smm5525

Remodeling Kitchen. GC/ kitchen designer/design build

smm5525
March 5, 2016

Hi all! I'm having a heck of a time finding the perfect one stop shop for my kitchen remodel. We are not changing the layout but want to maximize space with custom cabinets. I'd like someone to offer suggestions for storage ideas as well as design and lighting. I think I have to finishes covered. I've found a few general contractors but they aren't kitchen designers. I found a design build firm but they outsource the cabinets. I found a kitchen design and contractor that makes cabinets in house but they haven't returned calls or given me an estimate as promised despite spending an hour at my home.

How should I proceed? I've called a few others but wasn't impressed as one offered thermofoil cabinets and touted them as a better product over wood. I'm not convinced.

Should I just hire a separate kitchen designer to work with a general contractor? Should I keep looking for a one stop shop? I'm designing my dream kitchen and don't want to make mistakes.

Thanks

Comments (33)

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC

    You need to have an experienced designer review the existing layout before anything.

  • smm5525

    Thank you. I know I want a designer involved. I'm not sure if I should just hire someone separate or if it will be a nightmare coordinating between designer and contractor.

    What is the best type of Pro to hire. I want design, function and construction. All in one stop if possible.

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  • PRO
    Sophie Wheeler

    Money can make anything happen. Hire a design build firm that specializes in kitchens and has a CKD on staff.

  • smm5525

    That's exactly what I am looking for! In Los Angeles county area!

  • beachem

    There's a ton of design build firms in LA. Are they reliable? It depends. Do you have a budget in mind? I can refer you to a couple of KDs that quoted me but they are going to be around $50k plus for a 11x20 kitchen.

  • smm5525

    I haven't found one yet that makes the cabinets in house. I prefer that though it's not a requirement. Is it better to go with a local cabinet maker or order custom? I've read pros and cons for each but feel a cabinet maker might be less expensive than ordering custom cabinets from a mfr.

  • beachem

    Some of the local custom make the boxes in house but they all outsource their drawers and doors. They are really assemblers. Some even buy IKEA cases and pass it off as custom.

    The only one I know of that makes everything is the manufacturer I was planning to use before I decided to go out of state. They are in the OC and only sell to builders and designers. I don't remember if they install.

  • smm5525

    Yes they have all told me everyone gets the drawer fronts and doors from same place.

  • smm5525

    One kitchen place told me that they can make the cabinets cheaper than if they had to order semi custom from mfr.

  • PRO
    Sophie Wheeler

    If they can make anything cheaper than they can order it, then they are assemblers, not custom cabinet makers. Or they are crapinet makers, with poor quality dreck being produced. Which CA cabinet makers are known for doing. Especially the finishes. Most CA produced finishes will not last and don't hold a candle to the KCMA testingand proven tough factory finishes produced out of state.

    Find a seller of Omega cabinets and talk to their preferred contractor. Or Plain and Fancy. Or Rutt. That is the quality that most people think of when they think of ''custom cabinets''.. Not backyard guys ordering parts and pieces and assembling them and covering it all with some slapped on house paint.

  • smm5525

    That same place does carry Omega. I'm also concerned about CA restrictions on products they can use vs factory finishes. I understood the price difference was because of the mark up for the mfr cabinets.

    so in CA, is it wiser to go with a factory finished cabinet made outside CA? Because those were my thoughts initially.

    When asking one place about where their custom mfr cabinets were made I got a not so clear response saying all over including CA.


  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC

    "I'm not sure if I should just hire someone separate or if it will be a nightmare coordinating between designer and contractor."


    Any experienced designer will have a choice of several experienced GC's that she would be willing to work with again and probably has a favorite. That's the recommendation you want.

    smm5525 thanked Joseph Corlett, LLC
  • PRO
    MarkJames & Co

    "We are not changing the layout but want to maximize space with custom
    cabinets. I'd like someone to offer suggestions for storage ideas as
    well as design and lighting
    ."

