baths provides articles on counters, appliances, choosing a designer and related topics as well as photos and text describing high-end kitchens. Also included is a directory of manufacturers.
The annual Fine Homebuilding Kitchens & Baths provides a heavier dose of technical information than many consumer magazines. It also offers tips on design, lighting, cabinets and appliances, with product reviews submitted by readers.
Special-interest publications, published by several magazines, provide a number of kitchen styles and ideas. Collect ideas by tearing out pages from these publications and starting a file.
Books frequently mentioned by pro designers:
The Kitchen Idea Book, by Joanne Kellar Bouknight, presents hundreds of photographs showing all kinds of kitchen styles, what the author calls "a cookbook of kitchen details." Scattered throughout the book are short backgrounders on such topics as cabinet and door types, cabinet accessories, shelf supports, solid-surface edge treatments and backsplashes. The tone is friendly and knowledgeable. At the back is an excellent list of other resources.
The Smart Kitchen, by David Goldbeck, is a sturdy brown shoe of a book: no color photos, lots of text and very simple drawings. The subtitle sums it up: "How to design a comfortable, safe, energy-efficient and environment-friendly workspace." Essential information, not fluff.
Kitchens offers mini-tours of kitchens that author Chris Casson Madden has singled out for superior design. Madden offers a look at many different kitchen styles.
Although photos can be theatrical, the author intends the book as a "practical jumping-off point" for readers to begin a kitchen remodel.
Kitchens for Cooks, by Deborah Krasner, starts with the basics (stoves, counters, refrigeration, storage and work zones) and then tours kitchens belonging to serious amateur and pro cooks. Too many kitchens have been designed "for looks, for show, and for status, and less and less for real use," Krasner writes in the introduction. She goes beyond that here.
A variety of professional design services are available if you have done your basic homework. Costs vary with the level of service, beginning with very modest fees at big home centers like The Home Depot and extending upward to thousands of dollars for an architect who oversees an entire remodel.
If all you really want are new cabinets and countertops, without making structural or layout changes in the kitchen, minimal services at a home center or cabinet retailer may be all you need. Mike George, a designer at The Home Depot in Danbury, Connecticut, will come up with a cabinet layout and estimate for a $100 fee. That covers the cost of sending someone to your house to take careful measurements of the room, and the fee is applied to the cost of the cabinets. With layout in hand, George sits down with customers at a computer and in two hours or less can run through three or four possible layouts to get the one you want. But options are limited. His computer is loaded with information, but only from the four cabinet lines the store sells. You're out of luck if you want a different brand.
By spending more money you'll get more individual attention and time, and additional site visits to tailor the design to your needs. Certified designers also should be able to specify plumbing, electrical and mechanical alterations. Kitchen retailers and showrooms usually have designers on staff. Fees vary. They might charge an initial retainer, starting at $500 to $750, to get the design work under way and then an hourly fee once you decide to go forward with the work. But the fees are sometimes deducted from the overall project cost. As a result, according to Waterbury, Connecticut, designer Marsha Fried, showroom customers do not typically end up paying for design work directly. It is part of the cost of the project.
There are some designers who work as independents. Customers pay a fee for design work and take the plans to a builder, cabinetmaker or retailer. What these designers sell is the work itself, not the cabinets that go with it.
The best-known certifying agency for kitchen designers is the National Kitchen & Bath Association. The group can supply you with the names of certified kitchen designers in your area as well as a helpful kitchen planning guide.
Complicated projects where major structural alterations are likely may call for an architect. Fees will total 8 to 10 percent of total construction costs, but the level of expertise can be very high, particularly when it comes to blending alterations with the rest of the house.
When looking for a designer or architect, ask for a portfolio of past projects as well as references. "Shop for a person, not a company," says Krengel. "You want to find someone who cares about you and your project, and who fits well with you. "
Although many designers say their clients are fairly well informed about cabinet, countertop and appliance options, many homeowners are not prepared for the cost of a major kitchen overhaul. "Champagne tastes, beer budget," says Timothy Bates, a Santa Barbara, California, designer who tackles 25 to 30 kitchens a year. "It's always the same. When they get the estimate, they gulp."
