Read This Before Hiring a Kitchen Designer


A kitchen renovation is one of the most exciting home improvement projects you can undertake. However, the process of designing and executing a kitchen remodel can also be quite complex and stressful. Hiring the right kitchen designer is key to creating a functional, beautiful, and cost-effective new kitchen.

This comprehensive guide will provide you with expert advice on finding, vetting, hiring, and working with professional kitchen designers. We’ll cover everything from assessing your needs and goals to evaluating designer qualifications, fees, and contracts. Read on for insider tips that will help you avoid common pitfalls and end up with the kitchen of your dreams.

Know What You Want Before Starting Your Search

The first step in hiring a great kitchen designer is getting very clear on your vision, budget, lifestyle needs, and aesthetic preferences. Give serious thought to the following:

  • Your cooking habits and tastes. How often do you cook and what style of cooking/cuisine? What are your must-have appliances? What is your kitchen workflow and traffic patterns?
  • Your storage needs. Cooking equipment, dishes, pantry items, etc. Take detailed notes.
  • Your style. Make a note of kitchen design elements you love, from cabinets to countertops to flooring.
  • Your budget. Be realistic about what you can spend, while leaving some wiggle room.
  • Special considerations. Such as mobility/access issues, whether you’ll DIY part of the reno, sustainability goals, etc.

Having clarity on your aspirations will make the designer selection process so much easier. You’ll be able to quickly identify good candidates and rule out those who aren’t a fit. It also provides the designer with essential info to craft a tailored kitchen.

Start Your Search With Referrals and Online Reviews

Once your project goals are defined, create a list of designers to consider. Tap into these sources to find top talent:

  • Referrals: Ask recently remodeled friends, your realtor, interior designer, or architect for recommendations.
  • Remodeling shows: Note down designers featured on HGTV and remodeling magazine shows.
  • Industry associations: the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).
  • Social media: Many designers showcase their work on Instagram and Facebook.
  • Online reviews: Check client feedback on Yelp, Houzz, Google, and designer websites. Look for rave reviews.
  • Home shows: Chat up designers as you seek inspiration.

Make a list of 3-5 designers whose work and approach seems to match your vision. Thoroughly vet them before making a selection.

Interview Each Prospective Designer Before Committing

It’s essential to meet and extensively interview finalists face-to-face. This is the only way to truly gauge their experience, skills, design savvy, and ability to translate your vision. Key questions to ask:

About the Designer’s Background

  • How long have you worked in kitchen design? How many kitchens have you designed?
  • What training and certifications do you have? Are you certified by the the NKBA or other groups?
  • What design styles and types of kitchens do you specialize in?
  • What do you enjoy most about kitchen design work?

About Their Design Process

  • Please walk me through your typical design process.
  • How do you gather info about a client’s needs, goals, and preferences?
  • How much direct involvement will I have in the design process? Number of meetings, feedback loops, etc?
  • Do you provide 3D renderings or other visuals prior to finalizing a design?

About Project Management

  • Do you act as project manager for the renovation or only design?
  • Will you be onsite directing the project or subcontractors? How often?
  • How do you keep clients updated on project status and issues like delays?
  • How do you communicate with and manage subs/vendors?

About Their Reliability and Professionalism

  • Do you have a professional license? Are you insured?
  • Will you provide referrals from recent clients?
  • Do you have reviews from satisfied clients online and may I contact them?
  • How do you ensure projects are completed on time and on budget?

About Costs and Contracts

  • What is your fee structure? Do you charge by the hour or by project? Get complete written pricing.
  • What professional services are included in your fees? What is extra?
  • Do you earn a commission on products and materials specified for the project?
  • Do you provide a detailed contract for services? Ask for a sample.

Verify the Designer’s Reliability and Skills

A few final checks will help confirm you’ve found the right pro:

  • Call references and ask about their satisfaction level. Was the project on time/budget? Was communication frequent?
  • Look for certifications like NKBA, ASID, and LEED as signs of credibility.
  • Check reviews on multiple sites to ensure they aren’t doctored. Complaints about over-budget projects or poor communication are red flags.
  • Ask detailed questions about their portfolio projects similar to yours to gauge their capabilities.
  • Verify licenses and insurance. Kitchen designers should have a minimum of $1 million liability coverage.

Thorough vetting reduces the risk of hiring an inexperienced or unethical designer. Take your time here.

