A skilled kitchen designer will bring your dream scheme into reality, and make it look better and work harder than you could have ever imagined. You can walk into any kitchen outlet and find someone willing to sell you a kitchen, but are you looking formore than that? Even if you think you’ve got the design of the kitchen locked down, there’s so muchmore a designer can bring to the table, such as guiding you through the minefield of choosing appliances. ‘This is one of themost difficult aspects of planning a new scheme,’ says designers.
Kitchen designers specify products on a daily basis and will be up to date with the latest models and technologies.’ And as they don’t have to be loyal to any one brand, they can recommend which product is best for each function – the best dishwasher manufacturer may not make the best ovens.
They can also advise on the right match for your budget and the level of function you actually want/need, because over-specified can be just as bad as under-specified.’ Most designers use CAD software to provide realistic drawings of what you will be getting and what is physically possible in the space. ‘You can ask to see lots of options for layout, colours and materials, and request photo-realistic plans as printouts to share and discuss with your family before committing to a final design,’ adds, managing.
Don’t feel pressurised into accepting anything you don’t like – a good designer will keep going until you’re happy. They can also help you keep control of the budget, coming up with alternative products and plans if things are spiralling out of control, and outlining – in writing – how much needs to be paid and when.
How to find ‘the one’
Personal recommendation remains the best way to source a reputable designer, particularly if you hear of someone who has gone above and beyond, or has solved tricky spatial issues.
Ask friends and family or any trades people and professionals whose opinion you trust, and post on social networks. Try to get a brutally honest report on what they did and didn’t like, if the project ranon schedule and how much of the process was managed by the designer.
Don’t be afraid to delve into the financial aspect to establish what their kitchens cost, and whether the designer works within your budget. Also do contact the suppliers of kitchens you’ve seen in magazines and online to find out if their designers cover your area.
What to expect
Most mainstream kitchen suppliers offer a planning service and the level of skill, expertise and ‘hand-holding’ available is generally reflected in the cost of the kitchen. However, there is a significant distinction between having a kitchen planned and having one designed. ‘Planning a kitchen is a space planning exercise and differs from designing a kitchen, where a whole host of other factors such as functionality, colour, texture and lighting come into play,’ explains Keith Atkins, director of design at Design Space London.
Independent companies operating in the mid-market, which are usually privately owned and affiliated to a particular furniture brand, offer a more personal service and generally hire designers with recognised qualifications – so expect decent advice and an eye for detail. The designers are usually showroom-based, and besides an initial visit, you and your builder will have to take charge of site management.
The bespoke kitchen sector attracts top notch design talent. At this end of the market you can expect a sound understanding of the latest materials and innovations, and a more holistic approach that includes plenty of on-site visits to ensure smooth progress and excellent workmanship. ‘If your scheme involves more than just a replacement kitchen, it’s advisable to look for someone who can oversee the whole design process, including new building work or reorganization of the space,’ adds Keith. ‘The out come will be a more coordinated appearance that blends seamlessly with your home.’
Translate your ideas
The more information and detail you can provide during the initial meetings, the better the results. Go prepared. Collate images of design styles you like – using an ‘old school’ scrapbook or Pinterest-style pin board on your iPad. Think about how you cook, how much fresh/dried food you need to store and which appliances you can and can’t live without. Also consider what else you want from your kitchen, such as a dining zone, a soft-seating area, desk space and somewhere to dock phones etc.
‘Be open to new ideas and suggestions, and don’t disregard a concept because it doesn’t go with what you had in mind,’ adds Graeme Smith.
‘By approaching a designer, you’re asking an expert to create the kitchen that marries the best of your ideas with the best of his or her solutions. It’s very much a partnership, and the success of the project is only as good as the relationship between you and your designer.’
If you trust your instincts, it should take just one meeting to establish whether you actually like your designer. You should leave the meeting feeling reassured that he or she is on your wavelength and understands your priorities and style. Don’t expect a complete solution and every issue to be ironed out at this early stage. If you’re clashing on the important points, or you feel that he or she is being too pushy or profit-led, cut your losses and move on.
