KD won't allow me to post plans for comment

September 21, 2010

OK. What do I make of this?

I met with an independent kitchen designer who seems very knowledgeable, professional and shows beautiful kitchens in her portfolio. She's not tied to aany particular cab company or custom maker, but she does mark up cabs somewhat (over trade).

In her proposal, she said that she maintains copyright ownership of her drawings and will not allow them to be posted on the Internet, including here.

First of all, is it normal for designers and architects to maintain ownership of their plans if they are not design/build?

Second, has anyone else heard this from a KD about Internet postings?

My recent bath reno has somewhat changed my view of working with designers, vendors and contractors, a little bit away from the friendly trusting partnership thing and a little more toward the arming myself with mace/taser/lethal injection direction.

Comments (135)

  • mindstorm

    Yup. Thought so. She doesn't want your input on "her" project. Sort of a yours not to question why ... yours but to do and die.
    This isn't an Audrey xxx out of the South Shore is it? Sounds familiar except unfortunately I went forward with her.

    Sounds like you may need an architect rather than strictly a KD since you have more than just layout constraints. We used one - for our bathroom and now more recently on more renovations. I can give you her name if you're interested - she's in Boston. She worked up both the layout as well as sorted out code, structural issues for us. I really liked her even though she's not the greatest communicator or best about keeping in touch but some of that may have been my uptight husband with his millions of questions and follow-up requests (some of them frightfully legitimate as he spotted some things that would've imploded the project, some just amounted to micromanagement and I told him as much). She also works with very good people so you won't have code or feasibility surprises at the end of the project.

  • plllog

    Well. Now you know. If she doesn't want that very surfacy level of give and take she doesn't want the job.

    Now, where do I look for another independent KD?

    I know you've met some of the most remarkably incompetent tradesmen so far, but have you met any good ones? Someone who is knowledgeable about his/her trade and workmanlike, and doesn't screw around? Someone trustworthy? Because the trades usually know who all the good designers are. Don't ask for their favorites because that might be the most easy going or the one who pays the quickest. Instead, ask for the most creative even if they're PITAs, and the best problem solvers. Maybe ask at the nicer tile stores and independent, better appliance stores.

    Also, is there a place where the Lovely Ladies meet? A garden club? Boosters circle? Chatting up the Ladies Who Lunch might get you several leads.

    Pour on the chearm. Get people talking. Then, slide in a "say, you don't know a good KD, do you?"

    Don't know if it would work in Boston, but it does in general.

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  • dianalo

    I think sometimes people put in bids for jobs they don't have time for or are too small for them, but throw in a high price or other stumbling blocks either hoping you
    a.) overpay them or
    b.) you turn them down so that they are not the bad guy

    It does not sound like she was interested in your project. It also might have nothing to do with your project but you may remind her of her brother in law (you know, the one who cheated on her sister), she may have an ex with the same first name, or she just has some other prejudice......
    You may never know, but if she was not gung ho about your project, just be grateful you found out this way!

  • John Liu


    Your email seemed like it would have been very easy to deal with, from what I would think of as her perspective. Anyway, good to find out up front, that you're not compatible / compliant enough.

    Here is an idea. Find the local home preservationist types, the ''American Bungalow'' crowd. Boston must have lots. My neighbor across the street are in that business, I can ask who they know in Boston, if you want. Ask them for a recommendation. Explain that every KD you've consulted has wanted to turn your vintage house into a split-level, Great Room, Toll Brothers pastiche. Do they know a designer who will respect the original spirit of the house while creating a very functional kitchen? I think you'll get some leads.

  • marcolo

    I know you've met some of the most remarkably incompetent tradesmen so far, but have you met any good ones? Someone who is knowledgeable about his/her trade and workmanlike, and doesn't screw around? Someone trustworthy?

    Honestly, the best and most honest tradesman I've met so far is my floor guy. He also did some great finish carpentry for me. We accidentally sent him two checks for the same bill and I thought he was going to have a panic attack until he could return one. But I don't think he knows designers and KDs.

    Something to know about Boston is that it's not a residential design hub. Does anybody remember the really old quip? "Where do ladies in Boston buy their hats?" "In Boston, they have their hats." Housing is so overpriced here relative to incomes, most people in houses costing 6-900K are putting in Home Depot kitchens. Only in places like Swellesley--um, Wellesley--do people really trick out their kitchens, and only in properties that are well over a million plus.

    So, not many people even know what an independent KD is. Most people just think it's the girl at Lowe's. Or, if you're rich, at the cabinet showroom.

    I think dianolo is right, that she was never interested. I first contacted her in June. We finally met in September. I've seen more bright-eyed eagerness in the Intensive Care Unit.

    Boston's very funny about old houses. Almost everybody lives in one. Nobody wants to. A Pulte development with a choice of either a 3000 square foot bonus room over the garage or a drive-in closet is everyone's dream. I'm the guy at open houses explaining why the old window shades are dark green on the outside (the War) or why there's a weird little nook in the entryway (to show you're rich enough to have a phone). I listen to to people at open houses shove five-foot-wide high tech strollers through 30-inch doors exclaiming, "This is illegal! The sellers have to fix this!" as they tour a 1775 house.

    Now, there are lots of old house buffs here, but frankly some of them are getting a bit vague. I loved my locksmith when he first showed up, a charming guy who made me custom keys for the old locks and reforged my old latch. However, I have not actually been able to leave or enter the house at will since he got here, and i've paid him a thousand bucks.

    So, I won't be asking him about KDs, since I don't think I really want a kitchen built around a 1922 O'Keefe & Meritt, nor do I need a place to heat up bed warmers or dry knickers.

    In short, I'm stuck.

  • John Liu


    Your email seemed like it would have been very easy to deal with, from what I would think of as her perspective. Anyway, good to find out up front, that you're not compatible / compliant enough.

