December 2005 Market Pulse

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“One of the best ways t control costs is to plan the project in full, in advance, and make sure that everything is very organized. This way, there will be fewer mistakes at the end of the day. We always advise our clients to set aside 20 percent for contingency. Most of the time, they are not going to use that, but in terms of construction costs, you really never know what will happen. If everything is organized, then the clients have everything they need when we present a cost to them. We always start with selecting the appliances, and then we move to selecting the cabinetry. It is only then that we move to the fun stuff, like fancy faucets and lighting. Using contractors that are fair is an important aspect, as well.”

Rhonda Chen, president, CID
Interior Design Details
Brea, CA

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“One of the best ways to control costs is to simply ask the clients how much they plan on spending. So, if the budget is not there to knock out a wall, if needed, then you as the designer need to seek other alternatives to meet their criteria. In many cases, it’s something like that that drives the initial design. That is the main priority and it has to be budgeted in or figured in. You also need to be mindful of what these things are going to cost in relationship to the whole job. Therefore, we will often create a wish list or a shopping list that can’t be exceeded. With clients, the subject of budget always comes up and we have to remember that the idea is to not spend every penny, but rather to make sure that the direction we head in is going to be feasible for everybody.

The key is to listen to the clients’ needs and make a wish list for their new kitchen design. I try to prioritize the most important parts of the design that must happen before anything else happens. The last question we ask is usually ‘how much do you have dedicated to this project?’ A lot of times, the answer to this question will knock some of these items off the priority list. But, I try my best to stay up with unit costs and always try to rely on historic costs, so I know how much certain things cost. When I am reviewing a design with a client, I try to work backward with the math and arrive at a makeshift budget.”

Rick Beckham, CKD, CBD
Omnitek Kitchen Designs
Houston, TX

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“That is tough because you don’t really know what the costs are until the design is done. We usually do the design first and then we figure out what products will go into the design. One of the best ways to control the costs of the design process is to get as much possible out of the client regarding what they want and what they want to spend. There is nothing more detrimental to a design than selecting something that is so out of their budget that they can’t afford it. That’s when you’re going you lose the sale. You have to tell them up front if their costs are not realistic. A client may ask for certain products, and I will research them to see what will fit their budget and still give them the same look they want.

Lead times can impact the design costs, as well. For instance, the more customized the cabinetry is, the longer the lead time is going to be. So, if they want to be done by a certain time – yet they want a specific product – then they have to wait. I did have a client recently who found a sink online and she wanted it badly. I made some price adjustments on plumbing fixtures and the backsplash area to accommodate the sink.

The other thing we do is start the design process first, and then we look at the cabinet lines. So, we do things a little differently in that instead of designing everything around a product and then giving them the cost, we do the design first and then select the products that will fit the budget.”

Angie Keyes, senior kitchen designer
Kitchen and Bath design Studio
West Salem, WI

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“We try and do as much of the selection process up front as possible. That way, we can present the client with an estimate/proposal before we get started. Therefore, most things are already in the budget and we can leave an allowance for others, such as cabinetry and countertops, which are well budgeted. We also try not to change too many things throughout the process. But, if they go over that, then we just generate a new invoice and add that to their costs. If we let them know whether something is going to work within their allowance, then they are usually fine with that. We also try to give them our best input as designers – especially if we think they are taking away from the design by selecting a certain product. As long as we communicate with the customers, then they are usually fine. So, I would say that communication is key to controlling design costs.”

Arissa Foreman, designer
New Look Kitchen & Bath
Front Royal, VA

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“What costs more money than anything is changes. One of the best things we can do up front for the client is offering an intricate survey for the client to fill out. We ask a lot of questions and that leaves out the unknowns for the most part. We try to pull out as much information as possible at the beginning. So, communication is key to reducing costs.

When it comes to the design process, we spend our time efficiently by first doing sketches as opposed to using AutoCAD versions. This allows us to see if that design is what the client has in mind. By staging the design in sketches, we minimize the repetition and having to go back to start again. That helps minimize our design costs. From a business standpoint, we don’t want to spend a lot of our time doing the design, because the time spent is money spent. We don’t want to hurt our profit margins by spending too much time on the design phase. We also don’t offer clients a lot of options. That is a time waster. If we have done our homework, we don’t need to show three options to the client.

When it comes to choosing suppliers, we may be using them for the first time. Unfortunately, that can cost money while you are getting to know that supplier’s system, or [you might] experience unexpected delays. We have developed a system within our office that we provide all of the contractors with a detailed installation package, and that has cut down on questions and phone calls during the installation process. It’s a great tool because they can refer back to it before they make a phone call.”

Andrea Langford, ASID, v.p.
Langford Kitchen Studio
Albany, NY

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