I never updated after the kitchen planner visit!
Well, we ended up having four kitchen planning sessions. Two were disappointing and one was a waste of time. One, however was brilliant. The companies were: John Lewis, Wickes, Homebase and a local independent contractor. I wonder if you can guess who fell in each category? (Disclaimer – in all cases I think that the service was largely dependent on the individual we worked with and may well not be representative of the company as a whole)
John Lewis in store were a bit pushy and didn’t understand that we were coming at it as newbies – limited patience for us not understanding the terminology. To be fair, the actual kitchen planner who came to visit was extremely professional. He measured, chatted, and was generally fine. He explained his thinking while he measured, and generally helped with our learning curve. He sent through his pictures and quote on time. Moderately expensive, but within budget. Missing a feature we wanted – the dishwasher – but we’d expected that. However the design overall was just blah. It didn’t make us want that kitchen – even given how desperate we were for a new one. Upgrading any of the features would have cost more than we could afford. It wasn’t great. As our first appointment, we were back in the space of wondering if we even wanted to do this.
Homebase were appalling. Genuinely awful. We went in with some suggestions of what we wanted. The planner was excessively pushy and effectively told us what we wanted without even listening to us. With some people maybe this would be helpful – but we’d put a lot of thought in to this and I didn’t appreciate that not counting. We then told her our budget…..and the plan she put together cost nearly 50% more! (she’d used our budget as the cost of materials and then added installation on top). When we pointed this out, she got stressed, as if it was our fault that we couldn’t afford some of the things she thought every kitchen should have. She then came and measured our kitchen. Again, when things didn’t quite add up, we were made to feel as if the imperfections of the space were our fault, that it was a huge drag to have to re-plan the kitchen. Maybe it is a hassle, but it’s the job! Between that and an exorbitant cost for the real planner to come out, we very quickly discarded them as an option.
The independent contractor was the waste of time. He didn’t come up with anything the big stores didn’t, the cost wasn’t that different, and I’d have had to put a lot more work in to sourcing materials and managing the job. No criticism of him, or that approach at all, but it didn’t work for us. (as an aside, my boss at work is using a local independent contractor to do her kitchen and is getting an incredible deal on bespoke units that match her needs better than anyone larger could do and will look incredible. It all depends on what’s local to you as well as your circumstances and pickiness).
So we’re left with Wickes. Who were outstanding from start to finish. When we went in, we were allowed to browse for a bit, and then a very friendly consultant sat us down to talk to us and give us coffee. Actually, that’s a good point. The coffee wasn’t great – massively over brewed and so strong that it nearly caused my partner to faint. However, as we sipped the coffee, Ameesh took plenty of time to listen to us and what we wanted, and acted like he genuinely cared what we wanted from a kitchen, not just fitting some off the shelf solution into our space. He came, measured up, and planned. When he found he couldn’t fit everything we wanted in using the cheapest range, he did a second plan in a more expensive range and let us choose between them. Given that even that option was within budget, we chose to get everything fitted in… We kept adding requirements, and he kept meeting them. One thing he couldn’t fit in, but we were sitting with him at the time and could see that he made quite literally every effort to do what we wanted and was genuinely disappointed when he couldn’t make it work. Given that we’d expected our list of requirements (washing machine, tumble dryer AND dishwasher) to have something crossed off, missing a glass fronted display cabinet for glasses seemed like a relatively minor problem. Not to Ameesh though!
You can guess who we picked. And I do not regret it. The Wickes installers were really friendly, helpful and professional, and although the fitting took a while (a week! Without either kitchen or front room) we quite enjoyed camping out in the half finished loft room….