Many people in the home design and renovation business like to bash HGTV home design programs, with many of their complaints being valid.

It is true that you cannot complete a full kitchen renovation in a weekend and a to-the-studs gut of the main level of a house cost more than $5000.00. Also, pros identify structural issues before the project starts, not in the middle of it.

These unrealistic time frames, out of wack budgets and unnecessary drama have irritated true professionals for years. We have all had clients sitting in our showrooms with these expectations because they saw it on TV. I think what everyone from the professional to the consumer needs to understand is that most of these home renovation programs produced for TV are purely for entertainment.

Having stated the obvious negatives, what positive things has the rise in HGTV home renovations shows brought to the kitchen design industry?

Before I get into that, I would like to share with you a similar situation that occurred, impacting the kitchen industry in the late 1980’s.

Many of you will not remember the time before BIG BOX stores were a fixture in every community across the continent, but I do.

It was the late 80’s and prior to BIG BOX, everyone got their renovation supplies at the local lumber yard. If you needed a new sink you went to the plumbing wholesaler. Appliances were only available at the local retailer.  Things were vastly different then.

At that time, I was the president of the newly established NKBA (National Kitchen & Bath Association) chapter in my area. Our membership was growing, and we were getting about 50 passionate people out to every meeting. The meetings were inspiring and often went late into the evening with everyone sharing their excitement about the industry.

Then it happened!

The new kid in town!

Home Depot opened a new mega store on the outskirts of town.

The conversations now at the NKBA meetings turned to bashing this retailer. The complaints were that their prices were unrealistically low, they stocked everything in the store and they had enormous marketing budgets. How was a local dealer to compete!

I decided to do some research on my own and discovered that yes, their advertised price for a kitchen while seemingly unrealistically low, did not include everything. In most cases the lineal foot price advertised for cabinets was based on full height doors, no drawers, no decorative hardware, no accessories, no crown mouldings, and no installation. When I priced out a complete kitchen from BIG BOX and from my local supplier, we were cheaper when everything was included!

When I looked at stocked product, I soon discovered that what was stocked in store was extremely limited. If the consumer wanted something else the lead times were double what local manufactures could deliver on.

My time researching BIG BOX kitchen departments got me thinking. “What could the advantage to the kitchen industry be of having Home Depot come to town?” When I really thought about it there was one big advantage.

The BIG BOX store brought AWARENESS to the Kitchen Industry!

None of the small dealers could afford to run full page adds promoting renovating kitchens or afford showrooms the size of Home Depots. Independents rarely had consumers randomly wander into their kitchen showroom the way they would at BIG BOX.

Kitchens were becoming “Top of Mind” with consumers.

At the time, studies had shown that consumers would think about renovating their kitchen for 2 to 5 years researching before they took the plunge.

The awareness that the BIG BOX kitchen section was bringing to the local industry shrunk that time frame by years.

At one NKBA meeting when the talk turned to the problem with BIG BOX kitchen dealers, I brought up my thoughts. A great conversation developed and many at the table started to see that yes, there was more awareness about the kitchen industry since Home Depot had come to town.

We also discussed advantages of the small local kitchen design firm. First, they could show that their pricing was competitive. They could also talk about local lead times. The conversation then came around to the real big advantage they had.

Small Dealers had Kitchen Design EXPERIENCE!

Even though BIG BOX was attempting to train the new kitchen staff, they did not have the experience of the local pro.

That night there was a shift among my colleges that served them well moving forward. They began to see that not everyone will want to buy their kitchen from BIG BOX and that they could serve those clients. Their years of experience would guide the consumer through the process.

BIG BOX was increasing the demand for new kitchens and that was a good thing!

I tell this story because it parallels many aspects of the rise of television home renovation and design shows. This network and others have done a lot for the Kitchen Industry.

HGTV has brought more AWARENESS to the Kitchen Design Industry.

When you look specifically at the kitchen design industry, HGTV has produced the following positives:

  1. They make owning an open concept kitchen a need not just a want, promoting larger kitchen renovations.
  2. They introduce new decor styles such as Modern Farmhouse making it easy for kitchen dealers across the nation to access get-the-look products.
  3. They create demand for high end products such as commercial gas ranges, custom ventilation hoods, quartz countertops and apron front sinks, prompting your customers to ask for these upgrades.
  4. They introduce unique design solutions that push your clients to be more adventurous with their designs.
  5. They experiment with new color combinations giving client’s permission to break out to the all white kitchen mode

As kitchen designers and dealers, you need to appreciate these positives and develop strategies to deal with the negatives.

