K+BB recently asked the question in our Designers Network LinkedIn group: Has anyone had experience designing a kitchen or bath on a tight or otherwise challenging budget? The helpful responses provide insight into tips to keep the budget on track, as well as the clients.
Anne-Marie Harvey, Kitchen and Bath Design Consultant
New paint, door hardware and faucets can go a long way in freshening up a room. If your house was built in the 80s or early 90s, removing the dated borders, wallpaper and the often-matching window treatments can also help. Many people with limited budgets do not want to make any fixes that cannot be reused in a future update, so I tend to keep it simple.
Tom Clarke, CKD, Certified Designer at Baton Rouge Design Studio, LLC
To keep cost down, if we’re talking about replacing an existing kitchen, start by finding out what the client likes about what they have and what they would prefer. Re-purpose anything that can be reused that the client is okay with. Replace cabinets with a door style that fits the budget in an affordable wood species. Sure the client would love to have cherry cabinets, but maple wood with a cranberry finish may fit the budget better and still give the same appearance (almost). Laminate is still the most cost-efficient surfacing material for kitchens. If laminate doesn’t fit the bill, imported pre-cut granite slabs will be the next cost-effective material (in my region). Strip convenience features from the cabinets such as rollout tray storage and lazy Susans. Many of these items can be purchased after market and installed by the homeowner later when budget allows. I won’t ever “kill a corner;” the additional cost for that blind corner or easy-reach cabinet far outweighs loss of the additional storage.
Paul Kenning Stewart, Owner, PROJEKT HOME/Originals by Design (Member NKBA)
Doesn’t matter ‘who’ the client, everyone has their budget limitations including myself. A budget is a challenge, and a good designer should be up to it. In some cases it also means sourcing and turning that sow’s ear into a silk purse while listening/working with the client.
Debbi Washburn, Kitchen/Bath Designer
Everyone has a budget – some are easy and some are tight. I like to educate my customers on what the differences are between my entry-level lines up through premium semi-custom lines so they know what they can purchase with different budget sizes. I discuss the amount of time they will be remaining in the home. I also discuss what the scope of the project is. Once we determine that, then the discussion goes to the things that must be done “right” the first time – cabinets, flooring, plumbing, electrical – and items that can be put off until later – high-end counters, rollout trays, fancy backsplashes and even appliances. This allows the customer to get the bones of the space done and return to the more easily changed items when their pocketbook will allow.
Deneane Bradtke, Owner, Brookstone Design, Inc.
It doesn’t make sense to place expensive counter tops over lesser-quality cabinets. And layout is king. A good, well-functioning layout is the most important thing that we, as professionals, can give our clients.
Sharon L. Olsen, AKBD, Designer’s Edge Kitchen, Bath & Interior Design
As an independent designer, I find that when clients contact me, they are not looking to reface items – they want to remodel their spaces often due to poor layout or materials that are worn out. I agree with the comments that we must manage expectations and help them understand the costs associated with even a budget remodel. However, we do this all the time – for most people, they remodel maybe once in their lifetime. It is about us educating them and helping them achieve their goals within a realistic budget. Value engineering! There are so many wonderful products now that are quality and mimic the high-end look – the laminate countertops at KBIS this year are one example. Understanding how much DIY skill they have can help control costs with demo, painting and in some cases tiling back splashes as long as it does not impact the construction schedule. I have helped clients with staging a project over several years, which can allow them to afford the items they want. It has to begin with good bones – function, layout, updating electrical and plumbing to code, ventilation, cabinetry and flooring. The rest can be added over time.
Patrick Forse, Design Professional
A “tight budget” for someone with $100,000 to spend is vastly different from someone with only, say, $10,000 to spend. Surely a budget for work is just that – an amount of money put aside to do the work. The client is the one spending the money; it’s not ours. I think because of some inflated prices by certain manufacturers this creates a false idea of how much a client should spend, but I think the question should not be about a “tight budget” but an “unrealistic budget.” The client wanting the very best on the market but with an amount of money that won’t meet [those needs] – now that is one to solve carefully.
George Gobes, Park Avenue Designs, Inc.
Every job has a budget. The question is, how do you arrive at it? A budget is only tight or challenging when an unrealistic customer expects you to provide them with a product that costs more than they can afford or are willing to pay for. Since accurate costing is difficult for some in our community, many designers don’t know when to walk away from a poor prospect. Here is my tip: Tell the client to infuse more cash into their budget or lower the project’s specs. If you don’t, they will become your headache – and more importantly, your wallet-ache!
Erica Kalkofen, Remodeling Designer – My Remodeling Designer
We frequently run into this scenario and have several easy solutions. First, we find out how much the client is willing to participate and show them that the more they participate, the more they can keep the costs down. Second, we find out their buying preferences (Ikea, stock, semi-custom, full-custom) and make recommendations for them based on that. Third, (depending on the situation), we may opt to take a lower margin but higher project management fee on the products they opt to purchase from us. Fourth, we offer a design-only service that gives clients a way to get all the details they can purchase on their own instead of purchasing and installing everything through our firm. We have done kitchens for very little and kitchens for quite a bit, and it all boils down to good design and showing clients how they can achieve bliss in their space.
Charles Cameron, Owner/Principal Designer at Design Details
I would not usually recommend repainting cabinets, but walls and countertops are an easy way to give a space a boost. The thing I find that most ugly kitchens have in common is bad lighting. It’s not always an easy thing to fix, but it buys more bang for the buck than any other change. K+BB recently asked the question in our Designers Network LinkedIn group: Has anyone had experience designing a kitchen or bath on a tight or otherwise challenging budget? The helpful responses provide insight into tips to keep the budget on track, as well as the clients.