“The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias in which consumers place a disproportionately high value on what they partially create.” Wikipedia
The IKEA effect was identified and named by Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School, Daniel Mochon of Yale, and Dan Ariely of Duke, who published the results of three studies in 2011. In these studies researchers found that consumers valued their own work product far above what would be considered reasonable or rational.
As Kitchen Designers this effect is troubling for a number of reasons. IKEA cabinetry is poorly constructed and not a particularly good value, yet due to this documented effect home owners rate IKEA cabinetry above all other brands in nearly every Consumer Reports and JD power ranking. Even more concerning to kitchen designers, IKEA and others now supply complimentary and extremely rudimentary kitchen design software. Due to the same IKEA effect consumers who create their own designs using this free software can believe their designs are equal to or better than far superior designs created by knowledgeable and experienced kitchen design professionals.
Experienced kitchen designers know that it takes at least a decade of exclusively designing kitchens to become a competent designer. Why is it that people accept that they can’t fix their transmission – or even cut their own hair without professional training and, yet, believe that they would be competent designing their own kitchen?
As a kitchen designer who studied Engineering for 4 years at The University of Pennsylvania and ran a construction a company specializing in kitchen renovations, I know that my own kitchen designs from 20 years ago were simplistic and uninspired compared to the designs I do today. It took me many years working exclusively as a kitchen designer to become a good one. And part of becoming a very good kitchen designer is being able to help a customer spend the money they have budgeted for their renovation effectively.
Helping customers understand what options they have within their budget is not intuitive to anyone without extensive experience as a kitchen designer. The following videos elaborate on this in both an informative and humorous way.
Please enjoy them, beware of the IKEA effect, and of course . . . Bon Appetit!
The way to get the best bang for your buck renovating a kitchen is surprising to many people. Often consumers assume that reducing the amount of construction and keeping the appliances and cabinetry locations the same will save them money. The reality is that since everything in a kitchen renovation is getting ripped out and replaced moving cabinetry and appliances has little impact on overall costs. Even removing an entire wall which might cost $2000 could also mean less wall cabinetry keeping the overall project costs the same.
Kitchen designed in inexpensive but well made cabinetry
The materials that you buy during a kitchen renovation offer the best opportunity to save money without compromising on the kitchen design itself or the quality of the cabinetry, countertops, or appliances you purchase. Often compromising slightly on cabinetry color or door style can save 20 to 40% on cabinet expenses. Switching to a less expensive cabinet line doesn’t mean you are sacrificing durability or the construction quality of your cabinets. In fact, if the door style you are choosing is available in a less expensive cabinet line it could be a waste of the project’s resources to upgrade to an expensive cabinet line since custom colors and unusual door styles are what make custom cabinetry expensive.
Inexpensive professional style range
Reducing costs without sacrificing very much is also possible with countertops and appliances. While expensive professional appliances can be beautiful and offer great features most home owners won’t appreciate the difference between name brands like Wolf and Viking and the less expensive alternatives. For example the range above is less than half the cost of a more expensive brand like Wolf or Viking.
Level 1 or 2 granite can be beautiful!
In the Delaware Valley granite countertop pricing starts around $40 per square foot. Level 5 granite colors and most man made quartz countertops as well as natural stone tops such as quartzite, soapstone, and marble typically cost at least double that price. The more expensive natural stone tops are more unique but also slightly less durable and can require more maintenance and upkeep. The quartz tops which require no maintenance are easier to scratch and more likely to be damaged by heat. So spending double the price for your countertops could go unappreciated by people unfamiliar with these high end tops and not give added durability. And while spending double the price for a countertop is common, there is no limit to the price of exotic stone and some synthetic tops.
Custom inset cabinetry and professional appliances
Splurging on expensive appliances, custom inset cabinetry, or exotic stone tops can make a beautiful kitchen that much more distinctive like the kitchen above. But compromising on the design of a kitchen is always a bad idea. The value of your home is determined by how desirable the kitchen design and layout is. If moving a wall, window, doorway or other design feature enhances the design of your kitchen then this is where you need to spend money first. Getting the best bang for your buck starts with the design itself and not with the name brands and subtle color variations consumers often focus on.
