The Kitchen Design Guide

Designers who can create a beautiful space—plus good stores for appliances, countertops, tile, and more

By: Diana Elbasha

This Chevy Chase kitchen by Aidan Design features a walnut island, marble countertops, and an Eero Saarinen table. Photograph courtesy of Aidan Design

Pick Your Design Needs:

Cabinets and Kitchen Designers

Large Appliances

Counters, Floors, Tile, and Other Features

Test Kitchens

Referral Services

How do you find a good kitchen designer? First, you might look at the kitchens of friends and neighbors. When you see something you like, ask who did the work and how that company or individual was to deal with.

Browsing through a firm's Web site or portfolio will give you a feel for its style. During an initial meeting, a designer will probably draw a rough sketch and give a ballpark estimate of costs. The next step is a home visit for exact measurements.

Before signing on the dotted line, it's a good idea to check references for designers and contractors even if a friend had a good experience with them.

Here is a list of kitchen professionals and resources recommended by interior designers, builders, and architects. These firms specialize in kitchens, and many do bathrooms as well. Most will guide you through an entire renovation, whether a gutting or a minor remodel. The company will draw up a plan and do the construction with either its employees or hired contractors. Often designers will help you choose appliances, sinks, lighting, flooring, and decorative hardware.

Not listed are general architecture firms whose work includes kitchens; also not included are contracting and design/build firms, which often do kitchens as well as whole-house remodels. See our lists of top architects and remodelers here. Many of those larger firms limit jobs to major renovations and additions; if your project is smaller, you may be better off with a company that specializes in kitchens.

Also not listed are superstores such as Home Depot, Lowe's, and the Great Indoors, which can be good sources for ideas, materials, appliances, and design help. Remember that contractors at those chains aren't store employees, so find out how the store would deal with problems.

If a designer or contractor isn't listed here, that doesn't mean the firm doesn't do good work. Firms will often provide referrals, so consider this list a starting point.

Cabinets and Kitchen Designers

Absolute Kitchens
8230 Boone Blvd., Suite 170, Vienna; 703-917-0744
With nearly 30 years of architectural experience, owner Richard Forbes works to improve light and circulation in all styles of kitchens. Offers high-end brands of appliances and cabinetry, such as Miele and Superior Woodcraft. By appointment.

Aidan Design
4701 Sangamore Rd., Suite L3, Bethesda; 301-320-8735
Co-owner Nadia Subaran, who created the kitchen for this year's DC Design House, is admired for her less-is-more approach. She and the two other designers are comfortable working with all styles.

Boffi
3320 M St., NW; 202-337-7700
This Italian firm specializes in modern looks for high-end kitchens. Many of its designs feature appliances hidden in cabinets.

Bradford Design
7817 Oldchester Rd., Bethesda; 301-320-0930
Brad Creer, owner of this six-year-old firm, uses custom-made cabinets to create original designs. Says a peer about his work: "He really helps the client get the most for their dollar."

Bulthaup
3324 Cady's Alley, NW; 202-338-2220
This German firm specializes in simple, functional spaces. The Georgetown showroom features innovative products from Bulthaup's own modern lines, such as cabinets that appear to be floating.

Cameo Kitchens
7297-M Lee Hwy., Falls Church; 703-532-4545
This company specializes in traditional styles and carries only Honey Brook Custom Cabinets, a line made by Amish and Mennonite craftsmen. Cameo does projects only in Northern Virginia.

Dee David & Co.
Falls Church; 703-560-6601
Dee David has been designing kitchens in a wide range of styles for three decades. She works with clients in Virginia only. By appointment.

Design House Kitchens & Appliances
8220 Wellmoor Ct., Savage, 301-498-0001; 14101-H Parke Long Ct., Chantilly, 703-263-2700
This family-owned company has been in business more than 90 years, working with all styles of kitchens and offering an array of cabinet, appliance, and countertop lines. Peers admire designer Gil Krawitz for his attention to detail.