I have always found that developing educational presentations for clients will help debunk the HGTV kitchen design myths. Here are a few suggestions for presentations you could develop.

  1. The Kitchen Design Process
    • Show a realistic timeline from first initial contact until the client moves into their kitchen.
    • Look at your past couple of years of clients to determine an average based on your first meeting with them until you came to photograph the fabulous AFTER.
    • Explain that the TV shows never show the planning that goes on weeks before the project starts, and that your client needs to spend upfront time to design and order product before the demo crew arrives.
  2. Kitchen Budget Presentation
    • Consider “designing” three different kitchens for a space using good, better, best products to show the range of costs in developing a kitchen.
    • Designing one with a free-standing range, one with a cooktop & oven and one with a high-end pro-style range. You could easily show a spread of $10K to $15K just based on the cooking equipment chosen.
    • Do let customers know that TV shows are given free product by suppliers that are rarely factored into the final numbers presented on the show. I know this because I have supplied product to HGTV shows and it is common practice.
  3. Design a Professional Presentation
    • As a professional you will anticipate issues prior to beginning your clients project
    • A simple checklist of everything you look at before you start designing such as what the existing plumbing looks like under the sink, what the electrical amperage coming in to the house is, what the access into the home looks like, etc. should be included.
    • This illustrates that you will do everything that you can to eliminate drama in the renovation. You may not be able to see what’s behind the walls, but you can check the size of the elevator to ensure product fits if the renovation is in a penthouse!

In conclusion I would like to say that some of the Home Renovation TV shows are starting to address the concerns of the professional. I stumbled across “Nate & Jeremiah Save My House” the other night on a streaming service and almost fell over when they divulged at the end that they had received $70K of free product from suppliers to boost the clients $150K budget up to $220K.

The renovation was fabulous and it did look like a $220K renovation. Now there was a bit of drama with the designers working off the wrong measurements which had me rolling my eyes, but overall I enjoyed the show and was thrilled to see realistic numbers being used.

Another HGTV star who I happen to have worked with in the past, Scott McGillivray, has an new show “Scott’s Vacation House Rules” that seems to be working with realistic budgets, timelines and limited drama. Again, nice to see.

There are definitely other shows out there that are trying to present a more realistic view of things. However, producers have their formulas and consumers are looking for escapism, so don’t hold your breath for an across the board realistic presentation of the home renovation industry on TV any time soon.

As a design professional be thankful that they are there and are pushing the envelope when it comes to kitchen design. Also remember that consumers get bored and the shows will keep presenting new ideas and trends. This will continue to be positive for the Kitchen Design Industry.

I’d love to here your thoughts on this topic. Do you think HGTV helps or hurts the industry? Please comment below.

Also, you may want to subscribe to this blog to receive regular industry related posts or check out our Facebook page where you can become a member of our private group called THE ART, SCIENCE & BUSINESS of KITCHEN DESIGN that will be discussing more topics like this.

9 Comments on “Has HGTV Helped or Hurt the Kitchen Design Industry?

  1. Excellent Article! All such valid points and truly what happens in the real world when renovating!

  2. Thank you for bringing to light the positive impact these shows have had on our industry!

    • Yes, they do inspire the consumer to invest in a new kitchen!

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  4. Very good article! The way you talked about the positives and negatives was balanced! I also liked the inclusion of tips for kitchen designers, so they can be more educated and prepared to effectively perform in their profession. From just a viewer’s perspective, I have not been a fan of HGTV’s monotonous programming. I remember the days when HGTV shows emphasized a variety of topics, from ‘Room By Room’ to ‘Cash in the Attic’. In recent years, the shows revolved around real estate, major renovations, or both. This limited the scope of what it takes to make a house a home. There have been some recent attempts to bring that sense of variety back to the network. Some of these newer programs include ‘Hot Mess House’ and ‘Martha Knows Best’. It’ll be interesting to see if the programming on HGTV ever reflects the diverse range of home and garden topics it did decades ago.

    • Thanks for the comment. I too would like to see less of a formula approach to HGTV. Hopefully some of the new programs will step it up!

      • You’re welcome! It’ll be interesting to see what other new programs come to the network in the near future.

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