So the time has come to renovate that old kitchen at last and you’re searching for a kitchen designer to help you make your dream kitchen a reality. Nice! Unless you haven’t worked with a designer before, in which case you might be nervous about the process and how it works. If that’s the case, read on…

Why use a kitchen designer?
Maybe you’re on the fence about using a kitchen designer. If so, here’s one really good reason to do so: Simply put, they know more than you do. They’ve done kitchen design and know when it’s too much stainless steel, how big to make the kitchen island, and why your wall oven shouldn’t be off on its own. They know quality materials and the costs. They’ve learned by trial and error over the years, and their trials can reduce your errors. Finally, an experienced kitchen designer will help you create a new kitchen that looks the way you want, but also functions the way you need.

6 ways to maximize the benefit of a kitchen designer
Once you decide to hire a kitchen designer, know that your time with him or her will be more productive if you do your homework before you start. How? Go through these six steps to make sure your first meeting with that designer gets you both on the same page from the very beginning:

  1. Think about your current kitchen. What works? What doesn’t? What kind of cooking do you do? How would that change in your new kitchen? What do you love about your kitchen, and what do you really want to change?
  2. Look at a lot of pictures of kitchens (and we mean a lot) to get a sense of the styles you like or don’t like. See our advice on using Pinterest for kitchen planningfor tips on doing this kind of research.
  3. Since kitchen cabinets play such a large role in a kitchen’s design, spend time looking at your kitchen cabinet options, in particular semi-custom cabinets that can be very high qualitywithout busting your kitchen budget.
  4. Speaking of budget, know your budget ahead of time, at least a rough approximation of it. You don’t want to waste a designer’s time (or yours) only to find out that your dream kitchen can only be paid for by an in-your-dreams budget.
  5. Know your timeline ahead of time. The last time we bought kitchen cabinets, the salesperson commented on how quickly we decided, and told us about another customer who had spent two years trying to decide on kitchen cabinets and still hadn’t. Don’t be that person. Have a timeline for you and for your designer.
  6. Finally, be honest with yourself and your kitchen designer about how you and your family use your kitchen. You might have visions of an elegant, elaborately decorated kitchen that will wow your grownup guests, but the reality is you have a brood of young children and toddlers at home and won’t be entertaining sophisticated dinner guests any time soon—but you do need kitchen cabinets that are easy to wipe down after getting smeared with jelly!

Working with a kitchen designer to plan your new kitchen can help you make the most of your budget, stay on task, and get a kitchen that only looks the way you want but functions the way y