    Maximizing space and storage does not require "custom" cabinets. There are many semi-custom cabinet brands that allow quite enough customization to do that in the hands of a competent KD. Increased storage for most older kitchens is easily improved with a few minor changes. Major improvement to work flow often requires a little bit of change to layout. Post yours here, they'll tell you ;)

    "Should I keep looking for a one stop shop?"

    If that is really important to you. It is often comforting to have one responsible party. OTOH, there are KDs/dealers who remain well involved in the installation and maintain good contact with contractors-that can be as good in particular if they refer several contractors. All in all there is no model for doing this that guarantees success except for picking the right person.

    "How should I proceed? I've called a few others..."

    Maybe a few personal visits will tell you more than a phone call. Size up who you are dealing with; how they work, what they offer, how they deal with install. Let them tell you; don't tell them what they should be telling you. (but do give them an idea of budget so as not to get in too deep for something you don't want to pay for) Your gut should be a decent indicator if you go in with an open mind. If you go in with a list of specific restrictions then not so much. (people are always looking for a reason "not to buy")

    Shop for a person/people first. Just make sure that you are comfortable with the quality and options available before deciding. Try to relax (hard after waiting years for a dream), PLAN to have fun (think of it as exploring), expect to meet a few less than ideal candidates along the way (chalk it up, like dating).

    smm5525 thanked MarkJames & Co
  • smm5525

    Thank you MarkJames. When I said I called, I meant they actually came for an in person estimate. It's hard to figure out who the right person is because so far none really get into the design aspect until retained and understandably so. I have no problem hiring a kitchen designer just to design my kitchen and coming up with plans for a GC to execute.

    I really liked this one stop kitchen and bath design build. The woman who came for the estimate mentioned layout, lighting, and things no one else had. But she never provided an estimate as promised. :(

  • homechef59

    Good people are in demand and you have to get in line and wait. Continue to call her to assess when she will get to your project. This is true with any good tradesman. They have a long line of clients and are in demand because they are good.

    You want convenience, but in this case you may have to do some leg work. It will be worth it. What I did was find a real kitchen design specialist. The way I found her was to call a truly custom cabinet maker and ask him for professionals that he could recommend.

    smm5525 thanked homechef59
  • PRO
    MarkJames & Co

    " But she never provided an estimate as promised. :("

    It is hard to say if that is an issue or not.

    Call and ask.

  • smm5525

    I called twice and left messages with her assistant. I even sent an email through their website. Maybe I will try now, months later but this sort of thing off the bat does put me off a little.

  • smm5525

    What are people's take on thermofoil cabinets?

  • PRO
    MarkJames & Co

    months, more than one is no good and messages- the only acceptable explanation would be she did not get the message from the assistant-otherwise move on.


  • PRO
    Sophie Wheeler

    What's your budget for this project? One reason for few responses is an unrealistic match between wants and the means to pay for the wants. And no one will really spend more than the required 60 minutes with a serial shopper. They ballpark them, watch for the reaction, and move on. If you got a ballpark number, you did get ''an estimate''. Anything more detailed requires a commitment.

  • smm5525

    She offered two ball parks. One in her showroom and one in my home. They weren't high and were surprisingly lower than I expected. The problem wasn't my budget or unrealistic expectations. I have no idea what happened with her. I had no problems receiving bids from others. What sort of commitment am I supposed to provide?

    I think I will continue to look for the right person/people even if it means a separate designer and separate GC.

  • PRO
    Sophie Wheeler

    A retainer is a commitment.

  • smm5525

    A retainer for construction work without a written estimate? I've never heard of such a thing. I'd rather pay for an estimate.

  • PRO
    Sophie Wheeler

    A retainer covers design work.

  • smm5525

    No problem with that. But that wasn't what we were discussing.

  • PRO
    Sophie Wheeler

    Design work has to occur so as to even begin to have a quote for the construction work. Documents have to be developed that contractors can price. Without an adequately developed design, you cannot ever compare ''bids'' from contractors. They have to guess what you want, and they will all guess the cheapest way possible.

    Design build firms avoid the competitive bidding scenario by keeping it all in house. But, you pay a higher price overall for that lack of competitiveness. And no one there will do any work without a deposit either. You want to keep dating rather than settle down, then keep dating. But none of your potential mates will commit to you either. You won't get a binding design with all of the pricing set without deciding between those mates and proposing.

