By Peter

The Kitchen Design Journey

The purchase of a new kitchen is one of the most time consuming and emotional purchases most people will ever make for their homes, not to mention one of the most expensive. There are no ‘ready-made’, ‘off-the-shelf’ kitchen designs you can walk in and buy anywhere, so it is, therefore, understandable that one of the biggest fears when beginning this journey is that you would get it wrong.

What Should Be Included In A Kitchen Design?

With that in mind, even just reaching the decision to get a new kitchen designed can take weeks, months or even years to get to for some. It is a big decision and everyone’s story and situation are unique.

  • Perhaps you’ve lived in your house for twenty-five years and have never had a new kitchen installed?
  • Perhaps you’ve just moved into a new home and are bubbling with ideas about how you can put your own stamp on it?
  • Perhaps you already had your kitchen done five years ago, but you made mistakes with the design, colours, or layout and you just want to start again?
  • Perhaps you are building your house or having an extension, so have a blank canvas to work from?
  • Perhaps you are selling your home and want to add value to the property by adding a new kitchen?

Whatever your situation may be, understanding what can be expected in the journey towards your perfect kitchen design and how to go about it to ensure that the end result is everything you had hoped for is what we will be exploring in this article.

Approaching Companies

The first step in pursuing a kitchen design is to approach companies that offer a kitchen design service. It’s common practice to approach more than just one company, and this is generally a great idea as;

  • You can compare the services and products available from each company
  • You will receive different ideas and input from different designers
  • Visiting multiple showrooms gives you an idea for colours and styles that appeal to you
  • Looking at multiple options allows you to better understand the value of what is being proposed in each

There are usually three exceptions to this rule:

  • If an individual has previously used a company in the past and therefore know they are the right fit for them
  • A recommendation has been made from someone you know that has already been through this journey and concluded a certain company is the best option, and you feel confident in going by their judgement
  • You have researched online and found enough information to support your decision of who to use

Should I Go To Them, Or Should They Come To Me?

The next step, once you have decided on which companies you would like to consider, would be to get in touch to arrange an appointment.

Although many kitchen companies will have an option to book this online via their website or to arrange this over the phone, it’s a good idea to go and visit the showroom as this will allow you to have an initial look at their products first hand, as well as to meet some of their staff and get a ‘feel’ for the company.

The first gut impressions that you experience when viewing the showroom are helpful, as they will give you an idea of how comfortable you will feel working with this company during the design journey.

Most companies will offer a ‘design service’ in which you will spend time with a designer to work out how your design may be put together. There may be situations in which it is not possible for somebody to visit your home to measure up, such as in the scenario where an extension or a house is being built and the space doesn’t exist. However, if your room does exist, many companies will offer you either a ‘home visit’ or an ‘in store’ appointment. But which is best? We’re going to explore the pros and cons of both…

Home Visits:

When considering a home visit, the first question to ask of the company is ‘who will be coming to my home?’. One of two things will happen here.

The first is that the company will explain that they have dedicated members of staff who will simply attend to measure your room. Their job is to take the information required and send it back to the designer that is based in store. This will usually be done with a fairly formal ‘fact-finding’ approach, and the person attending your home will most likely not be able to discuss design ideas or details with you. You will likely not encounter this individual again during your design journey.

The second is that you will have a designated designer that will work on your project with you, including carrying out the home visit. The benefit of this is that your designer will likely have a broader technical knowledge and will be able to answer more detailed questions at your home, as well as being able to get a feel for you as an individual. By visiting the space, they can pick up on certain aspects that cannot be portrayed by photographs or by relaying measurements.

This isn’t too dissimilar to the way people buy houses. You may have reached the decision to view a property after having done your research online. On paper, the house meets all the criteria you are looking for and feels right. But not many people would buy a house armed with this information alone.

Most would visit a property before making a decision. It is only once you walk through the front door and experience the tangible feel that you can make a well-informed decision. This is also true of kitchen design and for the kitchen designer that aims to create a truly personal design centred on meeting the needs of an individual, not to just fill the space with units, this will be an important step.

In-Store Appointments:

If you reach the decision that a home visit is not right for you, you will be asked to either measure your own room or supply detailed plans for the designer to work from in-store. This is often the case for individuals opting for a ‘supply only’ kitchen project, or, as mentioned, the room doesn’t yet exist. When a kitchen designer visits a home to measure the space, they will be looking for more than just the wall measurements. Factors such as ceiling height, window and door sizing, boiler position and measurements, electrical and plumbing restrictions, floor and wall construction, and so on will be what they are trained to look at. So if you feel confident in measuring your own kitchen, it is advisable to discuss with the company what information they would need to be able to produce a design for you. Having enough information will avoid mistakes further down the line once a design is put together and ensures that the design will be accurate and feasible.

Where Do I Start When Designing A Kitchen?

So, it’s time to have a chat with a designer. The ‘consultation’ (the chat you have with a designer to explain and discuss your ideas and vision) is an important stage, as this is where you get to express who you are, your tastes and style, and what you’re looking to achieve in your space.

This stage, however, is vastly different across companies and the approach to the consultation will often be indicative of that designer’s approach to designing a fitted kitchen.

To keep things simple, we’ll use a scale in which there are three different levels signifying the consultation style and approach.