Below is a related blog from SmartReno, a Canadian web site we have found informative:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” for two couples who worked with Main Line Kitchen Design.
Both Bob and Jenny Smart and Craig and Lisa Knowbetta began considering their kitchen renovations in late June.
[note – Ladies and Gentleman the story you are about to hear is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent]
The Smarts went on the internet and began reading reviews of kitchen cabinet dealers and spent time on the web sites Houzz.com and Pinterest looking at photos of kitchens evaluating the styles and colors of other people’s choices. The Knowbettas wanted to get things moving. Thinking they would save money, they gutted their kitchen themselves to get a “feeling for the space”. Lisa Knowbetta began working on a design using software she found online.
After about a week, the Smarts finished their research on kitchen designers and cabinet dealers. Based on the reviews they read, they made their first appointment with Main Line Kitchen Design. Inside the Knowbettas home, Craig Knowbetta having recovered from an electrical shock and a few stitches, finished gutting the kitchen while Lisa continued trying out different layouts on her free online software.
Lisa and Craig’s progress
About a month into their kitchen projects, the Smarts had completed their preliminary kitchen designs with one of Main Line Kitchen Design’s designers and were awaiting estimates from the contractors Main Line Kitchen Design and a neighbor had recommended.
The Knowbettas were having trouble getting contractors to give them bids on their project. They thought they were seeing why contractors got such a bad rap. What the Knowbettas didn’t understand was that contractors are hesitant to take on the risk of projects with rudimentary and incomplete designs like the one Lisa had produced.
By mid-August, the Smarts had selected their contractor and were finalizing the plans on their beautiful kitchen. The Knowbettas were surprised by how expensive the construction quotes turned out to be. The contractor they hired took their deposit and told them he could start when the cabinets were ready to be delivered. Then using printouts of Lisa’s design, the Knowbettas began getting cabinet pricing from different showrooms and home centers.
September and school began with the Smarts already having ordered their cabinets, appliances, countertops and flooring. Their start date for construction was October 1st. The Knowbettas were finding that kitchen design centers had serious issues with Lisa’s design. The project was turning out more expensive than planned and the family was still living in a construction zone. Dan was also frustrated that his new car had been dented in the Lowes parking lot.
On October 1st construction began on schedule for the Smarts. The Knowbettas were still confused, having problems fixing design issues with their kitchen and finding a cabinet line and doorstyle they could afford. They resorted to going online and found a highly rated cabinet dealer and design firm in their area and called Main Line Kitchen Design.
Months after starting their project, the Knowbettas found themselves where the Smarts had been back in early July! Main Line Kitchen Design measured the space they had demolished more than three months ago, worked on designs, and gave them detailed pricing for their project. The good news was that the new kitchen design was more beautiful and functional than any design they had gotten from home centers. Best of all the cabinet costs were less! A mixed blessing was that Main Line Kitchen Design informed them that their installation quote could have been less but knew their contractor and that he did good work. By November the Knowbetta design was finalized and the cabinets ordered. Their contractor scheduled construction to start after Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving at the Smarts
On Thanksgiving the two families had very different holidays. Family and friends enjoyed a wonderful meal hosted in the Smarts new kitchen. Compliments flowed and the Smarts had an amazing Thanksgiving holiday. The Knowbettas traveled to enjoy the holiday with out of town family. A nice break since they had now been without a kitchen for nearly 5 months and didn’t expect their construction to be finished until early January.
In the end both families got great kitchens, but had very different experiences.
All kitchen designers know that the people who get a finished kitchen first are never the people that start first. They are the ones who planned the most BEFORE starting.
Looking forward to providing you with a Smart kitchen and, of course . . .
