Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Personal Touch - How skilled is your Designer?

Today lets talk about the Design Process

Every Designer has to learn the Kitchen Bath Design Process. Years ago most designers hand drew plans. Computer generated CAD software changed that. Now most Kitchen or Bath Design is done with 2020, Chief Architect, or another software. Each keeps improving. That means true professionals need to continue their education and learn new updates each product strives to add.

Where does a designer learn? Good question! The answer is most are apprenticed. Some are fortunate to actually attend classes. However, that is not always available. Many areas lack a 2020 training center. I am going to give away a secret of the industry and tell you something you probably do not know.

Have you ever wondered or asked why the Big Box retailers and perhaps some Hardware Store Kitchen Departments are willing to do designs for free when other showrooms charge a Design Fee?
Frankly it boils down to expertise and experience.

People love to come into the store and look around. Nearly everyone is curious about remodeling a kitchen or bath. Walking over to the Kitchen department with a sketch is very common. After all, the customer knows they are not going to be charged for a fee for a design. There is nothing to lose.
Since Lowes and Home Depot are very busy stores, their employees are afforded the opportunity to change departments to learn a new field. Often management will just pick an employee and put them in a vacant slot left by another designer who no longer works in the store. That is how I learned kitchen design. It is a trial by fire! Sometimes it is the employee wanting to learn a new area who asks to transfer in to the remodeling department. It is also common for a sales associate in Home Decor or the Appliance department to transfer to the Kitchen Bath department.

These  newbies who transfer are encouraged to learn through practice. Sometimes an occasional store location may still employ a more advanced designer. If so, they will be asked to teach the newbie.
That is generally not appreciated as the more experienced designer's time and earnings are then impacted by splitting their focus.  The newbie usually has to figure it how to design on their own, through repetition.  Usually the vacancy in the department is caused by the more experienced designer giving notice and leaving their job to pursue better opportunities once they gained knowledge and experience in their craft.

The education model used reverts back to learning by trial and error as you play around with the computer software. Obviously, it may not have the best outcome for the customer. To be fair, I need to say there can be more advanced kitchen and bath designers at the big box stores. They may like that type of remodeling model.  If so, they limit their abilities to design truly custom kitchens. The cabinet lines available in big box retailers are limited in their offerings.

Generally, the more advanced and experienced designer who have paid their dues at Home Depot or Lowes long to advance to better cabinet lines only available in higher end showrooms.. After they learn and advance, most promote themselves by transferring their talent and career to a privately owned showroom or Design Build firm. Designing  requires a person a with a rare combination of aptitude and skills. They must be very detailed, know and use math, be articulate, creative, and up to date on all the new trends and products available for their client. The best designers are strong in all of these skills. Why is all this so important , you ask? Well math is necessary because  a mistake in calculations as small as one eighth of an inch can ruin the enter job.

Yes, there are some Kitchen Designers that become very talented and knowledgeable and choose to continue there career in the Big Box Retailer they learned 2020 in. However, the majority of the designers leave when they learn the craft to find greener pastures elsewhere. The turn over in Kitchen Departments is frequent and expected. This is one of the domains where the cliche, "you get what you pay for" truly applies. Always keep in mind the quality and care you invest in your home impacts the value of the same.

When you decide to consult with a higher end showroom and designer, all their "training" has become their foundation to help you achieve your dream project. They are proven professionals.
For the reasons stated above a Design Fee is to be expected.  Those fees can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. It is generally applied to the total cost and not a separate fee.
The difference in expertise, quality of product, and experience of the professionals holding your hand through the entire process is well worth the cost.

Next week, we will compare the "Build Team", or installer and project management between big box retailers and Kitchen Bath specialty showrooms.

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