Most people choose Kitchen Design as a profession for the creative aspect.

After reading What Does a Kitchen Designer Really Do? Phase 1, you will see that there are a lot of hours devoted to a project before you get to the creative side or the Art of Kitchen Design.

Between 4 and 10 hours will be spent in the Pre-Design stage of a Kitchen Design project.

Spending time attracting a client, educating a client, presenting your sales pitch to a client, conducting a needs assessment with your client, directing your client’s appliance choices and measuring the site all need to be done before “the fun part begins!”

Phase 2 of “What a Kitchen Designer Really Does” is

Design Development

Let’s look at what that entails.

There are multiple ways to approach Design Development for a Kitchen Design.

In my blog post, “The Best Design Process for Kitchen Designers” I walk you through my Kitchen Design Process step by step.

In it I recommend you develop 3 design concepts for your client’s kitchen renovation and narrow it down to the final design direction.

Once you develop your Kitchen Design concepts, there are still steps you need to take and hours you need to log.

Here are the basic steps for Kitchen Design Development:

  1. Scaling of site measurements
  2. Design Options Development
  3. Presentation of Options
  4. Design Revisions
  5. Final Presentation

Scaling of Site Measurements

Kitchen Design is all about the details, so getting the site measurements accurately transferred to your software program or onto paper is one of the most important steps in Design Development.

Don’t rush through this step.

Assuming you are using some type of CAD software you will want to start in one corner of the room and systematically transfer all of the measurements on site to the program.

Do not proceed with designing the kitchen if the measurements are not 100% accurate.

Working with measurements that are even a few inches or fractions of inches off can spell disaster.

Once the floorplan is laid in, take a look at your plan in elevation. Check the ceiling height and check that your windows are correctly positioned.

If for some reason the numbers are not adding up, stop and figure out where the mistake is.

Allow yourself at least 30 minutes to do this.

Once you have your floorplan and elevation measurements transferred, review all of the pictures you have taken to see if their are any architectural elements you may have missed.

Things to look for include:

  • Skylights
  • HVAC systems
  • Mechanical systems
  • Beams
  • Posts
  • Bulkheads
  • Steps

Assuming that all of the measurements are accurate and you have consulted your images and double checked everything this step should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

Design Options Development

This is my favorite part of the process.

This is where creativity comes in to play and you are able to “Dream” without commitments.

Always think of the Design Process as an “Inverted Triangle” where you gather all the ideas at the top and chip away at them until you come to the perfect solution at the tip of the triangle.

The first step of Design Development is quick design development.

Explore ideas quickly and decide if they are worthy of your design vision for the project.

You do not have to present every design idea you have to your client.

To get immersed into a project I will use velum over my scaled floorplan and quickly sketch 8 to 10 design ideas.

I always work in scale at this stage to avoid potential technical errors in the Kitchen Design.

Check out our free course “Identifying Common Errors in Kitchen Design” for a refresher on what to look out for when developing your concepts.

I then narrow down my quick sketches to 3 design concepts that I will present to the client.

The 3 Design Direction Concepts should not be fully developed into working drawings. That would take too much time.

Develop these Design Directions using the format that works best for you and that you can complete quickly.

Your presentation could be hand drawn to scale floorplans, hand sketched perspectives, CAD floorplans, CAD black line perspectives or a basic 3-D color rendering.

The idea is to provide enough information for you to be able to present your concepts to your clients.

Avoid developing a whole set of floorplans, elevations and perspectives for these, since a plan could be dismissed in minutes and spending hours developing it would have been a waste of time.

It is hard to put a time investment on this part of the process because it can vary widely.

In some cases I have been able to complete this step in an hour or two while for complicated spaces it can take up to a day or more.

For our calculations I will assign 1 hour for rough sketches and 1 hour per design concept for a total of 4 hours.

Presentation of Options

Presenting Concepts to Your Client

Prior to presenting your Design Option Concepts to your client, you will need to prepare for the meeting.

First decide if the meeting will be in person, virtual or via email.

Traditionally Kitchen Designers always met with clients in person for all meetings but the new reality of COVID has many Designers conducting virtual meetings.

I personally present my Design Concept Options via email.

I will put together a quick PowerPoint or Keynote presentation with the floorplan sketches and compose a word document that walks the client through my thoughts on each one of the designs.

I email this to my client and ask them to respond in writing with their thoughts on each of the designs.

I will then do a follow up call to discuss the final design direction for the project.

To calculate the hours the Design Presentation takes you need to look at everything that is involved.

