All major retailers offer standard sized kitchen units not custom kitchen designs, these are usually in increments of 100mm with the exception of 450mm and 150mm, some other firms can change the depth of the units during manufacture both these are dictated to by the standard kitchen door sizes that are available on the market that trade can buy in these firm usually refer to kitchen as bespoke along with the major retailers. Let me dispel a myth right now, There is not one major retailer who can make custom kitchen cabinets, these are all mass produced way before you order your kitchen, so the idea that it is made to measure is somewhat misleading. They achieve changing custom kitchen cabinets by instructing the ‘fitter’ to cut the unit up on site which is never as good as a finish as having a custom kitchen cabinet fabricated in a factory or by hand before, this means that the units you receive are delivered the correct size and therefore it is not necessary to have a ‘fitter’ cut the unit to a different size.
Custom made kitchens should begin with appreciating the space in the room. The design should evolve from a shape that would work within the space as a pose to beginning with standard unit sizes. Below are some examples of this in progress and how a shape turns in to custom kitchen cabinets and eventually grows in to a custom made kitchen.
Here you can see how a custom kitchen is formed and all the finer detail is worked out. This then evolves in to finer detail and materials . So if you are first shown a brochure or are choosing from this seasons range then it is likely you are either getting a standard kitchen or one that is bespoke. Because a custom kitchen design must begin with YOUR tastes and be formed out of the shape that best suits your room, it cannot be selected from a brochure, finding a good designer is key to being able to make this a reality, preferably one who has had experience of actually fitting or making a kitchen, otherwise how can they be sure it will work in the ‘real’ world?
I cannot be clear enough do not be fooled in to thinking that custom kitchen cabinets are made by most retailers as they are not and I will say in 100% of case with regard to major retailers they never make custom kitchen cabinets. Getting things custom made may not be as prohibitive as you think but may require you to think differently and not necessary expect a brochure. However most units are made out of the same material, which is fit for purpose but there are different grades of MFC board, so again get more informed.Read More
Continuing the article Have I Seen You Before? This is the battle between retailers and who the best retailer is when it comes to kitchens. Let me first begin by saying having been in this industry for some time and the fitted kitchen industry having been around for a few decades I am surprised by how little information there is on how they serve people?
I have searched and searched for research on consumer feedback documenting their experience of the industry is it a great experience that they would do more often? Or was it one that is so stressful that they never want to go there again?
Some people when looking for a kitchen, just think who springs to mind first! Then off they go to see them, with the logic that if they have heard of them through media they must be ok? In fact our research shows 60% of people do this and only 20% ask other people.
I have met very few that have done their homework before making this decision. However the research I have found through Mintel September 2011 suggests that 56% of people find real people’s opinions far more valuable than marketing copy, which over 70% distrust. Yet it is marketing copy and good PR which drives them to decide who they will see in the first place.
So is it because people do not know where to go to find what others have said? So if this is the case I have spent some time finding relevant websites that allow real people to leave their comments about their own experience.
Below are some websites that might be worth visiting:
So what has one of the leading consumer research agency found from it’s own readers who have had a kitchen installed in the past 5 years?
The sample size is as follows:
Results based on a survey of 2,198 which? connect members carried out in December 2010
Sample sizes: John Lewis (64), IKEA (160), Wickes (122), Independent kitchen company (711), Independent DIY company (68), Howden Joinery (247), Homebase (55), Magnet (142), B&Q (156), Moben (30)
This means that 32% of people are opting for an independent kitchen retailer which is great news and we also have to be aware of customer expectation as it does not measure this as I doubt that a customer who shops at IKEA has the same expectations as one who shops at Magnet perhaps? But nonetheless it is an interesting study in to the UK kitchen market and a bit of a one off. This does tally with many other people experiences and this combined with the review sites might give you a little more insight in to what some companies might well be like. However what this cannot prevent is “It won’t happen to me!”
