SHOP BY DEPARTMENT
Houzz Logo Print
regencywriter

Hiring a kitchen designer--design their exclusive property?

I've been looking for an NKBA certified kitchen designer to help us with remodeling our kitchen. We're open to possibly bumping out a wall and/or taking down the wall between our family room and kitchen and have a flexible budget in the $80K-$100K range. I found a husband and wife design team who live and work nearby. They charge $125/hour and we have to pay for the first four hours in advance, and in return they'll produce a minimum of two design proposals that will include "floor plans and elevations...created using industry standards...[which will be] thoroughly detailed and can be used for the ordering and installation of cabinetry, countertops, tile design, and the elevations will show window placement, walls, and doors if applicable...If structural plans are required and/or requested for the above Project, an additional engineering fee may be charged." So far, so good.


The hitch is that their contract, which I've just received, states, "It is also agreed that all plans and specifications shall be for the exclusive use of; and will remain the property of [company name redacted] until a Construction Contract agreement for the proposed work is reached between both parties." In other words, even though we'll have paid the $125/hour, we won't own or receive the design plans unless we agree to using the designers as our general contractor. At this point, we have no idea what that construction contract would involve (i.e., what fraction of the budget would go toward labor, if that labor cost would be competitive with other local contractors, etc.). Is this normal practice? Should I accept the cost as a normal risk of exploring design options, or look for another designer?



Comments (128)

  • palimpsest
    last month

    I wonder if the no full contract, no plans, no refunds model is an attempt to lock people in because they don't want to waste the money already spent. They feel that they've invested enough to keep going forward.

    But if the cost of their plans was $6000, and their cost for the rest of the project was $12,000 more than the next firm, you still may come out ahead even without plans and paying someone else for plans.

    Since bids vary so widely I could see where not walking with plans could potentially end up saving money in the long run.

  • freedomplace1
    last month
    last modified: last month

    There really is no big mystery here, from my perspective. They are a design and build firm, so they design and build... That is what they do.

    And this is how they have structured their particular business model. And that is their prerogative. Why should they do all the ground work - put together two full design plans (“at least two”) and then the OP decides to take the plans and shop around for the cheapest bidder for the job. Not to mention, you can’t really get much cheaper than this particular firms hourly rate, as it is.

  • Related Discussions

    NY Times article on real chef's kitchens

    Q

    Comments (19)
    From the article " The term conjures up visions of professionals using acres of counter space and island stoves to perfect their braising and baking - like Julia Child's kitchen memorialized in the Smithsonian." Hellloooooo??? Has this reporter SEEN Julia's kitchen. If I recall correctly as it's been a couple of years since I saw it, she had TWO, that's right - TWO!! small counters and a table in the middle. Heck, I've seen ISLANDS bigger than her kitchen. I love to cook and my kitchen was designed to have everything accessible within 5 small steps. The working floor space is a measly 8 square feet with the counters on the perimeter but it's a gorgeous, functional kitchen and it works. When I learned to cook it was in a kitchen filled with 16 other people and all the space we each had was a 2x3' cart with storage underneath. I cook or rather bake, because I have a passion for it. And what keeps me going, are the compliments. And they don't come from my family so I don't cook/bake for them. They just take it for granted. I think TV and Food Networks sensationalize the life of top Chefs. Out in the real world, it's nothing like that.
    ...See More

    What would you do to this investment rental kitchen?

    Q

    Comments (47)
    As an apartment landlord (multiple units) for 24 years, I have learned you must keep up with the competition if you want competitive rents, so it's up to you to decide where you want to be on the rental scale. Nicer units bring not only higher rents but also a higher class of tenant, and the latter CANNOT be overemphasized! In my experience, by far the best screening method is a credit check, because RARELY will someone with bad credit be a good tenant, and USUALLY someone with good credit will be a good tenant. Of course, and this goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway), a tenant should have an income sufficient to pay the rent (one week's pay equals a month's rent is my standard). As for the condition of the unit, at a minimum I repaint (rarely does a touch-up suffice), have the carpet professionally steam-cleaned, make sure everything is in good working order, and CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN! It never ceases to amaze me when a prospective tenant walks in to look and the first thing they say is "Wow, this is really nice and clean compared to what I've been seeing!". This comment is also a clue that a person who appreciates a clean unit wants a clean unit, and is apt to keep it that way. Updated appliances are, in my experience, much more important to a tenant than newer cabinetry and countertops (and it's also much cheaper on the landlord), as long as the cabinetry is not beat-up, broken, etc. I've probably given you more information than you wanted, but the bottom line is to get the best tenants you possibly can for the longest possible time, and to do that you need to run credit checks and present the unit in the best possible light. As for students: avoid them at all costs, unless you're almost exclusively in the student market. They're generally (a) hell on wheels and (b) hell on an apartment, and the very last thing you need is a tenant that causes other tenants to be calling the police or, worse yet (if you have multiple contiguous units), move out.
    ...See More

