Kitchen designer - can this relationship be saved?

September 3, 2019

In early July, I retained an independent kitchen designer to prepare a kitchen design. The total fee is approximately $2K, so far she has requested payment of $500 which has been made.
We had 1 face to face meeting, and exchanged a few e-mails about what we needed in a design. I am not in a rush to begin a remodel, and the area is challenging. As a result, I did not send a follow-up E-mail until 8/21. She sent a file in a .kit format on 8/22. She responded 2 days later and indicated she had sent the wrong file and would send the correct file when she had time. A week after this, I sent a follow-up inquiring about the file, no response.
Normally, I would cut my losses and move on. However, I live in an area with very few dedicated independent kitchen designers. Honestly, I am not sure I can find another independent designer locally, so I will probably have to hire a remote designer if this relationship can't be saved.
Is this normal for kitchen designers? Should I keep following up? If so, for how long?

Comments (45)

  • devonfield

    I'm inferring by your post that this is the first misfire in terms of expectations and responsiveness. As such, it might be to your benefit to give the designer the benefit of the doubt and simply "check-in" with her. It could be as simple as she thought she hit send on the email and failed to do so. Then once resolved, you could inquire as to if she has a service level she strives to meet with her clients. Leveling expectations around turn-around timelines or other response lead times might be the way to save the relationship.

    smit2380 thanked devonfield
  • megs1030

    I would follow up with her again. I would not say this is "normal" for kitchen designers, I think it's unfair to generalize. But I do think it's odd that she hasn't gotten back to you. Then again, if you live in an area that does not have a lot of KDs, she may be really busy. I would follow up 2 more times, maybe 3 and then cut your losses.

    smit2380 thanked megs1030
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  • shirlpp

    So you sent an email last week inquiring about the file(she said she sent wrong file on 8/24) - maybe she's on vacation?

    smit2380 thanked shirlpp
  • smit2380

    Devonfield, I would not say that this is the first misfire. She missed our first face-to-face appointment because she forgot it. When I hired her in early July, she had indicated that she would follow up with certain things within 1 week or other specified period of time, she has consistently not done those things within the time promised and has only initiated any contact when I followed up with her. Those things did not particularly irritate me, so I did not mention them. It does, however, irritate me that it has been two weeks since I received the incorrect file, and she cannot simply attach the correct file. This seems like a pretty easy task that does not take much time or thought.

  • smit2380


    Sorry, my dates were slightly off. I was trying to post this question while I was trapped in a parking garage with a dead battery waiting for assistance. I was bored, cranky, and not paying enough attention to detail. I followed up on 8/18. She responded on 8/20 that she had been out of town the prior week and would send both drawings and a beginning proposal. On 8/21, she sent drawings (probably, since I have not seen them) in the wrong file format and asked me to send feedback. I responded immediately indicating that I could not open the file. I received no response, so on 8/22, I followed up again and asked if she could send another file type since I was having trouble opening it. She responded on 8/22 and stated "Yes, I can. I’ll see I sent the CAD file and not the image file. I’ll get it to you as soon as I can. Thank you," If she was going to be out of town and unable to send the correct file for weeks, it seems like she would have mentioned it. I followed up on 8/29, one full week after she said that she would send the correct file as soon as she could. We are now 5 full days later after that follow up, and no response at all. It is possible that she is on vacation again, but she has no out of office e-mail and no communication indicating that she is on vacation.

    My general sense is that she is probably busy and probably a little disorganized since she has done other things like miss our appointment, etc.

  • PRO
    CAGE Design Build

    As a Designer/Owner of a Residential Design Build firm ...I would send one more email to he/her and indicating you still have not received the design images. Or I would even follow up with a phone call. It seems very odd that they haven't sent in a couple weeks. It is also odd unless they are in a completely different location...not to meet with you personally.

    smit2380 thanked CAGE Design Build
  • smit2380

    CAGE Design Build,

    I have met the designer in person. Although she completely missed the first appointment, she did make the second appointment. She also seems super nice. I do not think she is intentionally being difficult. The consensus seems to be to follow up again, so I will try calling tomorrow.

  • loobab

    After one more tries, I think you need to need to talk seriously with her and remind her of all these misfires, and tell her by her lack of responsiveness and communication she has shown an obvious inability to follow through on your project, and you would like a full refund on your project, since she has not provided you with any services within 7 working days, paid by cashiers check.

