A self build house project diary
by Oliver Cannell
Saturday 16th August 2014
(published/edited Saturday 3rd June 2017)

Kitchen ordered today

After months of browsing the kitchen showrooms and websites, we finally ordered all the kitchen units today.

Time is ticking and the build is going well, so we have to make sure we order stuff in good time, to make sure it's delivered on-site when the builders need it.

The external walls have only just started to go up, so we're certainly not ready for the kitchen units yet, but have dozens of other items to source yet, and it's good to get a big thing like the kitchen sorted, so we can move on. It's also great to be able to plan ahead for the finances too, otherwise it could come as a shock at the end in one big lump.

Shopping around

Since our visit to Howdens in May, we have been looking around all the major and minor kitchen suppliers in the area, to see what the typical costs are; what the available styles are like; what the build qualities and finishes/options are; and to see what we can realistically achieve.

Overall, as you'd expect, the kitchen options available are broad. They range from quite cheap and not-so-solidly-built budget self-assembly kitchens from the likes of B&Q and Ikea, to the mid-range nicer options (generally still self-assembly) from Homebase (Shreiber), Wickes, Howdens; right up to the very nice but quite overkill for our needs (and sometimes taste) of the independents and more upmarket brands, such as John Lewis, Magnet and showrooms found in random places like farm shops and market towns.

Quality not bling

It's a fun experience looking around at all the showrooms, trying out the drawers, cupboards and whizzy new features they're including in kitchen designs these days. There really is no better way to get an appreciation for how well products are made, than trawling the showrooms and actually playing with the displays.

Some kitchens on display have felt like they'll fall apart after a year or so - cheap surfaces finishes and sharp edged handles and corners, wobbly drawer runners, tacky bling and more LED strip lights than they know what to do with. You're spending a lot of money in one go, so if they don't feel right in the showroom, you're never going to be happy with it in your home.

One of my overriding missions with this house, is to avoid sharp edges and corners. As much as possible, things should be soft and smooth to the touch and pleasant to use. Why make life more complicated and painful than it needs to be? Avoid sharp edged handles on cupboards and doors. Why set your teeth on edge with glass surfaces, when a nice natural wood is warmer to the touch and softer on the ear? All the things you touch and use on a daily basis like switches, doors, handles, drawers and surfaces should be a joy and a reassuring comfort.

Finances

Obviously one aim for the budget available for the kitchen, has always been to get as good a kitchen as we can afford, but until we actually started shopping around we didn't really know what could be achieved.

I was hoping it would be doable for £3-4k but for the size of kitchen we're fitting and for the moderate quality we're looking for, £5-6k is more the level we've had to focus on. Some of the optional extras that have been proposed by the kitchen designers (like wine racks, wine chiller fridges, heated drawers, special cupboards & drawers and posh splashbacks) have been removed to help reduce the cost - and we've also found some just-as-nice taps and sinks as the slightly pricier options given, so some budget has been saved with these. It certainly pays to shop around a bit for the fixtures and fittings, rather than settle for what's offered in the brochure.

It might have been possible to find a cheaper kitchen with cash or at least on a credit card, with the £5k figure we're looking at, a finance deal has been another key focus of our search. Most (but not all) of the main high street outlets have been able to offer some kind of finance - but in the end it was Wickes' 0% 2 year finance deal which has been the no-brainer.

Wickes kitchens look nice; they seem to be well made; they have lots of options available in terms of the designs and units; their customer service has been consistent (although you do have to be a little patient with their method of working); and the prices seem very reasonable. Being able to spread the cost over 2 years is just perfect for our needs at the moment too. We have a winner!

Style

As the house is a very contemporary and open-plan design, we knew that the kitchen had to look great, without it being overpowering, as it's visible all the time. We've opted to go for white gloss units, to make it feel larger and lighter... and have also chosen a handleless design, to keep the lines clean and clutter free.

A couple of units are curved, to soften the transition of the room, from kitchen to dining-room, and also to add a little bit of Wow factor.

As we know the flooring will most likely be timber in the main living area (kitchen, dining room, living room) we didn't want to use too many colours or finishes. So a timber worktop has been selected, which will fit nicely and give a nice warm feel. However, rather than a relatively standard wood-block worktop, Wickes has a very nice (but no more expensive) bamboo worktop. It has a great grain pattern to it and looks quite different from the usual offerings.

Colour can be added to the overall feel of the kitchen when it comes to the tiling and splash back, although we're not sure what colour or style to go for yet. Magazines are on standby for kitchen styling ideas...

Bonus features

With the 0% finance being a great way to spread the cost, a couple of nice little bonus extra features have been selected. Hopefully they'll make life a little easier, and more fun in the kitchen.

Bin drawer - probably the most expensive rubbish bin I'll ever own, but a nice drawer/cupboard to hide away the waste and recycling stuff.

Magic cupboard - an under worktop corner unit, which had a standard 500mm door but which uses a mechanical shelving system inside to maximise the usable space of the full 1100mm cupboard.

Corner cupboard - a wall mounted cupboard with a 45o angled door, but which gives deep shelving storage, right into the corner of the room, for larger cooking implements (or more food).

White ceramic sink - we could have gone for a standard and more affordable stainless steel sink, but a white one stands out really well against the bamboo worktop.

Savings

Dishwasher - although we're going to be providing plumbing and power for a dishwasher in one of the cupboard positions, we've opted just to fit a standard cupboard for now. Plus, Wickes have given us a 'free' dishwasher with the kitchen, so we'll be selling that to help with the bills.

Under-sink drawer - a nice double-width drawer which fits under the sink, and wraps around the waste-pipes was removed, as we could see it wasn't using space very well. You can store a lot more stuff, like the usual cleaning fluid bottles and under-sink-guff, by using a standard cupboard unit (much cheaper).

Top tips

  • Shop around (obviously).
  • Try stuff out in the showrooms.
  • Consider finance options.
  • Don't be too tempted by gadgets and extras (this is where they get you!).
  • Look for cheaper fixtures and fittings elsewhere (even within the same store).
  • Pay for quality but draw the line.

Next entry: Preparing the ingredients for the house-building recipe (Sunday 17th August 2014)

Previous entry: It’s time to pour some more concrete (Thursday 14th August 2014)

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