    Please Review New Kitchen Plan

    Q

    Comments (126)
    Hopeless. No, there's still hope & there's a lot of great ideas coming in. Glad you posted your dillema & didn't go with the L continent in the middle of everything that was posted in the beginning. I would ponder all the ideas people are sharing & you'll find the solution best for you & your home. It's normal for homeowners to go through this uncertainty. Also, invisioning the future outcome. If you are now considering changing the bay windows,great. As far as my pantry suggestion, only part of the pantry would be taken. not all. Whatever you decide,please share. Im curious to see what ends up being your favorite solution. Hang in there, there's always a solution ;)
    ...See More

    What color for kitchen cabinets?

    Q

    Comments (13)
    If you put a DecoArts paint on the cabinets with or without preparation, you're going to dealing with an abraded finish fairly soon on down the line, probably within 3 years. Kitchen cabinetry is exposed to stresses that other furniture isn't in terms of food staining, hands repeatedly touching the finish around hardware, and moisture. Living along the San Francisco coast, you are also going to be dealing with humidity changes that will promote wood's expansion and contraction, straining the coating at the joints in the process, causing paint to crack. Benjamin Moore's Advance is a one-part coating that is often used for entry-level cabinetry painting, but even it won't give you the long-wearing properties that a two-part catalytic conversion varnish or a two-part Italian waterborne coating would. ICA-Ilva two-part waterborne finishes are approved for use in California, and Veteran cabinet builder @jdesign_gw who is based in California has said in another thread that this is almost all he uses. The newer high-tech waterbornes that are two-component from companies like Milesi, Renner, Sayerlack, and ICA-Ilva rival the chemical and moisture resistance that only oil-based paints used to provide, plus there is the advantage of non-yellowing finishes with the waterbornes. The better paints also provide some degree of elasticity to help prevent joint cracking, though never eliminating it. Clear top coats crack as well as opaque paints, but it is not as noticeable over a wood look. Standard preparation would be to strip and sand your current finish. Then, the drawers and drawer fronts would be removed and taken to a shop with a clean room for painting. The remaining frames would be sealed off and sprayed on site, 2 coats minimum on everything. Your kitchen is on the large side. You live in a high cost of living area. Professional painting done with correct surface preparation will likely be running you at least $4,000 USD but probably closer to $7,000 if you go with a quality, two-part finish coating from a reputable painter.
    ...See More
  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    last month

    Finally.............. Freedomplace1 says it best.

    Or as I generally say? "The extent of my responsibility extends to that which I design, control, and execute. I get paid to do this. If you would like to pay yourself to control process, execution, result? Then you need not pay me at the get go" Bye.........in a word. Bye bye in two words.


  • Alyssa Fernandez
    Original Author
    last month

    Freedomplace1, actually you can get cheaper than their hourly rate (not that cheaper was my main objective; I want someone who can do the job professionally, so I don't mind paying for that know-how). The designer I'm working with now charges $115 an hour and does not bill for the initial consultation. (FWIW, I chose her due to recommendations and her gallery of work, not price.)


    Also, I wouldn't mind if the original firm had presented themselves as a strictly design and build firm, as a good many of the companies in my area (Tidewater Virginia) do. The firm is headed by a husband and wife. The wife is a designer and that is the job title that appears under her picture on their website. The husband is described as a designer and contractor. The contact form on their website specifically asks whether the client is interested in design services, or in complete design/build services. I checked design services only, and it was the wife (the designer) who replied to my inquiry. The husband jumped into our email exchange when I first questioned the presence of the construction agreement clause in the contract.


