When you are starting out as a Kitchen Designer it can be intimidating to see online posts of completed kitchens only featuring high end projects. It gives you the impression that Kitchen Designers only do luxury projects, leaving you to think…

How will I ever be able to break into the industry?

I am here to tell you there are multiple levels of kitchen design that need the services of a professional Kitchen Designer. To prove this, here are three vastly different kitchen projects that I recently completed.

These projects included an existing kitchen upgrade, a kitchen remodel, and a kitchen in a new home build. They had quite different design briefs and budgets, with end results that perfectly fit the individual clients.

Let’s have a look at the three projects.

Principle Design Package: Kitchen Upgrade

The first project was for a couple who were downsizing. The home they purchased needed a complete upgrade so only a portion of their budget could be allocated to the kitchen. These homeowners did not live near me so I contracted with them to do an e-design for their kitchen. This is Vestabul Design’s Principle Design Package.

Working via email and Dropbox I was able to evaluate their project and offer a solution to meet their aesthetic and budgetary needs. A big plus with this project was the existing layout. It was functional so we could work with the existing cabinetry.

The next step was to propose some upgrades for the cabinet interiors and develop an aesthetic plan that the homeowners could implement on their own. A list of proposed upgrades such as roll out shelves, tray dividers and cutlery inserts they could install inside their cabinets to increase the functionality of the room was provided. For the aesthetics of the kitchen a color/mood board to direct their selections.

The clients were thrilled and dove in to start their kitchen upgrade. Based on the plan they purchased appliances to work with the existing openings, installed interior accessories, added trim to the cabinet fronts, painted the kitchen cabinets, chose new decorative hardware, changed out the countertops, installed a new sink & faucet, added new tile backsplash, installed new flooring and upgraded the lighting.

As there designer, I was always an email or text away when they needed a bit of help. In the end the “Downsizers” had a beautiful kitchen that fit their needs.

The small investment made in design services ensured they did not make any missteps and stretched their budget farther than they thought possible. The total investment for this project by the client was under $9,000.00 including the design fee. I was incredibly happy to have been able to assist in this kitchen upgrade and to have the finished project as part of my portfolio.

Signature Design Package: Kitchen Remodel

This second example is a common kitchen project that Kitchen Designers tackle. It was a full renovation of a client’s kitchen, often referred to as a ‘to-the-studs’ remodel.  The clients had an investment figure in mind, and it was up to me, as their kitchen designer to help them get their dream kitchen within that budget. The best design package for these clients was Vestabul Design’s “Signature Design Package” and that is the route they went.

For this Signature Design I met with the clients at their home, conducted a ‘full needs and wants’ interview, took some pictures and recorded measurements of the space.

The kitchen was to remain within the existing space, but there was the budget to move some things around.

It was time to get to work providing these clients with some options. Designers all have different approaches, but I will always provide a least three directions for the client at this stage to ensure that the homeowner ultimately gets the perfect design.

These are the three design directions proposed. (click on image to see larger view)

The options were presented and based on the client’s reaction to each a final layout for the room was developed.

As the final plans were developed the client was furnished with color perspectives, drawings and a scope and spec document for their remodel. The contractor was briefed, and they began their project.

There were a few changes made to the design during the construction such as the elimination of the prep sink and dining banquette with those decisions being made through consultation with the team.

When the project was complete the final design worked beautifully for the client.

The ‘Before’ images, to the Rendering, to the ‘After’ shots shows how successful this project was.

The investment for this kitchen was around $65,000 . This kitchen has all new appliances, sink, faucet, cabinets, countertops, backsplash, and lighting. It is also loaded with functionality through the liberal use of cabinet accessories.

The walk-in pantry is for their small appliance collection allowing them to be set up and ready to go. This renovation absolutely met the needs of the client and was a pleasure to be a part of.

Masterpiece Design Package: Kitchen New Build

This last example is the type of kitchen that gets a lot of attention because of all the high-end materials and features within it. I was contracted to design this kitchen (and provide additional design services) after the client received their “free design” from a cabinet manufacturer.

At our first meeting I walked the clients through their “free design” pointing out some issues. Overall, the proportions were off—especially in a room with 19’ ceilings. The work zones were awkward and most importantly the island did not have a single drawer in it.

The clients wanted options and chose Vestabul Design’s Masterpiece Design Package. This package includes all the design work plus sourcing and vetting of suppliers.

The client survey indicated that the homeowners were big entertainers hosting all the family events. They needed a kitchen that would accommodate everyone and easily allow people to pitch in with kitchen duties. The style was to be a Modern Tuscan look to compliment the surrounding wine country lake setting that they were building in.

A new layout was developed, color perspectives were produced along with a virtual reality presentation. Once the VR presentation was viewed inside the framed home, we tweaked the design and finalized product selections.

After the stone floors and brick wall were specified vetting a cabinet supplier became paramount.

With multiple custom elements in this kitchen we worked with many artisans for products such as the custom hood, the wood countertop, the iron dining bar support, and the carved wood pieces. With the coordination needed to pull all these elements together into a cohesive design the clients were very happy to have an experienced Kitchen Designer by their side.

Factoring in the millwork, the custom elements, the appliances, the sinks, the flooring, the wall treatments, the ceiling treatments, window & door trim, labour and design I estimate that the final investment for this kitchen was  $190,000.00.  

The result is a showstopper.

All three of these kitchens represent what a trained Kitchen Designer contributes to the overall success of a project. And demonstrates that…

“Size Doesn’t Matter—but Training Does.”

To increase your skills, check out Vestabul School of Design here

As a Kitchen Designer just starting out, please do not be intimidated by all the luxury kitchens scrolling by on Instagram. Take on the smaller projects to build your portfolio. And remember, a budget conscious project can produce great Instagramable moments for your feed!

If you are interested in a career in Kitchen Design, the perfect starter course for you is “The Beginners Guide to Kitchen Design.  It will furnish you with all the fundamentals that will become the foundation of your Kitchen Design practice.

Author, Jan Rutgers
Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec. Founder VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN

Jan Rutgers is a professional Kitchen Designer with more than 25 years experience. She is the founder of VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN, where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design industry.

One Comment on “Do Kitchen Designers Only Work on High-End Projects?

  1. I found Jan Rutgers paper on three types of Kitchen Design Projects most interesting and informative.It was a realistic picture of the true price of kitchen up-dates.The efore and afternoon pictures were gfreat—-loved the colour scheme of the couple that down-sized.Looking forward to more blogs. Thank you Jan

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