    I would not send this request by email, but by U.S. mail certified, return receipt, and keep several copies

    I say, a full refund, because you haven't received any service from her, except for some blah, blah.

    No drawings, no nothing.

    If she met with you for an hour, and gave you lots of ideas that are usable, then that time is worth something, so whatever is the rate for that, say $150, she can keep that. The rest should go right back to you.


    Or you file a complaint with the Attorney General of your state, whatever the the state board that licenses her, and whatever professional organization that she belongs to, and lots of complaints on the internet.

    Forget that there are few kitchen designers in your area.

    With her work ethic and attention to detail, she would be worse than nothing!

    You know the saying with friends like that who needs enemies?

    Well, she fits in that category.

    smit2380 thanked loobab
  • Donald

    She, the KD, is telling you, no, she is screaming to you, how she does business and what your “relationship “ will be if you hire her. It’s now up to you to listen. If it was me, I wouldn’t have tried again after the first forgotten meeting.

    smit2380 thanked Donald
  • smit2380


    I am actually an attorney, so I anticipate being able to negotiate a partial refund if the relationship is terminated. I am really just trying to determine whether her responsiveness or lack thereof is within normal parameters for creative types or if she really is terrible.

  • smit2380


    Everyone makes mistakes, so I wouldn’t hold one missed appointment against someone. Technically, I have already hired her for the kitchen design. I would not hire her to manage the remodel because our working styles are not compatible. The question is more about whether to fire her since she will be really hard to replace For getting a kitchen design.

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    IMO you have told her you are not in a hurry so why are you now in a hurry. If a client tells me there is no rush and I am busy that client might have to wait a bit. I honestly do not find this timeframe unusual I might at some times be working for 5 clients and the ones that are in the beginning stages and in no hurry are put on the back burner often I do however phone or email to tell my clients so that she could easiliy do.

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  • PRO

    Forget this woman. At the best, she's a ditz and simply not professional in the manner in which she does business.

    I know that GW always says to get an independent KD, but I disagree. Go to a good locally owned kitchen cabinet shop that carries more than one line of cabinets and talk to them. I did this - had multiple, long meetings with the owner/KD, got "real" estimates (he sat there with the catalog and looked up the prices and wrote down everything), and he visited and measured BEFORE I gave him the $1000 fee. After the fee, I got a firm bid for the job and drawings that specified each cabinet and its size.

    You've wasted enough time on this woman. Don't know when you were hoping your kitchen would be done, but you're now looking at sometime in Feb just to START the work.

    smit2380 thanked Anglophilia
  • live_wire_oak

    Anglo, you received some free work without an up front retainer as a professional courtesy. That is not normally how anyone works. Payment in advance, with a retainer, is the usual route.

    If your priorities have changed, communicate that to her and ask for a revised timeline on deliverables. If she feels that she is too busy to do this, ask for a refund minus the $200 or so site visit fee. She may have done additional work, but without giving the deliverables, it doesn’t matter.

    smit2380 thanked live_wire_oak
  • smit2380


    Neither my priorities nor my timeline has changed. If she was needing extra time for creative stuff, like designing or drawing or even thinking of good solutions, or she was too busy right now to do that time-consuming creative stuff because she is working on other clients (and she communicated this), this would be fine. This is not the case, she has indicated that she has a preliminary drawing done and that she just needs to send me the correct file. E-mailing me a correct file since she has indicated that she has the drawing completed should be a less than 15 minute task. Instead, she has been incommunicado for two weeks after indicating that she will send the correct file as soon as possible.


    Thanks for understanding my frustration. If this project just involved cabinets and not moving some doors, I would do exactly like you said and just work with a cabinet company. If she does not respond to my phone call today, maybe, I will work backward and contact my preferred cabinet company and see if they have any leads on an independent designer.


    My impression of you from this site is that you are a skilled and consummate professional. My guess is that you would not let an e-mail go unanswered for two weeks. Honestly, you probably would not have attached an incorrect file in the first place. I have no problem with the timeline to get a preliminary drawing. I am just annoyed with waiting two weeks to get the correct file e-mailed since she has indicated that she already has it done. E-mailing a file is pretty easy. I do it multiple times every day.

