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Why Are the Most Expensive Kitchens Often So Poorly Designed?

In a word . . . Architects.

Over the 25 plus years that I have been a kitchen designer there is no question that some of the worst kitchens that I have seen sold have also been the most expensive. Even the most expensive kitchen that I personally sold was a design that I was slightly embarrassed to sell.

Why are these expensive kitchens so poorly designed? The first reason is that customers with the most money to spend nearly always start their project by consulting with an architect. Once the kitchen design process begins with an architect, seldom does the architect consult with an actual kitchen designer. So, the architect who in far less experienced and knows none of the rules of kitchen design nor how cabinetry is built or priced works on the design with the customer until it is nearly complete.

L shape kitchen with small island and green backsplash

As a kitchen designer it is incredibly frustrating to be handed an amateurish design to price in the most expensive cabinetry that we sell. The homeowner and the architect have spent hours creating a design that often breaks the most fundamental kitchen design rules and looks like what it is. The work of nonprofessionals. Unfortunately, after all the time spent creating the ill-conceived design it would frustrate everyone involved to go back to square one where the mistakes began. Worst of all, neither the homeowner nor the architect realize how silly these designs are because they aren’t kitchen designers. And to tell them that “the emperor has no clothes” is usually met with both anger and skepticism.

white kitchen with dark island

Just in the last two weeks I have been given two poorly designed floorplans to price in custom cabinetry done by respected architects that place expensive 48″ SubZero refrigerators behind the primary sink in the kitchen. You could not place such a wide refrigerator in any worse location. Toll Brothers who use architects to design their kitchens are notorious for making this same mistake.

The problem with the refrigerator location, besides looking odd, is that every time someone goes to the refrigerator the person at the sink must leave so that the refrigerator doors can be opened when the person at the refrigerator steps back to open them. The refrigerator doors would also be dented in these designs if the dishwasher doors were down. What a waste of money!

In one case the customer was considering spending $74,000 on expensive poorly made cabinetry and over $40,000 on appliances for their bad design. As is usually the case the homeowners were so invested in their poor design that hearing that it had problems or that the cabinets they were considering were overpriced and poorly made was not received well.

white kitchen with large island

Another reason that expensive kitchens tend to be poorly designed is that wealthy clients are less amenable to hearing that their design ideas have problems. Or, that the expensive appliances, cabinets, or countertops they want don’t fit and have issues associated with them. Often people of means have grown accustomed to the people working with them simply agreeing with them. Kitchen designers know that these sales will be very large and that by being critical of what the customer wants they risk losing the sale. So many kitchen designers will remain silent about problems that might alienate wealthy clients and their architects.

Not all kitchen cabinet dealers and kitchen designers are able step in at the beginning of a major home renovation that removes load bearing walls and possibly adds an addition to a home, but some most certainly are. Working with companies like Main Line Kitchen Design that help you design your home from the inside out prior to bringing in the architect fosters better kitchen designs and save on architect’s fees that were often wasteful and ill advised. You will never see a poorly designed kitchen here at MLKD.

L shape kitchen with multilevel island

Wishing the 30,000 people that read our blog each month a Happy July 4th.

And to those considering a major kitchen renovation . . . Please find an experienced kitchen designer to work with sooner rather than later.

Bon Appetit!

Paul, Julie, Ed, Jeremy, Lauren, Chris, Juliet and Camilla

Main Line Kitchen Design

2 Replies to “Why Are the Most Expensive Kitchens Often So Poorly Designed?”

  1. Karen

    Thank you for your great article. I’m looking for a kitchen designer in or near Marietta, GA. Can you help me ? Wish we were neighbors !! Karen

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Karen,
      We recommend cabinet dealers around the US on this link:

      If you would like us to look in your specif area call us on a Friday between 2 and 4 pm EST and usually myself or Chris will see if we can find a dealer that meets our requirements to be recommended.

  2. Paul McAlary

    You can try calling on a Friday between 2-4pm when designers assist people outside our service area free of charge. This coming Friday two of us are on vacation so there could be a wait.

  3. Sandy

    Thank you so the quick response. I live in Toledo Ohio and I do not see anything on that site listed for our location. Who would you recommend?

  4. Sandy

    Your information is very informative however you suggested using for a kitchen designer and the top rated one in my area carries the Merilatt cabinets and you mentioned they are not good. In reading reviews with Merilatt it appears to receive good ratings. What do you recommend or what do you not like about their product?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      Hi Sandy,
      You don’t say where you are located but we recommend dealers from around the US. That could be a better screened way to find a dealer than just looking on Here is the link;

      Merilatt Masterpiece would get better ratings than appear on our ratings blog. Link here:

      I will try to update the 2018 ratings system for Merilatt shortly. A lot of cabinet lines are upgrading their construction of late and we are trying to keep up.

      I would give Masterpiece a 4 for pricepoint, a B+ for construction but still a C+ for value. Most of the lines that are in that price point would offer real wood interiors and slightly better constructed cabinetry. The lesser Merillat cabinet lines would get the rating on our blog as it appears now as their construction is not close to the Masterpiece.

  5. Helen Cogliandro

    Love your blog and the honesty that comes with it. I live in Bayside, New York. I know that I am too far to work with your company, however, can you recommend a kitchen designer near me?

    1. pmcalary[ Post Author ]

      We recommend a designer is Cormack New York. Just search the word recommend on our web site and a list of dealers around the US will come up.

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