    All in all, it felt as if there was a level of deception, or at least obfuscation, meant to draw me into a construction contract whether I wanted one or not.

  • bry911
    last month
    last modified: last month

    @freedomplace1 said, "Why should they do all the ground work - put together two full design plans (“at least two”) and then the OP decides to take the plans and shop around for the cheapest bidder for the job."

    Because they are getting remunerated for that. You never pay for the work someone does, the litmus test for that is simple... would you pay for a product that you never received just because the producer worked on it? Would your answer change if the producer showed it to you before refusing to deliver it to you?

    You pay for the value you receive.

    ETA: They have every right to do business any way they see fit, just as a consumer has every right to point out that is a stupid way to do business.

  • PRO
    Kristin Petro Interiors, Inc.
    last month

    FYI...kitchen design and remodeling is a service, not a product.

  • Alyssa Fernandez
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Kristin Petro Interiors, in legal terms services are "non-material actions that provide a measurable change of state for the buyer, which is caused by the seller or provider." If I don't receive plans after paying a designer's fees at the end of the design process, I have no measurable change of state (except for maybe being $5-10K poorer).

  • bry911
    last month
    last modified: last month

    FYI...kitchen design and remodeling is a service, not a product.

    Are you actually suggesting the gross domestic product (GDP) doesn't include services?

    ----

    First, you are wrong. A product is a good or service offered for sale. People often mistakenly think that product is synonymous with goods, but it is really not. It is anything that a firm produces for sale. In this case a designer produces designs, therefore, designs are their product.

    Next, there is largely no difference between products and services in the value chain. The ground isn't compensated when you remove a tree from it nor do you leave money at the bottom of a mine shaft for the metals removed. All production is labor, a cabinetmaker may use their labor to turn boards and sheet goods into cabinets, but someone else used their labor to turn logs into boards and sheet goods and someone else used their labor to turn trees into logs. So that eventually a designer might turn those cabinets into a functional kitchen. This is why production and the resulting products includes goods and services.

    Finally, this is the kind of pointless jab that has no real purpose. I strongly suspect that you understood the point being made and then just simply attempted to score a hit. Unfortunately, you missed.

    ETA: It is fairly common to say "products and services." If something exists in the common vernacular I will absolutely use that as do most people. However, in reality "products and services" is really saying "goods and services and services."

  • bry911
    last month
    last modified: last month

    The problem with gardenweb in a nutshell...

    No matter how wrong a "PRO" is, some other "PRO" will support them somehow. You can quite literally use the same device that is used to access this forum to look up what "product" means even if you have actively avoided learning what GDP means, and yet @The Kitchen Place and @Charles Ross Homes liked a post that contained no other point than an erroneous definition of "product."

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes
    last month

    @bry911,

    You might enjoy Harry Beckwith's excellent book "Selling the Invisible." Beckwith makes the distinction between selling tangible products and intangible services--while recognizing that most services produce a tangible product in the end.

  • bry911
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I am going to mostly bow out of this discussion at this point. The positions have been chosen and the arguments made and no one involved in this discussion is likely to change their mind based on the merits of the opposing side's argument.

  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    last month
    last modified: last month

    The interior designer should have a KD in her back pocket. An installer as well, usually . One he/she uses on a consistent basis. Kitchens....... are a best result as part of a whole picture. That team effort gets you both. You take down a wall? It affects many other things. Your home has a style flavor? Same thing. Team/tandem. From large details to the nitty gritty of fractions of inches and a cabinet order which takes HOURS to put together, and considers every piece of trim, fill, etc. Yes, hours.

  • L thomas
    last month

    It is interesting that most of the Pros here misconstrued the OPs original question. The question was whether or not she should work with this particular company. Not whether or not this particular company's process is fair, or ethical, or reasonable, or whatever.


    I assume, like most of us, the OP knows that any business can operate (within the legal system) however the hell they want, and people can take it or leave it. Yay capitalism.


    In my opinion, this company's fee structure is, in a word, absurd, and I would not work with them. I'm surprised they're able to stay afloat, but appears the are, so good for them; they must do exceptional work.