  • jslazart

    I'm no help, but this sounds like the relationship I had with my landscape designer. Lots of promises and no follow through, or limited follow through after sending multiple reminder emails. I gave up. She clearly did not want the work. I was a musician before I was a lawyer. Business is business, artistic or not. You have to follow through and communicate if you want happy clients who will give referals.

    smit2380 thanked jslazart
  • ldecor54

    You have been given a very important indication of how she works, and her priorities. while she may have been very nice in person, her lack of response already, so early in the process, would be a red flag To me. Nothing wrong with having doubts and moving on to a better fit.

    smit2380 thanked ldecor54
  • live_wire_oak

    “I am not in a rush to begin a remodel”, says that you aren’t putting this as a priority until next year some time. If that was communicated to her, don’t fault her for hearing that. Several others in this thread heard that too.

    And that’s why I said if you are ready to put this more on the front burner, communicate that to her, in writing, and be certain it’s clear. Give her an opportunity to juggle her priorities. She may still not have appropriate follow through, but it will be clear to her that your timeline expectations have changed, and that she is not meeting your needs.

    Right now, she may feel that your timeline is so far out that following up infrequently is letting you know that she is thinking about it, even if not a lot concrete has happened. The thinking stage IS where a good pro let’s challenging things marinate for a while.

    Or or she may be an overwhelmed complete ditz. The benefit of the doubt applies until all doubt is removed by clarifying things.

    smit2380 thanked live_wire_oak
  • Ig222

    I understand your worries (and I am kind of surprised some pro here dont seem to). You are not expecting her to do some additional work. You are expecting her to send you a file she told you was ready.

    I would try to call her directly on the phone because there is always the chance she has a real problem that is preventing her from emailing.

    I am not a pro, but I had the same problem with a person who we were going to hire to do some work at our place. He had promised again and again that the quote was ready and was never sending it. His problem as we cancelled the job, hired somebody else and are now very happy.

  • smit2380

    Thanks everyone. This thread has been helpful. I have found it particularly interesting how differently statements can be interpreted. I did not intend that my statement that I am not in a rush would be interpreted as feel free to ignore my e-mails.

    I called and left a message today. I will try for the next week to reset expectations. If that is ineffective, I will cut my losses.

    jslazart, ldecor54, and lg222, thanks for the support. I am sorry you have had frustrating experiences with contractors too.

  • Shannon_WI

    I agree with jslazart’s comment “she clearly did not want the work”. That’s what I was thinking the entire time I was reading this thread. That is all it is.

    There are people in the world who are just not able to come out and say something like that directly, so instead they do things that will be sure to alienate the un-wanted customer. I have seen this sort of purposeful-alienation of the client reported a number of times on this forum. I experienced it once myself. I needed a new front door. The guy came and measured for the plain straightforward door, then over a period of 6 weeks delayed and delayed sending me his quote, then said he sent it but had the wrong email address, then took a photo of a piece of paper and emailed it to me and said it was the quote. It of course was illegible. He just didn’t want the job, but couldn’t bring himself to tell me.

    Do not take it personally. It could be any number of reasons why this person doesn’t want your kitchen design project. She may be very busy, she may only do kitchens that are a different scale than yours, she may have demands at home that prevent her from taking on new work, she may be thinking about a career change, or as mentioned above she is busy enough with clients who have immediate timelines. Her reason for not wanting this job could be any number of things.

    While I think Live_Wire_Oak’s suggestion to ask for a refund minus the $200 or so site visit fee is a good one, I think it’s unrealistic. If you can’t get her attention to send you an email attachment, you certainly won’t get her attention to write a refund check. Look at this as a sunk cost of $500 and move on. In the scheme of a kitchen reno it’s a small amount, and better you find out early that this KD is not for you. We see people on here who lose $15k or more with contractors who disappear.

    smit2380 thanked Shannon_WI
  • Donald

    @smit yes, everyone makes mistakes but it is how you accept responsibility for that mistake that matters. Your KD forgot your first meeting, that was a mistake. Did she then put you at the top of her list of “ive got to do better with this person because I started out so wrong”? Doesn’t sound like it. But sure, keep dealing with her and I look forward to the post a few months from now when you really start complaining about her and are wondering how it all went so wrong.

    smit2380 thanked Donald
  • smit2380


    I never take it personally that someone does not want to work with me. In fact, in my initial meeting with her, I do the usual spiel that I do with contractors. "Hey, life is too short to work with people you hate on projects that you don't want to do. If this is not the kind of project you want to take on or we are not the kind of client that you want to work with, just say so now before we get started and we will move on with our lives. No hard feelings." Up until this point, I have not gotten the sense that she was trying to bail and that she is just disorganized. With respect to the $500, I am not particularly worried about it. Honestly, I am more worried about finding another kitchen designer. My only other options are remote kitchen designers, cabinet companies, and dedicated kitchen remodeling companies.


