The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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Designing Your Kitchen - Trying To Beat The Clock!

I got a call from a long time business associate on Monday. He asked if I could come out and look at his kitchen. He has a remodeling crew there now. The shell of the extension is up, and they will break through the wall to the existing house, into the dining room and the kitchen, very soon. I was going somewhere else, in that direction, so I said sure.

He showed me a kitchen design that he had been given from Lowe's. I yawned (to myself) at the uninspiring design work. After my yawn, I started to do what I do, which is to ask a series of lifestyle questions. But, details, lifestyle details. Obviously, the husband and wife had never been asked these types of questions before by their architect or the designer from Lowes. They were genuinely surprised at the questions I was asking them. I moved them, figuratively, into the kitchen bubble, where they looked at these issues for the first time. While the hammers were pounding, literally, in the extension.

The urgency of the meeting, as I saw it, was NOT to point out problem areas of the current kitchen plan from Lowes, but to discuss far more critical, and immediate, issues involving windows and doors and the eating area which was right in the center of two 6' or 8' doorways, one going to the outside, one going to the extension, and, the table with 6 chairs not 10 feet away from the dining room table. The dreaded "table/table" syndrome. 

The doors and windows were ordered that day. We quickly decided the contractor should cancel the order.

So, the meeting went well, I was hired and said I'd do my design work. They told me they needed it done soon, and I said I'd do what I can do. I do have other clients!

This was Monday. Yesterday, Tuesday, I received an email late in the day saying that the contractor needs to know the door/window sizes by Thursday.  

I wrote back, saying that while it may be possible to get it done by Thursday, he has a choice of getting it done with 25% or less of devoted quality time and thought put into it than is typical for me, "filling in the blanks" in a very basic way, OR, to allow the proper time for this expensive, and nearly once-in-a-lifetime project to develop.  A kitchen takes time to plan, a lot more than one thinks it "should" take. I hoped to illustrate that.

I advised him to tell the contractor in a nice way that he, the client, misjudged the time needed for planning purposes and that Thursday would not work. Perhaps the contractor can put his crew on another job when they get done with what they are doing.  

This is a crisis for the clients at this moment. They may end up paying the contractor real money for disrupting his schedule, if he's not willing to work with them. They are only now understanding that a kitchen is not just cabinets that someone punches mindlessly into a computer for 30 minutes at Lowes, but,

  • A quality of life for 20 years.
  • A design statement connected to the entirety of their home.
  • A functional environment that has at least several work flow possibilities which must be explored.
  • Perhaps, a once-in-a-lifetime project.
  • A space that needs to address numerous lifestyle activities.
  • A space that needs to "speak to" other rooms in a intelligent way.
  • A space that needs to work with the architectural elements such as doorways and windows.

Here's my message. Truly, it's never too early to hire a kitchen design professional. If you THINK it's just a quick thing to get the cabinets plugged into your plan, you will be doing your family, and your life in the kitchen, and your home, a huge disservice. I cannot overstate that. It's just never too early to get your designer in place. Leave time to interview designers. To find the right designer for this huge undertaking, not to mention expensive, should be given as much time as it needs.

I'm sorry for these people now. Part of their project, including doorways and windows, is up in the air. I have time obligations to other clients. I didn't really realize how strongly I felt about my kitchens. This type of timing issue does not come up too frequently, when one is in the middle of construction, at least not for me. But, it just really bothers me. It needs to be done well, carefully, as dimensioning for locating doors and windows is extremely critical, the lifestyle issues are critical, and so, it must be done right.  And, in my world, that's not done in 30 minutes.

I'm leaving off with a sigh...and a solemn, and slow, shaking of my head, as I hear the drum beat of the hammers in the distance  ;-)


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Reader Comments (4)

Fabulous - and well written - post!I have definitely found that people underestimate the thoughtful process behind a good design, and only focus on what's going on in front of them - usually a contractor with a watch and a power tool.

Oh eek. WEll the good news is that is sounds like you are very busy with clients!

May 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMaryam in Marrakesh

Did you consider turning down this project?

I understand very well how you could be swept up in the moment when you were invited into this maelstrom by your ignorant business associate.
I have had this happen to me, as has almost any kitchen designer you might ask.
You are damned if you do and damned if you don't.

This is an issue that needs to be brought to the public's attention. But I am afraid that the public that needs to know wouldn't take the time to find the information if it were staring them in the face.

I really think, if we laid out all the decisions that need to be made by the client in the course of a thoughtful kitchen design process, most clients would run the other way and never undertake a remodel.

Experienced designers make the process fluid and painless, but you can't short-circuit the time involved.

Good luck with this one Susan.

I'm just reading your blog the first time and am on the client side of the fence (we are building a new home). We hired a kitchen designer after getting two very uninspired plans from our architect and a cabinet maker. We just couldn't shake the "it could be better" feeling.

I wish that I could articulate the excitement, yet comfort, that we have now after hiring our designer. Excited that our kitchen will be fabulous (what we want and need...) and comforted by the fact that every single detail has been explored. Our designer is so much more detailed than we are and we're now just sitting back and watching this beauty come up. And his input has gone far beyond the reach of the kitchen. I suppose that this is just a long-winded comment to say that our experience concurs with your sentiment completely...from the client side as well.

June 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

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