This photo of an Architect Series II appliance suite by KitchenAid shows a carefully laid-out kitchen in which a designer has considered how major features should be placed in relation to each other. That kind of planning helps avoid the frustration of constant walking around and ensures everything is accessible.

We’ve seen plenty of mistakes in kitchen design, and believe us, this is one room where you don’t want design problems. If you’re negotiating your way through your kitchen redesign on your own, please stop and consider talking to a kitchen design specialist before you spend a single penny.

Since the kitchen is such a key room in any home, design mistakes can be extremely frustrating (and expensive). A kitchen designer will be intimately familiar with mistakes that are routinely made in kitchens, and can help you avoid them.

For example, the “blind unit” is a big no-no. “If you have a corner cabinet, make sure it’s usable,” cautions Priti Kaira, a kitchen designer (see for more information). She has seen corner cabinets that can only be accessed by crawling into the back.

And then there is the angled corner sink with the dishwasher right beside it. This scenario, Kaira says, forces you to move away from the sink every time the dishwasher is open, which creates frustration.

It is also very important to consider your kitchen work triangle (i.e. fridge, stove and sink) very carefully — make sure the traffic flow works. Make it big enough so at least two people can cook together, but small enough so the walk between fridge, sink and stove isn’t huge.

Another important kitchen rule that sometimes isn’t observed is the stove should be away from the main traffic paths for safety reasons. People should be able to move around without knocking against the person at the stove.

There’s also the matter of getting all the gadgets you want. A kitchen designer will have a detailed knowledge of all the things that are out there, from special spice racks to pull-out recycling shelves, to appliance garages to almost anything else you can imagine. The designer will have a good handle on the product they sell, and will know how to tweak it to get exactly what you are looking for.

A designer can also advise you whether your budget will buy you what you want, so you can evaluate the big picture before you purchase anything. You don’t want to run out of money halfway through your redesign!

When you look for a kitchen designer, look for a person with a Residential Design Certification with a specialty in kitchen design; or with a Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD) designation. Kitchen design and cabinetry companies often hire qualified designers, or may refer you to a good kitchen designer. Also check online or in the Yellow Pages under kitchen design. But as in many things that have to do with home design, the most important thing is word of mouth. Look at references, and talk to people who have worked with the designer.

Last, but certainly not least, expect to pay anywhere between $25-$50 per hour for a qualified designer to plan your kitchen. Keep in mind that most such design jobs take at least 10 hours, but that money is definitely well spent.

doing your homework

Before you hire a kitchen designer, make sure you’ve figured out a few things yourself:

  • What colour and style of kitchen cabinets do you like? (Traditional or contemporary, country style or French provincial? Flip through magazines and tear out pages you like. You’ll see where your tastes lie.) Consider countertops and floors in the same way.

  • If you are considering taking down walls, check first with a structural engineer.

  • A designer can help you integrate your kitchen into open concept with colour scheme and design, but you still have to define the boundaries or span of cabinet space needed.

Tammy Schnurr and Jeffrey Fisher are hosts of Arresting Design on W Network. Tammy is an interior decorator. Jeffrey designs home furnishings and bedding through his company Jeffrey Fisher Home.