Have you ever wondered this? It's definitely one of the most frequent questions I hear from potential clients as of late. This question is also so nuanced and loaded for every client. A kitchen renovation could be one of the, if not THE, most expensive investment you ever make in your home post-purchase. Instead of having you caught off guard, I'm hoping to help with that surprise, and have you prepared to either save up, or know what you're walking into if you ever foresee a kitchen reno in your future.
There are a few categories, specifically in a kitchen, to consider when you possibly see a number that is thousands of dollars higher than you even imagined in your wildest scenario.
Today, I'll go over:
Why we include an exploratory design phase when possible
What your most expensive line items are likely to be in a kitchen reno
How much to factor in for interior design fees
Why We Start With An Exploratory Design Phase
This isn't to be confused with an initial consultation/discovery call - when a potential client first reaches out to Nancy Lane Interiors, we start our inquiry process by setting up a complimentary 15-30 minute discovery call on the phone to discuss what they would like to work with NLI to create, getting to know each other a little, and then explaining next steps if we both feel good about meeting in person to discuss the potential project. I always think of this as a blind date - we're fresh to each other, learning about each other, and deciding if we'd like to keep meeting to work together.
To keep the analogy going, a "second date" would be an initial consultation, where we gather information and the scope of work for the project in order to prepare a detailed design fee proposal. Following our initial consultation, again if we both feel like we would be a good fit for the project, our onboarding process concludes with our clients approving and signing our design fee proposal and our letter of agreement, and paying an advanced deposit fee to get started. For construction projects like a kitchen renovation, our LOA spells out the various phases of our overall design process including our exploratory design phase which I'll give an overview of today.
Our exploratory design phase is just that...where we explore what our client wants to do in their space both construction and design wise. This is where we dive into the bigger questions about whether we're changing a kitchen's floor plan, doing custom cabinetry, adding square footage, and what design direction you'd like to take. We get into material specific questions this early as well. Are we using quartz or marble countertops? Do you want painted or stained cabinets? What type of flooring...keeping what you have or going all in with something new? What is the budget for everything all in, as well as specific categories, like plumbing and hardware? Are we going to do the same countertop material for the backsplash, or are we going to go with tile?
All of the answers to these questions quickly show you what kind of budget you should have based on your wants, compared to the budget you may have set aside to complete this project. This exploratory phase allows us to create a rough concept with more accurate price ranges based on your answers, product timelines and backorders, as well as going rates for the different parts that go into a kitchen renovation.
Think of this common scenario - you find your contractor first, and maybe they don't really do the true math of the materials you're hoping for, and give a low ball number because they have personally done a builder grade kitchen renovation for that number in the past or worse, they just spit ball numbers together for you. You don't know any better so you think their number sounds great...until you start looking for finishes and fixtures within their allowance and realize that their typically lower than low price point only allows for ugly. OR you find a designer to work with, keeping that contractor's number in your head since you've already agreed to work with them and their allowances, and then realize you can't afford your designer's fees OR the materials you thought you could have for your kitchen because your contractor priced granite for countertops while you had in your head marble. Worse yet, by the time you figure out you were thinking champagne and your contractor gave you a beer budget, and your kitchen is completely demolished at this point. (I've seen it too many times by the time clients brought us in on their job.)
Having this exploratory concept in hand before you go to a potential contractor will give you SO much more knowledge - they really can't take you for a ride or make false promises when you know the black and white math of what you're wanting.
And you have to ask yourself whether what you want is worth saving for and tackling this kitchen renovation in a year or two IF you need to save more, or making compromises in certain areas to keep you within the budget you have ready to go now. I would never advocate anyone going into debt for a project this large, so those are the two options I really prefer to stick with when you're assessing your investment amount for your project. Bottom line: our goal for our exploratory design phase is to collect enough information about our clients desired improvements and the costs and feasibility thereof so that our clients can make informed decisions about such a big investment.
How much does a full kitchen renovation cost?
In Houston, a professionally designed kitchen with full demo costs currently averages between $77K to $156K or more. Keep in mind that this would include design fees, materials, furniture, labor, appliances, materials, and installation. No two kitchens are the same though - your cost will always depend on your specific needs, your family's lifestyle, and your unique home. All that to say, the following are the largest line items that will come through in a design proposal:
This is by far the fastest way to use your entire budget. If we're moving pipes and jackhammering concrete to install new plumbing or adding appliances that didn't exist before, that will be a large chunk of the labor costs. Not to mention unforeseen issues once you do jackhammer (termites, degraded pipes, etc). You may not have to change the floor plan at all, but if doing so will make your daily life better, we can absolutely work together to decide if we can make compromises in the budget to make it happen.
Custom cabinets are always a splurge, but it's rare that we create a new kitchen without them. I have personally learned the lesson of using your old cabinetry boxes and trying to update them with new doors only (you can read about that here). Going the custom route also opens up the possibility of adding features like pull out trash receptacles, more drawers, a tech charging drawer, etc. Investing in this feature really gives you the kitchen of your dreams if you're willing to go there with your investment.
At the bare minimum, new appliances for a full demo kitchen can include a refrigerator, a stove top and oven or a full range, dishwasher, microwave, and maybe an additional wine or beverage fridge. If you watch any commercials or walk through your local appliance showroom, you know the range of pricing for appliances is so wide you could drive a truck through it. This is a place where you truly do get what you pay for, so I never recommend going with the least expensive option that will inevitably need to be replaced more quickly. I absolutely have my own suggestions in terms of brands and specific pieces, and we definitely discuss those with clients during our exploratory design phase.
Quality Materials and Finishes
Again, this category in terms of options is endless! There is definitely a visual and tactile difference in using quality materials for flooring, countertops, cabinetry, plumbing, and hardware. You may not intrinsically know the difference, but the feel of that faucet handle in your hand, and the feel of the flooring under your feet does signal high quality. Anyone have a grandparent with linoleum floors in their home? You know what I mean then.
While there are ways to go for a middle of the road option to save on the overall budget, investing in quality materials and finishes ensures they will last for years to come.
This will be a large line item for your project, and honestly, it should be. Working with a design professional typically results in saving money on avoidable mistakes, low standards in craftsmanship, project management, and putting out fires that you may not ever hear about! I could go into a long treatise on how TV home improvement shows are completely inaccurate, and set us all up for unrealistic expectations, but I'll save that for another day.
Picking the right team for your renovation is arguably your most important decision. You'll be spending 6 to 18+ months with these people, and you may be displaced for all or part of the process, so working with people you enjoy and trust will make having to stay in a hotel or another house that much easier to tolerate ongoing construction! If you choose, you can also pay for extra project observation as well, to give you peace of mind that someone is checking in on site when you might be at work and can't watch progress. That alone can save you money in the long run, even if it may not seem like it in that initial proposal.
Kitchen renovation design fees with NLI start at $9,000 and go up depending on the scale and scope of your project. Typically, our design fees come out to around 12% of the overall project budget, if you already have a number in mind!
What's your next step?
If you live in the Houston area and you're considering a kitchen renovation, I'd love to chat with you about what you're dreaming about for your home. I'm happy to share more about our exploratory design phase and the rest of our design process, and see if we're a good fit for each other!