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Why Are Many Expensive Kitchens So Poorly Designed?

People buying the most expensive custom cabinetry, or very expensive professional appliances often have surprisingly poor kitchen designs. Expert kitchen designers know that it makes NO SENSE to be paying for huge material upgrades without first making layout improvements like moving plumbing, walls, doors and windows to create the best kitchen design.

Unfortunately, good design is often overlooked with homeowners considering the most expensive cabinetry and appliances.

This is true for a number of reasons. See below:

  1. Homeowners aren’t kitchen designers with experience, and usually only expert kitchen designers will be able to create the best designs.
  2. Unfortunately, non-designers usually don’t realize when better designs are possible.
  3. When customers have big budgets and want expensive kitchens, they can insist on being in charge and be less likely to accept advice.
  4. Unfortunately, many designers are wary of alienating high-end customers and jeopardizing a huge sale.
  5. Lastly, customers with large budgets buying expensive kitchens often start the design process with architects and get off to a terrible start. See why below:
Very Expensive kitchen. Designed in Brighton inset cabinetry.
A well-designed Brighton Beaded Inset Kitchen

All kitchen designers will tell you that the poorest designs and the most expensive kitchens we see come from architects.

This is because “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing”. It takes years of exclusively designing kitchens full time to get good at it. Architects have very little kitchen design experience when compared to even novice kitchen designers. They don’t know about kitchen cabinetry, since they don’t design in a cabinet line or sell cabinetry.

The best kitchen designers learn quickly to be careful and to worry about the details.

While architects are encouraged in most colleges to value their own ideas above cost and tradition. Because of this their training actually impedes their ability to create sensible, functional, and aesthetically pleasing kitchens.

Architects love to draw on paper and let others figure out how to make their drawings a reality. They learn in school to be bold. This philosophy often results in designs with too much cabinetry, impossibly tight seating, and appliances too large for the space. For the kitchen designers that design and sell cabinetry, the functionality and esthetics of the design is what we focus on.

Homeowners understandably become frustrated when the poor design decisions they made with their architect need changing.

Telling a homeowner that the design they worked on is bad, will not only upset the customer, but the architect will never bring the cabinet dealer any more business.

The same expensive kitchen seen from another angle. Kitchen designed by Paul McAlary
Kitchen designed by Paul

This is why, Kitchen designers working in showrooms catering to the builder, contractor, and architect trade, are in a lose/lose situation. The kitchen designers that work at these companies can risk their jobs if they correct the mistakes of the professionals that bring their clients to the showroom. This got me into hot water at the last showroom I worked at, before starting my own company.

This is why Main Line Kitchen Design works with professionals that send us their customers early in the design process. The builders and architects that we work with accept that they are not kitchen experts. As a result, homeowners get much better kitchens. And the expensive kitchens that we sell are always good designs.

At Main Line Kitchen Design, we wish that our customers would come to us sooner, rather than later. And so . . . we hope to see you soon 🙂


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7 Replies to “Why Are Many Expensive Kitchens So Poorly Designed?”

  1. D. Abernathy-Smith

    Hello Paul,

    What do you think of Schuler Cabinets? I do not want Lowe’s cabinets, but it’s hard to get Fubu or any of the cabinets on the 2021 Cabinet list with an A rating in Georgia. I want to hire a designer, but my small kitchen with11 cabinets and they want to charge 25k. How much should a designer cost?

  2. Fahad

    oh ok, I can definitely get you photos from the real estate listing. should I do that during the call in or can I email them to you?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Fahad,
      Just email me your address the day you are going to call and I can look up the photos. Assuming they are up on Zillow, Redfin, or one of the other real estate sites. Email me at

  3. Fahad

    Hi Paul! I came over here after reading your answer to my question. Well, I will definitely keep this in mind now when reviewing plans we get from the architect — luckily he’s working on other things in the house, not just the kitchen (though now I’m wondering if I should get someone else in for the bathroom, etc!). You mentioned that you could review our floorplan on your podcast/call-in — do you mean the drawings I get from the architect? I don’t have any other official floor plan right now, nothing like that came with the house. We’re in the Dallas area by the way.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Fahad,
      You would need a plan for me to review. If the architect or you can supply us with drawings of what’s there now that’s best. Or after they are done, the plan they suggest will need to be changed to correct the errors that we usually find. But even sending photos of your present home often can show us what’s possible and what general designs make sense. Often if you purchased your home in the last ten years the photos on real estate websites are still up. From the photos, I can not only recommend general design layouts but tell you how much things should cost. Most importantly, often from the photos we can see what ideas will not work, but would be likely to be suggested by less experienced people. For example, using 42″ high wall cabinets in a room that’s 96″ high. Or putting an island that is too large in a tight space.

  4. Jessica

    Paul: While you do provide some helpful information, your posts are full of judgements, incorrect characterizations, and arrogance. I encourage you to rethink your approach, for the benefit of your readers.

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      My opinions come from education, experience, and 30 years of accumulated knowledge about the industry I comment on. If the opinions and judgements I make offend you, I suspect that it is because they hit close to home. That is their purpose though, to prevent people from making the common mistakes that less experienced people make, though the arrogance in believing that they know more than they do. We live in a society where knowledge is not valued by many. Thankfully if you ignore experienced kitchen designers when you design a kitchen you just get a bad kitchen. When you disregard medicine and science it presently can prove fatal.

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