    There is a limited amount of damage she can do. I can lose $2,000 rather than $500, and I can get a crappy kitchen design with things like a poor work triangle or a range on the island. I won't actually build the crappy kitchen design, and I won't hire her to manage the project. The worst that can happen is that I will be $1,500 poorer and be right where I am now wondering whether I could make it work with a remote kitchen designer, cabinet company, or dedicated kitchen remodeling company.

  • skunst2017

    The exact same thing happened to me ..., you should write a certified letter ..stating everything and that you want to her from her and get all the files do you with a plan and timeline . Otherwise demand a total refund ! I don't care if she showed up ...but , the money spent was in anticipation of a work not to pay her a fee of 200 dollars to show up . I would go to small claims court and get my refund back . You did not receive the work you contracted her to do . Since when can she claim a 200 dollar fee for seeing you or where you in agreement ..if she works for you , follows up or not that you are stuck paying her 200$ ???
    In my case ...I too have many opportunities ...waited and waited ..for a response ...took every ..delay at face value the end it was a strategy to get money from me for no work the hopes I would just cut my losses ...! I didn't and won in court .. , some people just take advantage ! Ps. My architect couple also was very nice before they made off with my money ...!

  • PRO
    The Cook's Kitchen

    If you already emailed her and called since this post began, with no response, then that’s a move on. Even when busy, I’ll take an hour at the beginning or end of the day to catch up on communications. My goal is always to respond within 24 hours of an email, and 12 to a phone call. It might not be with the info needed, and be more to say, “ I acknowledge and am working on it,” but to not respond for weeks is passive aggressive firing yourself from the job. Just call and decline the work and move on. Don’t ignore people.

    smit2380 thanked The Cook's Kitchen
  • RTHawk

    Cut your losses - find another kitchen designer. Try to get a refund if you think the aggravation and the effort to get it is worth it.

    smit2380 thanked RTHawk
  • smit2380


    Wow, that sounds like you had a rough time. I am sorry that happened to you.

    Cook’s kitchen,

    She did send an e-mail response on Friday. We will see how this shakes out.


    Therein lies the problem. I have not been able to find another local independent kitchen designer, or I would have moved on already.

  • live_wire_oak

    If you are willing to provide measurements, and have a good GC or installer, design can be done remote. Lots of people do that successfully these days. Some on this thread.

  • hu1967910

    If the goal of hiring somebody locally was to facilitate communication, it doesn't sound like that's working very well. It's very possible that a "remote" designer will be more responsive to your phone calls and e-mails. If you value responsiveness, you might be doing both parties a favor by trying somebody new.

  • PRO
    Debbi Washburn

    I admit to not reading everyone's comments...

    If a pro tells you they will have something to you in a week, then a week it is. I am swamped at work and I have to book appointments with my clients out 2 weeks.. If I am approaching a deadline and don't think I will make it - even by a day, then I send a quick email stating that I fell behind and I need another day to get to them.

    On the flip side - if she send you a .kit file that is the 2020 design file and anyone using that program can open that up and take a look!

    Best of luck!

  • PRO
    Sabrina Alfin Interiors

    Maybe I missed it, but have you actually picked up the phone to call her? If she's busy, responding to email is time consuming and not always an efficient way to communicate. If you want a "paper trail", call her first to have the conversation, then document via email what your agreements and next steps are.

    If after trying to contact her by phone she is still unresponsive, I'd cut bait and look for another service provider.

  • homechef59

    I used a KD using the same method as smit2380. The difference was she was busy and professional. She explained to me at the initial meeting how she worked, what she would do and how her professional and personal obligations would affect her work. Thus, I was prepared to be patient. I was rewarded with a good design that I implemented after some small changes.

    I suggest that you ask a friend who is more computer literate than yourself to attempt to open the file you did receive using the unfamiliar format. There are very few formats out there that can't be opened. It's just a question of having the knowledge or access to them. If you get it open, you can judge if the first presentation is worth working on.

    I hate for you to throw it out and start over if it's salvageable. People are really busy and skilled people are hard to find. We all need use a little patience. OTOH, I hate being jacked around, too.