Design Solutions
1598-D Whitehall Rd., Annapolis; 410-757-6100
Owner Joni Zimmerman Manto is recognized for her custom designs in kitchens large and small. Design Solutions does a lot of "green" kitchens using water-saving plumbing fixtures, eco-friendly cabinetry, and countertops made from recycled materials.

Ikea
10100 Baltimore Ave., College Park, 301-345-6552; 2901 Potomac Mills Cir., Woodbridge, 703-494-4532
With a wide array of reasonably priced cabinet lines and kitchen accessories, this Swedish chain is a good choice for homeowners on a budget. Ikea has a relationship with a local company to construct its kitchens; it can also put do-it-yourselfers in touch with professional resources.

Jack Rosen Custom Kitchens
12223 Nebel St., Rockville; 301-363-4071
This family-owned company offers three lines of custom cabinetry, including its own signature brand. It has been designing all styles of high-end kitchens since 1982.

Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath
6935 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-657-2500
In business 13 years, Gilmer's award-winning firm is admired for creative and detailed designs in high-end kitchens. Three designers are on staff.

Kitchen & Bath Factory
4624 Lee Hwy., Arlington; 703-522-7337
Owner and designer Bob Kay has been in business more than 30 years. He's happy to take on smaller kitchens or to work with homeowners on a tight budget.

Kitchen and Bath Studio
7001 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-657-1636
This firm specializes in high-end kitchens; all four designers on staff have more than ten years of experience. Owner Jerry Weed has earned praise for his traditional designs.

The Kitchen Guild
Multiple area locations
This 57-year-old local firm has six designers and four carpenters on staff. A one-stop shop for kitchen projects, it sells tile, lighting, and appliances.

Konst Kitchen Interior Design
7500 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda; 301-657-3800
The only retailer in the area selling SieMatic cabinets, this company is a popular choice for ultramodern designs.

Lobkovich Kitchen Designs
8000 Towers Crescent Dr., Suite 150, Vienna; 703-847-0601
A top vote-getter in our survey, this architect-owned firm is known for high-end custom cabinetry and friendly service. By appointment.

Montgomery Kitchen & Bath
15906 Luanne Dr., Gaithersburg, 301-417-6661; 6194 Old Franconia Rd., Alexandria, 703-971-0322
This wholesaler offers cabinets and countertops in a range of styles and prices and can refer you to contractors for installation. It also offers design services: The Maryland location has ten designers on staff, the Virginia location one.

Pedini
3340 Cady's Alley, NW; 202-640-1976
An Italian firm specializing in sleek, ultramodern design and cabinetry, often using environmentally friendly materials.

Portfolio Kitchens
Vienna; 703-242-0330
Owner Lois Kennedy is known for traditional and contemporary designs that are detailed and creative. By appointment.

Reico Kitchen & Bath
Bethesda 301-654-6000; Falls Church, 703-748-0700; Springfield, 703-914-4900; Annapolis, 410-571-8400
This 50-year-old firm offers a wide selection of cabinets, countertops, and appliances including such brands as Woodharbor, UltraCraft, and Jenn-Air.

Stuart Kitchens
Multiple area locations
In business more than 50 years, this company carries high-end cabinets, including its own brand. Styles range from traditional to contemporary.

Thornett Kitchens
5001 Wilson La., Bethesda; 301-718-0155
This family-owned firm has four staff designers. It's the only area dealer of St. Charles cabinetry, an all-metal line.

Large Appliances

ADU (Appliance Distributors Unlimited)
729 Erie Ave., Takoma Park, 301-608-2600; 14911 Bogle Dr., Chantilly, 703-263-2300; 5192 Raynor Ave., Linthicum, 410-789-8000
Service to builders, designers, and consumers. A large selection of high-end brands such as Viking, Sub-Zero, and Wolf as well as GE, KitchenAid, and Jenn-Air.

Appliance Builders Wholesalers (ABW)
8834 Monard Dr., Silver Spring; 21750 Red Rum Dr., Suite 167, Ashburn; 5214 Nicholson La., Rockville (factory clearance outlet); 888-225-2560
This purveyor of more than 30 high-end manufacturers--such as Bosch, Viking, and Sub-Zero--was described by one designer as having the "best appliance showroom in the area."

