I’ve got multiple whiplash injuries and because of them, I often found myself sighing when I needed to access various items or put things away.
Our view of the old kitchen
- We both liked the kitchen. It was simplistic, minimal, functional and in good condition
- Neither of us liked the worktop because of the limescale marks that would remain no matter how much we cleaned, wiped and dried the surface
- I didn’t like the set up because things weren’t easily accessible for me
- Both of us felt that there wasn’t enough storage but we’d made our peace with that and utilised other areas.
Making a few changes to the kitchen
We decided to ask someone to come and give us a quote for adding an extra storage unit and putting pull-out baskets within the cupboard that contained lots of jars.
This would have made the kitchen more functional for me whilst limiting the costs involved.
It wasn’t that simple
We soon found out that what we wanted wasn’t so simple!
If we added an extra unit and found the matching doors, they would still stand out from the rest of the kitchen. This is because the kitchen we inherited with the flat is about 15 years old and although they’re clean and in good condition, they will look different to the brand new ones.
We talked about changing all the doors to avoid this but we found out that the doors are the most expensive part of kitchen units, so it hardly seemed worth it! In addition to this, the current hinges may not be suitable for the new doors and if they needed to be replaced, the current hole where the hinges were attached may not be suitable, which would make the job complex, more labour intensive and more costly. Also, it was unlikely that we’d find drawer-fronts that were the right size, which would align with where the current runners were.
We got a couple of quotes from some independent builders but didn’t go ahead with them because they didn’t have all the contractors needed to remove and fit a kitchen. This would mean we would be conversing with, organising and managing different contractors.
When we found someone who could manage the entire job, they couldn’t or didn’t find a way to arrange for us to go and see a kitchen that they had fitted, so that we could have a look at their workmanship.
Limited choice of companies
We soon realised that most companies wouldn’t take on a job that involved ‘only’ changing doors, drawer fronts and adding pull-out baskets. Those who would do the job, didn’t have a physical store and couldn’t show us what the completed job would look like. This was vital for me because I’m a visual person.
Our kitchen wasn’t what we thought it was
Funnily enough, after doing this research we learned that we’d failed to notice some things that were quite obviously, not right, with the kitchen.
- The laminate on the doors was bubbling and coming away from the wood
- One of the worktops was composed of two pieces and the pieces that they’d joined together were of different depths!
It wasn’t a big deal by any means, but it was interesting to find out that we hadn’t noticed these imperfections or issues that had occurred over time.
Quotes for a new kitchen
I asked the following businesses for a quote:
- B & Q
- Betta Living
- Red Kite
- Wren Kitchens
Which companies we didn’t go ahead with and why
B & Q had recently stopped measuring and designing. I didn’t have the confidence or capacity to measure, design and then select what was needed, so I took them out of the equation.
A representative from Betta Living came to measure up, brought a sample unit and designed a lovely kitchen for us. However, they didn’t have a showroom for us to get a feel for what a completed kitchen would look like. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a visual person, so I needed to see a finished kitchen in order to be able to place an order with the company.
We didn’t get very far with the designer that came from Multilines. He seemed distracted and busy.
The man from Red Kite measured up and said he would have to consult his designer because the layout of our kitchen limited what could be done. That didn’t give me much hope or confidence in their creativity.
The representative from Wren Kitchens sent someone to measure up, after which, he created a number of good 3D designs. However, Wren has a policy of not negotiating on the price and something just didn’t feel right.
So it was between Wickes and Magnet. The lady from Wickes was wonderful. She understood what I wanted, she wasn’t pushy, when I couldn’t make a decision she would suggest something on a temporary basis so that I could get an idea and then move forward. All of this was before I stepped into their showroom. After going into Wickes, I realised how important it was for me, not only to see a completed kitchen but also be able to open the drawers and cupboards to get a feel of it.
