5. Explore All Product Sources Some design firms also sell all the products and materials needed to complete a project. They may even require that you leave the buying to them. In other cases, you can shop on your own for some items, such as appliances.
Whether you work with a designer or not, it pays to shop around for kitchen products. There are more sources than ever and more possible variations in price and quality. Plus, the knowledge you pick up about features and price ranges will make you a more informed consumer if you choose to work with a designer.
You may prefer to shop for your own appliances, coordinating your selections with the designer. For initial research, focus on three sources -- the Internet, national home-center chains, and local appliance dealers.
Manufacturers' Web sites are excellent for researching the various appliance features and comparing models. Online shopping sites allow price comparisons. Home centers are ideal for actually seeing the products you've researched on the Internet, with models from several manufacturers all in proximity.
When it comes time to buy, however, it may pay to deal with a local family-owned retailer with competitive prices, free delivery, special rebates, and a history in the community for good products and service.
Continued on page 4: Substitutions