Do your research
Each company has its own way of doing things so it’s wise to create a checklist of questions to ensure you understand exactly what you will be getting from your designer and avoid any little surprises. Be frank about your budget and ask for a written breakdown of what is and isn’t included before any money is exchanged.
Often design fees are waived if a kitchen is commissioned, but your designer should be up front about the cost of the designs and how it will be incorporated in the final bill. Ask when a deposit is required and agree a further payment schedule. Most companies let you hold a small amount back until after the kitchen is installed and snagging completed. ‘When we present our initial designs to the client, we also provide a precise description of everything included and a cost break down to make it very clear what they are potentially buying,’ explains, managing director.
Other important questions you should ask include who is organising and paying for any plumbing, electrical work, tiling and decorating. Many designers not offering a management service will provide plumbing and electrical drawings for your builders. Also find out who is fitting the kitchen – if it’s not an in-house team, you may like to see references, and determine who’s responsible for the quality of their work. Finally, check what guarantees are offered, for both the furniture and any fittings, and get the terms and conditions in writing. Find out who is responsible for filing the guarantee paper work in order to validate appliance warranties – this is often the home owner.
Kitchen companies that rely heavily on their reputation for repeat business tend to go above and beyond when it comes to aftercare. ‘We received a call from an ex-client who was rather upset that a screw securing a hinge had sheared,’ says Andrew. ‘We were only too happy to revisit and fit a new one, even though we installed the kitchen 25 years previously.’
UNDERSTANDING THE DESIGN PROCESS
1) KITCHEN DESIGNER SHOWS CLIENT AROUND
Designer shows the client the showroom and goes through services on offer. Designer takes a brief from client and discusses style and layout options, and recommends appliances.
2) DESIGNER VISITS SITE
measures and has a further conversation with client on points relating to the architecture and any building work. Designer prepares drawings and a quotation, and presents to client, who pays a deposit. Any outstanding points are reviewed.
3) TIME FOR ANOTHER MEETING
At a further meeting, All decisions are made and agreed. The installation manager visits the site to establish that the room will be ready for the agreed date, and final room dimensions are taken.
4) CONTRACT DRAWINGS AND DOCUMENTS
Documents are prepared and approved by client, who then pays the balance of deposit. Orders are placed at the workshop, with appliance companies, and any granite slabs are reserved.
5) CLIENT RECEIVES SERVICE DRAWINGS
from installation manager and over the following weeks he/she visits site as required by client or their contractors.
6) CLIENT PAYS THE BALANCE
of the contract price. Head office advises client of fitting arrangements and delivery of furniture and appliances.
7) FITTING OF FURNITURE,
worktops and appliances.
Things You NEED TO KNOW
BEFORE YOU COMMISSION A DESIGNER
Make sure you have checked the quality of the proposed furniture in a showroom, workshop or, even better, check it out at a previous client’s home.
A Good Designer Should Be Aware of current building regulations, including gas safety and ventilation, and will be able to talk you through the basics of potential planning requirements, if necessary.
ARCHITECTS AND INTERIOR DESIGNERS
Designers are also increasingly tasked with kitchen design, particularly if they are commissioned to complete a whole-house renovation. Do make sure
they have experience and knowledge, or the support of a reputable kitchen supplier, as it’s a very specialist sector.
CHECK THAT YOUR DESIGNER IS EQUIPPED
To offer a decent lighting design service – or ask for recommendations for a lighting designer in your area, particularly if your space is especially large or complex.
BE WARY OF DESIGNERS WHO SEEM UNWILLING
To incorporate certain products or brands that you have set your heart on. They may be putting their own commission profits above your needs.
OFFERED A SITE SURVEY?
IF YOU ARE NOT OFFERED A SITE SURVEY before you buy, simply walk away.