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Becky Sue shares her expertise and passion to move you one step closer to love where you live.

Becky Sue Becker is a Certified Master Kitchen & Bath Designer (CMKBD), a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS), and a Certified Living-In-Place Professional™ (CLIPP). With 30+ years of longevity and comprehensive experience in the kitchen & bath industry, she is a sought-after designer in the Atlanta region. Becky Sue’s advocacy approach means your turnkey project will be less stressful and help you love where you live.

We all seen FREE KITCHEN DESIGN on marquees at the Home Centers and throughout various marketing ads of businesses that sell cabinetry. Free sounds so good, the question is.. Is it too good to be true? I’ve been around long enough to learn that no matter what the product or service is considered, free has little or no value. So what does FREE design mean?

In order to really break down the notion, I am going to simply illustrate the kitchen design process as I know it and spell out the value of each step. Thereafter, you can be the judge!

1. Who to hire?

a. Get referrals and recommendations from friends. If you come up empty, ask the prospect to provide a list of names of referrals, not only past clients but trade partners.

b. If the person you hire is going to also be doing all the installation and remodeling work, give consideration to how long they have been in business and ask about their credit rating and check their standing with the Better Business Bureau and any other Professional Associations they belong to.

c. Take time to study their portfolio. Do see that they have the capability to design to your needs/style? No portfolio or website? Then be diligent about getting referrals and visit completed projects.

d. Ask to see an example of what type of drawings, plans and specifications will be provided.

e. Education/Training/Professional Affiliations are supporting information you should know! How many years have they been designing? Do they regularly attend workshops or continuing education courses?

2. What to have ready before designing begins:

a. Want vs. Need list

b. Overall budget. If you need assistance, a qualified (experienced) designer can help you shape your budget.

c. Pictures are worth a thousand words! Any clippings from magazines or links to ideas or products you’ve found on the website. This will help your designer bring to life the picture you have in your own mind.

d. The more you provide, the more time and money you will save.

3. Time to take measurements. I am a strong advocate that the person designing should be the person measuring.  Here is a sampling of what should be addressed:

a. Discuss your budget and your concerns with resale and your ROI. In order for your Designer to truly meet your expectations, a design cannot begin without acknowledging how much you plan to invest in your home. He/she can help you break down the budget into categories that will help you decide what is important to you. Do you want a Chevy, Cadillac or Lamborghini design? It is not uncommon that a client has high expectations with one element (i.e. high end Pro Range), but is willing to sacrifice with other features or products to get what means most to them.

b. Study the work AND traffic flow of your home

c. If you are renovating an existing space, note what works and what doesn’t work.

d. Evaluate your design style in not only the adjoining rooms, but also the overall architecture of your home. Nothing is worse than  a kitchen look like it does not flow with the over style of the home & furnishings!

e. Inventory your counter top appliances, dishes and special gadgets. Where are they stored and why?

f. What are your buying habits?  ex: how much fresh food storage and canned/dried? bulk dried purchases at warehouses?

g. How many cooks or helpers? Any special cooking styles? Canning, baking, etc

h. Do you entertain? Formal? Informal? Need for seating? How many?

4. Design Phase – let the fun begin! Now the Certified Designer will evaluate all of your needs and give consideration to your wish list too.

a. If a kitchen does not function in a fashion that addresses your lifestyle, and your cooking and shopping habits, then you are short-changing yourself. This does not mean that the design cannot give consideration to resale values (if that is your concern). Everyone deserves to enjoy their time in the kitchen to the fullest.

b. An educated and trained, Certified Designer will use the Kitchen & Bath Planning Guidelines with Access Standards, a trusted resource available to all members of the National Kitchen & Bath Association. This will help shape the functionality but the safety aspects of the plan.

c. Depending on the size and complexity and the current workload of the designer, it would be safe to expect 1-2 weeks before you see a design. While there is a vast amount of factual aspects to the design, imagination and inspirational ideas are not mechanical yet are key factors to the best design!

Sample Kitchen Floor Plan


5.    Presentation of Plans should include floor plans and 3D/perspective views.  Most commonly these plans are black and white, and even walk through (movie type) renderings are available.   Plans are not released to the homeowner and copyright laws protect the Designer’s plans until the design retainer is paid in full and a copyright use is given.

6.    Estimates for products are indeed free.  A portion of the design fees may be applied towards the purchase of cabinetry.

7.    Product Selection Services are available to help you shape the overall design and function of the room.  (i.e. lighting, tile, appliances, counter tops)

8.    Remodeling Outline can be drawn up to help get a very accurate installation and remodeling bid.   This is especially useful if you plan to get more than one estimate.  You can be confident on getting accurate bids among Contractors because they will all be using the same thorough outline and product specifications.  The more decisions you make before getting remodeling bids, the more you can count on their bids not changing later.

9.    Need a referral for Installers and/or Contractors?  This may be last on the list but it is far from least!  With an experienced Designer, you should count on getting referrals from trusted trade partners; those that have proven themselves over time to be reliable, honest, courteous and provide quality workmanship.

There you have it .. my attempt was to give you a brief overview, but quite simply the process should not be! I believe kitchens are an investment that plays a major factor in your everyday life, and serious consideration should not only be about what product goes into it, but with the entire planning process.  Overall it can be very fun and rewarding … if you take your time and thoroughly plan.

So I’d like to hear from you.  Do you think free kitchen service has value?  Is there risk worth considering?  My findings show that the type of company that offers free design is TYPICALLY one that does not really offer full design services at all, rather their focus is on selling product.  Additionally, it’s rare (or a hit and miss at best) that you can find an experienced Certified Designer employed there.  So you are left to decide if the fundamentals of design, or the lack of, play an important role with your investment.

 I’d enjoy it if you share your thoughts and/or your experiences!

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