So what about installation how does this compare? After all it is the installation in your home that is the major factor here as to whether you have a good experience or a poor one?
Over 62% of people spend above £10,000.00 on a kitchen and 62.5% would NEVER HIGHLY RECOMMEND the firm they used to carry out the work. This has come from our own research carried out using social media.
What is interesting is that there is information out there on companies, yet people do not dig around enough. To make that easier we have compiled the information in one easy to refer to post and will add to it as we become aware of new information and reviews.Tweet Read More
With so much choice seemingly available within the kitchen market, for those who are looking for a handmade kitchen company where do you start? More importantly if you do find them where do they start if they are going to create a unique kitchen design?
We often meet people and work with people who have looked around and have not seen something that really delivers exactly what they are looking for. We also know that many people spend many hours trying to find what they are looking for. This is perhaps where the problem in finding an handmade kitchen company begins.
Most people’s first thought is “who have we heard of?” or “who have our friends used?” and “let’s go and take a look around”. Usually most people have quite a strong idea of what they don’t want and usually a fair idea of their personal tastes, so why does the journey begin with endless showroom visits. When finding an handmade kitchen company should begin with your personal tastes, after all if it is being truly handmade then surely a showroom is slightly irrelevant? Does this not limit the ideas and give an impression of this is our range? Is it not more important to ask “Is the person I am talking to able to demonstrate designing for individuals or from a range?” and be sure to make sure their attention is on the quality of the work in the workshop, maybe ask to see some examples of work?
There are many kitchen companies who ‘hand make’ kitchens that also have a catalogue for you to look through which is perhaps going back to “here some to choose from which we will hand make yours for your house”, which is fine but if some has strong design ideas and a real desire for something unique then YOU the client needs to scrap the idea of collecting catalogues and approach this differently by literally going back to the drawing board and start from scratch?
There are a few that can truly do that. Sure there are exceptionally good cabinet makers out there but do they have the design experience to create something stunningly beautiful? Or do they copy and existing design for less money than you might pay the original. Do they understand the fundamentals of design and aesthetics? Then there are great designers, but do they have the expertise to be able to understand how to make it? These are the two questions you must have in the forefront of your mind
It’s a time consuming process originating a kitchen for a client down to every last detail, but is this more like the behaviour of a handmade kitchen company? I might be wrong but I believe firmly that great design is more than just about a kitchen, a good designer has an eye for what is right and wrong and understand aesthetics in a broader sense. A good designer should be able to help with lighting, colour and able to turn their hand to most things design led.
A handmade kitchen company to my mind is more than just about kitchens it is about understanding people, being able to translate a client’s personal tastes in to something unique, not necessarily following the latest fashion. Great design is timeless it does not age; it’s pure and focussed entirely on the client. If someone is looking for a handmade kitchen company why is it necessary to have endless amounts catalogues?Tweet Read More
Unique Hand Made Designer New Kitchen
We were asked to create a Art Deco influenced kitchen in a barn conversion. The first thought is that this is a definite ‘clash of personalities’ as Art Deco is a very decorative genre relying greatly on symmetry and geometric lines, whilst a barn is the opposite of this. To say this is a challenge is an understatement but not impossible, it just required some different thinking. Below is the process we went through with the client to design their hand made new designer kitchen and to create an kitchen island with seating. All designs begin with understanding your personal taste and we do this through a collecting samples of things you like from furniture, architecture right through to fashion and art.
A truly new kitchen design should not begin with a brochure but begin wth you and your perosnal tastes, otherwise you are just getting one from a range made to suit you room there is a distict difference do you want something someone else has got or do you want something as individual as you?Read More
I became aware of this through my dealings with Part M when it was first released by the government. It was some years later I was asked to design a kitchen for a friend of my wife who had an unfortunate accident that left him paralysed from the neck down. As we create unique one off truly bespoke kitchens this is no different to what we would do anyhow. However I needed to research this area to understand the intricacies. I was alarmed to see kitchen companies claiming Part M compliant kitchens. Which clearly shows they have not read the document. Because at no point does the document cover kitchens in domestic properties. in fact the word kitchen is only mentioned twice.
