There are so many different places you
can buy your kitchen from. Making the right choice will have a massive impact on the success of your project. Here are a few with the pros and cons for each.
DIY super store
B&Q is the premier player in this sector but there are other smaller regional chains.
We all know who the major player in this sector is. I have to say I love this brand. I think that they have a lot going for them. People slag off their quality and there is some truth in that. But they are innovative and imaginative. They clearly employ very good product designers and developers. They are often accused of copying other brands products and ideas. But that is true of any industry. But they bring good design ideas to the masses. I am not saying it isn't worth paying more and getting better quality but I am saying let’s not be too stuck up about them.
Regrettably many of the smaller regional builder’s merchants have been swallowed up by the national chains. You will find these places a very mixed bag. Some have very good kitchen design departments, with excellent experienced designers and good quality products. Others unfortunately don't take it as seriously and regard kitchens as just another product like sand and cement.
So the pros and cons could fall
under DIY Superstore or it could come under Kitchen Specialist.
This gentleman or Lady (and I am not just saying that to be PC, there are some out there, not enough in our opinion) is one option you should really consider, especially if you have used them before, have been recommended to them or have seen examples of their work.
Kitchen Specialist / Kitchen Showroom
There are a few of these chains. They tend to be franchises and offer kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms.
Specialist Independent Kitchen Designers*
This is a good way to go if you can afford it. Having a design done by a specialist is the way to go. Because they are not selling the kitchen itself then they will be charging you for the design. That’s fine because if they are good enough to make their living doing this, then their expertise is worth paying for.
In theory their advice should also be unbiased. However, it may be the case that if they recommend you to a particular supplier then they will be getting a kick back from them. This fair enough so long as you are free to take their recommendation or not. If they only provide you with the plans if you go to their chosen people, then they are not independent at all.
If you pay for their services and they give you what you have paid for i.e. plans, elevations, perspectives, specifications and a bill of quantity, then all’s good. Use this information to shop around and find your best deal. If they suggest an outlet for you don’t totally disregard this as it may be a good deal for you.
*Not to be confused with Interior designers. These
will generally concern themselves with the overall design concept of the home
and my not have the same specialist knowledge as a Specialist Kitchen Designer
Please forgive the generalizations we make here. Clearly there may be fantastic service to be had from larger outlets and the specialist may not be all that great see our post http://www.fixmykitchendesign.com/choosing-a-professional-to-design-your-kitchen )
For example, I recently had the pleasure of meeting and working with a colleague who had spent 6 years working for a large Swedish furniture company. Let me tell you he is excellent. He has clearly used his time there to learn his trade and has now moved on to bigger and better things. However, I suspect that this says more about the individual that the organization he came from.
Another example is the frankly brilliant policy a certain large DIY chain has of deliberately employing older people (sorry can I say that? Mature people errr Youthfully challenged people). Not only does this mean, that the assistant your trying to get some sense out of, is not more interested in Facebooking their boyfriend. It also means there is a fair chance that they will have good industry experience and will actually know what they are talking about. Then again if they are an experienced gardener then we are back to square one.
Choosing a professional to Design your Kitchen.
Like any other profession there is good and there is bad. The main trouble with the fitted kitchen industry is the lack of importance that is given to the design process. The industry is riddled with pushy sales people, inexperienced and poorly trained designers. Mostly this is not their fault; they are given little or no training and/or pushed too hard to make the sale.
OK, so designing a kitchen is not rocket science; no, rockets have less parts (well the ones you buy for Bonfire night do). But seriously, nobody is trying to say that kitchen designers are up there with Brain surgeons. Designing a good kitchen will not benefit humanity or bring about world peace. However, there are a lot of things to consider. A lot of things that can and do go wrong.
The kitchen is the most important room in your house.
As your home is the biggest single investment you are likely to make in your lifetime, you can see that getting it right is vitally important. Getting it wrong can have a major effect on your home, lifestyle and wallet.
Also choosing a kitchen is the hardest purchases you will make. Let me justify that statement. Most people can tell you what car they would like to buy next, in an instance. Even your house is usually easier to choose. You will know the area you want. How many bedrooms you will need. How much the mortgage company will lend you. You look at properties until one jumps out at you, you fall in love with it, you suffer months of worry hoping you don’t get gazumped.
Kitchens are lots of little decisions. Which oven. Where to put the fridge. What is the best worktop, where to buy it, who will fit it, Which tap etc. etc. etc. Each a seemingly a small issue in its self but each can have a knock on effect to the other. Also each has the potential to ruin the whole thing or at least spoil it a little for you.
Now all of this might mean nothing to you. I can hear you saying that you would rather spend time choosing the colour of your next car. Or getting out of the house and into the hills for a nice walk. But the next purchaser of your house may have a very different attitude. So even if the kitchen is somewhere you store the Pizza delivery menus, you might want to get the kitchen right to protect your investment.
Ok so how do you choose the right person to do the job?
Of course you need to use due diligence. You need to shop around. You need to ask questions. Look at examples of past work. All the usual things that you may or may not feel you have the time for.
