Ask Russ Scheider about kitchen remodels and he will tell you that he has a process honed from years of experience. “I tell clients, ‘My job is to help you get from where you are to where you want to be, even if you don’t know where that is.’”
And Russ does get his clients there. In the kitchen and bath design field for over 20 years, Russ learned the business from the ground up, beginning in high school and college working as an apprentice cabinet maker and production manager before moving into sales and design.
He worked for the prominent kitchen design firms Callier & Thompson Kitchens and Baths in St. Louis, MO and Sea Island Kitchens in Hilton Head. His work has been seen in several publications including Coastal Living, Better Homes & Gardens, Southern Accents and Cooking with Paula Deen. He has also had the pleasure of working with notable clients such as Gregg Allman, Paula Deen and Richard L. Armitage.
One thing that really impressed me about Russ when we first met was his dedication to his clients. You can hear his passion when he talks about how he helps clients bring their dream kitchens to life.
Getting a great result hinges on asking all the right questions. Most clients come to me without a clear picture of what they want from their kitchen, so by sitting down and talking with them I can form a mental image of what they are after.
I begin by asking them how long they have been in the house and who will be using the room. It’s very important to get a feel for their lifestyle and design sense before narrowing the conversation down to colors and finishes – that’s part of the process.
Russ also helps clients focus on and stay within their budgets. Here is how he helps navigate the budgeting process.
We also talk about budget during our initial meeting. Nobody really likes talking about the budget, but I make it a comfortable conversation. A budget is simply a number, and it is our challenge as designers to achieve the best possible outcome for what the client is prepared to spend.
Some clients have an established budget, but more often than not the client is looking to me to give them a feel for what a remodel might cost. I always share as much information with clients as possible to help them arrive at a budget. One helpful tool is the latest Cost vs. Value Report prepared by Remodeling Magazine which shows the average price of various remodels and the value that remodel adds to a home on resale.
When discussing the budget we also talk about some initial selections. Maybe a client has to have granite or they are dreaming of a Viking range – by knowing this upfront I can design the rest of the kitchen to accommodate the costs of any “must-haves.”
Once Russ has the budget nailed down, he gets to concentrate on the creative aspect of the process.
With a budget established, the client and I go through all the design scenarios (usually standing in the space, with me walking things out and waving my arms!), for example, “We could place an island in this space…we could knock out this wall…the double ovens would fit nicely here.” We discuss the myriad options for how the space could function and how it will look.
Armed with all of this input I begin the design process. I give my clients two designs with three-dimensional renderings of each. I prefer giving them thoughtfully edited choices to telling them what they should do. Usually they take pieces from both plans and with a few tweaks we arrive at the final plan.
To deliver a project on time and on budget is no easy feat, and Russ understands that diligence and planning on the front end means happy clients at the end of the project.
Estimation and Timeline
Now it’s time to do the in-depth estimate which includes pricing for all fixtures and finishes. I make selections based on function, style and budget, and I like to present my clients with alternatives for each selection. For example, a client may think they have to have the marble counter tops – and maybe they do – but it’s my job to know about all the latest materials and present any alternatives that fit the client’s style and budget.
At this point I also set the timeline for the project, and the question I always hear is, “When can you start?” What I ask my clients in response is, “When do you want the job to finish?” That’s really the better question because it allows me to work backwards from the completion date, knowing from experience how long each phase of the project will take and how the project should flow. Anyone can come in and tear up your kitchen right away, but that doesn’t make much sense if you’re going to have to live with that mess while we wait on the cabinets.
Then the physical work begins. To his credit, Russ goes above and beyond what is “typical” – he stays in close contact with his clients throughout the construction process.
With all selections decided, I’m ready to share the project with our Project Manager who will take charge of the site through the construction phase. But while most designers would bow out of the process at this point, I like to stay involved. For one thing, I measure and order all the cabinetry myself. Growing up around cabinetry, I know how important this part of the process is. If the cabinets come in and are off, you’re looking at extensive costs and delays, so I like to have control over that process.
Throughout the project I call the client and visit the site at least once a week. I want to make sure that everything I have promised is happening, and that my client is satisfied. At the end of the project, there’s nothing better than seeing a client in their new space, thrilled with the result.
And his clients have been thrilled – here’s what several had to say about working with Russ:
“From the beginning of the process, Russ was very kind and patient with us. We loved the enhancements he brought to the design. From beginning to end, he was eager to help us and his laidback nature blended well with ours. He respected our budget concerns and worked with us to get us where we were comfortable. The best accolade is that our job came in exactly on budget and one week ahead of schedule.” – Dana and Brett Muhlke
“Russ was very helpful in making recommendations and asking the right questions to be sure we got what we wanted.” – Kelly and David Winking
“Russell is very professional and creative. He offered great suggestions, and guided us when we couldn’t make up our minds.” – Sharon and Phil King
We are thrilled to have Russ on our Classic team. His experience and ability to deliver not only a beautifully designed space, but also an extremely accurate timeline and budget brings enormous value to Classic and our clients.