Where to Start When Planning a Kitchen and How to Avoid Getting it Wrong

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Published: 02nd November 2012
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Whenever I meet someone for the first time and engage in the typical ‘just met small-talk,’ one of the guaranteed questions always asked is ‘so what is it that you do then?’ and the responses I get when people find I work within the kitchen industry never fail to be of interest, and more often than not incite truly enlightening and thought-provoking conversations.
I can only assume that the reason for this is that kitchens are something everyone has experience of and that everyone can relate to in some way, but no matter the individual circumstance everyone seems passionate or at least has an opinion on the subject of kitchens (though hopefully not just politely pretending for my benefit!)
I am frequently asked what type of kitchens we sell, how competitive the industry is, or people will openly admit that they, ‘…would love to get a new kitchen but just can’t afford it right now.’ Alternatively people are keen to hear of the new advances in technical design or of the ‘glamour’ of contemporary kitchens.
Most of all it would seem that everyone has either a friend, neighbour or colleague who has just had a kitchen installed, and sadly more often than I hear singing praises, it is tales of woe that are relayed, including the gory details of all that went wrong throughout an installation process. As someone working within the industry it quickly hits home that people are much more likely to remember the name of company who have done a bad job than good, a disastrous outcome for any company to whom referrals are a large part of their new business generation. How true it is that ‘bad news travel fast’ and it would seem a poor reputation is incredibly hard to lose, something any business would be keen to avoid!
But what makes this situation worse is that such errors can, and should, be avoided! The main cause of mistakes during a kitchen installation is poor planning. This brings me to my next point based on a further revelation from people speaking of either themselves or family members thinking of a new kitchen, and this is that people simply do not know how or where to first go about doing this!
It is useful to hear how people begin choosing a kitchen because it sheds light on their thought processes and concerns- we get to see how we (as a retailer) appear from the outside in! Feedback would suggest that the most common obstacles faced when initially considering a kitchen can be summarised as follows:
• People are overwhelmed by the wealth of available options to them
• People are often mistrusting of ‘sale’ offers and salespeople themselves, believing their lack of knowledge can leave them vulnerable as a prime candidate to be ripped off!
• People just don’t know what is or is not possible to achieve within the available space of their homes
So whilst I cannot offer advice to anyone who has already had a kitchen installed, my advice to anyone starting out on this process, or knows anyone who is, would be as follows:

1) Confirm a realistic budget for your kitchen – and if you cannot afford to go over this then stick to it! Simple!
2) Talk to people about their experiences. A lot of our business comes through word of mouth referrals as people always feel more secure in buying through a company that has been used and recommended by someone they know. Similarly check online and read the available reviews/feedback and do not dismiss your instincts; if you like the sound of a company but cannot find any reviews relating to work they have carried out for former clients then there is most likely a reason for this and you may well be right to be suspicious!
3) When you first meet with a kitchen designer be honest and firm about your ideas and expectations. The more information you are able to give them then the closer the plans and images produced will be to what you visualised in your mind (no matter how out of the ordinary this may seem do not be frightened to share!) Similarly do not let a designer push you into designs that you are unsure of or not keen on – this is your kitchen and you are the one who not only has to pay for it but who also has to live with it!
4) Do not become so wrapped up in the price that you ignore the service offered by a company. If you have a price that appears too good to be true but this company are also fitting your kitchen then beware of any possible cutting corners or inadequate service. It is important to ensure all details- such as responsibility of a design error that has led to an installation problem- are covered within the service offered or you may find any errors not picked up in the early stages are costly – for you! Remember that the cost is what you pay, but value is what you get.
I mentioned previously that it was important to stick to your budget but if you find you have a price that exceeds this then do not despair and immediately give up thinking that you cannot afford it! Do not be afraid to ask for different options as there may be others available based on where you personally place value within your kitchen, i.e. are you passionate about cooking and so feel you really need a top of the range oven? Alternatively whilst you appreciate the quality of this and want your kitchen to look amazing, is the reality actually that you only cook twice a week and so a lesser model would still look attractive but suffice and save you money that you can spend elsewhere?
Another example of this is that many kitchen companies have large ranges of doors which each fall into different pricing categories and in some cases you can dramatically reduce the price of a kitchen by opting for a different door finish, but keep the same colour that was originally chosen. Varying internal components can also add cost but not necessarily value; it is with dilemmas such as this that your best option is to draw on and use the experience of your designer to help you to make the best decision.
To conclude, my experience of the kitchen industry combined with feedback from non-professionals has truly emphasised the importance of properly planning a kitchen and that this must never be underestimated or sacrificed for the sake of cost. In this way as a potential buyer you can ensure you achieve not just the kitchen you really want but also avoid potential pitfalls further down the line. Take advantage of the available reviews online and speak to other people about their experiences to ensure you find a reputable and successful kitchen retailer/designer. Once chosen use your designer to help you and draw on their skillset as much as possible; remember that this is your kitchen so ultimately it is you that needs to be happy with the finished result.

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