    Here is an idea. Find the local home preservationist types, the ''American Bungalow'' crowd. Boston must have lots. My neighbor across the street are in that business, I can ask who they know in Boston, if you want. Ask them for a recommendation. Explain that every KD you've consulted has wanted to turn your vintage house into a split-level, Great Room, Toll Brothers pastiche. Do they know a designer who will respect the original spirit of the house while creating a very functional kitchen? I think you'll get some leads.

  • plllog

    So...go charm the Ladies Who Lunch in Swellsley. Talk to the ones with the multimillion dollar houses. You need a KD who thinks your house is a charming little job that's an interesting undertaking because of the walkout and the doors and all, not because she thinks she's going to be separating you from a big fat wallet. If you have an rich friends with good designers, get them to ask the designers to work with you as a favor to them. Work it.

    If your floor guy doesn't know a good KD or designer maybe he knows a really good general contractor. And the contractor might know a great cabinetmaker, and the cabinetmaker might be designer enough for you. Mine was. My GC's visiting dad (a farmer!) even came up with a clever design idea for my kitchen.

    You never know where you're going to find someone. And even the chichi someones sometimes take smaller jobs. Like when they're going to finish a huge job on time, and didn't schedule the start of the next big job to start until six weeks later because they thought they might need slop time. And want a little job to slot in between. Plus, even if your floor guy never gets employed by designers, perhaps his cousin is one. You never know.

    And I recommend the Lovely Ladies Who Lunch because they're notoriously picky, and if you charm them (rather than annoy them) they're not going to recommend someone they weren't happy with. OH!!! You might also try asking their stylists. You can bet that the hairdressers, especially, have heard every last detail of Muffy's, Buffy's and Puffie's remodels and just what they thought about their designers.

    Ask everyone. Ask the old guy in line next to you at the post office, and neighbor who barely says hi. If you don't ask, no one will tell you.

  • newcastlemom

    "The critique process is always useful in any creative endeavor. Sometimes it just sets up your back and convincees you that you were right in the first place, but balancing the idea in question with negative responses are what get your thinking around to the place where you know it's right and know why."

    You're spot on, Plllog. Gotta figure out how to do that italics thing for excerpted quotes.
    I love the way everyone stayed into this thread until this point, ninty-eleven posts deep. But it enriches all our decisions to have the give-and-take, with or without agreement. Better still when it's civil like this place.

    Marcolo, let us know when you find that just-right KD. It's a long shot, but I'll ask around those I know in the area.

  • mindstorm

    Hey Marcolo,

    Are you a chronic whiner or do you ever get off your duff to try to solve your problems? So far all you hear is that Boston is the reason you're in a hole and without kitchen/bathroom or keys.
    Having been a homeowner here for about 8 years, I can assert that not everyone goes to homedepot and hands over the job to the Ladies at Lowe's.

    Now, 'tis true, it ain't easy to find good workers. It ain't easy because the housing being as expensive as it is means that every out of work musician and artiste sets out a shingle calling themselves a contractor, painter or designer. So for the customer looking to solve a problem, the signal to noise ratio is v. v. low. Still, there are some excellent resources here.

    I'll tell you how I found my own excellent painter and you can try to do the same thing for your KD purposes. I went to the "This Old House" website and scoured their articles for experts and their specialties. You do know that TOH is based out of Boston-parts, yes? Well, I was hunting for good painters and found my painters thusly. These guys are craftsmen and know old houses, old plaster, old windows and doors, how to work with them and how not to throw 'em away for new parts.

    Well, that was a brilliant experience. I need more painting work done now and I didn't even look elsewhere - went straight to the same guys I've now used a couple of times. You can try the same channel. You could also try Angie's list though don't know how expansive it is. Johnliu has suggested you try "American Bungalow" and use that as a warm start. So far you've only proferred regional excuses for why you're dissatisfied and blamed it on the place (which, btw. is the most Bostonian thing of all).

    I will say that I had a challenging time with the kitchen here too. I didn't like the independent KD I'd almost settled on, found the cabinet-affiliated design operation a scam of monumental proportions and most unsatisfactory in general. Eventually wound up designing my own kitchen with critique from here. (I didn't go the TOH route because I didn't want a traditional kitchen in my old house - I wan't a modern one.)


  • marcolo

    Are you a chronic whiner or do you ever get off your duff to try to solve your problems?

    Where do you get off speaking this way to me?

    I got my locksmith from Angie's list and a neighbor referral. My bath contractor is the highest-rated GC on Angie's list and I checked local bath showrooms to see who had a good reputation. My electrical contractors are the people that local realtors use to estimate inspection repairs and are top-rated. I got my water & sewer guy from asking around GCs. I interviewed every top-rated floor company and picked the ones who brought a cabinet scraper and knew how to use it. I talk to the guys at the woodworking store for advice.

    I get up every morning at 5 something, hobble down a flight of stairs on a broken leg to use the only toilet, shower in something that looks like a concentration camp, then go on to refinish a banister by hand, strip a 12 x 24 roomful of bad wallpaper applied without primer, carry boxes with a crutch in one hand, call the town ten times to see if they would please replace my curb that was removed in July, research and order on the web, make appointments with ten more contractors, try to paint although my leg kills me when I do, supervise each and every thing that my contractors do, and, oh yeah, I work full time. But since I work at home I also cook every single day. Then it's night and time to unpack, repack, clean abandoned construction debris, paint some more, try to find clothes for tomorrow, which are all in piles again after we had to deconstruct our closets due to the bath renovation, and finish up a hundred more things before trying to get to bed by midnight so I can bright eyed and bushy tailed for my next-day 5 a.m. shower.

    Yeah, I get off my duff. You should try getting off your high horse.

    Excuse me, I just got an email reminding me of three more things I have to do before I start work today.

