Based on the feedback I have been receiving on this series, both consumers and designers have been surprised by the multiple steps a Kitchen Designer goes through on a “typical” Kitchen project and the hours devoted to it.

In Phase 1 we discussed the Pre-Design steps. They included attracting a client, educating that client, presenting your products and services, conducting a survey to determine their needs & wants, helping them narrow in on their appliance choices, and heading to the site to measure.

In Phase 2 we dove into the Design Development portion of the process. During this stage, you scaled your site measurements, developed some design options, presented the options, worked on revisions, and presented a final design.

For Phase 3 with signed contracts in hand, products need to be ordered in a methodically detailed process. A few days later you will have to focus on the supplier confirmations to ensure they are accurate and approve them.

To this point you will have invested approximately 33 hours on your client’s Kitchen Design Project.

You are now in the home stretch!

Read on to see what it takes to get over the finish line.

This last phase of the Kitchen Design Process is an important one.

I call this stage:

Installation & Follow Up

Follow-Up Stage 1

Follow Up begins soon after you have signed the contract to supply product for your client’s Kitchen.

Just because you have been busy working on their project by ordering the cabinetry, accessories, decorative hardware etc. the client does not see this work.

Once all of the orders have been placed and confirmations confirmed, you should reach out to the client to give them an update on the project.

At this time you will have a schedule as to when all of the products will be ready and you need to relay this information to the client.

There may be an individual in your firm that does this, but it is the responsibility of the Kitchen Designer to make a smooth transition to this new person if needed.

Let’s assume you are the person responsible for scheduling.

After you have confirmed the first delivery date, my recommendation is to send a short note every week or two to the client to give them an update on the progress of their project.

This can be as simple as

“We are still on schedule with your cabinet delivery on _____. Please let us know if there are any changes on your end.”

As you get closer to the actual delivery time you may want to pick up the phone and have a conversation with the homeowner explaining to them what to expect, or you may have a written document you send them on your delivery policies.

In many cases there will be a delivery payment of some kind due and this will be important follow up communication with your client.

Depending on the lead times of the products ordered for your client’s project, follow up will take a few minutes each week but could add up to an hour or two over time.

If there is an unexpected delay, which many Kitchen Designers have been experiencing during COVID, you could be spending more time doing follow up.

In most cases you will probably spend about 1 hour total on Follow Up Stage 1.

Delivery Day

Installation begins with Delivery Day!

Sometimes as Kitchen Designers we forget how important this day is to the customer.

Remember, they gave you thousands of dollars months ago for these items, so expect that they will be excited and anxious on Delivery Day.

I highly recommend that you find time to visit the site and meet with the client at the end of Delivery Day.

Prior to that meeting let your client know the purpose of this visit is to check that everything needed has arrived and to walk them through what has been delivered.

Over the years I have had experienced homeowners being overwhelmed with what has arrived to site.

A visit by their Kitchen Designer can be a very calming and will set the installation off on the right foot.

I know this takes time but it is well worth it. Your client has probably not seen you face to face for many months and will appreciate you being there.

Better to answer any questions at this point so that they do not morph into concerns in the future.

I would allocate 1 to 2 hours for this meeting.

Pre-Installation

Part of the installation process is creating an Installation document that the Kitchen Designer has put together to ensure what has been designed is installed correctly.

Every project has its idiosyncrasies and this document points them out.

This document will include all of the appliance and plumbing specifications, trim details, and hardware placement details needed by the installer.

For a basic project allow one hour to create this document for more complex projects it could take four to five hours.

In either case, a meeting with the installation team should take place prior to the installation to review this document.

I would schedule 30 minutes to an hour for this meeting.

When you add it up you need to devote 1 to 6 hours for pre-installation prep.

Installation

Once cabinet installation has begun on your client’s project most everything is in the hands of your installers.

A good habit to get into is to schedule time to visit the site during the installation, ideally after 1 to 2 full days of installation has been completed.

This should be a meeting just with the install team to go over any issues, to discuss timing, and to start a punchlist for completing the project.