Think about the best type of outlet to buy from (see my post ‘Where to buy my kitchen’)
Here are a few insider tips that may guide you towards the right choice of professional.
· Does the person appear to be well organized? Good designers are often borderline OCD. They have to be. They need to look at every detail.
· When they measure the room how do they do it? Are they taking care to look at every detail of the room? When they draw the plan of the room are they using graph paper, pencil, a scale rule and a digital tape measure or is it an old biro and the back of a fag packet? (see my future blog post “How to measure your kitchen”).
· If you are using a trades man to supply, fit and/or design your kitchen, if you can, check out their van. Is it tidy and organized. Are the tools and spare parts stacked neatly? Is the van clean and well cared for or is it a case of a rusty circular saw thrown on top of months’ worth of MacDonald’s cartons.
· If you are buying from a local manufacturer or artisan ask to see their factory/workshop. Same thing again, clean, tidy………
· Do a little bit of research and ask pertinent questions. They should be able to answer to your satisfaction. If they are good, then hopefully they will have a far deeper knowledge than you can ever hope to gain by few hours googling. However, they should be able to demonstrate their knowledge. If they are credible they should be able to explain things to you in layman’s terms.
· Is this person including you in the process? Are they asking you what you want or are they trying to tell you what you should have. A pushy Designer is worse than a pushy salesperson. Remember this is YOUR kitchen not somebody else’s design .
· Ideally they should be showing you various options, explaining to you the pros and cons of each and asking you to choose. By all means listen to their advice but don’t allow yourself to be railroaded into something you don’t want just because the Designer likes it.
be pushed. If they are trying desperately to close the sale at the first
meeting, beware. Now don’t get me wrong we are not anti-salespeople. But is
this person a skillful designer and a salesperson or are they just a skillful salesperson,
with no thought beyond the commission cheque.
Watch out for the following:
NO they don’t want to photograph your kitchen, that’s NOT why they are giving you a massive discount. They are giving you a massive discount because they inflated the first price they gave you.
NO the dishwasher is not free. The cost has been built in to the cabinetry price.
NO they are not giving you the appliances at cost price. They cost is built in to the cabinetry price.
Why do companies do this? Because the appliances are the one thing you can compare the price of. Kitchen cabinets differ markedly in quality and therefore in price. It is difficult for a customer to quantify these differences. So if you see that the Bosch 1234 oven is GBP 300 at Currys, GBP275.00 on the internet and this Designer is offering it to you at GBP250.00 with your kitchen, you think you are getting a great deal. Actually you might be but there is no way of knowing, as you don’t for sure know if they have subsidized the appliances by marking up the cabinets excessively.
NO the price isn’t going up at the end of the month due to the strength of the pound, the weakness of the pound, the cost of materials, the oil crisis, insert here any one of a thousand imaginative reasons……..
NO the Sale does NOT finish on Monday. The Sale goes on forever. The Sale and cockroaches will be the only things left surviving.
There are a number of trade organisations which purport to guarantee the stability and quality of their membership. Certainly membership of such an organisation is a tick box in the PROS column in your considerations. Especially as some (such as the KBSA) have consumer protection schemes, which will protect your deposit. However make sure that this checks out. Just because their is a logo on their door doesn't mean much. Is their membership current? How is your deposit protected; read the small print.
On the subject of deposits; now it is perfectly reasonable for companies to ask you for a deposit. They have to purchase products and services in advance. If you change your mind and they are left high and dry with these goods then that is just not good business for them.
Now what is a reasonable deposit depends upon the circumstances. Companies ordering a bespoke kitchen from abroad or from an boutique artisan manufacturer will probably have to pay up front for the product. They are likely to ask for a bigger deposit to cover this; that's reasonable. Negotiate this point. Ask for the payment schedule to be explained. Be prepared to be flexible and fair; after all this is a business transaction and in business nothing is free.
In the final analysis of you have any doubts about handing over a deposit, then by definition you don't trust that person/organisation. So seek further clarification or seek an alternative supplier. Trust your instincts.
One good source of protection is to pay credit card (not debit card). Now retailers will hate me for saying this as it will cost them a fee from the credit card company; they may even try to pass this on to you (which is not strictly playing the game). However there is an in built protection when you pay by credit card and this could be very worthwhile; check with your credit card people.
In conclusion, sooner or later you will have to trust someone with your project. You need good advice, you need help. So spend time choosing the right person or company to buy from and then trust them (with caution).
For further reading see our blog posts ‘Where to buy my kitchen’ and “How to measure your kitchen”
so what are the options for where I can buy my kitchen?
One of the major decisions you will need to make when selecting the style of your kitchen is the handles you chose. Or indeed not having handles; one of the very popular styles at the moment is to have no handles.
In our post http://www.fixmykitchendesign.com/handles-or-handle-less we touched on using handles to compliment the look of our kitchen. Another aspect of this is using different ways of positioning the handle to affect the style and funcitionality of the kitchen.
Traditionally handles would be positioned in a horizontal and vertical fashion. Like this: