• Karen Hockley, Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer

Remodeling your Kitchen? Reasons why you should Hire a Certified Kitchen Designer

Updated: Feb 19

There are so many options for Homeowners when they are initially thinking of remodeling their kitchen. Many immediately visit the Home Center Kitchen Departments or lumber companies bringing a drawing of their room with them and have a person they have never met before design the most important room in their home. Sometimes it works out well, sometimes it does not turn out well.

Kitchen remodels are large expenditures, and bad remodels are hard to fix. As a consumer it's important to research and interview any Designer's working in your home.

There are some questions that will help you with deciding on the right designer for your kitchen remodel.

#1 How long has the designer you just met been designing kitchens? #2 Did you see a portfolio of their work, #3 did they ask you questions about your family, lifestyle and cooking preferences,

#4 Do they have any certifications from the NKBA, #5 Do they have any Interior design or construction training #6 Do they have testimonials from past clients #7 after interviewing them do you feel confident in their abilities .

The kitchen is the heart of the home, and it's important to find a designer that cares and understands how your family lives and cooks. In my personal opinion it's important for homeowners to take the time to meet and interview various kitchen designers. Look at their websites, portfolios of kitchens they have designed and possibly talk to their previous clients. This way you can see if the designer truly understands your vision.

I am a Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer through the NKBA with 30 years of experience in designing Kitchens and Bathrooms. I keep abreast of developments in the industry through continuing education classes. In my process, I have a website where you can see my work, with reviews from clients. I have a Houzz page, Pinterest Page and I'm on Instagram. I do initial Discovery Zoom calls where I can meet the clients and talk about their wish list for their new kitchen.

In the initial Discovery call I go over cabinetry, colors, possible layouts, with islands or peninsulas, talk about appliance preferences, find out the amount of investment the client would like to make in their home. After designing for 30 years I have an idea where the budget for the project could possibly fall so I will give my idea of possible cost. Of course cost can vary but everyone thinking of purchasing a kitchen remodel needs a starting point. My experience is in all aspects of the kitchen remodel. Including Cabinetry, Countertops, Appliances, Flooring, Lighting and construction of the project.

If after our discussion a client decides to proceed and hire me to design their kitchen, that's when I move into the design phase.

My services provide

  1. up to 3 possible layout options for the room

  2. appliance specifications according to the clients wishes

  3. In person measure of the room or adjoining rooms, if we are knocking out walls

  4. additional zoom or in person meetings to go over plan

a. With screen sharing in zoom, I have PowerPoints I have created of various design options that my clients can choose their favorites from.

b. I can pull up drawings in my 2020 Design program and make changes in real time, and show perspectives of the room

5. I work up an Excel sheet with the cabinet cost, and I can ballpark any items not yet selected. This gives a good working budget of projected product cost. This includes all items in project, such as sinks, faucets, countertops, cabinets, flooring, ceramic backsplash, appliances and other miscellaneous items.

6. After the design is finished and selected, I do construction drawings for the installer to price the project. At that point we add the construction cost on the spreadsheet and we have a final indicator of cost for the project. If anything changes the spreadsheet can easily be updated.

Below is an example of a kitchen project that was started during the Pandemic. This was a photo after the kitchen was installed.

My clients immediately chose the doorstyle and Color from Diamond Cabinetry. This is actually one of my favorite doors. The color is Avalanche with Greystone Glaze. It's an off white door with a grey glaze. You can see how beautiful the colors are in the room.


Below is photos of the existing kitchen before the remodel.

If you look at the after photo above you can see the tremendous change we made to the room.

The appliance placement in the original kitchen was awkward for the homeowner. You can see the microwave and refrigerator were on the wall 90 degrees from the sink. The cooktop was on the island but the island and cooktop were in an inconvenient location. The wall ovens jutted out from a wall that was 17 in deep and the placement was awkward and inconvenient. The biggest problem was the kitchen just didn't function well and even though a decent size didn't have a lot of storage.


In the above photo, looking at the large double window to the left of the sink, there was no existing cabinetry beyond the sink area. I added pots and pans storage and rollout trays to the new cabinetry installed under the double window. I also took the wall cabinetry with crown to the ceiling and eliminated the dark wood ceiling beams. Using wall cabinets to frame the windows, with valances, moldings and trims to give a beautiful finished look to the window wall. This doubled the storage in the kitchen. The valance treatments above the windows has recessed Sempria lighting on dimmers that can be tuned for any occasion. New LED recessed ceiling lighting was added in 4000Kelvin, which gives a beautiful ambiance to the room


In the below photo you can see on the right side of the room, how the wall oven is sticking out 8 inches into the walkway. The wall is 17 in deep where the oven and desk were located. A wall oven cabinet is 24 in deep, so there was approximately 10 in with the oven handle of appliance moving into the walkway between the island and wall oven.