    It's Saturday night. Call her at home and see what she's doing right now.

    smit2380 thanked homechef59
  • groveraxle

    Try opening your .kit file on this website:

    smit2380 thanked groveraxle
  • Missi Rogge (4b IA)

    Have you heard anything from her yet?

    smit2380 thanked Missi Rogge (4b IA)
  • smit2380


    In retrospect, I would have hired the kitchen designer on this thread (and may still attempt to).


    The goal was both to foster communication and to avoid me having to measure the weird angles in the kitchen. I have a lot of non-right angles in the kitchen - which I find obnoxious to measure.

    Debbi Washburn,

    That is how I try to manage my work too.


    My experience is that she is less responsive to phone calls than e-mails, but I did place a call to which she did respond. She did finally respond to the e-mail in which I mentioned terminating the relationship if she was too busy.


    Sounds like your experience with the kitchen designer was awesome. That was what I had hoped for, but I am not sure that it is going to happen in my case.

    Groveraxle & Homecchef59, My husband is actually an IT guy, and the only program that seems able to open the file is the 2020 kitchen designer program. We could have download a 30-day free trial of the program, but honestly I was really annoyed when she admitted it was the wrong file and promised to send the correct format and didn't.

    Missi Rogge,

    On Friday, I e-mailed and indicated that if she was too busy or had changed her mind, we could terminate the arrangement. She promptly responded with apologies and promises that she would send pdfs and panoramic image files that day. She did not send them that day and she did not send pdfs at all. She did send panoramic image files on Saturday.

    The image files are pretty strange. My goals in the remodel are to get more counter and storage space. I am fine with the existing cabinets/counters/backsplash/appliances. (I am changing out the floors on the entire first floor, but that is outside the scope of this project. As a result, I had really wanted to just rework the other side of the kitchen that has no cabinets and a bunch of competing doors. She had been pretty insistent that we definitely needed to redo the whole kitchen to accomplish my goals. While I am not jazzed about spending $75Kish on a full kitchen remodel, I said that would be fine because I have the funds put away to do it. I followed up via e-mail and said that I would be fine with a full kitchen remodel. She responded to that e-mail and said she thought I would be happy with what could be achieved with a full kitchen remodel. When she sent the image files, it appears that she changed her mind again (without any communication of such change) because it is clearly not a full kitchen remodel. It is just the weird door wall. The panoramic view is hard to see, but it looks like I have even less storage space than I currently have since she replaced the reach in pantry with the world's tiniest pantry cabinet. The plan addresses the competing doors, but I indicated that they don't particularly bother me, and I am only interested in more storage/counters. As a result, I am not sure this design accomplishes any of my goals.

  • Missi Rogge (4b IA)

    Huh...well..can you post pictures/layout of your kitchen with what she sent you so we can see what's up?

    smit2380 thanked Missi Rogge (4b IA)
  • chispa

    Just because she is one of the few independent kitchen designers in your area doesn't mean she is really good at it ... she might just be kept busy because she has little, or no, competition.

    smit2380 thanked chispa
  • PRO
    Debbi Washburn

    See if you can post that kit file here... many of us work with the 2020 design program and we can open it and have a look - or at the very least get the floor plan out for you...

    smit2380 thanked Debbi Washburn
  • shirlpp

    Get rid of her - now! You are headed for disaster with her!

  • smit2380

    Missi, I will post pictures, a layout, and the link to the panoramic. However, it will take me a little bit to put together the layout.


    I am beginning to suspect that you are right. At the very least, she lacks attention to detail given that her design contains some things that I specifically requested that she not do.

    Debbi, I am unsure how to upload files, and I am concerned that it could contain her identifying information since I have not seen it. With that said, the panoramic view she sent me is enough for me to know that I for sure would not use the current design given that it accomplishes none of my goals and does things that I explicitly asked her not to do.

  • smit2380


    I feel like that is where we are at right now.

  • PRO
    Debbi Washburn

    So sorry to hear that....I would definitely cut and run... the first plan which is never the final one should at least be close...

  • doods


  • katinparadise


  • homechef59

    At least you got to see what was in the file. Now that you know it is unacceptable you can move forward.

    I suggest that you get the graph paper, pencil and measuring tape out. Take measurements and do a rendering by hand of the space. Be sure to mark all current entries, pantries and plumbing.

    Start a new thread with these renderings. You will be amazed at the generosity and talent of the people who populate these boards.

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