If you are also supplying the countertops for your client’s kitchen project you may want to schedule this site visit at the same time as the countertop templating measurement is happening.

This will save you a trip and allow you to ensure scheduling is still on track.

You will need to devote an hour plus travel time for your site visit during installation.

Project Completion

It is great when all of the subtrades have completed their portion of the project and the client is getting ready to move into their new space.

Ideally another site visit should be scheduled.

At this meeting you will want to walk through the project with the client to ensure they are 100% satisfied.

Also use this time to really look at the space and start thinking about how you may want to photograph it.

If everything has gone well you could complete this meeting in about 30 minutes but plan an hour to allow for a complete walk through of every component you supplied for the project.

For many Kitchen Designers this is the meeting where they will collect the final payment of the project.

The Photo Shoot

I will admit when it gets busy the Photo Shoot can keep getting postponed and sometimes never completed.

In todays world of Social Media the photo shoot needs to become a priority.

My experience has me devoting 4 to 8 hours for a photo shoot.

For an 8 hour commitment it looks something like this.

  1. Producing a shot list prior to that day: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  2. Picking up props such as flowers, produce, staging items: 30 minutes
  3. Snap a few pictures of the space as is: 5 minutes
  4. Clearing the space and “cleaning” all surfaces: 1 hour
  5. Staging the kitchen: 1 to 2 hours (if a ladder is involved even more time!)
  6. Setting up photography lighting: 30 minutes
  7. Doing some pre-shots and evaluating them: 30 Minutes
  8. Taking the “money” shots: 30 Minutes
  9. Taking the “detail” shots: 1 hour
  10. Removing the staging and returning the space to step 3: 1 hour

Photograph Filing

Once you are back at your office you will want to file all of the images from the photo shoot.

Everyone will have their own system, but you want to file the images in a way that you can find them when the need arises.

I would carve out a couple of hours in an afternoon to do this.

Final Follow-Up

The final thing a Kitchen Designer should do is follow up with their client after the photo shoot.

This can be via a phone call or an email.

For this communication you will want to find out how they are enjoying their space and ask for an endorsement and possibly a referral to friends or family.

A nice touch would be to send them a hand written Thank You card including a great picture from the photo shoot.

This last bit of follow-up may only take about 30 minutes, but the time spent may attract your next client.

Just in time to start the process again!

When you calculate time investment for this last stage of the project it is estimated you could spend 9 1/2 to 21 hours.

Even if you are very efficient I don’t think you could effectively completing Phase 4 in under 8 hours.

In most cases the Kitchen Designer would devote around 12 hours to Installation and Follow-up.

Wrap Up

To end this series on “What Does a Kitchen Designer Really Do?” let’s add up the hours for an “average” Kitchen Design Project.

  1. Pre- Design: 10 hours
  2. Design Development: 15 hours
  3. Product Contracts: 8 hours
  4. Installation & Follow Up: 12 hours

The grand total of hours spent on an average Kitchen Design Project is 45 hours!

This number should help Kitchen Designers set goals for themselves and develop their fee schedules.

Of course there will be many variations on hours spent on projects with some “cash n’ carry” projects taking significantly less time but large complicated projects consuming many more hours.

I hope you enjoyed looking at the “averages” and I would love to get your comments on the number of hours you are devoting to your Kitchen Design projects.

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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 4

  1. Jan, this kitchen is GORGEOUS!! Although we’ve never remodeled ours, we did recently finish our basement. I can attest to the sense of relief that would wash over when I was able to talk to our contractor or subcontractors. It sounds like you are a true gem to your customers (and obviously great at your job). Glad you got a photo shoot of that kitchen. I’m going to go ahead and pin that to my kitchen inspo Pinterest board 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words Sarah. The relationship between the client and the professionals is an important one and I try to discuss that in my blogs. I’m thrilled you liked that kitchen. It was great working on it. The client’s really wanted their Dream Kitchen not the flavor of the month and I enjoyed helping them achieve it. You may want to check out my Instagram feed for more images of this kitchen. Thanks again for your comment.

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