    Most design-build firms charge little to nothing for the design and subsidize in the profit made from the build. This company is charging full design fees and deliver nothing unless they are also the builder. Whoa. Lets say it takes them 60 hours to produce a full set of usable drawings. You're out $7500, and unless you sign a building contract with them, you get bubkis? Yea no.





    Alyssa Fernandez thanked L thomas
  • Alyssa Fernandez
    Original Author
    last month

    Just to lighten things up a little, @freedomplace1's question above, "Why should they do all the ground work - put together two full design plans (“at least two”) and then the OP decides to take the plans and shop around for the cheapest bidder for the job," reminded me of a scene from Mad Men. Peggy Olson, a junior member of Creative Director Don Draper's advertising team, confronts him about receiving the credit for a commercial based on an idea she pitched:


    Don: That's the way it works. There are no credits on commercials.


    Peggy: But you got the Clio [Advertising Award].


    Don: It's your job! I give you money, you give me ideas.


    Peggy: And you never say thank you.


    Don: That's what the money is for!

  • PRO
    Kristin Petro Interiors, Inc.
    last month

    From large details to the nitty gritty of fractions of inches and a cabinet order which takes HOURS to put together, and considers every piece of trim, fill, etc. Yes, hours.

    Yep! Just like buying a shoe!

  • chispa
    last month
    last modified: last month

    I used a fancy kitchen designer in Los Angeles back in 2017. I stopped by their showroom and chatted, I then got a free one hour consult at my house where we decided we liked each other and could work together. At the end of that consult I wrote a check for $1800 for design. We had one or two revisions and I got a set of kitchen plans and elevation. I was free to use them as I wanted. Used the plans to get labor bids from my GC. I did buy the cabinets from the same showroom my KD runs, but I didn't have to.

    Three years later we decided to move and build. After I had the plans for the house all set, I went back to the same kitchen designer and paid $1800 again for them to do a preliminary kitchen design for the new house. It was great because they already knew my needs/wants for my kitchen. I did not buy cabinets from them because we built in another state, but I used the paid for design at the cabinet shop my builder worked with.

    Alyssa Fernandez thanked chispa
  • PRO
    Sabrina Alfin Interiors
    last month

    Kristin, bwahahaha!



  • bry911
    last month
    last modified: last month

    "Yep! Just like buying a shoe!"

    The funny part here is that you see the value in a custom designed kitchen but not shoes.

    My bespoke shoes included a multiple hour design appointment where we discussed the style I was going for, the advantages and disadvantages of the various leathers, the conditions the shoes will be used in, and concluded by building a mold of my foot.

    So... yes, similar to buying good shoes.

  • PRO
    The Kitchen Place
    last month

    Why do some posts here become so divisive?!? HOs vs PROs. lol


    Everyone here is here to help give input on their experiences. No need to be arrogant or overly defensive about peoples comments. I try my best to be very neutral and give my experiences bluntly....without emotion...but truth. And do my best not to be judgmental and be kind in my replies. So I liked Kristins comment. I like a lot of her comments....she's awesome. :-)


    And LOL at Alyssa for trying to lighten the mood. Atta girl!

  • L thomas
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Why do some posts here become so divisive?!? HOs vs PROs. lol

    Everyone here is here to help give input on their experiences. No need to be arrogant or overly defensive about peoples comments

    Well, because, there tends to be a continuing habit here of some Pros that offer arrogent and overly defensive comments when homeowners come here innocently asking for advice.

  • PRO
    The Kitchen Place
    last month

    Hos and Pros alike, I say. Everyone be nice.

  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month

    I just want to know the last time @Kristin Petro Interiors, Inc. , @The Kitchen Place, @Sabrina Alfin Interiors, @JAN MOYER or any of the other people who have defended this business model willingly paid money to someone without expecting or getting anything of value in return.




  • L thomas
    last month

    LOL @ "Hos and Pros"


    I need to figure out a way to work that into a post

  • judianna20
    last month

    $1,495.00


  • PRO
    The Kitchen Place
    last month

    Jennifer Hogan, You should reread my posts. I never defended that business model at all.

