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Publication Date: 2018-10-02

Design Insights

Matthew Quinn on Determining Budgets and Avoiding Mistakes

In the third part of this series, I want to point out some common mistakes that can occur while designing and installing a kitchen or bath project. Of course, my first recommendation would be to hire a design professional to help you avoid many of the costly errors that can happen in these important and expensive spaces. Whoever you decide to hire, that design professional should consider the agreed-upon budget not only as an investment in your home, but in your quality of life, health, and happiness. And any designer should make sure that a client understands not only the costs, but the benefits of a beautifully designed functional space.

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Quinn at work in a client's kitchen. Photo: Mali Azima

Establishing a budget and the required investment is the first and most important step in any kitchen or bath project. I actually won’t enter into a contract with a client until the total project budget has been determined and is understood by all concerned parties. That takes time, and a team of loyal end game-oriented vendors who will provide cost estimates based on rough ideas of what we are trying to achieve. For instance, I can send a list to my go-to appliance dealer to obtain a range of costs for different appliance brands, or send a sketch to my countertop fabricator to get a variety of prices for countertops based on a few different options for materials, finishes, thicknesses, and edges. The cost for decorative hardware, lighting, plumbing, and even tile is fairly easy to determine these days, thanks to high-end design showrooms and finely curated websites such as Dering Hall.

Quinn's sketch of a new cabinetry and countertop plan.

Unfortunately, the two greatest expenses, cabinetry and contractor labor, are wild cards, and require more acumen to estimate. Both involve so many variables and different levels of quality that educating yourself now will save many headaches later. Estimates obtained via websites or linear-foot pricing for cabinetry indicated in a brochure will simply not be accurate enough. Obtaining realistic estimates will probably require a visit to a kitchen and bath showroom. A showroom professional or a kitchen and bath designer should be able to quickly provide a range of cabinetry costs based on their previous projects and the size and scope of the work you have in mind. Obtaining a rough idea of costs from a contractor will require a site visit or, at the least, a FaceTime call. Remember, the accuracy of any budget is based directly on the precision of the information supplied. Whatever the final estimate may be, I always add 10% for miscellaneous product costs, and 10% for overages to any budget to keep it real.

A client's kitchen before a redesign, which can reveal a great deal about habits, needs, and expectations.

One size does not fit all when it comes to kitchen, bath, and dressing room design. So I always visit my clients in their existing spaces, not only to take inventory, but also to observe what works and doesn’t work for them in their current home, to study their habits, and to gain insight into their lifestyle, schedule, and tastes. 

The same client's kitchen after the renovation. Photo: Mali Azima

Have you ever noticed how, when you are looking to buy a new pair of shoes, or a chandelier, or a front door knob, you suddenly have this crazy fixation with all the shoes, chandeliers, or door knobs around you? The same applies to kitchen and baths. If you are about to embark on a kitchen or bath renovation, remember, and even write down, the number of times each day you open the refrigerator, walk to the pantry, turn on the faucet, search for a spice, or fill up the trash bin. I tell my clients to carry a tape measure with them everywhere, and take overall room dimensions or measure the distances between counters and appliances in any kitchen or bath that feels right to them, either at a friend’s home or in a showhouse.

Decorative hardware is the finishing touch, and comes in a vast array of styles, materials, and price points.

All of these early steps will insure that the new design will function and perform specifically for this homeowner. After the functionality of a kitchen, bath, or closet is determined, it is time to make certain that the space also expresses the personality of the homeowner, and integrates beautifully into the architecture of the home. The next few chapters of this series will address those issues.

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