Compare Proposals and Costs

Bid comparison is an important part of the designer selection process. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Get proposals from 3 finalists to compare scope of services and fees. Comparing just 2 bids often doesn’t provide enough data.
  • Give each designer the same project parameters and schedule. This may reveal big differences in approach.
  • Look for transparent pricing on both design fees and product/material markups. Avoid hidden costs.
  • Gauge “soft costs” like number of meetings/site visits included. Lots of face time costs more.
  • Note how each structures payments – bigger upfront retainer vs progress payments.
  • Seek bids from both independent designers and remodeling firm designers to get range.

As you compare details, don’t make price your top priority. This can backfire on overall cost or success of the project.

Read Any Contract Carefully Before Signing

Never sign a design contract without reading it closely, even if you love the designer. Key points:

  • Make sure the scope of services matches what you discussed.
  • Look for clauses about how and when payments are made.
  • Note the timeline for completion of work and any penalty clauses.
  • Review change order fees and protocols. Ask questions if unclear.
  • Seek clarity on how disputes will be managed before they occur.
  • Make sure liability insurance coverage is stipulated.
  • Know your options if you need to terminate the contract.

A clear, fair contract protects both you and the designer. Ask an attorney to review it or renegotiate any troubling clauses before signing.

Work Collaboratively With Your Designer

Once a contract is signed, the real design work begins! Your role is key to creating an amazing kitchen.

  • Have an open mind to designers’ ideas but speak up if certain elements don’t work for you.
  • Give honest, constructive feedback during the concept and revision phases. Be very clear about preferences.
  • Share inspiration images you find between meetings and explain what you like about them.
  • Stick to a decision timeline for approvals. Indecision drags out the design process.
  • Provide contact info for all vendors and subs needed for the project.
  • Promptly share any changes that impact the scope, schedule or budget.

Frequent and open communication ensures the designer can create your perfect kitchen!


Hiring a skilled kitchen designer is one of the most important investments you’ll make in a remodel. Their expertise and guidance will have an enormous impact on the look, functionality and enjoyment you receive from the new space. Following this comprehensive process will help you find the perfect pro. With diligent planning, communication and collaboration, you’re sure to end up with your dream kitchen.

Read This Before Hiring a Kitchen Designer – FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about hiring a kitchen designer:

Should I hire a designer or do it myself?

Unless you have professional design expertise, hiring a kitchen designer is highly recommended. They have the skills to create a cohesive, functional layout tailored to how your family uses the kitchen. Their familiarity with materials, trends and pricing also ensures you get the most design impact for your budget.

How much do kitchen designers charge?

Fees vary widely based on experience level and geographic region. In general, expect to pay $50-$150 per hour or 15-20% of the total remodel budget. Get all pricing in writing beforehand.

When should I hire a designer in the renovation process?

Ideally, engage a designer before finalizing your home purchase if a kitchen overhaul is planned or immediately after. You want their input on the existing kitchen’s capabilities and limitations.

Should I hire a freelance designer or use one from a remodeling firm?

Both options have pros and cons. Freelancers offer more personalized service while contracted designers have company resources. Price and reviews should drive your choice.

What questions should I ask prospective designers?

Inquire about their training, years in business, design specialties, process, previous projects, costs, and client reviews. Ask for referrals too.

What are signs of an inexperienced kitchen designer?

Watch for inability to articulate a clear design process, vague answers about style or fees, lack of licensing and certifications, and few reviews.

How can I prepare for meetings with my designer?

Have photos of your current kitchen, measurements, notes on family needs/cooking style, an inspiration board, and potential layouts. Come armed with questions!

Read This Before Hiring a Kitchen Designer: Final Takeaways

Hiring a professional kitchen designer may be one of the most valuable investments you make in your renovation. Their expertise can elevate the aesthetics, functionality and efficiency of your new kitchen. Here are some final tips:

  • Spend significant time evaluating designers’ skills, experience, and design sensibilities.
  • Ask lots of questions at the interview stage to find the best fit.
  • Compare multiple bids carefully on cost, scope of work, and soft costs.
  • Scrutinize the design contract before signing and clarify any unclear points.
  • Maintain frequent contact during the design process to get the results you want.
  • Trust in the designer’s experience but don’t hesitate to speak up on preferences.
  • Remember that quality design work and careful planning adds value and enjoyment for years to come!