How to get a custom-designed kitchen without paying hefty designer fees

Renovating a kitchen is a complex project which requires good planning to avoid costly mistakes. "A number of consumers would like a new kitchen but can't afford professional services," says Ken Krengel, a certified kitchen designer and president of Design Plus Inc., a computer-aided kitchen design service. According to Mr. Krengel, people who can't afford to hire a professional designer usually rely on information from local salespeople.

"We found a number of consumers weren't getting the best advice out in the field," he says. "They were not happy with the result in a lot of cases.People were buying bits and pieces and hoping it would function when it was done."

Remodeling a kitchen "isn't just buying cabinets," he continues. Many factors have to be taken into consideration, including the size of the family, the size of the home, and decisions about types of appliances, flooring, and countertops.

In 1981, Design Plus Inc. was created to assist people who want to redo their kitchen but can't afford hefty designer fees. The service, which costs $47.50, is provided through the mail.

First, customers send for a preliminary kitchen planning packet to study the types of equipment and cabinet styles available. Then they fill out a questionnaire to specify design preferences and other requirements.

Through the questionnaire, clients supply information about the dimensions of the room, plumbing and electrical systems, placement of doorways and windows, types of appliances they plan to incorporate (either new or existing), and other preferences. If customers have questions, they can call a toll-free number.

After the client completes the questionnaire and returns it, the data are fed into the computer system and a professional kitchen designer works with the information to come up with an efficient, workable plan. In some cases the designer will call a customer to modify unworkable requests, such as too much equipment in too little space.

About a month after submitting the questionnaire, the customer receives a packet with floor plans, elevations of each wall, and a perspective drawing showing a three-dimensional view so the customer can visualize what the kitchen will look like when completed. He also receives a list of specifications for all the cabinets needed, and other helpful notes.

"The customer, in turn, buys the equipment according to the plans we've developed," Mr. Krengel says. With the specific shopping list in hand, customers can compare prices at various local retailers to find the best value for their money. Design Plus does not sell kitchen equipment or promote any particular manufacturers.

If the customer is not satisfied with the kitchen plans, the company will rework the design or refund the money.

For a kitchen planning kit and questionnaire, send $2.50 to Design Plus Inc., 20 West Market Street, York, Pa. 17401.m

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