Here is an example of a traditional in-person meeting to present Design Concept Options:

  1. Time to put together your presentation
  2. Time to schedule the meeting
  3. Time for the in-person meeting

Putting together a professional presentation is important.

You will want to gather all the documentation to present your concept.

This would include your concept drawings and possibly images or samples. Devote at least an hour to doing this.

Next contact your client to set up the meeting. This may happen in mere minutes or may become a day or two of telephone or email tag.

An in-person meeting is valuable, but you must set the agenda.

Customarily there is time spent at the beginning of the meeting on “chit chat” to reestablish the designer/client connection.

Questions by your client during the presentation are normal and is expected with any one-to-one interaction.

It is rare that this meeting would be less than one hour with most taking more than 2 hours to complete.

In most cases, preparing for and then presenting your design concepts would require approximately 3 hours but could easily double.

Design Revisions

Kitchen rendering of proposed kitchen
Final Kitchen Design Rendering

The goal of your Design Concept Presentation is to narrow in on the final design that will work for your client.

Now that you have the final design direction for your client you will need to fine tune the design.

In most cases this will entail producing a floorplan, elevations, perspectives and pre-selecting products.

The size and scope of the project will determine how much time you need to devote to this.

At a minimum to develop the Final Design and produce the drawings you would invest an hour of your time for a very basic project, but in many cases this could stretch into a full 8 hour day.

A virtual rendering of the Kitchen is a great addition here but to get it right you will need to invest 1 to 4 additional hours.

Final Presentation

Example of a Final Design set of Documents

For many Kitchen Designers, the Final Presentation also entails presenting a purchase price to the client for the project.

Assuming the Kitchen Designer sells items such as cabinetry, hardware and countertop, quotations will need to be produced for all of these products.

Technology has really helped with many cabinet lines easily priced from the drawings that have been developed in a compatible software program.

If this is not the case there would be additional time needed to price the project.

A countertop take-off and a hardware count would also need to be done.

I would include between 1/2 hour and 3 hours to do a full quotation of basic kitchen products.

If you need to send drawings to a countertop fabricator for example, remember that there is time needed to produce specific drawings for quoting and checking of the suppliers quotation.

You are then ready to present the final design to your client.

Again, I would schedule 2 hours for this meeting with the final result a signed contract for the Kitchen products you sell.

Total hours for the final presentation to be between between 2 1/2 hours and 5 hours.

Design Development Wrap Up

In the initial Pre-Design portion of the project, the Kitchen Designer invests between 4 and 10 hours.

When you add up the hours for Design Development on average the Kitchen Designer devotes a minimum of 11 hours during this phase.

A large complicated kitchen project can easily bump this up to a full 40 hour work week.

My experience working with Kitchen Designers for many years has shown me that most Kitchen Designers will invest close to 20 hours in the Design Development Stage.

There is always something that takes much longer to finalize than anticipated.

Something like wading through the infinite decorative hardware choices with a client before the final decision is made can be a 2 hour session on its own.

My point with calculating the hours a Kitchen Designer invests in each project highlights their commitment and their worth in guiding a client through the process.

By the time the Kitchen is designed and the contract signed for products, the Kitchen Designer has invested approximately 25 hours to the project.

Without the extensive skill and knowledge that a Professional Kitchen Designer has, most consumers would spend 10 times as many hours getting to this stage and would still not have all the information.

In the next installment of this series we will look at some hour commitments needed “behind the scenes” to gather all of the products, inform the trades and get the items delivered to the site.

I would love to hear your estimates on how many hours you think that should take. Please comment below.

Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.
Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.

Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

2 Comments on “What does a Kitchen Designer Really Do? Phase 2

  1. Great post, Jan! This is really valuable information for anyone starting their own business (that I wish I’d had when I was starting out). Even experienced designers who understand the design process will find this information helpful if they have only previously worked for someone else’s company. Assessing the time required for meetings, client communication and for building a quotation can be tricky when you don’t have that specific previous experience to draw on. These elements in turn allow you to determine appropriate design fees. When you go from having someone else control your schedule and workload to being directly accountable to the client, you need a thorough understanding of what is reasonably accomplished in a given amount of time. This is a great guide that is sure eliminate some uncertainty for those setting out on their own.

    • Thanks for your comment Tanya!
      It’s true that many new and experienced designers underestimate the hours needed for specific areas of a project. Next week I will be covering the “behind the scenes” hours. I am sure many people will be surprised to see what that adds up to!

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