Kitchen Confidential 

“Life happens in the kitchen”

ep 23:  Should I hire an architect, builder or kitchen designer?

When starting your kitchen remodel you may be confused about what type of help you need to complete your project. An architect, kitchen designer, and interior decorator all have very different purposes and it’s important to know what level of help you need to properly complete your kitchen remodel. Hiring the wrong expert for your project may lead to a loss of true functionality and the best kitchen layout for your project. 

In this post, we are going to break down the differences between hiring an architect, kitchen designer, and interior decorator and helping you decide what’s the best fit for your project. 


Architects are very high level. They are great to hire if you are building a new home, are wanting to add a new room, move structural walls that are on the interior of your home and are holding up your roof, or if you are doing a larger-scale project such as combining two or three rooms. They are who you hire if permits need to be involved and if you are going to be working with a true general contractor. 

Architects are concerned with things such as safety and following guidelines within the city. They are there to make sure things are done correctly and up to code. They are concerned with making sure that something isn’t going to be in the way of sight lines for your or your neighbors, if the remodel is going to affect the foundation or the roof, or if you will need to move electrical or plumbing. 

Architects are great at visualizing a new space such as combining two or three rooms and changing the pitch of the roof or adding more structural elements. They are meant to look into things such as how you come into the kitchen, where you should place new windows, or where the doorways should be. An architect is more concerned with the larger elements of the remodel.

The actual remodel of the kitchen is not what an architect is meant to do and you generally do not need to hire them for a kitchen remodel. You will end up spending a lot more money and they won’t be thinking of the true functionality of your kitchen. 

An architect is not going to be thinking of where you are going to put your Ziploc bags, how many kids you have at home and if they are younger or older, or if you like to bake or entertain. They are not there to help you design the space. And truthfully, you don’t want them to as it is going to be very rare if an architect is worried about the smaller details of the design and functionality of the space.  

These are the types of details that you need to figure out before hiring an architect. You don’t want to waste thousands of dollars for your architect to come up with a layout for your kitchen remodel and then come to find out that the functionality of the space is not going to work for you and your family. Because now at this point of the build you won’t be able to change where they placed windows or a beam. 

The kitchen is something that you are going to be using every single day. It needs to be functional and fit your needs. You should spend the time before hiring an architect to design the actual cabinet layout that you would like and determine the purpose and function of every single cabinet. This way you know the layout will solve your current problems and then the architect can help you put them into the bigger structure and plans. 

Kitchen Designer 

Kitchen designers are great for coming up with new ideas. They specialize in new ways to use colors and patterns in your space. They may also be able to present you with new types of materials that you have never seen before. They are great at opening up a space and showing you two to three different versions of ways they can design the space. 

Kitchen designers are really pricey. A good designer can cost anywhere from $6,000 – $10,000 dollars. I even know some designers that charge upwards of $50,000 just for the design. Kitchen designers are there to help you with the overall vision of the kitchen and what is going to make it pretty. 

Most designers will not be thinking about the functionality of the space. They won’t think about where you put items in your kitchen or how you use your stuff. Rarely will they open your existing cabinet doors to see how you are currently utilizing your space and what you could do to improve what’s already in the existing space. They often don’t ask you questions about what you like to do in your kitchen or how things are currently functioning. They do not think about the day-to-day of being in the space. 

Kitchen designers are usually more worried about the pretty aspect of the space rather than solving the problems that you are currently experiencing. They are there to show you new special ways of using things that you may not have thought of before. 

Remember that design doesn’t mean functionality. Design means what it looks like on the outside. Do not assume that means the interior of all the cabinetry and how you are actually using your current cabinets. Some designers will help with this, but a lot of them will not. It is up to you to know how you use your kitchen so you can inform them of what’s not working and what you would like to improve. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask those questions of your designer. 

It’s also important to note that a lot of kitchen designers make their money by showing off pretty new kitchens that they have already done for other clients. It’s easy to be enamored by beautiful-looking kitchens rather than how you eventually will use the space. They often make a percentage on the things that they suggest to you and get a percentage of pay for recommending you to other contractors, decorators, etc. The markup of these services can add a lot to your budget. 

Overall kitchen designers are a great option for you if you are working with a large space and a large budget. This is also a good choice if you want to be more hands-off with the remodel. 

Interior Decorator 

Interior decorators are great at helping bring a cohesive look to a space. They are great if you are struggling with bringing your ideas together. They can help you with color choices, space, furniture, fabric selection, opinions on textiles, lighting, and rug choices. 

However, please be aware when you are designing a kitchen that an interior decorator may not be the best fit. I have seen a lot of interior decorators try to do kitchen remodels, but they just don’t understand how to create true functionality. Their specialty is in the design and look of the space rather than understanding how your space needs to work. 

They are there to create photo-worthy spaces and make your space look grand. They are not concerned with functionality. I would not use an interior decorator for a kitchen remodel unless they have a known specialty in kitchen design and functionality. 

What Do I Choose? 

Ultimately you will need to figure out what is going to work best for your project. Are you building a new home or moving walls for your remodel? Then your best bet is going to be to go with an architect. Do you like the overall function of your kitchen, but it just looks like it’s straight out of the 70s? Then a kitchen designer may work for you. And an interior decorator would work if you are looking at bringing in new colors, lighting, and furniture into your kitchen. 

It is a big decision to bring in the correct people for your remodel. If you aren’t careful you can end up wasting a lot of time and money on your project. Pick the best option on what your needs are to truly create the space of your dreams.