November 2004 Pro to Pro

Have a question, and looking for feedback from industry peers? This month, K&BDN listens in on dialogue between industry professionals, as excerpted from the' online Designer Discussion Forum.

I have to do a circular kitchen, and I have not done one before. Can someone tell me how it is done? Are the cabinets still straight and the countertop rounded to give that illusion,
or do the cabinet fronts have to be rounded? It's one very big part of a circle. I know the radius is
8' 2", but I don't know what that "means" yet. Thanks.

Response 1
It can be done with circular-fronted cabinetry, but that is very expensive and most cabinet manufacturers won't even try it. But you can also use small cabinetry and use a circular countertop.

Response 2
One solution to curved front base cabinets is to use open cabinets perhaps with roll-out baskets or other attractive accessories. If frameless cabinets are used, the horizontal panels can be shaped without the expense of curved doors. This strategy combined with the use of narrow frontage straight cabinets and a few custom curves can essentially define the curve.

Response 3
It is helpful to realize that, in your finished project, the spacing of the fillers will be as critical as the cabinet sizes. If you and/or your installer can do a field layout and make cardboard templates of each cabinet, you will be better able to work out the fillers and determine ahead of time whether or not the angles should be cut in the field or a shop. And be prepared to spend twice to three times the amount on planning and installation, as well.

Response 4
The radius means that from center point, the backs of the cabinetry will be 8' 2" away from the center point. I do these kitchens occasionally. First, find your center point location in the blueprints. Second, tie a pencil to a string that is 8' 2" and draw your circle or part there of. Third, note that this will be the back side of your cabinetry. Fourth, take the string and subract 24-3/8" from the 8' 2", and that will be the front side. Fifth, break up the lines in accordance with the widths that you or the customer desire, then you can figure out the fillers, although we never use them on circular kitchens. Don't forget to order 3/8" bending plywood pre-finished to the color of the job, and have the installers wrap it around the back of the cabinetry.

Tips for Handling Unwanted Clients

Help! How do I dump an unwanted client nicely?
I'm a high-end kitchen designer, and I begin all projects with an initial in-home consultation, for which I charge a fee. Although I do a fair amount of "qualifying" prospects on the phone before agreeing to meet, you never know what kind of chemistry will be there in person. As I work very closely and for up to a year with clients, it's essential that there be good chemistry. During the consultation, I'm giving them advice and design tips, so they are getting their money's worth, but I'm also deciding if I want to work with them again.
Sometimes rarely I don't want to work with them again. Anyone with experience can tell when a client will be problematic, and when such people call to say they'd like to proceed, I usually tell them I have just taken on a large commission and will not be available to work on their project after all. Sometimes I offer alternate sources where they might go for design advice. Most people accept that and are fine.
But recently I've had a woman e-mailing me weeks later saying she wants to wait for me to become available. Another woman became abusive when I told her I couldn't take on her project, insisting that I ought to do the project if I do the consultation. Both of these women were tense, jumpy personalities that set off red flags the minute I met them. I've tried to deal with them in a polite, firm, yet professional manner. What do I do now? Not return their phone calls and wait for them to get the hint? Or tell them outright that the chemistry is wrong? But I think they'd get more abusive, if I did that.
What's the right way to handle this? Thanks for any advice!

Response 1
I hate when that happens. You could say, "In thinking about it further, I feel that I am not the right fit for your project, but thank you very much for your interest."

But what happens when they say, "Why don't you want to work on my project?"
Try this: "There are a number of factors, some logistical, some other factors, which make it a project that, on further thought, is just not right for me. But, thank you for your interest."
That's short, polite and vague.
I would like to hear others' methods of avoiding being hired when you realize the "fit" isn't right or the client is going to be extremely difficult.

Response 2
Why don't you just tell them that a big project(s) came along right before theirs did, and that you will not have time to work on their project for a long time? Then, give them their money back. I think this is a reasonable solution, especially if this happens rarely. I also think it will save you headaches.

Appropriate Design Retainer Language

I will probably be sued shortly for the return of my design retainer by a client who did not want to go through with the purchase of the cabinetry.

An original estimate for the kitchen was provided. My retainer has language saying the retainer is only refundable upon "purchase of cabinetry." My retainer also states that plans are provided solely upon purchase of cabinetry. The document was signed. The final price came in within $5,000 of the original estimate, ($36,000) due to lots of extras he wanted. So, it was quite close at $41,000.
He didn't want to go through with the purchase, and is now saying that he wants to buy the retainer's worth ($3,500) of cabinetry, after four months of my own and my staff's work. He said the retainer does not specify that a minimum dollar amount must be purchased for the retainer to be deducted. My attorney says that's hogwash, given what my retainer says/implies.
However, I think it may be prudent to do just that to add on a minimum dollar amount from which the retainer is deductable. In this case, I may have put in $25,0000 to $30,000. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Response 1
I really despise clients like this. I say sell him the cabinet or cabinets you have on hand due to mistakes, damage, etc. at retail of, say, $3,500 bucks. You determine the prices, and this person will get the message. If you are sued, you should counterclaim for the hassle.
Response 2

Several years ago I had a similar situation with a client wanting me to credit his kitchen design retainer to a bathroom purchase because he felt our kitchen proposal was too expensive. After considering his request (going over the edge in my office), I felt our design contract needed some changes.
The following information makes up some of the terms and conditions of our design contract. Perhaps you will find them interesting, if not helpful. I might add that since these changes have been incorporated into our design contract, we have not had anyone make a similar request. They are as follows:

  • [Fill in the name of your company] will give you a $_______ Design Credit at the time you sign the Contract accepting our Initial Proposal.
  • The Design Retainer cannot be used for any other project or any other room, now or in the future.
  • The Design Retainer cannot be transferred to any other person or property.
  • Additional Design work or changes on this project will require an additional, non-refundable retainer.
    Before I agree to take a client's money, I explain it is necessary to charge a design fee for the sole purpose of covering some of our investment of time and energy on their behalf. If they are not willing to pay for our experience, reputation and
    service, then we are not willing to work for them. I find that
    the people that do not expect something for nothing are the people with which we have the most success.

Response 3
I don't call it a design retainer. I call it a design fee. I used to offer to credit 50% back toward the purchase price, but I found that very few clients remembered to ask for it. I finally stopped offering it, and it made no difference at all. If the design work and advice is good enough to pay for, it should be separate and above and beyond product purchases anyway. If I charge enough to keep myself happy, if I just sell design time, then I don't take it personally if they buy from someone else.

Response 4
I have just discovered a new book that takes all the "mumbo-jumbo" out of my contracts with clients. It is titled Business and Legal Forms for Interior Designers by Tad Crawford and Eva Doman Bruck. It contains 45 ready-to-use forms, negotiation checklists, and all of the forms are on a CD-ROM, as well, to just print them when needed. I have just started using it, and already I see a difference in how the client perceives the legal contract, due to the much more formal wording.
Suggestions for Filtering Faucets

I'm looking for recommendations for filtering beverage faucets that are good quality, but that also look good. I've only used one before, but I don't really like the look of it. For one specific project I need a traditional look, but any contemporary suggestions would also be welcome, as would suggestions for any coordinating main faucets.

Response 1
Why not just choose the faucet you want and use some good filtration in the cabinet below? The filters in the "filtering faucets" are so small that they are not very effective, especially after a month or so of use.

Response 2
Filtering all water through the faucet is a waste. Why would you want to filter the water that you wash the dishes with, water the plants with, etc.? Franke's system uses a cartridge under the sink, and has a separate lever to dispense filtered water when needed. For all other tasks the filter is bypassed, thereby conserving its life.