  • gillylily

    Marcolo- I don't have a specific KD in mind, however, I have a great cabinet maker in Walpole who may know of a great KD-- Maybe you could start there- Go to a custom cabinet maker- I know there are ton of threads of highly recommended cabinet makers in the Boston area and see if maybe they work with a KD or know of any THEY could recommend. My home was built t!his year and we really liked our cabinet maker- Not the most enthusiastic person but GREAT craftmanship and I know I have read SEVERAL threads about other's who LOVE theirs as well.. Just an idea!! Good luck!

  • marcolo

    Feel free to share any ideas! I'm e-mailable through the Forum.

  • liz53

    I am a long time lurker, just joined today, and have been following this thread since its inception. Full disclosure: I am/was an architect - stopped practicing in 1990 or so and eventually gave up my registration.

    As Mindstorm suggested above, I think what you need is an architect. And not just any architect. Probably a small office (one person?) that can devote some time to your idiosyncratic project. Either someone who's been around a long time and has seen everything, or someone recently out of school and anxious to tackle something quirky with fresh new ideas.

    Even though your project is small, it is complicated, and it will require someone who can coordinate and balance all the different systems. They should have a good working knowledge of prevailing building codes and a relationship with the local plan checking department to establish definitively what the constraints are on your design. Virtually all remodels are complicated - you will never know what is hidden behind the walls till you uncover them - but yours has the potential to be more difficult than most.

    You will probably pay more for an architect that will do all of this for your small project. Kitchen designers can be great for more straightforward plans, and of course some are better than others. You may want to consider a custom cabinet maker to make the most of the quirky spaces rather than trying to modify semi custom cabinets to fit.

    The other thing I'd suggest is slowing down the process. It sounds like you are just finishing up a difficult bath remodel and are less than satisfied with the results. Take some time to find people who restore your confidence in the process. You may even decide to give up on this project, i.e., this house, and move on to one that is not quite so demanding.


  • John Liu

    Marcolo, you may be trying to do too much, too quickly, along with dealing with your broken leg. Don't thrash yourself.

    Imperfect as it is, the kitchen is functional now, at least it is not torn up, so let it be the one part of the house that isn't driving you batty. Come back to it in the new year, when you're not in pain and are taking civilized showers again.

    In the meantime, you can keep noodling over layouts, sniffing around for sympatico designers or architects, and getting to know the space.

    You are a serious cook and should have a kitchen that is really ''right''. Stepping back, finding fresh eyes, and incubating fresh - even wacky - ideas may be what you need.

  • marcolo

    You know, I was just about to cheer up from a nearly-finished bathroom when the "color-matched" caulk turned out not to color match at all. Looks terrible! Just when I wanted to show it off. We'll see whether the tile store makes good; the contractor will come back next week if need be to razor out the old caulk and replace it. We were so close!

    Anyway, liz53, you're right--a small architect would be great. But finding a person like that is pretty tough.

    johnliu, I'm going to try to move forward with the kitchen, but I'm not going to go insane over it. There's enough else going on. I need a functional kitchen for Christmas because my sister is coming up for the first time--she used to spend all of her vacations visiting our mom until the latter passed away. Whether it's a new kitchen or an old kitchen, we need a place for cookies and vino!

    I just emailed Patty at Country Craftsmen in Uxbridge. Quite a few on the KF have had good things to say about their custom cabinetry. I visited myself a few months back--their cabs look well made, and the staff is super nice. Maybe there's a way to do this without a big schmancy designer!

    Meanwhile, I am still slightly curious about what made my KD break up with me. Was it something I said--or the fact that I said anything at all?

    I've known interior designers who were incredibly talented, but I just couldn't work with them. All they seemed to want were clients with empty heads and big checkbooks who needed to be told what to do. That ain't me.

  • gillylily

    Hi Marcolo- If you want a back-up cabinet maker I used
    Mike at Creative Cabinets in Walpole- 508-660-6660

    I didn't choose him myself- my builder uses him- we just built a home in Canton, but we are on the smaller scale of homes our builder builds. He more commonly does million dollar homes in Wellesley and uses Mike for them as well. He was VERY accomodating!! Like I said not the most excitable person- but very nice and very easy for us to work with as well as the other 7 families who built in my development.
    He is really well :"creative" so maybe he will be a good person to talk to about your unique space!

    Hope this helps!

  • ideagirl2

    Are you a member of Angie's List? Or do you know anyone in Boston who is? We've found some great contractors that way.

    Also, peruse the websites of local small architects and then when you have a few who you think might fit the bill, run their names (or their firms' names) through google. You may find lots of interesting compliments or complaints.

  • marcolo

    Yup, I use Angie's all the time. KDs aren't listed there, unfortunately.

    Still wondering whether anybody can see anything wrong in what I wrote.

  • palimpsest

    I think in the long run it is probably best that you parted ways for whatever reason. The project hasn't even started yet and there were what were essentially contractual disagreements.

    I, too, have used contractors that came recommended but did not work out for me, and honestly I am glad (now) that my first, highly recommended, contractor and I had to part ways even though I was left with a demolition and not much else and had no kitchen for ... over four years I hate to say, but the contractors who took over (finally) were actually able to execute what I wanted, and the first guy really wasn't. Boy, that was a run on sentence.

  • jcoxmd

    "Meanwhile, I am still slightly curious about what made my KD break up with me."

    She just wasn't that into you. Better to part ways early. You don't want to work with someone who doesn't want to work with you. And don't take it personally-your email was fine!

  • ideagirl2

    I was suggesting Angie's List for architects. They are listed, and those in the know were suggesting that what you really need is an architect.

  • davidro1

    Now I get it. This thread is like a dance. Everyone all together. A social experience. Someone wants to socialize and the impetus is a talk about someone else who didn't want their work displayed on the internet while said work was still fresh, version vulnerable, and unbuilt.

    In the long term, the KD's work would be implemented and everything would be copyable. In the short term, the KD's beautiful plans have to be maintained as something almost secret. Far in the future, you'll get feedback after posting your own plans you draw yourself to illustrate concepts that you will have gotten either for free here and there, or by paying for consultations, or by coming up with your own ideas. All that will come later. For now, this is a thread about who gets to post beautiful plans made by someone else, or who discovers they cannot post beautiful plans in the exact form as they were received.