  • PRO
    Kristin Petro Interiors, Inc.
    last month

    I don't believe I have previously defended this company. But I and others have attempted to explain why they may offer the model they do. If they are strictly a design/build firm, then their model is based on completing the job, not just providing plans. And the value the client received for their payment was the design process where they gained valuable insight into the layout and design details they want. They can now take this information to another designer or firm and they have moved their process forward. I think it's a shame this firm was not more transparent about their services and process, and I believe the lack of clear communication about it is unprofessional, but I do not begrudge them the model they have if it works for them.

    My comments were mainly in defense of professionals who have models and processes that are industry standard and under which they have operated for decades, being told they are wrong, illegal, unethical or otherwise by those that do not work within this industry. There are reasons why designers and architects want to maintain ownership of the plans they create and if you work in this industry long enough, you will know why. But as I mentioned very early on, a lot of these terms make zero difference to our clients and we manage to operate within them with no problems the majority of the time.

  • L thomas
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Where did anyone call a professional who uses an industry standard business model wrong, illegal, unethical, or otherwise? I must have missed that post.

  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month

    @L thomas - that was probably me, although I didn't say it was illegal. I did say that it was legal, but unethical. There are plenty of industry standard business models that are designed to pray on the elderly, underprivileged, uneducated, the young and dumb. They can be perfectly legal, but also unethical. Used care sales - is it legal to charge someone more for a car because they don't know much about cars and you can convince them to pay more than it is worth.

  • palimpsest
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Half of Frank Lloyd Wright's designs were never built. Some of these were not commissions, but a number of clients who commissioned him ultimately rejected his designs, sometimes when it was apparent they were too expensive to build. I know of an architecture firm that charges a 6-figure retainer to start the design process. Not everything they design gets built. My parents had a custom house designed that they never built. They had a deposit (probably not much) with a builder who messed them about so much that when it was time to break ground (for the simpler, cheaper, more traditional house they did build) they decided to go with a different builder. What value they got out of the unbuilt design, was, in part, that they found out what they did not really want to build and how much money they did not want to spend building. And they got off cheap losing the deposit with the one builder because their build quality was crappy. But they didn't get a house out of either moneys spent. They didn't refund the architect his fee just because they decided not to build his design. But by the definitions above, this process provided no value because it didn't end up with a house.

    I am not comparing some random design-build firm to Frank Lloyd Wright, another starchitect, or anything, but there are things that get designed by architects and designers that never get built. And somebody pays for that process.

  • 3onthetree
    last month

    Lol I'm a little late to the party, or should I say throwdown. Actually, the thread seems pretty well-behaved compared to some. I skimmed all comments, maybe only 1 eye a little shut while doing so, and wanted to offer something for the OP:

    I don't think I saw this anywhere upthread to the contrary (if there was, sorry), but it sounds like you and others might be interpreting the company's contract as black&white on drawing deliverables ===> you want design services, so you spend hourly money for that, but don't get drawings until you commit to using their build services.

    If this is the interpretation, I don't believe that would be the case. It seems that this contract does not list a (AIA) standard of phases for a project nor expound on them, and that might be what is leading to a misunderstanding (and it's their fault for unclear contract language - but unfortunately the norm in this profession).

    The juicy phases you are concerned with receiving thus far is Schematic Design and Design Development. I would expect the following process to happen:

    - In SD they will create basic drawings and sketches of designs from consultations with you. Apparently a myriad of design opportunities will be whittled to no more than 2 choices. You will have deliverables via drawings for more consultation with the designer. These drawings are not usable for construction.

    - Then, you can continue with 1 design through DD. More in-depth details and specs are considered, like finishes (counters, tiles, flooring . . ), exact models of appliances, HVAC, more concise dimensions, etc. Deliverables again in drawings and maybe written specs. These drawings are still not usable for construction.

    All of this would be accomplished hourly, you would have drawings, and could even sever your relationship after DD.

    So this is where I think their contract (without seeing it) is unclear - if you want to continue to the Construction Documents phase after DD, then you would need to sign a contract for them to be the builder as well. These deliverable drawings would have all the info necessary to pass permit, build, and order/install everything turnkey (albeit Design/Build firms can issue rudimentary drawings because they control the build). If you do not enter into a build contract, then they won't finish or give you Construction Documents.