Designing a kitchen requires making trade offs between costs, style, layout and function. Each choice will have an effect on your kitchen’s look and how easy it is to work in. For example a large 48″ range needs to be placed on a long wall to look proportional and to function effectively. This could require the kitchen designer moving a doorway or even closing a window. Customers review 3D cad drawings with kitchen designers to evaluate how any choice they make effects their design. After seeing all of their options it is unusual for everyone in a family to agree on what they like and on the choices they prefer and so compromise becomes necessary.
When customers have trouble making the compromises needed to create a kitchen that everyone can be happy with I often tell them a story about my own kitchen. Below is a photo of my simple but well designed kitchen.
Here is the story:
After my wife Julie and I renovated our kitchen in 2015 we had a holiday party a short time afterwards. One of our friends who has known Julie since college and who’s kitchen I had designed a few years before was at our party and complimented me on our kitchen. She said “I love your kitchen. Is maple your favorite kind of wood?” I replied that I liked maple but alder, cherry, or a painted finish might have been my first choice. She smiled and prodded a little “Julie liked maple?… and I know you don’t like microwaves over the range, Julie wanted that too?” I answered that I had wanted a microwave drawer but that Julie preferred extra pots and pans drawers instead. I explained too that as long as the kitchen was well designed I was happy, and that everyone had to make compromises when designing a kitchen.
Just as I was finishing my comment Julie entered the room . Her good friend then followed up saying “If I was married to a successful professional kitchen designer I would do exactly what he recommended!” My wife who is privy to a great deal of what goes on in my business thought for a moment “Well” she said pointedly, “my husband was YOUR kitchen designer and I KNOW you didn’t do half of what he recommended!”
Trying to mediate I reminded both women that kitchens are all about compromises and that no customer chooses to follow all my recommendations. And knowing this I certainly expected to make compromises on our kitchen. Thankfully this diffused the situation and the three of us then began discussing our new kitchen’s artwork including a print of a slice of cheese by artist Mike Geno who specializes in drawing cheeses.
Hoping you can make all the compromises needed to create a great kitchen.
Fully equipped outdoor kitchens with exterior cabinetry and a complete range of appliances can make your backyard an extension of your home. Add an awning and a gas heater and you can be cooking and entertaining outside most days throughout three seasons.
In January we stopped by the NatureKast display at the 2018 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, KBIS, in Orlando and saw how far the outdoor kitchen industry has progressed. NatureKast cabinetry is striking and even exposed to the elements comes with a Limited Lifetime Warranty. As the video below explains outdoor cabinetry is a fusion between real wood and a high density resin.
One of the challenges for the landscape architectural companies who most often design and install exterior kitchens is that they lack expertise in what constitutes functional kitchen design. They are also less knowledge about cabinetry styles and appliances. How the interior of a home transitions to it’s exterior is also important to coordinate. This is why traditional kitchen designers are asked by the more sensible exterior design companies to assist designing the cooking areas in their overall designs.
Traditional kitchen cabinet dealers are now beginning to design with and sell exterior cabinetry such as NatureKast.
Main Line Kitchen Design is exploring the demand in the outdoor kitchen market and a possible partnership with NatureKast. Designing with professional appliances in exterior settings would be an enjoyable change of pace for all our designers. Several of Main Line Kitchen Design’s designers have commented how much they enjoy attending events at Fretz in the Philadelphia Navy Yard and seeing the Fretz outdoor kitchen displays.
Below are some exterior kitchens designed in NatureKast. Let us know what you think!
Looking forward to warmer weather and some outdoor cooking.
If a simple charcoal barbecue can make a summer day special, an outdoor kitchen might make your summers unforgettable. Wishing you a special summer either way. And of course…
Kitchens are where many of our memories take place. Even the simplest kitchen will host some of our best times and the warmest memories of friends and family. Here is a story written by my mother who passed away this fall about the simplest of kitchens and the happiness that she remembered there.
Our fist apartment was a small, old but affordable, walk-up. Although it left much to be desired, as newlyweds, we were satisfied and even excited about moving in — except for the kitchen! It contained only one cabinet which was situated above the sink and its exposed pipes. We improvised by buying a large standing cabinet and sewing a floral fabric to elastic and wrapping it around the sink. The area under the sink could now be used as storage space for cleaning products, pots and pans, etc.
