Designers Discuss Their Best Ways of Working with Others

Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed the following question to dealers and desiers in the kitchen and bath industry: "What are the keys to successfully collaborating with allied professionals?"


I work with allied professionals in two capacities. The first is product and material professionals – tile, flooring, appliances, lighting, plumbing, countertops, etc.  The second is the design team: Architects, contractors and sub-contractors who work as a collaborative team on a client’s project.

I believe the first priority is to treat all members of any trade with the upmost respect for their knowledge and experience. 

Consideration needs to be given to the time and effort spent supporting the design goals. For the showroom professional who has spent time providing detailed information and specifications for products and materials, it is vital to make sure those items are purchased and ordered from those vendors.

Teamwork and collaboration with the design team depends on a shared vision, flexibility and good communication.

Frequent communication is vital and the ideal scenario begins with the first client meeting with all design team members present. Having everyone on the team asking questions clarifies the project goals and the client’s dreams. The contractor’s construction experience allows valuable input into budget and hidden costs, efficient construction details and outlining possible construction problems areas. 

Other factors that influence successful collaboration include integrity, brainstorming and communication. In regards to integrity, work with allied professionals who are trustworthy and dependable. Brainstorming affords everyone the ability to volunteer ideas and suggestions that are listened to with respect and without judgment. And lastly, communication and recognizing that there is a team leader, such as the general contractor, who sets goals and responsibilities. Effective organization, coordination and work must go through that individual, while everyone on the project is kept in the loop and up to date.

Sharon Olsen, AKBD

Designer’s Edge Kitchen & Bath

West Linn, OR


When it comes down to it, keeping the lines of communication open is the most important key to working with allied professionals, such as interior designers. That helps to ensure our clients’ best interests are met, and ultimately, it’s the clients who are most important.

We have personal relationships with most of the designers we work with. We have established a rapport with them, which makes communication much easier.

It’s also important to maintain flexibility, between designers and clients, when working on a project. Maintaining that flexibility boils down to communication, too. If a change needs to be made, it’s important that the client understands how the change affects the project. Rarely does a change not affect something else. Depending on when a change happens, it can create a domino effect, for example, moving a window location will change the wall cabinet balance and, maybe, countertop space. Keeping everyone informed is the only way to ensure a smooth job completion.

Steve Struthers, owner

Modern Kitchen Design

Sioux City, IA


It’s important to keep an open mind, and to become an allied professional’s go-to person for details he or she might not be familiar with regarding kitchens and baths. A lot of architects, builders and interior designers cover a lot more than just kitchen and baths. As specialists for these rooms, we focus on these spaces and we can flesh out ideas about how to obtain an optimal design.

It’s also important to have a good relationship in terms of networking since business is generated from both ends, and to understand how each professional works within his or her industry. Everyone works a little differently so it’s good to understand their parameters so we don’t step on anyone’s toes. Building relationships also helps everyone understand what is expected of each other.

Open, continual communication is critical as well. Keep in touch with allied professionals even after a job is done. You can update them on current trends they may not be aware of. It’s really about everyone relying on each other.

We like to collaborate because we feel we can become an extension of their business. It also shows clients that there’s a team working for them to get the results they desire. Some clients are indecisive about what they want. When they hear the same answer from different professionals involved in the project, it reinforces the direction they’re going. Multiple heads are better than one.

James R. Dase, CMKBD

Abruzzo Kitchen & Bath

Schaumburg, IL


I think one of the keys to successful collaboration is to just be nice. It’s something that has worked for me.

Also, I think it’s important to be selective about who you choose to work with. Initially I’m very careful about who I start a relationship with. I’ve been in the industry for 25 years, long enough to learn how to read people. I won’t do a job if I get a negative feeling about the people involved, and I’d never work with a designer I don’t like.

I’m pretty easy going, but I don’t work well with people who are mean, so I’ve taught myself to spot those types of people. It just isn’t worth the money.

Max Wall, owner

ABC Kitchen and Bath Remodeling

Boulder County, CO


Open communication, making sure everyone knows their role in a given situation, is so important for successful collaboration. For most of our projects we have the lead on the job, but for those that are brought in by architects, designers, etc., we get a feel for what is expected from us before we start the job. Some [allied professionals] are actively involved in the project, while others are not so it’s important to know who has control.

We also match our contractors with clients according to their personalities so we have people who will meld and work well together.

It’s so important to have good collaboration with everyone involved in a project so if there’s an issue, if for example, there is a mistake made in a measurement, we can work together to solve it. We all work together side by side.

Debbie Rising, designer

INDE Intuitive Design

Victor, NY