What I found disturbing was the cost that some companies charge for adapted kitchens or ‘Part M compliant kitchens’. As there is no such thing as a Part M compliant kitchen, it comes down to common sense and taking on-board and understanding how to make it easier to use.
There is no reason why a kitchen of this sort should compromise on design. The elements that need consideration in a disabled compliant kitchen can be beautifully integrated in to the design. This article highlights other areas to consider. As in the case of our friends the kitchen had to suit both able bodied and disabled.
The main document is the Building Regulation Part M, this document was released in 2004 and as part of my job at the time I had to become very familiar with the document. It applies to new build homes and as long as work done on an existing building does not make it worse, it is satisfactory (Section 0.2). So when dealing with an existing home and considering a kitchen for people with limiting conditions it is more the other aspects of the document which would be good practice.
This document deals with many issues around public access to public building including ramps, sanitary, doors, handles, etc. but in the main only really covers dwelling i.e. the homes we live in when it comes to access, corridoors and WC’s. There are some key principles that would make good practice when designing a kitchen that would suit either able bodied or limited mobility. For example the cooking facility close to the sink. Being able to get a wheel chair under the sink and shield the bottom of the sink to avoid the hot surface. Perhaps a lower area in the kitchen for preperation. A drawer line kitchen would be more suitable to avoid routing through the back of units, these drawers could then be fitted out to help organise the space and make the use easier. There is an argument for the height of the worktop being lifted as a rule it is a little low for most people
It seems that many are claiming Part M compliant kitchens when Part M does not really highlight any specific considerations regarding kitchens. Instead it discusses access and it is more the points it highlights and the consideration for wheelchairs as well as the visually impaired that can be adopted in to the design of the kitchen.
I see some kitchen designs that make me cringe, typically I see an apparent disabled kitchen designed so that a wheel chair could go under the hob, which is fine, however the hob installed is a standard 4 or 5 burner hob. Why not try sitting down and cooking on a hob at the usual height and see why this makes little sense. When perhaps a better solution would be a hob that has the rings all in a row? unless space does not permit.
Cold to touch which gets highlighted in Part M but does not apply to kitchens, is another example of where it can be considered as there is no reference to it in a domestic kitchen. This can be considered with work-surfaces and handles, as well as the opposite hot to touch.
The main considerations are that the cooking and sink/washing are in close proximity and could be accessible from one position so typically best places near the corner perhaps? Yes the access under the worktop makes sense with a wheel chair. So then why have they not thought through having to reach over a HOT ring to get to one at the back!! This just common sense and I suppose good practice and not yet defined by a building regulation.
Lower work-surfaces are useful but consider the able bodied person for the average height person the typical worktop height (910mm) is too low anyhow, this has been governed by appliances that are usually made around 840mm high.
There are some great devices that are available to make using a kitchen easier for someone with limited mobility and it is really more a case of understanding your customers and designing around them, not just the standard products that may be on offer.
OK this article is all about who is who and what it all means. Kitchen companies can be a little like car firms, Everybody knows that VW Group own Audi, Skoda, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Seat, Bentley, Scania. Ford have Lincoln brand, small stake in Mazda and Aston Martin. Tata own Jaguar and Landrover etc etc…kitchen nightmares begin because people do not understand who is who so this article covers this in detail so you can avoid kitchen nightmares
So what about kitchen firms from Smallbone to MFI as they were and many other retaillers, who owns who and who is really independent?? Well before many larger names started shutting and disappearing there were and still are a number of interesting facts. For example Howdens used to own MFI before it sold the fledgling company for a pound, Howdens were the manufacturer and effectively the two companies were the same. So what was the difference? NONE really apart from the name? although howdens have now begun to improve there specification of kitchen, this is a common haunt of trades and builders.
