Utopia    Editor 01 Dec 2014

First Steps of Buying a Kitchen: Prioritising quality over quantity when it comes to kitchen retailers


When it comes to buying a new fitted kitchen for your home, you certainly won’t be spoilt for choice. In researching this blog post I did what I think many people do as their first step towards getting the kitchen of their dreams – entered ‘kitchens’ into a well-known and popular internet search engine.

This presented a list of over 38 million websites to visit! How on earth is anybody expected to work their way through that list? Good quality, specialist consumer magazines such as Utopia Kitchen & Bathroom are a much better bet than any internet search engine for helping you to produce a meaningful shortlist of potential kitchen specialists to visit, but even the shortest of shortlists can still leave you with enough of a choice to be confusing.

One of the first choices you should make is where you buy your kitchen from. If you are in the market for a genuine, bespoke kitchen, there is no point at looking to see what superstores may offer. Forget some of the advertising messages you may have had thrust at you or cute range names that suggest some time-served carpenter up to his (or her) knees in wood shavings, superstores do not sell bespoke kitchens.

The breadth of choice of kitchen cabinets in a range is a very important consideration as your kitchen designer uses these ‘building blocks’ to create a kitchen, and the wider the variety of cabinet sizes they have to work with, so it makes it easier for them to design an ideal kitchen layout for you – just for you.

One well-known superstore has a kitchen range that offers just two colours and four widths of cabinets. This compares with eight colours and nine cabinet widths (plus special units) by one of the leading suppliers to the independent sector.

You will also benefit from the expert advice that a specialist kitchen retailer can offer on built-in appliances rather than rely on information from a general purpose electrical retailer for whom built-in products make up only a proportion of its business.

You may be tempted to take the Internet route on appliances but be careful! One of the leading built-in brands offers a choice of 21 single ovens, ranging in price from just under £400 to almost £1100. I for one would like a little local hand-holding on making the right choice here, especially when even after taking any so-called ‘special offers’ into account, my local expert is probably going to be broadly in the same ballpark as a goodness-knows-where Internet trader with an indifferent track-record in after sales service is.

Talking of ‘special offers’, there seems to be no shortage of them but some may not be quite as special as they seem. Rather than allow yourself to be bamboozled with a discount here and a free something there, follow this three-part plan for kitchen purchase sanity.

First: check that you are comparing like-with-like. In the oven example I quoted earlier, one model is almost three times less expensive than the top-of-the-range model from the same company.

Second: Ask your kitchen specialist to provide you with an estimate for the complete job – design, supply and installation – taking into account any special offers or discounts. You should be less interested in the price of individual items; you want to know what the total project is going to cost you.

Finally, if any discount or special offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You should walk away and find yourself a genuine kitchen specialist.