Below photo shows the oven placement and refrigerator placement. By moving the oven out of the walkway on the far right wall, I opened a clear path behind the Island. I placed the double oven cabinet to the left of the refrigerator for a reason. When you are taking a hot pan from the oven you want to make sure you have a close, convenient landing place. On the left of the oven is a perfect landing countertop location or across from the oven on the Island. This is a really important decision to make when designing. If I had placed the oven to the right of the refrigerator, then there would have been no landing space, or countertop to the right or left of the oven, and when taking out a hot pan, you would have people walking by through a hallway, which could be dangerous. So if the oven was placed to the right where the refrigerator is located the only close landing location for a hot pan would be on the Island. I always consider location of appliances for safety. I find each kitchen is different and work with a clients preferences.

In the photo below you can see how dark the room was with the ceiling beams and dark cabinetry. The oven seems awkward and doesn't fit into the plan. It looks as if someone just said let's throw it here, without any thought.



This section is to show how a design or layout begins.

Below is the beginning drawing of the room in 2020 Design. I input the existing walls, windows and doors so that I can begin planning the space.



The first thing I work on is deciding where appliances will go. Then I work on various options and layouts for my clients.

Below is an option of doing a window seat under the windows left of the sink. It would be a great place for children and to play with their iPad while mom and dad are cooking. There would be small furniture drawers under the window seat for storage, but it would be limited storage.

If this plan was used, I made sure we had a bank of drawers to the left of the dishwasher. This way there would be storage for silverware, and utensils. There is a base Lazy Susan in the right corner by the sink and a tray base cabinet next to it by the ovens.


My clients wanted the KitchenAid Double Ovens and the LG refrigerator with Craft Ice on the wall shown below. The drawing below is from my PowerPoint plans I sent my clients.

Below is the final plan. During our zoom meetings we went over the different options for their kitchen layout. This was the favorite plan of all the different options I designed. If you look at the before photos you can see the dramatic change the remodel made to this room.

By working with my clients to find out their wants and needs I was able to plan a wonderful kitchen to cook and bake in. We kept cabinet space under the large windows for pots and pans and rollout trays for more storage. The appliances are KitchenAid double ovens, the LG refrigerator with Craft Ice, an induction cooktop on the Island with a popup ventilation hood behind the cooktop. The island has a double trashcan cabinet, a knife pull out cabinet, and an utensil pull out cabinet. The electrical hookups in the island are in the elevated section behind the cooktop. This makes for plenty of prep space for cleanup and creating fabulous meals.

I took the cabinets to the ceiling and I recessed the valances and built in with furniture shelving underneath the valances to house LED lighting. Crown molding buildup gives consistency to the crown buildup above the rest of the cabinetry.


Below is the actual kitchen photo showing cabinetry carried to the ceiling with the recessed valances and crown. We used Sensio lighting at 4000 Kelvin, on the interior valance lighting and for the undercabinet and shelf lighting.

Below after photo shows how the cabinetry, Island and lighting create a beautiful, functional kitchen



The recessed valances and crown treatment I designed. The stainless steel farmhouse sink is really beautiful with the bright and colorful ceramic tile. The granite countertops have a 20 year sealer that will keep them looking beautiful.


Below is my construction plan for the front of the island. Above the island, the 2 Pendant lights provide task lighting while cooking or baking.

This is the actual island after installation


In the below photos, on the left is showing the Island and Coffee Bar area cabinetry during construction. On the right is the rendering of the island and coffee bar area.


Below photo is of the coffee bar/ microwave area with open shelving. I kept the cabinetry to 17 inches deep in this area so it would not protrude past the wall on the right. This keeps the walkway open, in the before photo the wall oven protruded into the walkway. By keeping the cabinetry the same depth of 17 in as the wall on the right, I gave the wall a built in custom look. The shelving has Sensio lighting in 4000kelvin, on a dimmer to give extra light and ambiance to the area. The drawer below the Keurig is set up for the Keurig pods and tea bags.


Drawer set up for the Keurig pods and tea bags.

There are so many parts to designing a great kitchen and it can be overwhelming for homeowners. I work to streamline the process and make all the selections easy. When you work with a designer that understands all aspects of your remodel it will make for a smooth and rewarding remodel. My main goal when designing for clients is to create a beautiful, functional space that works for their needs and lifestyle. I design for my clients, and put their wishes at the top of the list.

From the offices of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA)

(October 5, 2015) – October is National Kitchen & Bath Month, and the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) is stressing the importance of hiring a certified professional for kitchen and bath remodeling projects. Because the magnitude and complexity of these projects are well beyond the typical weekend do-it-yourself job, a higher level of expertise on product, design and installation is needed. Certified NKBA professionals provide insight into design options and technical necessities that clients wouldn’t necessarily think of on their own.


Professionals certified through the NKBA must maintain specific requirements to ensure they are always at the forefront of industry knowledge. NKBA-certified members have the following qualifications:

  • In-depth kitchen and bath industry experience, including proven knowledge of kitchen and bath design, as well as construction, mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems

  • Expertise in NKBA Kitchen & Bath Planning Guidelines and Access Standards

  • Continuing education hours which enable them to remain up-to-date on building codes, safety and environmental regulations, and new products

NKBA certified professionals can hold one of four titles: Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer (AKBD®), Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD®), Certified Bathroom Designer (CBD®), and Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer (CMKBD®). Each title is classified by a different level of industry experience and knowledge. When choosing a professional for a remodeling project, homeowners must consider the level of difficulty of their projects and the type of professional they wish to collaborate with.

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