Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs, Northern VirginiaYou have heard the horror story a dozen different ways — at a cocktail party, from your neighbor, by the coffee machine with co-workers: the kitchen remodeling project from hell. The tale of woe may include unanticipated cost overruns, inferior products that did not meet expectations, cabinetry or flooring finishes that looked “different” under the new kitchen lights, unexpected and frustrating delays, and homeowner exhaustion and annoyance with the entire selection process.

Why are these nightmare scenarios so common? From my vantage point as a professional kitchen designer, homeowners and contractors almost always underestimate the complexity of a kitchen remodeling project, and overestimate their abilities to successfully plan, coordinate and manage the myriad details involved in a kitchen remodeling project. This is not because either party is “inferior” or incapable. Rather, it is simply because there is a chasm between the two parties which, unfortunately, does not become apparent until the project is well underway.

The Honeymoon Phase

At the project’s inception, the contractor’s and homeowner’s mindsets are similar. Both are eager to define the project’s scope as quickly as possible, formulate and agree to the contract, and begin the work so that the homeowner can soon enjoy the beautiful new kitchen. Often, the homeowner anticipates that the kitchen will be finished in time for a special holiday or a significant family celebration.

Reality Check

Once the project begins, a shift typically happens. As the homeowner focuses on the finer nuances of kitchen layout and cabinetry, countertop and flooring selections, the homeowner realizes that one or more aspects of their original remodeling commitment needs adjustment. This realization precipitates the first stressful encounter: a discussion with contractor about any of the following:

  • The floor plan layout does not meet the homeowner’s expectations.
  • The selection process is too overwhelming and time-consuming for the homeowner, often expressed as “no one told me to expect that this much work was required”.

This is when the realization dawns on the homeowner that the kitchen they envisioned — the kitchen that they believed they were going to get — will end up costing far more than what they originally anticipated, due to additional installation requirements or changes in the overall scope of the project.

Now the dynamic between homeowner and contractor begins to break down. The contractor wants to finish the job so he can move on to the next one, but the homeowner is “stuck” — overwhelmed and paralyzed by the sheer amount of product information they must absorb and choices they must make for the project to proceed on schedule. Homeowner budget constraints also become a concern at this juncture. The contractor is unhappily thrust into the unenviable position of having to design and assist the homeowner with decisions. The remodeling job “stalls” while the homeowner requests changes in the scope of the original project. Patience wears thin and then stress levels rise.

How to Avoid Disappointment

First, homeowners need a reality check. Most noteworthy remodeling projects involve design and selection decisions that are far more numerous and complex than anticipated.

For example, consider the wide range of kitchen appliances (ovens, cooktops, microwaves, refrigerators and dishwashers) which must be evaluated and priced before a selection can be made. Combine this one agenda item with decisions involving kitchen floor plan, paint colors, flooring selections, countertop selections, sink and faucet selections, cabinetry selections, and lighting fixtures, and you can appreciate how the homeowner and the contractor can benefit from working with a kitchen design professional to guide the decision making and selection process.

Professional Kitchen Design Will Save You Money, Time and Stress

A professional kitchen designer will save you money, time, and untold stress during the kitchen remodeling process. Perhaps most importantly, a professional kitchen designer will ensure that the your kitchen remodeling project proceeds smoothly and on schedule so that the whole process is enjoyable. A reputable and caring professional will help you get the kitchen you want within your budget and protect you from unexpected and unpleasant cost overruns.

Partnering with the right kitchen designer from the beginning will instill you with confidence throughout the process and reward you with the beautiful and functional kitchen you envisioned.


Sandra Brannock has designed beautiful and functional custom kitchens for clients throughout Northern Virginia and the metropolitan Washington, DC region. For more information, call Sandra direct at (703) 801-6402 or email sandra@expertkitchendesigns.com.