  • marcolo

    Actually, no, it's not about any of that at all. It's about whether a vendor takes the time to understand what a checkbook, er, consumer needs, and tries to meet that need; or not.

    I am not concerned or offended by this parting of ways, although it did cost me four months of planning time and may now cause me to miss my holiday deadline. Whatever.

    I am simply curious what "clues" were contained in any of my requests.

    I asked a question--Can I do this?

    No, came the answer.

    Well, how else can I get help, is this OK? Also, can I know how much to budget for you?

    Goodbye was the reply.

    What I'm wondering is, what was the expected course of events supposed to be? No questions at all? A blank check? I really don't know.

  • cpartist

    at this point I certainly would not expect to have your kitchen done by the holidays. kitchen cabinets alone can take anywhere from 6-10 weeks to be ready. as someone else suggested it might be best to relax, heal your leg and start fresh after the holidays. I think you'd be stressing more than you are now especially if Mr Murphy decides to leave my job and take up residence in yours.

  • John Liu

    There wasn't anything ''wrong'' in your email. It told the KD - quite nicely - that you'd be critically evaluating, and getting other opinions on, her design, and that you'd be watching the hourly.

  • Gena Hooper

    Marcolo, sorry for the hoops and contortions act you're having to go through. I've overheard many designers lead clients through appliance and tile stores. From what I've observed, it seems that many (most?) of those clients are like a tabula rasa when it comes to kitchen design. So perhaps the combination of a challenging space, limited budget, and client who'll ask questions is an unusual and somewhat daunting proposition.

    I hope that Country Craftsmen can help you out. They didn't design my cabinets, but they were fantastic on every level. And I also second johnliu about taking a breath and not putting yourself through this literal pressure grinder. While incredibly frustrating, it's a good thing you found out now that you and your designer weren't compatible. Much better found out during the dating process then after marriage and children.

  • la_koala

    Hi marcolo,

    I'm outside of Boston, in a 100-year-old house, and I completely understand the situation of having both kitchen design/layout questions and code questions, and trying to balance both. I have found I've done a lot of homework myself on the code questions as we increased the scope of our project to the adjoining power room, and the architect did not seem quite much up on the codes as I had hoped he would be. (While I suspect I'm the female equivalent of mindstorm's husband, I do wonder why our architect isn't as alert to some of the details I've been.)

    One name that has been mentioned before (boxerpups I think mentioned him) is Chris Russell. The pictures she posted of his work on her neighbor's home looked terrific. boxerpups said he's installed many kitchens, so he's likely seen the gamut of types of spaces in this area and would be able to tackle the difficult questions.

    Here's a link to that thread:

    And the info that boxerpups posted:

    Christopher Russell is who I would hire.
    He does high end kitchens all over Mass.
    Easy going and handles his people well.
    A true Artist with kitchen cabinetry.
    I would definitely get a quote for the doors.
    Here is his number (978) 433-2444

    Keep us posted--I'd like to hear a success story!

  • la_koala

    Oh, just thought of an independent KD that I can share:
    Bob Wheeler

    Bob came highly recommended by an old family friend, who had done two kitchens for them.

    We had an initial brainstorming session with him--check out his web site for how he works. We paid for the initial 3-hour consultation session, at the end of which we got drawings that we kept, could post/whatever--which visualize what can be done in the space. He's a magnificent artist, and lots of practical advice and names of GCs and cabinet places. It was a great experience.

    We ended up not going with him only because when we did the consult session, it was too premature to move on the project for all of the other things going on in our life at the time. And then by the time we were ready again to move forward, I got convinced that I needed a licensed architect. In hindsight, that might have been a mistake and if I had to do it over again, I would have called Bob back--but we live, we learn!

    If you like what you see on his web site, it might be worth a call.

  • jimandanne_mi

    Since it took her from June to Sept to get back to you, I would guess that she had a sufficient amount of work, would prefer not to work with someone who has indicated a lot of concern about the budget, and based on many of your GW posts, you are high maintenance and she had figured that out. Time is money for an independent KD, unlike the hourly KDs at HD and Lowes. I talked to one independent KD, and realized that she would never give me the time I would want once she had obtained my signature.

    So I went around to various HDs and Lowes when they were busy, and hung around the kitchen department looking at whatever. I listened to other customers as they discussed their kitchen designs with the KD, and I watched to see which KD the other KDs went to for help, which ones seemed the most helpful and patient, and which ones I thought I would feel comfortable working with. Then I made an appointment with each of them and discussed my project. I found 5 different KDs at 5 different HDs and Lowes that I liked. Used one for my remodel, a different one for our new house (he previously had been a carpenter, had built custom cabinets, and also had been in construction), and a 3rd one for my son's kitchen remodel.

    I'm not trying to be negative here--DH and I are both high maintenance, and if most of our subs could have done without working for us (Michigan's terrible economy at the time made us the ONLY job most of them had), I'm sure they would never have bid on our job. Some subs (plumbers, HVAC, electricians--DH asked lots of questions and dumped a lot of information on them!) didn't bid on our job, because non-new construction jobs were still available at the time for them. We wanted minor help from an architect, and one called and backed out after I had made it clear that we were not going to need his full services. Most of these people, understandably, will go where the most money is for the least amount of time, if given a choice.


  • paulines

    Marcolo wrote, "Meanwhile, I am still slightly curious about what made my KD break up with me. Was it something I said--or the fact that I said anything at all?"

    You come across as a whiner and some of your questions to her were foolish and demeaning. Why ask if it's ok if you post questions on the internet - she's not your mommy and would not be checking your computer's site history.

    If you find another KD, I sincerely suggest you have a firm idea of the scope of your project and approach the KD in a mature, business like manner - noone likes to be undermined every step of the way.