Bray & Scarff
Multiple Maryland and Virginia locations
This 80-year-old local chain carries brands such as GE, Sub-Zero, and Bosch at reasonable prices, making it a favorite of designers. Also offers cabinet and kitchen design.

DAD's Appliance (Discount Appliance Distributors)
12200 Distribution Pl., Beltsville; 301-937-0222
In business more than 30 years, DAD's earns raves for its reasonable prices, large selection of brands, and attentive staff.

Ferguson
Multiple area locations
A national chain recommended for both high-end and moderately priced appliances, fittings, fixtures, and sinks.

M&M Appliance
6201 Blair Rd., NW; 202-882-7100
This family-owned company stocks dozens of brands including such popular names as Electrolux and LG.

Counters, Floors, Tile, and Other Features

Ann Sacks
3328 M St., NW; 202-339-0840
A popular choice in our survey, noted for its appealing store displays. This international chain manufactures its own line of unique, textured tile and provides designer lighting and plumbing accessories.

Architectural Ceramics
Bethesda, 301-718-8343; Rockville, 301-762-4140; Alexandria, 703-299-6200; Falls Church, 703-714-0161
Noted for its vast selection of tile including custom and hand-painted pieces, Architectural Ceramics is a favorite among designers and architects.

Best Tile
11601 Boiling Brook Pkwy., Rockville, 301-984-3399; 8196 Terminal Rd., Lorton, 703-550-2352
Experts say this national chain is a good option for budget jobs. It carries ceramic, glass, metal, mosaic, porcelain, and stone tiles.

Carlisle Wide Plank Floors
1666 33rd St., NW; 866-413-9663
The Carlisle family's expertise and passion for wood show in their flooring selection, which includes hardwood, pine, and reclaimed antique materials, such as pieces taken from old barns. Appointments encouraged.

Charles Luck Stone Center
12202 Clarksville Pike, Clarksville, Md., 443-535-0543; 1700 S. Sterling Blvd., Sterling, 703-674-2240; 43060 Jackpit La., Ashburn, 703-723-1050
Designers praise this showroom for its chic space and professional staff. Charles Luck carries natural and manufactured stone for countertops, backsplashes, and flooring as well as stone accessories by Italian designer Enzo Berti. Appointments encouraged.

Classic Floor Designs

2120 L St., NW; 202-872-9860
Highly recommended for hardwood, vinyl, stone, rubber, leather, and other flooring, including eco-friendly options.

Cochran's Lumber & Millwork
523 Jack Enders Blvd., Berryville, Va.; 540-955-4142
Using material from its own mill in the Shenandoah Valley, Cochran's offers custom wood flooring, cabinetry, and molding.

Concrete Jungle
4510-J Metropolitan Ct., Frederick; 301-874-1001
Founder Kelly Carr has 20 years of experience fabricating and installing custom concrete countertops, sinks, benches, and wall and floor tiles. By appointment.

Design Tile
8455-B Tyco Rd., Vienna; 703-734-8211
Certified interior designers help customers choose from this showroom's wide variety of tile, including ceramic, stone, metal, and glass.

Design Within Reach
4828 St. Elmo Ave., Bethesda, 301-215-7200; 3306 M St., NW, 202-339-9480
These showrooms offer contemporary counter and bar stools, stainless-steel tables, and other creative, modern furnishings for the whole house.

Fernando's Marble Shop
15910 Indianola Dr., Rockville; 301-670-2794
Born and trained in Portugal, Fernando Cantarilho fabricates natural stone and restores, repairs, and refinishes other types of flooring. His family-owned company has been in business more than 30 years.

Floor Gallery
12108 Wilkins Ave., Rockville; 301-468-1550
In business since 1919 and in Washington since 1969, this company specializes in custom vinyl tile; you'll also find environmentally friendly linoleum, cork, and hardwood.

Franco's Marble Shop
328 N. Stonestreet Ave., Suite G, Rockville; 301-424-2322
The 30-year-old company fabricates and installs natural-stone countertops, walls, and floor panels; it offers popular brands such as Zodiaq and Silestone.