When our first baby began toddling around, it became his favorite destination. He enjoyed crashing through the curtain, playing with the pots and pans and eating the soap powder. I could not wait to escape from this hazardous kitchen. Eventually we converted the space to a toy area where he sat playing with his cars, trucks and blocks. In fact, that’s where he said his first word, which was “car”.
One night, my husband arrived home from work with a bottle of champagne and wonderful news. He had just received a big promotion and a very substantial salary increase. While eating dinner at our little kitchen table with the baby next to us in his high chair, we toasted to his new job and our new house.
It is now more than 50 years later and I still remember that antiquated kitchen and the joy and happiness we experienced in it.
Jean McAlary passed away in October, but the little boy under the sink still loves kitchens and is of course the founder of Main Line Kitchen Design.
Hoping all our kitchens bring our customers the kind of joyful memories my mother’s 1960 kitchen brought her.
Main Line Kitchen Design had a very active 2017. Some of our Milestones included:
Moving to new offices with additional display space and three design stations.
Winning a Viking Appliance Designer of Distinction Award for 2017. Congratulations to Erica Islas for winning 2017 Designer of the Year for her fabulous kitchen located in historic Los Angeles Link here
Adding two more experienced Kitchen Designers and selling well over 100 kitchens for the second year in a row. Welcome John and Stacia!
Having our blog selected as the 5th best blog on kitchen design in the world by Feedspot
Averaging 20,000 visitors a month on our web site.
Ardmore Library Kitchen Tour Kitchen #2
Looking towards 2018 some of the events we anticipate are:
Finishing our Recommendations of Kitchen Dealers and Designers around the US. Because we get calls daily from all over the US we are hoping to steer people outside of our service area to dealers where they can get competent kitchen design help. This will help customers outside our service area, and help us by reducing the time we spend answering kitchen questions from people that can’t find good design help near them.
Opening a third office in Havertown across from the post office on City Avenue and over AD Panaccio. We work with General Contractor Al Panaccio on a regular basis and look forward to maintaining an additional office upstairs from his.
With more than 20,000 visitors a month to the Main Line Kitchen Design website we get asked nearly everyday to design and sell cabinetry outside our service area. Normally we don’t design and sell kitchens further than a 2 hour drive from our offices outside of Philadelphia. We believe that to design great kitchens and provide good customer service a dealer needs to measure a project, meet with customers face to face, and be readily available to assist if problems arise.
As a service to people not close enough to work with us we have begun to compile a list of recommended dealers. These are kitchen designers and cabinet dealers outside our service area that appear to meet our criteria for being good designers and seem to offer quality cabinet lines at competitive prices.
Here is how we selected the companies we are recommending. First our designers looked over the Houzz.com projects of potential dealers to make sure that their projects didn’t have major mistakes in them. This is actually harder than one might think. For example it took Paul and Stacia 45 minutes to find just one dealer in Los Angeles without blatant design errors on their Houzz page.
Once we found that a company met our minimum design standards and received good on line reviews on Houzz, Google, and Angie’s List we then examined their websites. The cabinet lines the companies carried needed to be quality lines and good values and their web site needed to meet our standards for transparency and professionalism.
While we do not know these companies first hand we believe our research provides a good starting point for finding a good designer in the areas we list. See the map and listings below:
A Story Highlighting How Hard It Is To Determine The Best Kitchen Designer In The Room
Determining who is the best kitchen designer in Philadelphia is difficult. This story about several kitchen designers shows why.
One Saturday, we were having an open house at a showroom I used to work at. The 5,000 sq foot display area was packed with visitors as well as the 10 designers that worked for the company. Some of the designers mingled and answered questions, and about 5 of us had congregated in the middle of the showroom talking amongst ourselves while casually looking around to see if anyone needed assistance.
Apparently we weren’t that observant because I suddenly realized that there was a customer in our little circle quietly listening. I looked down and said, “I’m sorry we didn’t notice you Miss, can one of us help you with something?”
