Help! My Kitchen is Being Held Hostage by the Cabinet Maker.

So, I was working on a total new kitchen design for a client/friend who decided to take the design and do the implementation herself. Well, a few months later I got “the call”. My friend, in desperation called me to ask for my help. With Thanksgiving approaching (and a house full of guests expected) the cabinet maker had only installed the cabinet frames. Drawers, and doors were nowhere on the horizon. A few quick calls helped me understand what had happened. Unbeknownst to the client, a missed decision deadline had moved her project to the bottom of his project list. The good news is I straightened it out and worked to get all the cabinets installed before the holiday.

I love this story, not the part about my friend being in a panic, of course, but because it really speaks to a skill that is often overlooked when wondering if a designer is needed on a project, versus relying on a general contractor to handle the design work.

The skill is an ability to manage the details of a project in order to get the desired result, and finding the right person for the task at hand. Understanding what tradespeople do, and how they run their business can mean a smooth running project versus a big headache. Understanding how products are made, and the intent behind every product selection can’t be overstated.
In essence, your designer not only cares about the project timeline, the bottom line, and the selections but about the client expectation of a job well done by all parties involved.

The difficult part for home owners is that most don’t work in the world of contractors and tradespeople on a regular basis. So it’s a good idea to hire an expert designer who does. Most designers have a baseline of creativity. They can open your eyes to new ideas. Designers, I would venture to say, are good at connecting with their clients. And some designers are really off the charts at visualizing the end result. But few designers have that quality of being able to ask the right questions and probe into the reasoning of tradespeople, contractors, and product companies in order to get the best end result possible for the client. I have spent countless hours understanding and grooming my trade partners to do their best work possible. I’ve selected them after a trial work project, and I take responsibility, and action when they don’t live up to their promise of a job well done.

It’s not that contractors aren’t doing a good job. It’s not that they aren’t thinking about the end result. But they look at things with different eyes. I’m there to make sure the eyes are those of my client’s.

I’m often asked “why should I hire a designer? My contractor/architect/Lowes designer/cabinet maker (you fill in the blank) says he can do the design work for me.”
The assumption is, and they often tell you this, that the design work is “free”. Is it really? As in the case of my friend, you need to ask yourself these questions before you start:

  • Do I understand the process and the contractor’s motivation? Do I have the time and understanding to really know what is going on? How will I know if it is for my benefit?
  • What if I don’t get it right? What’s the cost to redo? Or what do I have to live with if I can’t redo because of the cost?
  • I don’t know what I don’t know. Who will be my advocate?
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Marissa Schultz