  • John Liu

    Pauline, if I read it right, the KD was the one who initially stated that the plans were not to be posted online. From the first post:

    ''In her proposal, she said that she maintains copyright ownership of her drawings and will not allow them to be posted on the Internet, including here.''

    He could have ignored the KD's terms and/or rights and simply taken her plans and posted them, but he tried to reach a compromise with her, up-front. Which was, I think, the appropriate thing to do.

  • dianalo

    I don't think Marcolo sounds like a whiner, yet he is rightfully frustrated. He keeps spending money and keeps running into roadblocks (not that he can actually run anywhere these days, lol).

    I know when I ask questions and express a real opinion about my house/kitchen, I can almost see the eyes roll and the contractor/plumber/electrician start to worry about having to answer questions and deal with someone who wants to be involved in the decision making process. Well, too bad on them if they consider a h.o. to be a pain for wanting input and caring about the project. It is not their money being spent. It is not they who may never get a chance like this again. If they want to get paid, then putting up with clients is a necessary evil.
    I work on commission and am not thrilled by the buyer or seller who is high maintenance, but if I ditched any of the ones who seem too needy, I'd cut my income in half and would not get future referrals half as much. My job is to not only get the job done, but to make the experience as pleasant as possible for clients and customers. When my cell phone goes off at inconvenient times, I make sure not to get snippy or to act like I am being imposed upon. That is called being professional. If someone does not want to work with the public, then one should find a job that allows for that...

    Hang in there Marcolo. We are pulling for you!

  • marcolo

    paulines, it's always awkward to watch someone embarrass herself in public, like an old lady whose girdle has slipped to her ankles. I don't know exactly how one recovers from the humiliating admission that one can't read, and also that one is willing to lie in contracts, but I'm sure months of silence would help.

  • paulines

    johnliu, understood, but I wasn't referring to her drawings. The below quote from marcolo is what I expounded on.

    "So here's how the story ends:
    I was all set to go with her. I sent the following email:

    -I'm OK with not posting the plans as long as the restriction doesn't include questions ("anybody else have a 39" aisle?" "anybody else find a cheaper tile this color" or "would you like a sink that's not under a window?") or photos of my actual, real, flesh-and-blood kitchen ("is this tile work acceptable?")"

    marcolo, you've asked several times for a possible explanation of why this KD ditched you. I'm offering up my impression of what you've relayed and quite possibly my take on the situation is similar to your ex-KD's.

    I suspect marcolo has been a bit difficult from the get-go (and difficult is ok, a true profession should be able to handle difficult), but asking if he can post questions (and essentially second guess each step of the way?), doesn't make for a good working relationship.

    Marcolo, I can read and I'm a pretty good judge of people (it's the pisces in me). You can consider my advice or not on this situation and hopefully I can offer more advice on your kitchen in the future...which you can consider...or not.

  • live_wire_oak

    This is going to be blunt. Sorry if you don't like it, but it's the truth. In the remodeling and design world, you can be a high maintainence client all you want if you come with the freely spent high budget to match. If you are high maintainence and also a very budget or small reno, then design professionals will run from you. You are too much signal to noise to be a benefit to their bottom line. That's what being an indepent contractor is all about. You get to choose your clients. You're going to end up by yourself at the prom if you continue down the path you've gone down so far.

    Why are you being perceived as high maintainence? Read your thread. More than one person has called you "whiny". None of these people know you in person, but this is the vibe you're putting across in public forum to more than one person. I never called you that, because you are obviously in some venting mode here, but you are frustrating a lot of people who want to help you (for free). This community is generous with it's time and attention and to many it feels as though you've ignored the helpful suggestions in favor of complaints about how no one will help you or how every professional is out to scam and cheat you!

    Use this collective kick in the pants as a wakeup call. I already told you upthread that homeownership requires more money than it looks like from the outside and/or plenty of DIY skills. It also requires patience because you can't get everything you want at once. Even if you had an unlimited budget, you're not going to turn that kitchen into the kitchen of your dreams. It just doesn't have the bones for it. You should have seen that when you toured the house. Now, it can be functional, and currently, it is. So live with it a while and explore other layout possibilities yourself while recuperating from the rest of the remodel. There is zero chance than you are going to meet any arbitrary holiday deadlines even if you started now full steam ahead with demo, so drop back and recoup and reassess---- the kitchen, your attitude towards the house, your budget, and any professionals you need to help you. All of that needs a cooling off period.

  • liz53

    Personality issues aside, I think there are a few reasons the kitchen designer may have declined to take your job. First, you balked at a contract that has apparently worked well for her. Copyright protection for the designer is standard in the business. You want her to give that up; what are you offering in return?

    And then think of her payment structure. You didn't mention how she is paid, but I would think it would be a combination of design fee and commission on cabinets. I'm guessing that her standard design fee is artificially low and that she makes her real money on cabinets. Your kitchen is small, which means fewer cabinets for her to sell. And it's more difficult than most, meaning she'll spend even more hours on the design. Who knows how long it will take to sort out code issues related to the stairwell under the cooktop? This job has the potential to be a real money loser for the designer, unless she raises her design fee.

    But you've already indicated that you are concerned about the budget. All in all, from the designer's view, it adds up to a job that might be better passed on.

    I think your best bet to get a truly functional and code complying kitchen is working with someone who charges by the hour, but that will never be the budget solution. Looking back on your original design thread, it seems like you wanted to 1)improve flow, 2) gain counter space and 3) retain an eat-in kitchen. Frankly, with your particular kitchen, I think it may be impossible to do all that. It might be time to revisit what you want out of your kitchen and set priorities before you meet with other designers and/or architects.

  • ideagirl2

    IMHO the KD was a diva. The request you sent seems totally reasonable and normal to me, as well as very gently phrased, and if she couldn't handle even that miniscule level of "I know what I want" from a potential client, then she's a diva and working with her would have been a horrendous experience. Be glad she pulled out. It saved you weeks or months of grief.