    ___________

    So I think you may be transferring copyright talk with those Construction Documents and you not getting them. Don't worry about that, what I think you need to do is talk with them about how their contract wording emulates their design process and what those deliverables will be. Then, if you want the opportunity to go a traditional route of issue CDs and bid out to other contractors - maybe they will perform the service of completing Construction Documents if they are capable.

  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    last month
    last modified: last month

    "I just want to know the last time @Kristin Petro Interiors, Inc. , @The Kitchen Place, @Sabrina Alfin Interiors, @JAN MOYER or any of the other people who have defended this business model willingly paid money to someone without expecting or getting anything of value in return".

    Answer: Never , but only because I work with long trusted peers /associates in every single trade I require. I don't ask them to doodle and do my work, ie DESIGN for me. I don't ask my mechanic to put my car on the lift, and then take the repair to the dealer unless HE tells me I should. I paid 20 to a nice kid who checked my tires when my back was killing me, despite the air machine is free.

    Now.........why don't you ask me why I take a retainer from every client before the process of "design " actually begins. Because design is a miraculous process where art, experience, investigation, selection, budget, timelines must merge to a whole. In no possible way am I devoting 20, 30, or more hours to a " "gee, I sort of changed my mind " Now ask me what led to the retainer that in the old days was a simple HANDSHAKE. ..............

  • Helen
    last month
    last modified: last month

    @JAN MOYER I don’t know why there continues to be a discussion premised on OP attempting to get something for nothing. OP has stated repeatedly that she had no issues with paying for the designer’s work

    The question was solely whether having paid a significant amount for a design OP could use a different GC to build and get competitive bids or, as this company required would be locked into using their services and not be able to use the design which she had paid for in any way.

    Many people indicated that many designers will provide a design for a negotiated fee and not lock the homeowner into a contract.

    This isn’t how this specific company operates which is fine. However most homeowners would not want to pay for something which they would not be able to use after full payment. Per responses, there are many talented designers who provide designs for a payment which can be used as the homeowner wants without being tied to a specific builder especially without knowing whether the builder was competitive.

    Alyssa Fernandez thanked Helen
  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month

    @JAN MOYER - Okay, you want to compare what you do and why you charge a retainer. I agree that you absolutely deserve to be paid for the work you perform. But should you be paid to create a design and then not let the person who paid you to do the work use the design? Have you ever refused to deliver a design after being paid to create the design? Have you ever had a client pay you to purchase furniture and then kept the furniture because they decided to only finish the living room and not continue with decorating the rest of the home.

    Yes you should be paid, but the person paying you shouldn't walk away with nothing to show for the money they spent.

    Alyssa Fernandez thanked Jennifer Hogan
  • WestCoast Hopeful
    last month

    This is a confusing thread. Not the same, but for reference, we had someone come give us a landscape design quote. We chatted for 20 mins or so. We previously used the same person to design several gardens. For the gardens we jumped on board right away and the fee was flat and included the consultation as part of it. Easy. This time we wanted to wait and we were unsure of next steps. I was shocked when she then billed us for the 20 min consult. She said we could take our discussion and implement it without her. I said she hadn’t said the consult was a fee, in past it wasn’t and we hit a standstill. I won’t use her now as a result. I paid the fee to end it and yep now I’ve used the ideas. Not sure my point but clarity up front helps.

  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    last month
    last modified: last month

    @ Helen,

    My comment was to Jennifer Hogan.

    The point to any and all: If someone doesn't like the terms of payment structure, methods for anyone, in any trade? There is always someone else to employ.

    @ Jennifer Hogan

    The point of custom interior design is to walk away with far more than you ever expected. Rarely is design a chicken casserole recipe - it's far more a perfect timing/ temperature souffle. The retainer covers what only appears to be a simple casserole. Design is ongoing dominoes of change one element, and something else probably changes. Results are what people pay for. "Ideas" are just that, until followed with materials and execution.

  • bry911
    last month

    @JAN MOYER - You are in trouble now! I told a story about shoes and several members couldn't see the allegory... I am sure they are going to pounce on you any second for your casserole comment.

  • 3onthetree
    last month

    ^^^ @Verbo

    "The contact form on their website specifically asks whether the client is interested in design services, or in complete design/build services. I checked design services only, and it was the wife (the designer) who replied to my inquiry."