Using the Web
The Internet is an ocean of information—but its sheer size is one of its drawbacks. Another is the unexpected directions your search will take you. Start looking for tips on remodeling your kitchen and you may end up finding a recipe for Amish pickles.
Here are a few sites that are useful for kitchen remodeling:
The official site of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (www.nkba.org) is a good place to start. It can help you find a designer or retailer in your area with a ZIP code search, or link you to appliance, cabinet and countertop manufacturers. In addition, there is a library of general information on design and remodeling. You can also order a planning kit for kitchen design.
If you're wondering where to shop for appliances, try www.homeappliance.com. A simple questionnaire asks what type of appliance you want, your price range and when you plan to buy. What comes up is a list of recommended appliances, plus a list of local dealers. Retailers who sell appliances online are flagged.
Need a remodeling contractor in your area? Turn to www.improvenet.com. The cost estimator on kitchen remodeling is also useful. It provides rough numbers on how much your project is likely to cost.
The 20-20 Kitchen Design site (www.kitchen-design.com) provides access to a server loaded with a limited version of the 20-20 Technologies software that many design pros use. Plans you develop here can be forwarded to a retailer in your area for fine-tuning and revisions, saving both you and the showroom people a lot of time.
Kitchen design is only one of many home care-related topics available at www.DIYonline.com. Useful background articles cover kitchen design basics, technology and how to pick a remodeling contractor. Design software, with a downloadable work sheet, will help you visualize cabinet styles, color schemes and room layout.
You'll find products, a directory of retailers, a question-and-answer section and a good description of basic kitchen design rules at www.kitchen-bath.com. Best of all, this site is fun to read, witty and full of good information—it's never a bore.
Manufacturers of cabinets, appliances, countertop materials and flooring also offer their own Web pages. Some are better than others when it comes to offering general design information, but they usually are helpful in learning about specific products. Some sites have easy-to-use catalogs that allow you to price different products. Many of these sites are found simply by adding a ".com" to the brand name. for example (www.whirlpool.com).
These programs allow you to build a kitchen from scratch. Although some of the programs are easier to use or more specialized than others, they share many similarities. After drawing a room to scale, you add windows, doors and other architectural features, and then complete the room with cabinets and appliances. A two-dimensional view makes it easier to visualize traffic patterns and kitchen work zones. A three-dimensional perspective view gives you a rough idea of what it would look like. Completed plans can be printed, saved or e-mailed to someone else.
If you enjoy working with a computer, the programs can be fun. And they aren't expensive—usually $50 to $75. If you're not on good terms with your mouse, however, design software can be frustrating. Computers four or five years old may not meet minimum system requirements, and most of the software is intended to run on Windows-based computers, not on Macs. Another consideration: Although you'll end up with a stack of computer-generated drawings, there's no guarantee the kitchen will be well designed.
Some of the choices include 3D Home Architect, Complete Home 3D Design Collection, Custom Home 3D Design and Decor, Floor Plan 3D Design (a lighter version is available for free from www.imsisoft.com) and Deco Tech 3D Designer.
Where to FInd It:
Designer Kitchens and Baths and Kitchens by Professional Designers
Kasmar Publications Inc.
Palm Desert, CA
Kitchens and Baths ($14.95)
Fine Homebuilding Kitchens & Baths
The Taunton Press
by Chris Casson Madden
Clarkson N. Potter Inc.
Kitchens for Cooks
by Deborah Krasner
Signature Kitchens & Baths
Magnolia Publishing Group
The Kitchen Idea Book
by Joanne Kellar Bouknight
The Taunton Press
The Smart Kitchen
by David Goldbeck
3-D Home Architect Deluxe
The Learning Co.
504 Redwood Blvd.
Novato, CA 94948
Complete Home 3D Design Collection
and Custom Home 3D Design and Decor
Sierra On-Line Inc.
3060 139th Ave. SE, Suite 500
Bellevue, WA 98005
Deco Tech Designer
Pulsar Software Inc.
Mishawaka, IN 46546
Floor Plan 3D Design Suite
75 Rowland Way
Novato, CA 94945
A lighter version is available for free from the company's Website.