    Some KDs and architects are what I would call divas--that is, people who think they know what's best for you, and whose idea of catering to the client simply means more or less respecting the client's budget (but otherwise giving the client a kitchen stamped with the KD/architect's personal style and personal views on how a kitchen should be, with little or no consideration of the client's style and the client's views). That's not someone I would ever want to hire. I prefer the craftsperson to the diva... that is, the KD/architect who puts their immense skills and knowledge to use by translating the client's style and needs into a kitchen that works wonderfully for that client.

  • annettacm

    I think we all borrow ideas all the time. I find this site to be the best kept secret, and I wouldn't dream of telling my contractors or designers that I'm double-checking their work through here. I would, however, ask questions here and then go back to my contractor and say "Hey, I don't think a 39" aisle will be wide enough; can we revisit that?" Not... "I posted your plan on GW and THEY said you screwed up." I would not think that posting a design plan for a very specific needs kitchen would create opportunities for people to violate copyrights. The chance that someone would "steal" the entire design for themselves is slim, in my opinion. And, while it was nice to ask the designer/architect/KD for permission to post, I honestly don't it was needed. No more than asking your KD "Can I discuss this with my mom or can I show this plan to my neighbor to get their input?" No one want to KNOW they are being double-checked, but they must expect that their designs will be shown to others for opinions. It may be the KD's design and her valuable time, which she should be compensated for, but the house that it is being planned for (and thus specific needs, measurements and wishes) belongs to the homeowner, who should be allowed to solicit advice.

  • plllog

    At the risk of wandering back into territory that isn't about the original question, I feel I should point out, following the previous, that it is the drawings made by the designer that carry her copyright, not the idea. And while some creative professionals here have been talking about how they expect to be paid when their plans are used elsewhere, that's not really the issue, as has been pointed out, with a unique house.

    Rather, if the creator ever wants to demonstrate a monetary interest in preserving her copyright, and monetary damages when it's violated, she has to be strict across the board. Otherwise, when she's trying to prove her case when she really has been damaged in a material way that is worth taking to court because it's so foul, the defense will argue that she's been giving it away all along. That is why Disney will totally trounce on the homage to Mickey Mouse that you lovingly painted on the wall of the playschool for disadvantaged tots. It's not that they want to be meanies who want poor kids to live gray and dingy lives. It's because they can't be giving it away with one hand, and pursuing pirates stealing and selling Steamboat Willie on the other.

    Marcolo, I have to agree with the general analysis of why she disengaged. While what you actually wrote in the e-mail sounds reasonable, the facts that yours is a difficult job, and you've had so many problems with your house so far (she doesn't want her mistakes to go on your rapier wit list), and you're questioning her purview and appurtenances, and basically telling her you intend to second guess her, do add up to "Problem Client". If she didn't fire you, she'd probably charge you a hefty nuisance fee.

    I also agree that given your challenges, hoping to be done in time for the holidays is unrealistic. Since you need functional, and what you have is sufficiently functional to entertain your sister, the advice to slow down, lower your stress level, and plump up your budget is very good. Re the Easy Bake Oven, you might benefit from a portable roaster in the meantime. And maybe one of those oversized Breville "toaster ovens." They cost a lot less than a remodel, and can go into basement storage between mass entertaining bouts once you have the new kitchen.

    Finding a preservation specialist, whether architect or designer, might be a big help. That would be someone who finds the walkout an interesting challenge and who knows the code, has the contacts in the building/planning office, knows where to find the exceptions and waivers, and can actually expedite for you, rather than merely designing.

    When I was planning my remodel, I told my GC (who is a trained designer) and cabinetmaker, and the tile setters and electrician too, all about GW. When they told me I had to redo the windows and I didn't want to, I asked the forum. They said I had to, too. GC and cabinetmaker were thus vindicated. Of course, then I wanted my windows GW style just so counter level blah blah blah which gave them a few headaches. :) I think it's good to be open about your process, but since you want a designer type person, it's also important to use a little diplomacy.

    Start out up front telling the designer that you started by talking to your online friends who know so much about kitchens and realized that you needed a pro to help you. And come from a position of humility (i.e., I saw this cool thing online and I really want it, what do you think? vs. You must put this in!) If what she thinks is "no", find out why. She likely has a valid reason. If it comes down to personal taste, tell her why you want it, and say you want it. It's a collaboration, more than a work for hire. People, especially creative people, don't like being bossed around, and they don't like working with excitable people who fly up in the boughs over every little thing. So keep your nice face and charm on during all your dealings.

    If you have this kind of good relationship, you can come back to her and say you told your online friends that you were going to put the fridge by the door but they were worried that you wouldn't be able to recess it there (or whatever) and ask her how the both of you should handle it. Much better than, "They said this was going to be awful!! you screwed up!!"

  • ideagirl2

    Pllog, I agree with everything you said except this point: "Otherwise, when she's trying to prove her case when she really has been damaged in a material way that is worth taking to court because it's so foul, the defense will argue that she's been giving it away all along." That's not a defense to copyright infringement. The fact I let someone else cause me damages without suing them doesn't mean you're now allowed to cause me damages and I can't sue. There are a million reasons I might not have sued those other people; they have nothing to do with whether I have the right to sue you.

    You might be thinking of trademark infringement, though. With trademarks you really do have to "use it or lose it" and be vigilant to prevent your mark from becoming generic. Like, if you make Band-Aids(R), you can't let other people call their little plastic bandages "bandaids," because if you do, "bandaids" will eventually become generic and you won't have a trademark anymore. But with copyrights it doesn't work that way. I could give away photocopies of my book (or kitchen design, pop song, etc.) to a hundred people, and still decide that person #101 can't have it without a fight.

  • marcolo

    I find two common threads among those posters who have attacked my personality: they can't read, and like to make stuff up.

    First of all, I'm glad all whiners have agreed my budget is too small for anybody to care about. In the world of fact, as opposed to make up nonsene, the KD gave me a range: all in, I could spend A (low) to Z (high), based on her experience. The number I was budgeting was Z--the top end. Oops.