The customer thought for a moment and said, “I don’t know if one of you would be able to help. Is it OK if we really don’t know the design we want in our kitchen? Even what style cabinetry we want yet?” All five designers immediately started to laugh, and the woman looked a little taken aback at our laughter.
I smiled and apologized telling her, “Miss, we aren’t laughing at you. We are laughing because YOU are the favorite type of customer for ANY kitchen designer, and ALL of us would love working with someone who is so open to our ideas. But, we may have a problem figuring out which of us gets to work with you.”
“I don’t want to start a fight,” she said, “and you did notice me first, so why don’t you help me. I do hope you’re one of the best designers.” Again all the designers started to laugh. “Well,” she asked, “NOW what’s everyone laughing at?”
I put out my hand and said, “My name is Paul, and I believe we’re all laughing because we know that ALL of us believe he or she is the best kitchen designer.” With that everyone started laughing and we found out our new customer’s name was Colleen.
Below is a reprint of the designer profile of Paul that appeared in House and Home Magazine in October.
What are your qualifications as a designer and what drew you to becoming a designer as opposed to any other profession?
As an engineering student at the University of Pennsylvania, I never imagined I’d end up being a kitchen designer. As it turns out, the problem solving techniques and the math and computer skills used in engineering, have all proved essential to being a kitchen designer and running a company that uses the internet as its primary source for connecting with our non-referral customers.
When I was in college, I also launched a small construction company that I managed for 10 years. I draw on the general contracting, drafting and hands-on experience I developed from this business daily. Kitchen design is something that I love and have worked at exclusively for more than 20 years.
What is the process in uncovering your clients’ needs when designing their project?
Almost all of our customers come to us believing that they know the floor plan and even the door style and color of the cabinetry that they would prefer. Some times they have even selected all their appliances. The easiest thing for any kitchen designer to do is simply to make these customers’ dreams a reality. While that is the easiest, it is far from the best.
At Main Line Kitchen Design, we tell our customers that we aren’t doing our job if we’re not shocking, or at least surprising them with alternative designs and materials. We simply wouldn’t be good at what we do if our many years of experience didn’t translate into a better kitchen at a better price than our customers could come up with on their own.
How important is the topic of a budget prior to beginning the design process?
Prior to beginning the design all we need is a ballpark range our customers are considering investing. We can also usually give potential customers an initial estimate of a projects’ cost once they provide some general information during our first phone conversation.
After we measure the kitchen and complete preliminary designs, project cost is completely determined by each customer’s selection of cabinet line and door style, type and color countertop, appliances, flooring, etc. Customers determine their own budget with their selections. Surprisingly the design itself, construction, and the quality of the cabinetry have much less impact on the cost of a kitchen than the styles, materials, and brands that customers select.
How long does it typically take to create a client’s design and what opportunities are there for tweaking?
After we measure a kitchen, the preliminary designs can be done in a few days to a week. While the first design we present is generally the design that we think works best for the space, kitchens ultimately involve numerous trade-offs between design, style, materials and function. As every kitchen we design is for our customer and not for us, what they decide on can be very different from our initial design. However starting with what works in the space best is the most sensible place to begin the design process. Customers generally have three to five meetings over several weeks. During these two hour meetings, we continue to make changes to the initial design. As the design changes it becomes more obvious to our customers what they lose when we make the trade offs they ask for and why they might want to consider some of the trade offs we initially presented.
What makes you unique from other designers in your industry and what can a customer experience by working directly with you?
I, and every designer I bring on board, are determined advocates for our customers’ kitchens. My team and I are very passionate about what ideas work and which don’t. My wife often describes the intensity with which I work by telling people that I fall asleep in the middle of a sentence about a kitchen and wake up finishing it. Customers can always count on me and my team to design in their style preference. They can also count on us to emphasize pleasing aesthetics and effective function. Many of my customers will tell you that, at some point in the process, they didn’t like me because I wasn’t immediately giving them the design that they initially wanted. In the end, those same customers will tell you they ended up with better kitchen value and design than they ever expected.