At this point, I hadn’t told any of the companies above, that I wasn’t going ahead with them, because I wasn’t sure. However, once I saw a number of finished kitchens in Wickes, I realised a number of things. These were:-
- the company having a showroom was a must
- the vibe the representative gave me mattered more than I realised
- the representative having room to negotiate on price or be able to offer discounted white goods was important
- I wanted them to supply and fit the kitchen
- we wanted their fitter to remove and dispose of the old kitchen, as well as, remove the current tiles
We were ready to sign on the dotted line with Wickes. However, I felt it would be a good idea to go and see Magnet’s showroom, so that we could compare what they had to offer, as well as, any additional features they may have had, the quality of the units and so on.
Torn between Wickes and Magnet
- In terms of price, Wickes and Magnet were similar
- Both of them had their own fitted kitchens
- Both companies had a similar style and finish
- Both representatives had created a similar design
- With Magnet, we would get removable and rechargeable LED lights in the unitsfm
Were the lights enough to sway me towards Magnet?
Making the final decision
We found out that regardless of whether we chose the basic or higher range of units from Wickes, they would be flatpack. Thus the contractor would spend a lot of time assembling. In addition to that, I heard from a couple of different independent builders, that if there’s an issue with anything that’s delivered, Wickes don’t make it easy to sort it out.
With Magnet, I was lacking confidence because the representative told me that they would have to change the design in terms of where the hob and oven were placed. He explained that the compact worktop, wouldn’t be able to handle the heat. However, Wickes had the same worktop and their representative assured me that this wasn’t an issue. I was also getting mixed messages about what could or couldn’t happen to the location of our stopcock and how this might affect the final design.
In addition to this, both representatives were saying that the deal would only be valid for a certain time and we’d have to sign a contract, within a certain period of time, to keep the deal. However, I then learned that Wickes have the discretion to void a contract and also, to keep the price available for a longer period.
I was feeling pushed and backed into a corner, so I decided to park it!
Why did we decide to park it?
The conflicting information, the pushiness, the fact that I was due to go away for a couple of weeks and more; meant that we couldn’t spend any more time on it. So we decided to pick it up after I returned.
Final decision made
I returned from my trip and didn’t really want to get involved in thinking about all of this again. However, I started cooking and was reminded of it by how difficult I found it to access pans, jars and so on.
We decided to go to with Magnet. I had used a builder to refurbish one of the properties I manage and I told him that we wanted to get our own kitchen done. He introduced me to Magnet Trade. They came and measured the kitchen, created a design, suggested some options and then explained that the bill would be in the builder’s name and as a result, the warranty would lie with him. There was no way that they could get around this.
We wanted the warranty to be under our control, so we returned to our local Magnet store.
The designer who was helping me before had left, so I called to get a new quote and was really impressed with the speed with which she replied, the knowledge she had and the respect that she had for our time. Her name was Dipika and I didn’t realise that she was the new manager.
Moving forwards with Magnet
Dipika asked me to email her with any previous designs, preferences and so on. I think she did this because it was May 2019, and I said that I wanted the kitchen fitted during School Summer Holidays i.e. within a few months.
I was then introduced to Venus who was the designer. At that point, I didn’t realise that I would have to repeat everything I’d shared with Dipika, because Venus was the one who was going to design the kitchen. From that point on, my main point of contact was Venus. She was great! She designed the kitchen, checked everything more than twice, went through the various options with me multiple times, talked me through what their fitter could do as part of the contract with Magnet and what he would do privately and so on.
Choosing a fitter
At this point, we had decided or achieved the following:-
- the company to source the kitchen from
- to go with the store instead of Magnet Trade
- we had a design
- we knew which colour, style and range we wanted
We got a rough quote for using Magnet’s own fitter and then asked the builder I mentioned above. He wasn’t that confident with fitting an undermount sink and cutting grooves in the compact laminate worktop, so I asked Magnet Trade if they knew of anyone else. They suggested someone who happened to be a fitter for Magnet but in a different branch. This fitter could start the job during the summer holidays, he knew how to fit Magnet kitchens, he had experience with undermount sinks and compact laminate, he would remove everything but the floor and fit the entire kitchen, managing the plasterer, plumber, electrician and so on, without charging a fortune.
