KITCHEN DESIGN - SUSSEX
Designing the kitchens that I install allows for far greater flexibility and eliminates the blame culture that is often found when too many people are involved in a kitchen project. Quite simply, if there is a problem it will be down to me to fix it and when you design something that you are going to install yourself there is a far greater motivation to get things right at the design stage.
Another big benefit is that if you get on well with the designer (me) then you will know who you will be inviting into your home to carry out the installation (me again).
In the early days of fitting kitchens I used the same suppliers that most tradesmen use as they provided a "free" design service. It wasn't long before I felt that the ranges were very limited, the quality could be improved and I could maybe do as good or a better job by designing the kitchens myself. I'd successfully designed complex computer networks and had an HND in Mechanical Egineering, so I figured it was worth a try. I invested in design software and looked for better suppliers and that change lead me to where I am today. Along the way I spent a year working as a designer for a bespoke kitchen manufacturer but chose to leave and continue running my own kitchen business again. Part of me needs to be in a hands on role and I enjoy the mix that designing and installing provides. However the experience working for a kitchen manufacturer was invaluable and really strengthened my knowledge of the kitchen industry and kitchen design.
MASSIVE CHOICE OF DOOR STYLES AND COLOURS
I work in the part of the kitchen supply chain that is often referred to as the component market. Access to this market is largely restricted to people that have an intimate knowledge of kitchens at a component level and strong design skills as suppliers in this market do not provide a design service. I use a specialist cabinet manufacturer and then add doors to the cabinets from a variety of specialist door manufacturers.
All my door suppliers manufacture doors to the same sizes. The universal door matrix that is used in UK and European kitchens in the component market is what enables me to offer such an extensive choice. It also facilitates higher quality options as well. For instance, I can buy a gloss handleless door or any other type from dozens of potential suppliers. The quality and price will vary considerably amongst those suppliers. Doors that may look identical or similar to an untrained eye can in reality be vastly different in terms of durability. I won't use a door in my designs until I have tested it thoroughly. Part of that process, particularly with a high gloss finish, is to clean it vigorously with an abrasive scourer. Some mark far too easily and others pass my test. I then add the door with the best quality and price point to my range.
The reality amongst all the options I have available is that I use half a dozen door suppliers for the vast majority of my kitchens. I cherry pick the very best from each of them to provide the best possible quality and value in my door range.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SPECIALIST SOFTWARE
A kitchen that I supply might be sourced from 4-5 different suppliers (e.g. cabinets, doors, wirework, handles). I could manage the complex order process manually and have successfully done that in the past. I have since invested in arguably the most comprehensive quotation and ordering software package available in the marketplace. It has become a defacto standard for many experienced kitchen designers and their respective suppliers. I have access to several hundred supplier catalogues that are constantly updated to provide accurate pricing. The system is called EasyQuote and was a significant investment but worth every penny. It has endless useful features and it names belies how comprehensive a package it actually is. One of my favourite features is the automated ordering process. I might have 5 suppliers to deal with for one kitchen. With a single mouse click EasyQuote can separate all the components in a quotation and email all the suppliers with a correct purchase order.
I also use CAD software to prodice my 2D and 3D plans. This an area where I'm constantly looking at improvements as continually improving computing power leads to better quality images.