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It’s only a Number

kkindexI get a little antsy when (it seems as though) people put numbers in front of design. Clients tend to do this more often than designers, but I think the discussion of costs in this manner is similarly misleading to clients as HGTV “design shows” are.

I feel we as designers shouldn’t encourage the discussion.

Also, while the numbers are relevant, they are only relevant when tempered by factors such as quality of material, talent of the trade involved, lead time to acquisition, full understanding by all parties of the larger and smaller issues at play…

“One size fits all” thinking is the opposite of design. In my early years as a designer, clients would often ask “have you done this before?” I would invariably answer “no, that’s why I’m a designer…I design things (and solutions to problems, and methods of manufacture, and better ways of thinking about process…)

I’ve always said “you should decide what you want, then decide how badly you want it, then design it, THEN worry about the costs.” While that may sound cavalier at first, it’s just the beginning of the process. Once the cost estimates ( estimates !!! ) come in, there’s usually another round of discussion, and then a subsequent re-evaluation of how badly you want what you want.

I feel that design, as a process, should allow the client some (but only some) level of understanding where the pinch-points are in the process. I also feel that the client should be able to, as a result of a designer’s advice and consultation, be able to have some (but only some) level of participation in the design process.

The issue at hand (which, I believe, has been sufficiently demonstrated here) is that each kitchen project is as unique as the owner, or perhaps as unique as the mix of owner + designer + contractor + trades + materials + seismic conditions + fish + bicycles. Further, this variance can play out from one house to the next in a single neighborhood, much less a city or region.

The problem (in my opinion) with estimating a client’s costs based on an average or mean number is that it gives a false sense of what their numbers will be.

When a client asks me how much their kitchen will cost, I generally answer “between five hundred and five hundred thousand dollars, but possibly more”. I wait for that to sink in, at which point the client either gives demerits for sarcasm, and I give demerits for lack of humor, or we laugh and move on with the actual conversation, which is, and will continue to be, found in the answer to the question:  What do they want, and how badly do they want it.


 

proximity_story_pete_walker-150x150.jpgMr. Walker is a nationally recognized professional  and has created functional and aesthetic modern living environments for more than 400 clients, in addition to having designed over 3000 kitchens in 33 years of professional practice.
He continues to develop the proximity | kitchensystem.   Pete is happy to take questions, comments and critique.  You can reach Pete through his email address: pete@proximitykitchen.com, or visit the website at www.proximitykitchen.com

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