It seemed perfect!
I felt a little insecure about him as it felt as if we were hiring him ‘blindly’ so I spoke with his manager at the Magnet store where he works and asked him to tell me what he was like. The manager’s description of this fitter, the faith he had in his workmanship and the fact that he described him as fair and customer-focused, filled me with confidence. We booked him for the job soon after.
The job begins
There were a few unexpected challenges.
We got a call from the company that arranges the delivery. She was asking if the delivery van would have any difficulty in manoeuvring, parking and unloading. I didn’t know so she searched for our address online, looked and the photos that came up and said she would ask the shop to send two smaller vans. On the day, I got a call from the delivery man and he said they had sent the larger van and we would have to see what to do when he arrived. If he could not park the van, manoeuvre the vehicle and unload easily, he’d have to take the delivery back to the store and see what they could do. However, he said that they probably wouldn’t be able to come out again on the same day. This sent my mind into overdrive about what might happen as a result. Luckily, when he arrived, the car park was mostly empty, so they had enough room to drive in, park and unload.
I was told by Dipika that, the builder would need to check each and every item quickly, because if anything needed to be replaced, they would need to know within 7 days, otherwise we would have to pay for the items ourselves. I couldn’t quite see how the builder would check all these items as they were focusing on removing the kitchen units, worktop and the tiles. The builder assured me that everything would be fine and luckily it was.
The builder said that the kitchen would take about three weeks, ‘hopefully, less, but let’s say three weeks for now.’
When they removed the tiles, a lot of the plasterboard came away, so they replastered and we had to leave the walls to dry for three days. I thought that this had been factored into the three weeks and that the estimation was the worst-case scenario, but it wasn’t.
It was tricky to live in the same space while the work was going on but we planned our meals beforehand. We thought about which days we would eat out or go to someone’s house and for the other days, we researched recipes for meals that didn’t need much preparation, which could be made in our Instant Pot.
The entire job took a little less than four weeks.
We replaced the combined fridge/freezer with a tall fridge and an undercounter freezer.
We replaced the gas hob with one where the rings were positioned in a diamond shape and the base was glass instead of metal.
We got a new oven and didn’t know how awesome it was until after the kitchen was completed! Later, we found out that the oven has a soft closing door and it beeps when the preheating is completed. It’s awesome!
Lastly, we replaced the hood. For some reason, the hood that the previous owners had fitted was very wide. Thus it was taking up extra space, was unnecessarily large and looked out of place.
We kept the washing machine and dishwasher as they were less than 3 years old and in good working order.
We purchased all of the new items from ao.com who were absolutely amazing! The customer service team were great at talking through various options and explaining the similarities and differences between them. In terms of price, they were extremely competitive and the representatives had the ability to offer discounts on large orders. Lastly, I loved the fact that they could deliver the items, unpack them and take the packaging away.
Choosing what to do with the walls
I wasn’t keen on replacing the tiles with different tiles, so we considered using washable paint, but were told that it would need repainting every few years and even though it says it’s scrubbable, it isn’t so in reality. Then we thought about getting a glass splashback or putting a variation of the worktop on the walls. It would be made of the same material but I think it would have been a thinner version of it. If we chose this option, we would have had to put toughened glass on top of the bit that was behind the hob, as it would have got damaged by the heat. The only other option was putting something completely different behind the hob. I thought it would look strange to have different things on the wall, so we opted for 2 runs of splashback on both sections of the wall.
We got some quotes and then booked the job with Bespoke Glass Design. I spoke with Simon who was awesome. He helped me work out what to consider, which colours might compliment the design, how the splashbacks could be varied and more.
A couple of issues
The kitchen was nearly done when we came across a couple of issues.
One issue was that we kept finding a puddle of water where the worktop met the larder unit and the builder couldn’t understand why. The worktop was fitted as it should be, so it wasn’t an installation issue.