    They apparently will do design only, so it seems they are just using 1 template of a contract to cover any project, even if that project is not considering the build portion. And that template is unclear and doesn't cover only design and it's deliverables.

  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month

    @Verbo - this wasn't $600 for 2 schematics. it was a $600 deposit and $125.00 an hour (unknown number of hours) for her to create 2 designs, but at the end of that portion of the process the designs would be given to the Contractor (her husband) to execute (again, unknown cost, no option to bid to anyone else). This was in response to an ad that gave an option of hiring for design service only or design build, where the design service only option was chosen and this language was buried in the contract.


    I cannot understand where you or anyone else can defend this as an appropriate, ethical business model.


    If I were the OP I would not just walk away from this contract. I would make a complaint with the BBB. I would accuse them of bait and switch. If designers are licensed in the state I would make a complaint to the licensing board. I would explain what they did on Yelp, on Facebook, on Nextdoor and anywhere else I could think of and expose them for being unethical in their business practice.


    In my mind, if I escape unscathed, I still owe it to my community to loudly and clearly expose them and protect those who may be scammed out of their money. If everyone stood up for what is right and what is ethical we would have far fewer scam artists doing things like this.



  • 3onthetree
    last month

    Contrary to most all comments in this thread, I don't think this is a big deal, especially when the OP has no problem paying for services or with their actual work. The OP's interpretation of this contract just needs communicated to them (which apparently has not happened yet), and if necessary notations or alterations can occur. If they are business savvy, they would know that contract language altered by the signee makes a stronger contract anyway.

    Contract language is not creative or handsy, so it is not a strong suit for designers and builders to begin with. I don't think this contract's particular wording or lack of leads to a bigger problem of scamming, copyright, ethics, nor would it reflect their actual work.

  • Helen
    last month
    last modified: last month

    @Jennifer Hogan My condo had a similar experience with a *hidden* gotcha clause in a contract when we hired an engineering firm to do an inspection and report on water intrusion in our building.

    We paid them a significant amount of money (in excess of $25,000) for the initial report which concluded that our current waterproofing needed to be repaired. There were then two final steps - hire them to do an in depth analysis of their recommendation to solve the issues and make recommendations on methods and companies who could do it and the final level would be their acting as the Project Manager when (and if) we decided to implement it.

    It turns out that buried in the contract in somewhat confusing language was that we had to hire them for Levels 2 and Three if we did anything regarding water intrusion and we would owe then 15% of what we spent on any waterproofing projects. We could not hire anyone else to draw up specific recommendations; prepare bids or act as Project Manager.

    I don't think anyone could reasonably assume that hiring an engineering firm to provide an initial report AND paying them for that initial report locked you into a contract with a penalty for not using the.


    @3onthetree On the contrary it appears that the contractual language was very specific in terms of outining the company's business model. As has been posted again and again, a company is free to do business in the manner they want (barring regulations) but a consumer is also free to choose not to do business with a company that doesn't have a business model that the client is comfortable with.


    No one is trying to argue that a designer's services are worthless or defending someone getting a designer to spec work for nothing and then using that free design. People are saying that if one pays for a design then one should be able to use it for the purpose it was created - to remodel one's home using that design.


    The whole issue of retainers is a bit of a red herring. As I posted originally - it seems years ago - my contract with my designer contained two phases. I paid her about $5000 to create a "design" that would be used to obtain permits. Once I had paid that amount I "owned" that design with no further obligations to her unless we mutually agreed to move forward. I also could hire her to create a "design" for a retainer that would be used as an advance against future design fees. This would be equivalent to providing me with a board with finishes, styles, colors etc. If I didn't move forward using her then I had paid her and I guess you her suggestions and board as inspiration. But she had been compensated for the work in presenting me with her ideas and board.

    Alyssa Fernandez thanked Helen
  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month

    @JAN MOYER - you keep skirting my question. Would you ever take money from someone and not provide anything to them in return.


    We have seen a lot of analogies but they are somewhat abstract (shoes/casseroles).


    I think this situation would be more like commissioning an artist to create a painting, but once you paid for the painting the artist kept it on display in their gallery. You only paid them to create the art.

