In this four part series we have covered 2 phases of what a Kitchen Designer really does.

In Phase 1 many people were surprised to see that a good 10 hours could be spent on a Kitchen Design project before the fun part of designing it began.

Then in Phase 2, the hours added up to an additional 15 hours with the average Kitchen Design consuming approximately 25 hours to get to a point where a contract for product is signed.

In this post I will explore what happens behind the scenes in the world of Kitchen Design.

I think many will be surprised to see that the Kitchen Designer’s work has just begun.

It is always exciting to get a signed contract for a kitchen.

Many Kitchen Designers are paid a commission on all of their product sales so it is hard not to calculate that number in you head.

But, before you can remove that file from your desk there is a process that the Kitchen Designer needs to go through.

It is:

Product Contracts

For the project to be realized, all of the products need to be ordered and installed.

In our final installment of this series we will look at the Kitchen installation, but for now let’s look at the process of ordering product.

In most cases the Kitchen Designer that works at a Kitchen Showroom will need to order the following products:

  • Cabinetry
  • Cabinet Accessories
  • Cabinet Decorative Hardware
  • Countertops

Some Kitchen Designers will also oversee the ordering of additional products and the list can expand into:

  • Appliances
  • Plumbing Fixtures
  • Backsplash Material
  • Flooring
  • Decorative Lighting
  • Cabinet Lighting
  • Window Coverings
  • Furniture

In this post I will cover the first four but keep in mind the process will be the same no matter what products you order for your clients.

The key to remember is that everything you order becomes your responsibility.


Vestabul Design kitchen design

The time commitment for ordering cabinetry will depend on the size of the Kitchen and its complexity.

For a very basic stock kitchen this can be an hour or two.

For a large complicated kitchen it could be a day or two.

The longest I have spent on ordering a very large, very complicated custom kitchen millwork project was 30 hours. Well worth it since everything was perfect when it arrived to site!

If you are working with a software program that produces a cabinet order from the design you imputed into the program, and you have no modifications, you could easily produce your order in less than an hour.

But if you have customized some cabinets and you have to ensure everything is correct, you should plan about 2 to 4 hours to do this.

Once the list of units and miscellaneous materials are produced you need to check it very carefully.

You want to look for things like the modification you did to a specific upper cabinets depth. Did the software pick that up and list the correct size?

What about the number of crown moulding lengths. The program most likely has calculated an exact lineal footage but a good practice is to order a length or two more to account for miter cuts.

You should never rely solely on technology when ordering something as important as Kitchen Cabinetry.

If your design software does not integrate with your cabinet manufacturer you may need to order your products by list.

Again, the manufacturer may have a specific program for this that you can use, but it will take time to enter all of your order into their software.

Always remember your order needs to match exactly with what is stated in the contract with your client.

Here is a list of things you should be checking before you hit that send button to order the cabinetry.

  • Cabinet Interior material
  • Drawer box material
  • Drawer slide system
  • Door hinge type
  • Cabinet door/drawer substrate
  • Cabinet door/drawer style
  • Cabinet door/drawer finish
  • Cabinet trim type, material & finish
  • Fillers type, material & finish
  • Panels type, material & finish
  • Interior accessories

There may be additional items to check with your specific manufacturer that you should add to this list.

I cannot stress enough how important it is double and triple check your cabinet orders.

I have seen Kitchen Designers rush through this step and regret it.

Some ordering mistakes can be rectified fairly easily such as missing a few pieces of trim or an end panel.

While these mistakes can be annoying for you, the site and the client, other mistakes can be a catastrophe.

I remember the call I had to make to a client when a designer working for me wrote the wrong stain color on a custom kitchen order and the kitchen arrived stained dark brown when it was suppose to be light grey.

That was not a good day. 🙁

Cabinet ordering is important and spending the time to do it correctly will pay off.

The average estimated time for ordering, checking and double checking a “standard” cabinet order should be 4 to 6 hours.

Cabinet Accessories

If you are only including basic cabinet accessories provided by your cabinet manufacturer, you probably captured them in your cabinet order.

However, if like me, you include a variety of accessories in your projects specifically chosen to meet your client’s needs, you will need to allocate additional hours to this.