    Second, right from the start, I told her that the layout was going to be the difficult thing about this kitchen, and she would spend more time in design and I'd spend less on cabinets than her typical job. I literally told her, "I'd rather you charge me more for design upfront so you feel comfortable trying out different solutions. Why don't you set a higher initial fee for this project"

    Some of the commenters here personify the arrogance of the home renovation industry. Sorry to be blunt. But it's the truth.

  • plllog

    Thanks, Ideagirl2, for the correction. I have heard this over and over from other artists, which is why I repeated it, but will now file it in the folk wisdom/myth box.

    Marcolo, I don't think anyone is attacking your personality! They're trying to give you their experience. Just because you were talking about the top of the budget range for your job, that doesn't make your job a big profit job, or a big gross for that matter. And it would seem from the outcome that the offer of a greater compensation for the design phase wasn't enough to tempt her. I know a lot of designers who won't look at a kitchen for under $150K unless it's a favor or a particularly interesting challenge (something your kitchen might be). If you're in that range, I apologize for underestimating your budget based on what you've said.

    Additionally, just because you told her it was going to be a design challenge doesn't mean that she believed you. She might have gone into this thinking that she was so experienced and good at problem solving that she could do it easily, then decided after going over it that it was going to actually be a total PITA and not really worth her trouble.

    People, especially women, disengage from others all the time without providing a more definite explanation than "I don't think it's a good fit" or "I just don't have time right now" or some other bland nicety. They don't want to get into an argument, hash it out, improve the other party's understanding or anything else. They just want to say good-bye.

    There isn't any logic to it, and it's not an attack on you, personally. Nor is it an attack when we say we're sympathetic to the troubles you've been going through and the pain you've been in, but when you ask us why you got dumped and we tell you to the best of our abilities from not having been there but knowing something of how things work, you get very upset.

  • marcolo

    Nope, it's not going to be a $150K kitchen. But I actually tossed out the idea of paying the equivalent fee, just because it's so challenging, in an annoying, rather than exciting, kind of way.

    Two people here called me a "whiner," which, yes, is a personality attack. Some people just like doing that. Maybe it's more fun to pretend someone just won't listen to suggestions, rather than admit you're giving dully obvious suggestions that your correspondent has already tried.

    Back to the point, I guess different designers have different expectations going into a job. Some just want an assignment and a check. They might be great, but they really don't want any interaction at all. It has nothing to do with a client being "needy" or "high maintenance;" they just don't want client participation period.

    For example, while working on the rest of the house, I've already worked with two different designers. The first was tremendously talented, and a person I liked a great deal. She kind of did a small consult for me as a favor, since she's a friend of a friend. She gave me great advice, but I could tell she felt frustrated at not just being given a room and told to go for it. She was so good, I think I would've found a way to work with her, but she lives over an hour away.

    The second designer: I call her my Greek grandma, although she's a snappier dresser and much younger than the phrase would suggest. When I work with her, we're a team. We laugh a lot. She patiently puts up with me, but she is also totally honest: I live in terror of that moment when I show her a wallpaper I found or a piece of furniture I'm looking at online, and she makes that face, like she just saw a dog throwing up. OK! Sorry! I'm wrong! Never mind! She certainly has clients who ask her to take charge and do entire rooms. But when I tell her I want to be really involved, she's happy to play along. And she's more honest with me than she is with a lot of her other clients. Because she can be. I know I'm not a design genius. I don't know everything. But, crazily enough, I think I have a right to have an opinion about who takes my money, and what they do with it. And she agrees.

    Makes all the difference.

  • mindstorm


    The fact that you have expectations of the people you hire doesn't, in my book, make you a whiner. Setting a budget is rational. Declaring your budget if you know it is even smarter and puts you ahead of 90% of remodlers. Setting expectations for the designer is sensible. Establishing that you're going to be involved in the design process is blunt and logical, but neither smart nor fruitful - because designers are divas and that's all there is to that. ;-)

    Yes, there is a problem in the remodeling industry. Designers, contractors, lawyers, architects, labourers and even remodlers are all complicit. I don't believe there is another industry where you give away money and sign up for work without a clear idea of what you'll be getting, if you'll even want what you'll be getting, and a clear idea of who is responsible for mis-steps - how can there be a mis-step when a nominal "step" can't be defined? Well, except perhaps in scientific research but hey, call me a "designer" (ugh!) and it'll be off with your head with you.

    Still, you want to remodel? Well either change the world or sign up to it the way it is. I couldn't explain the latter to you but I certainly shared your frustration with it 5-6 years ago when my remodel was afoot. Didn't do me much good although I chose to retain control where I could on the bits that I felt were the most sensitive and most complex - and contract out the idiot-proof bits.

    A free bit of advice to you - as it so happens, in remodeling, it isn't easy to sufficiently idiot-proof a job - there's always a bigger idiot than you foresaw. Also, you can't tell the nincompoops and the really skilled apart with anything as easy as a price-quote - they both charge the same rates. You will kiss a lot of frogs.

    Gotta tell you, as one who does/did consider you a whiner, I see nothing whiney in your desire to question either the designers or the rules of the game.

    What I did/do object to was your sequence of rebuttals upthread. Everytime you got handed an actionable suggestion - JohnLiu suggested digging through "American Bungalow" for resources, I suggested "This Old House" websites, others gave other suggestions (architects rather than KDs and some even offered you a reference!) - you either ignored those leads or proceeded to give a long and tiring account of why you couldn't do so: your leg is bad, your house is bad, your neighbourhood is the culprit, your entire state is culpable. Followed by a long and tiring expostulation on how the system prevents you from getting joy. Whining! A long litany of reasons why you can't act on leads on the very subject matter you purport to an interest in is not rational.