Either that or the alternative option is Magnet which is owned by Nobia. Interestingly enough Nobia is a little like VW in this sense as you may be surprised to learn what they do own, for example Poggenpohl a perceived luxury brand. However the difference with VW stops here, as the foundations which are critically important to a good kitchen as discussed in Are You Getting Solid Foundations? are the same across ALL the brands. Nobia is the central manufacturer which means irrelevant of what you think you are getting, it is the same, the only difference is the price and perhaps if you are lucky a couple of the doors. there are many kitchen nightmare stories about these if you just do some basic homework on the internet.
Here is something interesting, DID YOU KNOW that Sainsburys Homebase used Magnet or should I say Nobia carcasses and the same system to price the kitchen. If in doubt ask for copies of the contracts to be printed and compare them next to each other, they are the same. The two directors of the two companies got together and decided it would be a good idea. So what is the difference? Is that a choice?
The news of the collapse of Moben in 2011 was caused by the parent company Homeform going in to administration. They also owned Dolphin Bathrooms, Sharps Bedrooms and Kitchens Direct. Here is another example of a parent company disappearing and taking many out with it, although I notice there are a number of Sharps showrooms open now. Recently Hygena kitchens are back or at least the founder Malcolm Healey is, under the banner of Wren. Hygena is now sold as a brand through Argos and Homebase and no suprise there is the Nobia link…
Then there is B&Q owned by Kingfisher which own Screwfix, both these suppliers offer budget ranges less expensive than each other. Often in B&Q much of the hardware you buy is available at half the price at screwfix. I even recently bought some black silicone for a kitchen worktop in B&Q costing £6. At Screwfix I can get it for £2.20.. What is going on there?? The extra over cost issue that regualr occurs is down to the fact that fitting is not usually included which excludes electrics and plaster this is where many of the kitchen nightmares begin. I speak from personal experience as a property investr I thought I would explore how B&Q performed and it was not a pleasant experience.
Recently I was surprised by the news of the closure of Yorkshire based Norwood Interiors another kitchen retailer that closed its doors however all was not lost it was bought by The My House Group a couple of days later. But who is The My House Group? is this a case that the idea of buying a kitchen from a showroom has had its day? are the overheads just too high to make it work? Perhaps you are sick of the risk and want to find a new way of getting a GREAT kitchen.
The feeling of Deja Vu does not stop at kitchens, it also appears in some of the things that go in to kitchens for example did you know that Bosch, Siemens, Neff and Gaggeneau are all owned by the BSH group I suppose that is why many of the internal fittings in a Bosch, Siemens, Neff or Gaggeneau are the same if not very similar, and if the internals that are visible are similar perhaps there are other components that are the same. What of course will differ are the prices. On this occasion please do not mis-interpret the BSH Group make very reputable appliances which is why we use them in our kitchens. What is interesting is the perceived difference between Gaggeneau and Neff.
So who is left that is truly independent and can deliver better results than those popping up on TV as opposed to those that are mind washing thousands of people into parting with thousands of pounds? Do you really know who you are buying from?? Probably not, as no-one I have spoken to seems to be aware of this.
The illusion of choice is a misguided one and many people have fallen for it. People think they are shopping around and ultimately the only person to gain is the large parent company who owns the companies you are visiting. Is there an alternative solution?? there is but you have to do your research, ask the right questions and wake up to the fact that there are a few companies that are pretending there is choice.
What are the other options? smaller firms, well ask if they make the doors or not, can they make a carcasss in any shape or finish? There are a limited number of door suppliers PWS, Browns (A Favorite of the Vinyl Club), Multiwood and a few others. It is enough to make you dizzy and it is rife with people who have worked for each other no wonder it is so incestuous.
I have to stop for now as I am feeling dizzy… I will add more when my head stops spinning and I was aware of this already so how were you supposed to know???.Tweet Read More