Since there are so many cabinet accessory manufacturers, distributors and retailers you will first want to identify the firms you wish to purchase from.

This is probably going to be an ongoing process as new products are constantly being introduced to the market.

I always look to have my interior accessories coordinate by finish so that would be the next step in the ordering process.

You will then need to check the specifications of each accessory to ensure that they will fit into the cabinet you have planned them for.

Finally you will need to order the accessories and arranged to have them delivered to the cabinet manufacturer or the job site.

As stated above if you are ordering just from your cabinet manufacturer’s offering you will not have to devote additional hours.

My experience of ordering multiple accessories for client’s kitchens adds an additional 4 to 6 hours to the ordering process.

Decorative Hardware

It is hard to believe but the first few years that I practiced as a Kitchen Designer the cabinet hardware came screwed to the doors and drawer fronts at the manufacturer with no choice available to the designer and consumer.

Things have dramatically changed since then.

For example a project that I did last year consisted of 5 different sized pieces of hardware spread across a large kitchen. In total 67 individual pieces of hardware needed to be ordered. This also included producing a drawing to show the specific placement of each piece.

Once you have gotten to ordering the hardware you would have already spent time in the Design Development stage wading through the chaos of choice in decorative hardware for your client’s kitchen.

The hours for that would have been captured there.

I would still include 30 minutes to an hour to do a hardware count, check the model numbers, check availability from the supplier and place the order.


As with every aspect of Kitchen product ordering, countertops have become more complicated over time.

My strategy has always been to provide the countertop fabricator with a document that includes all the information they need for an original quote and ultimately the order.

This is what I include:

  • A scaled drawing of the countertop
  • Indication of finished ends and appliance ends
  • Seam locations
  • Pattern direction if applicable
  • Inside and outside corner types (square, radius etc.)
  • The name, product number and material manufacturer
  • The finish on the countertop (honed, gloss, etc.)
  • The front edge treatment of the countertop
  • The sink cut out type (under mount, top mount, flush mount, apron)
  • The cooktop cut out type (top mount, flush mount)
  • Additional details such as backsplash height if applicable
  • Site location and estimated installation date

I have a template for this document at the ready which speeds up the time needed to place an order, but plan at least 30 minutes to an hour to this task to ensure it is filled out correctly and double checked.


Something I find Kitchen Designers forget to plan time for is confirmation checks.

Once a supplier has received an order for product they will send the Kitchen Designer a confirmation.

It is the Kitchen Designer’s responsibility to check and confirm these confirmations.

My recommendation is that you pull the file and go through the confirmation line by line.

If there has been a mistake on the suppliers end writing something down incorrectly but you approve it, it will be on your shoulders to correct the error which often entails paying for it.

For every order you need to confirm I would budget 15 to 30 minutes, so for a standard kitchen this adds 1 to 2 hours to the Product Contracts portion of What does a Kitchen Designer Really Do?

Product Contracts Wrap Up

As you can see from the above steps the Kitchen Designer needs to have the focus to get the paper work done correctly behind the scenes of a Kitchen Design project.

Ordering and confirming orders takes time.

Going through the product ordering process for cabinets, cabinet accessories, decorative hardware and countertops correctly and double checking it to avoid mistakes, will entail between 4 and 24 hours.

If you order additional products for your Kitchens double those hours.

For most Kitchens I would say a Kitchen Designer would need to devote a full 8 hour working day to do this.

When you add this 8 hours to the Pre-Design and Design Development of a Kitchen Project you are up to 33 hours.

But wait you are not finished yet.

Next time we will finish up our calculations on the hours Kitchen Designers spend on a project by diving into the Installation and Follow-up portion of the project.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how much time you spend on your Kitchen Design project so please leave me a comment below.

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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 3

  1. A good kitchen design not only incorporates top-quality products and materials but also enhances the lifestyle of everyone who uses the kitchen, so we should research before choosing the appliances and materials.

    But before doing any research, we should ask ourselves some questions like, What does a kitchen design mean to us? Do we need a luxurious kitchen? What is our budget?

    Once we have answers, it will be much easier to research and pick the products like refrigerator, range hood, grill, microwave, or whatever we like to incorporate in our kitchen.

    BTW, Great read. Thanks for posting! Keep writing quality stuff.

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