  • smm5525

    I never said I expected that Sophie.


  • calisun06

    So it is unrealistic to know what you are paying before you basically agree to buy with someone? I have an estimate right now for my exact layout from one place, but he doesn't seem to want to give me a quote for another line, other than it would be 20% more. Which is fine, I can do the math myself (about $8,600 for Medallion Gold), just as long as it really is close to 20%. The thing is, I know I don't want to keep things exactly as they are. I need mostly drawers rather than regular cabinet bases, which I know is more expensive. The current oven and microwave are also currently smaller than anything on the market, so I would need to make space for regular sized ones, either by extending the cooktop peninsula next to them or moving the refrigerator on the other side of them to the other wall. Either way, this is adding expenses that probably have not been accounted for in this bid. Sometimes he seems super easygoing and other times I feel like I am bothering him when I ask questions (which may be just different communication styles as well). I do understand his time is valuable, and I don't want to waste it, but he never asked for any kind of fee or retainer for work and I can't just sign on the dotted line when I don't know if there are thousands of dollars of changes needing to be made. I did call another place because they have Diamond Cabinetry, which I have also heard is a good midlevel brand, and since I was feeling a bit uncomfortable with how the interaction was going with the guy at the other place. They have been so friendly and patient every time I have had any interaction with them. They also came out and measured and are even going to do a couple different designs and go over them with me. When they gave me a ballpark though, it was 10-15k, which I don't think is unreasonable, just after hearing under 9k, 15k is tough, especially considering this reno was not planned and we have a lot of other expenses right now, so 6k does make a difference. That 9k might be a big illusion though, since I think he was basing it on what is in place currently, but I'm not sure because I have gotten to the point where I am worried I am asking him too many questions. For a big budget, a 2-5k difference might not really matter, but for us right now it does.

  • DrB477

    I think for your sort of project, you are probably best to hire an independent designer, figure out exactly what you want, get a few free second opinions on your plans here, and price exactly what you want around presumably with people your designer suggests. Your project sounds relatively simple, so I don't think you should have to spend a ton on design (but you do need to spend something). You seem like you be better off with upfront pricing rather than the design fee less transparently built into the end cost. The designer should have a pretty good idea of how to keep you on budget, but if you end up being prohibitively off you can then figure out what you can cut out to save money.

  • PRO
    Sophie Wheeler

    If that roughly 10% of the project total variance in price means that you can't do the project, then you are not ready to do the project. No renovation should ever cut that close to the bone. Keep saving. Keep planning. Keep learning. And post your layout. I hear some red flags.

  • calisun06

    Hi Sophie. I wasn't meaning I couldn't do the project, I was meaning the price could matter with who I chose to get the cabinets from. I communicate much better with the people that have Diamond, so I know that is worth something and would be willing to pay a bit more, but not 5k. I would like to put this project off, but our previous GC messed up the cabinets and we have rescue dogs that won't handle going through a reno, so we have to do it before we move in or not at all unfortunately. I have had a couple people measure, but those were the cabinet places I was mentioning, so that was for their uses, so I don't have my own layout. I just called my new GC and he said he would do a layout for me, so I will post that as soon as I get that.

  • practigal

    I hate to tell you this, but my experience in Los Angeles is that I have to say "my husband and I would like to…" For some reason or another if you are a woman and you're calling on a project you are ignored. I have even had contractors tell me that they would not meet with me unless my husband was present (at a time that I wasn't married and was earning the money that would pay for the improvement). I think their fantasy is that the woman is wasting their time and that the man will know what he wants. You will definitely have to wait in line for somebody of good quality. Nearly every single "cabinet manufacturer" in the Los Angeles area area is buying their doors from a place out in Rosemead. As noted above, they are nearly all assemblers.

  • smm5525

    Hi all, I've already found someone. This thread is old. I'm going with a local cabinetmaker who can either make their own doors or order. I have no problem with them ordering doors.

    Calisun, you may want to start your own thread if you want better responses to your questions.

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