    All that aside, here is my question. Why in the world are you doing what you are doing????? You have a broken leg and you are proceeding to paint, strip, de-wallpaper and finish your bathroom remodel at the same time?! WTF, man?! Most people with 2 whole legs and a couple of extras wouldn't multi-task like that. What is the point? What are you trying to do? And why in the blue blazes are you looking to start a new project from ground 0 (or lower) when you want to be all done in under 3 months? None of this is rational, old chap.

    My suggested list of actions to you for your whole houseful of errands based on what I recall you've mentioned here:
    I. 2010 Actions:
    I.1. Kitchen - do nothing.
    I.2. KD - do nothing.
    I.3 Bath finishing. Press contractors on phone to complete. Self does nothing until after leg mends.
    I.4. Bannister stripping - do nothing until after leg mends.
    I.5 Painting rooms - do nothing until after leg mends + after 4.
    I.6 De-wallpapering - do nothing until after leg repairs + 4 + 5. This may well put you into 2011, mind you.

    II - 2011
    II.1 Finish unfinished tasks from Task-I. This will not be the empty set.
    II.2 Post on GW about suggestions for architect, old home specialists what-not. This can parallel II.1.
    II.3 Contact leads. Interview the fraction of them who called you back. Identify many more. Contact. etc.

    III. 2012-2014
    III.1 Ta-Da! You found your frog! Prince. Whatever.
    III.2 Assess plans. (This will commence a year after III.1).

    IV - 2015
    IV.1 Commence kitchen remodel. (Hopefully, god-willing, and if the stars line up right).

    Good luck, man.

  • marcolo

    mindstorm, I appreciate your good wishes. Let me get this out of the way first:
    Everytime you got handed an actionable suggestion - JohnLiu suggested digging through "American Bungalow" for resources, I suggested "This Old House" websites, others gave other suggestions (architects rather than KDs and some even offered you a reference!) - you either ignored those leads or proceeded to give a long and tiring account

    I have already done all those things, and already told you I did them earlier in the thread. I have spoked to historical societies, consulted TOH contractors, contacted references offered, called architects, trolled Angie's List--I have done everything except stick spy cams up the asses of local dogs to see whether any of them went home to a kitchen with a Tapmaster. I have already done it, and didn't come here to talk about it until I had. OK? Do you understand now?

    In terms of why we are doing this, let me be blunt:

    We want our families to come here for Christmas if we can manage it. My family is now entirely dead, including all my aunts, uncles, most of my cousins, my brothers and my parents; my mom died last year. Bad luck, I guess. My partner's family includes some older relatives who, by next year, may not be able to travel at all. If we don't get them to the house this year, it may never happen, and that rather removes a large reason why we bought a house in the first place.

    On top of it all, I'm getting old. The chances I will be better able to weather a renovation in 2015 are zero. By that time, I'll have broken a different body part, and probably one I'll miss more.

  • plllog

    Oh. Well, yes, the "whiner" comments were uncalled for, but you stood up for yourself so I wasn't thinking about them. I thought you were talking about something else (more subtle). Guess I was wrong.

    I do hear your frustration. Really. But if my memory serves the current functional kitchen isn't impossibly ugly either, even if it's not what you want it to be. We would be VERY remiss if we encouraged you to start a total remodel in October to be done for the holidays. Much better to share your plans with your visitors and have the fun of "If Only" with them, than to invite them to a very uncomfortable non-functional eyesore. Yes, it would have been lovely to have had everything all perfect for them, but it's time to let it go and finish up all your other projects.

    Since you have tried so many different avenues already, it's probably time to get proactive. Smooze the planning department, and the old coots at Home Depot and all, and learn for yourself just what you can and can't do with the walkout and other relevant codes. Start looking for a great cabinetmaker. From what the others have said it sounds like there are better cabientmakers in your area than the designers you've been encountering. Custom cabinets are one of the best ways to maximize a difficult space and generally cost less than comparable factory made ones. You might well find someone who is a good enough designer that you don't need a KD. Then you can just use your "Greek Grandmother" or your friend's friend (and us) to help you with the finishes.

    I've been through the same thing posting questions. I've asked what about option X and gotten all kinds of discussion of A, L and O, tea, China and poodles. People will tell you what's on their minds, and it can be very useful. If not it's likely amusing. But if it's not on point, just keep asking and refining your question and you'll get there.

  • marcolo

    Oh, dear. My last comment will come as quite as a surprise to my sister. She'll think there's something I'm keeping from her.

    I'm not totally giving up on a reno this fall, but even if it doesn't happen, I want to be ready to go the day after everybody leaves. Also, if I delay, I want it to be for my benefit, not the benefit of others. Some of the KDs I spoke to clearly wanted me to push off the project to a time when it was more convenient for them, so they could fill up the empty months in their schedule. In fact, the entire reason I am starting this project now is that the KD kept putting me off all summer--I first called her in June. All of my projects stretched on way too long like this. What with moving and my leg and such, I played too much the nice guy and couldn't keep on top of everyone. Well, no more nice guy.

  • davidro1

    Ya, "just keep asking and refining your question", sans talk about the stuff said that looks at some other goal.

  • palimpsest

    In general I think one sets oneself up for disappointment by having a particular special event that would be the end point of a project like this.

    If the project were planned, set, and ready to go, you could be done by Christmas. Its not even planned yet, not really. I would not even entertain the hope at this point.

    I have had projects ready to go with all materials selected and some on site, and then waited four months for the contractor to start the project at a point where he could get in and done rather than starting sooner and piecemealing it for weeks or months. At my own house I waited 6 months for two particular contractors during a project that was already started so for an entire year nothing happened at all.

  • bbtondo

    Interesting thread. I think your KD didn't want to work with you because if she has half a brain I'm sure she has found this website and has been reading what everyone here has said. She's probably scared...

    I think you should move forward now and let this whole KD thing go. Time to take action. Why don't you post your plans again and let the talented people here help you?

    Seems like you've gotten a lot of good suggestions for cabinets, etc.

    Good luck with your kitchen.


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