  • Helen
    last month

    @Verbo I am not sure who is "skimming" but back to OP's original question. OP was paying a significant amount of money to receive plans and she was questioning whether it was normal for her not to be able to use those plans unless she hired the husband as the GC.


    I am not sure what would justify that business model especially since there are many talented designers who will provide plans if you pay for them without any further obligation.


    As to free meetings, I think it is standard among designers to have some kind of meeting with a prospective client without a charge. In my experience the designer doesn't provide any plans but takes a look at the space - discusses client's style - what the scope of the project is. The designer is free to not take on the client - the client is free to not utlilize the designer. When I met with my designer nothing of "value" was received except that I got a sense of what it would be like to work with this person and also saw her "book".


    There have been some examples when designers like the landscape designer in one of the posts made actual suggestions. However my experience is that generally in the preliminary discussion no suggestions have been made.


    If I go into a cabinet store (kitchen and bath type store) I am not charged for the "designer's" time. I guess theoretically a designer could not want to take the time to meet at the client's home but - at least in my experience - a designer would probably want to physically see a space to determine whether they actually wanted to take on the project.


    I think there is a line between providing suggestion/design plans and normal business development where you meet with prospective clients but don't provide actual designs.


  • Alyssa Fernandez
    Original Author
    last month

    3onthetree, I did communicate with the original designer about the construction contract clause, and her husband (the designer/contractor) jumped into the email conversation and made assurances that were in direct contradiction to the contract language.


    He began by stating that the clause was only in the contract "to prevent a homeowner or other contractor from using a partial set or non-complete set of plans to do the work. If this was done, even without our knowledge, we could be included in any legal matters as the original designer." I acknowledged this was a legitimate concern but pointed out that the contract didn't say "partial, preliminary or incomplete plans will not be released to the client during the design process," it said "all plans and specifications shall be for the exclusive use of and will remain the property of [company name] until a Construction Contract agreement for the proposed work is reached between both parties." I reiterated that I was only interested in design work and didn't see why a construction agreement needed to enter into that arrangement at all. He then said there was no construction agreement required and I quoted the contract (which had more than one reference to such an agreement) back to him.


    We went back and forth for a total of eight e-mail messages, and he was either completely blind to what his own company's contract said, or he was pretending to be. Either way, I no longer felt confident in dealing with the company. I thanked him and said it wasn't going to work out, and have since very happily arranged to work with another designer.

  • 3onthetree
    last month

    Case closed.

  • WestCoast Hopeful
    last month

    Case was closed quite awhile ago but Houzz didn’t care

  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    last month

    @JAN MOYER - you keep skirting my question. Would you ever take money from someone and not provide anything to them in return.

    I answered your question. You are not reading. I said " never".

    Go back and read.

    "Answer: Never , but only because I work with long trusted peers /associates in every single trade I require. I don't ask them to doodle and do my work, ie DESIGN for me. I don't ask my mechanic to put my car on the lift, and then take the repair to the dealer unless HE tells me I should. I paid 20 to a nice kid who checked my tires when my back was killing me, despite the air machine is free.

    Now.........why don't you ask me why I take a retainer from every client before the process of "design " actually begins................................"


  • Ellen Butler
    last month

    I say no. It sounds like you want a design so that you can procure bids from general contractors. The way this team works, you are committed to them before you see a design? Sounds backwards to me. I hired an independent kitchen designer who provided me with a design, detailed drawings, elevations and enough detail and scope to get bids on the work. She did such a good job that I am going to hire her to project manage the whole thing.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes
    last month

    "It sounds like you want a design so that you can procure bids from general contractors."

    I think that's indeed the case. There's a fundamental mismatch between what the OP wants and what the design/build service offers.

    If you want a design to price around, you simply need to go to an architect or designer who offers design-only services. By definition, a design-build firm is in business to execute projects beginning in the design phase and continuing through construction.

  • Louis
    last month

    I’d use on of the kitchen designers in this thread before I’d give those guys a dime. These guys at least know how to communicate their skills and value. Those ones are clueless at communication and selling their value. You can be the best designer in the world, but if the client isn’t convinced that your time is worth it, you won’t ever get a retainer.