We purchased a larder fridge, which is a tall fridge i.e. it doesn’t have a freezer with it. They don’t make one big integrated door for this type of fridge, so the fitter had to attach two doors together, so they open as one whilst covering the entire fridge. The metal bar that keeps the two doors together was stopping the fridge door from closing flush. He didn’t know how to fix this because removing the bar wasn’t an option and it was that which was causing the issue.
I reached out to the branch he worked for to ask for advice about how this could be rectified. It wasn’t a complaint. The fitter didn’t know what to do, so I was hoping that they would know someone who did. The manager said he would come and have a look after the job was completed, and see what could be done. I was so impressed, because I hadn’t purchased the kitchen from them, yet they were willing to see beyond that and were offering, what I saw as, amazing customer focus and service.
To cut a long story short, there were communication issues, the store started to delay in replying, they arranged a visit and then cancelled it, saying it was because I hadn’t purchased the kitchen from them and that there had been a misunderstanding somewhere.
There was something else going on! The manager I spoke to before hiring the fitter and the designer who replied to my email about the issues, knew I hadn’t purchased the kitchen from them from the onset, so it couldn’t have been that! The visit had been scheduled. Everything was going to be addressed and then they pulled out and didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me why.
I explained that we were willing to pay for the work to be done, we weren’t looking for any favours, we just wanted them to assess the issues and suggest what to do. One of the other managers said she would call back with a solution but she didn’t.
I couldn’t believe it! My local branch couldn’t get involved in any way at all because we didn’t employ their fitter and they had no influence over the other branch.
How could we have done things differently?
We could have paid almost double and gone with a Magnet fitter from the branch that we ordered the kitchen from so that they would help remedy any issues that arose.
We could have paid Magnet for their fitter to fit the new kitchen and found someone else to do everything else. Thus having to manage two contractors.
We could have backed out of the order with our local branch and purchased the kitchen and fitting from the Magnet where our fitter worked and booked the fitting through the store, instead of it being a private job.
The finished kitchen
What I love about the kitchen is:
- the drawers for the pans and crockery
- the wide drawer for the cutlery
- the colour of the units
- the soft closing doors
- the removable and rechargeable lights
- the thin worktop
- the undermount sink
- the tall fridge
- the larder cupboard, which I lovingly call the magic cupboard, after a friend visited and referred to it that way
How is the new kitchen different from the previous one
Apart from the design i.e. wider drawers, larder cupboard and having a tall fridge, the other differences include:
- the doors are handleless now
- we chose a gloss finish
- we have a splashback instead of tiles
- the worktop is thinner and made of a different material
- the worktop doesn’t have a glossy finish
Added in January 2021
Blinds: the final addition
Everything you read about above was done a little over a year ago. The one thing that remained was replacing the blinds.
We got a quote from Hilary’s and checked out some other companies online and then we heard about Peartree Blinds. A friend of mine got her blinds from them and she was happy with the result, so we booked an appointment with them and haven’t looked back!
Peartree Blinds is a family-run business that’s based in Dunstable. The owner and his daughter came over and this is what happened?
- they asked us if we had any preferences in terms of design and colour
- they showed us their catalogues of options, which had removable samples
- this was great as we could hold it against the window and stand back to get a better idea of how it would look if we opted for it
- we asked them for their opinion about the blinds we were considering
- they shared their views on the colours, the style, the pros and cons of having blackout blinds or not and the difference between some of the other options
Both of them were patient, honest and open, which made it feel effortless. They left us to think it over without any pressure about making decision.
After a few days we received a surprise in the post. They were samples of the ones that we were considering. We used some tape to stick these on the window so that we could see how it felt to walk into the room with them in front of us and to helps us appreciate how they changed as the day progressed. We removed the ones that we didn’t want and then kept our final choice on the window for a few days, to be sure.
Once we had decided, we placed our order and Martin came and fitted them soon after the New Year.
Martin worked quietly, he showed us how to remove the blinds and clean them, gave us a few tips, tidied up and left.
It was all very smooth and the blinds finish off the kitchen nicely!