Marblex
2926 Prosperity Ave., Fairfax; 703-698-5595
A fabricator specializing in custom stonework for countertops, floors, island tops, and backsplashes. The showroom features marble, granite, limestone, and quartz.

Marva Marble & Granite
12225 Distribution Way, Beltsville; 301-595-1882
The largest natural-stone distributor on the East Coast, Marva specializes in exotic stone and has a wide selection of marble, granite, slate, and limestone.

Mosaic Tile Company
Rockville, 301-881-2520; Chantilly, 703-631-4848; Fairfax, 703-280-4300; Lorton, 703-495-8453
Offers tile, stone, metal, and glass products from Europe as well as Central and South America. Many of its grouts and sealants are eco-friendly.

Porcelanosa
725 Rockville Pike, Rockville; 301-294-8193
This international company supplies plumbing fixtures and marble, porcelain, ceramic, and glass tiles. Its specialities include mosaic designs and porcelain hardwood flooring.

R. Bratti Associates
401 E. Glebe Rd., Alexandria; 703-549-1135
A designer favorite, this contractor specializes in granite, marble, limestone, and other materials for countertops. It's the only Washington-area dealer to carry Pyrolave, a line of resilient countertops made from lava rocks.

Renaissance Tile & Bath
816 N. Fairfax St., Alexandria; 703-549-7806
An Atlanta-based chain known for elegant, high-end designs. Staff consultants help clients sort through the large tile and stone collections.

Stone Source
1400 16th St., NW, Suite 330; 202-265-5900
A vast selection of reclaimed wood, natural stone, ceramic, glass, and porcelain tile for floors and walls.
 By appointment.

Thos. Somerville Co.
Multiple area locations
With brands such as Moen, Kohler, and Yorktowne, this local plumbing and HVAC supplier is also a good source for high-quality faucets and cabinetry.

The Tile Shop
Rockville, 301-610-5070; Columbia, 443-319-8000; Sterling, 703-444-3902; Springfield, 703-971-0169; Manassas, 703-334-0260
This national chain's area showrooms, including a 15,000-square-foot location in Sterling, are equipped with large selections of affordable tile and natural stone.

Union Hardware
7800 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; 301-654-7810
This shop carries decorative accessories such as lighting, mirrors, and hardware as well as sinks and faucets.

Universal Floors
4625 41st St., NW; 202-537-8900
In business since the 1950s, this firm is a good source for hardwood flooring, including installation, restoration, and hand-scraping. Architects like Universal's signature deep, rich stains.

Waterworks
3314 M St., NW; 202-333-7180
A top vote-getter in our survey, Waterworks carries high-end fixtures, sinks, stone, and tile. Designers love its subtle, luxurious aesthetic.

W.T. Weaver & Sons
1208 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-4200
The Weavers have run this Georgetown shop for more than 120 years. It gets high marks for decorative hardware, high-end fixtures, and accessories.

Test Kitchens

At test kitchens, you can try out stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, and other appliances. There's no pressure to buy; because the kitchens are wholesalers, no products are for individual sale. Frequently a dealer or designer refers clients to a showroom, but you can also set up an appointment directly.

Fretz
9204-H Berger Rd., Columbia; 866-987-2123
Open by appointment, Fretz has high-end lines such as Sub-Zero, Asko, Franke, and Wolf.

Hadco
45150 Business Ct., Suite 420, Sterling; 703-478-9301
Hadco carries appliances and range hoods by such brands as Viking, Zephyr, and U-Line. Offers demonstrations as well as after-purchase care-and-use classes. Call for reservations.

Referral Services

These services offer free referrals to remodelers and other home-improvement businesses they have screened.

Urban Referrals, ServiceMagic, and Home Connections serve the Washington area. HomeWise Referrals focuses on DC, Northern Virginia, and Montgomery County.

Each Delbe Home Services customer is assigned a representative, who provides referrals to contractors, manages projects, and can let the contractor in if you're not home. The 24-hour service ensures that a contractor can be sent to your home at any time--even for a flood at 2 in the morning. Membership is $175 a year ($125 for Washingtonian readers).

This article appears in the October 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.