Style 1: Does What Is Told

This approach will usually be adopted by those designers wanting to keep the consultation as brief as possible. Having a ‘checklist’ is fairly common and the conversation around what the kitchen should contain will mainly be decided by the customer alone. You may notice phrases such as ‘what do you want?’ ‘do you want a….?’ or even ‘how do you want this done?’, which is then confirmed onto a computer or piece of paper with no further questions.

The issue here, of course, is that the customer is largely making choices or selections based on their own knowledge, potentially limiting the finished design. The customer is not a kitchen designer, and although there may be those that have heavily researched, or have some good ideas on what might work for them, there will usually be a limit to the ability of a customer to be able to design their own kitchen or make the best selections on what might be right for them.

Style 2: Tell What To Do

This approach to kitchen consultation sits at the other end of the spectrum. Some designers who use this method of designing can appear to be forceful and even seem as though they have their own agenda. In the most extreme circumstances, they can make the client feel that, as the professionals, they stand in a much better position to tell them what is best. Phrases such as ‘I think you should have…’ ‘I’m going to do this’ or ‘No, that’s wrong’ might be used.

Unfortunately, although some individuals may find this authoritative approach reassuring, the majority would be left feeling that they had not been listened to. Some, may even feel forced into making certain choices in line with the designer’s opinions. Any negative emotions created from the consultation process does nothing to reassure a customer that their best interests are being considered or prioritised.

Style 3: Listen/Discuss/Suggest

The third type of designer sits in the middle of this scale. This is the designer that wants to take the time to get to know their client. Listening to an individual and making sure they understand what they are asking for is vital to them. They appreciate that this is a big purchase and strives to get it right for that person. However, unlike the designer in style 1, they will not take answers at face value. If something is requested that the designer can see there may be a potential for a better option, they will come forward and suggest it, with phrases such as ‘did you know about…?’ ‘had you considered….’ or ‘I think that’s a good option. There is another choice which is…’. They see the consultation as an opportunity to get to know their client and educate them so that they leave feeling reassured, informed and above all, that they are working with someone that wants to get it right for them.

Understanding a client’s uniqueness and hearing their ideas and thoughts is a big part of the design journey. There are no ‘one option fits all’ solutions in design and having the ability and willingness to see someone as an individual and possess the passion to apply a personalised approach is what can result in the best fit for them.

How Do You Design A Perfect Kitchen?

Once the measurement and consultation have been completed, it is now time to design your kitchen. This can happen in one of three ways…

  • A design is sent to a client via email or post
  • A design is produced in front of the client
  • A design is completed and the client is invited to visit the showroom for a presentation

A Design Sent To The Client

Viewing your kitchen design for the first time can be hugely exciting, and when an email pops into your inbox with your design visuals, it is bound to be opened pretty quickly.

On the surface, it can feel very useful to stand in the space and envisage the plan in your current kitchen, to see exactly what goes where. Many people initially love this concept, but there are some limitations to this experience. Very quickly, the realisation as to what this process is missing becomes apparent. After the initial excitement has worn off, an individual may start to wonder ‘well, why has it been laid out like this’, ‘how does this work for me’ and perhaps most importantly, ‘is this the best way my kitchen can be designed’. Referring back to the beginning of this article, the biggest fear throughout the process of the design journey is the fear of getting it wrong. And without a detailed explanation as to how the design has been produced and what thought or consideration has gone into designing around a client’s personal needs, a lot of assumed trust goes to that designer that they have indeed produced the best design for their client.

A Design Is Produced In Front Of The Client

Sitting down with a designer on a blank canvas full of possibilities can be exhilarating. The promise of a new layout being realised before your eyes as well as feeling directly involved in the process can be an exciting concept. Many feel as though they are in control and safe, as they can immediately turn down ideas that don’t work for them and make suggestions that can be considered there and then. What could possibly go wrong?

The reality is that a large number of designers that work with this method are also the same designers that are following the ‘style 1’ consultation method. The client has a ‘slot’ booked with a designer, often incorporating the all-important consultation becoming amalgamated with the design time, meaning that the kitchen designer may be asking casual questions whilst adding units into an empty room onto their computer at the same time.

The consultation stage should require 100% focus on listening and understanding a client’s design brief, following on later by applying 100% focus to producing a high-quality design using this information. To produce a design at the same time as maintaining a detailed, thorough consultation means that this focus is therefore split 50/50, as well as the added pressure for a designer to produce the best design in an allocated time slot. Although a design may have been produced, the lack of time allowed to be thorough and to get to know the client may mean it is not the best design possible for your kitchen.

A Design Is Completed And The Client Is Invited To Visit The Showroom To View

With this third approach, the time gap between the consultation and the invitation to meet to view the finished design (we’ll call this a presentation) can be a couple of days through to a couple of weeks. This allows a designer to allocate a good amount of time to explore the project thoroughly without the pressure of a ‘time slot’ to be able to present the best design possible back to a client.

Although the client may feel a sense of nervousness that they were not directly part of the design stage and have put trust in their designer to produce their perfect solution, they forget that if the consultation was detailed enough, they have indeed participated in the design process by giving the designer all the tools and information needed to produce the best design.

Being present and having the design presented and explained by the person that created it means that the opportunity to answer questions and gain an understanding as to ‘WHY this is the best design’ is invaluable. Most find that this is the best way to avoid the biggest fear of ‘getting it wrong’.

So there you have it. A detailed explanation of how the kitchen design journey works. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a call in the showroom at 01634 799 909.

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