A bespoke kitchen from planning to installation
The first thing to say about this kitchen project is perhaps that it was something of a pleasant surprise when we were invited to visit the client and discuss their needs; we had been to the house on another occasion to meet the previous owner but they had not progressed the kitchen project. It doesn’t happen often, and to get a second opportunity to suggest improvements in this property was most welcome.
Of course every family will have different preferences and priorities so we didn’t actually refer back to the previous designs at any stage, but there was a familiarity with the building which possibly helped focus the design.
We’d first met the client some months earlier and had forwarded them a CD of images of previous kitchens we have designed and made throughout the South of England. They then visited the showroom in Petersfield where they talked about their ideas, and we followed this with a visit to their home to progress continue the discussion in depth, to measure the space and formulate ideas.
The property itself is a lovely XXXX’s Older building that has seen many additions and alterations over the years. The kitchen space had its interesting challenges and was somewhat cramped, however it had great potential.
Meeting in the working space existing kitchen allowed everyone the client to express their feelings about it; what worked, what could have worked better, what really didn’t work at that time and perhaps what it was missing. (We use a comprehensive questionnaire to work through at this stage to ensure we cover all necessary aspects of the kitchen and gather all relevant information). Our approach is one of listening and questioning in the first instance, drawing out the clients ideas regardless of how difficult or unlikely they think they might be. Once we have a detailed understanding of their desires we are able to bring our expertise into play, make suggestions and offer solutions.
It quickly became clear that what was required wasn’t a simple replacement kitchen for what was there; there would be a wall to remove, and the existing floor was on two levels which wasn’t ideal so remedial structural work would be necessary.
After an exhaustive 2-hour exploration our discussions and having a good feel of what the client desired we took the ideas and measurements back to the office to look more closely at what we had explored and to draw up initial plans.
A week later and the clients returned to the Showrooms in Petersfield. (We meet here rather than at the client’s house at this stage because it gives us access to samples and materials for discussion and allows our clients to focus solely on the job in hand). to receive and go through the quote and drawings We presented our drawings and ideas that took in all of their initial requests with a few subtle improvements. Discussions continued around the paint and different worktop finishes, the integration of their new Aga cooker and gas hob, and the integrated high-level electric cooker/microwave. Outline budgets were also discussed based on the specification as it stood at that time, with the understanding that this would be flexible until such time as all plans were agreed and signed off.
Some weeks later the clients said they would like to proceed and returned to the showroom to sign the contract and paid a deposit. This is always on the understanding that the design and subsequently the costs can be changed right up until the final survey which occurs just before the kitchen goes into the workshop.
At this stage of the process, with many hours having been spent on planning side, the client is asked to confirm that they intend to proceed, to sign an initial contract and to pay a deposit before we release the plans. This doesn’t of course mean that the planning stage is over and in this instance when the client took the plans they left us with a number of changes and additions to incorporate (changes included a different sink configuration and incorporation of additional book-shelf space within an already planned island, to name just two) whilst they considered the rest from the comfort of their own home.
When the builders (In this case the clients had their own builders) who we worked with,
had finished we were able to do the final survey and take accurate measurements also making templates were necessary ( the walls were not square and 1 wall is curved). We also had further discussions about the finer details. From these we produced a revised set of drawings and quote. This the clients accepted and we could start making their kitchen.
After a number of weeks consideration the client returned and final changes were agreed, drawings prepared and the budget confirmed reflecting the changes to previously priced configuration. (At this stage final absolute measurements are taken and we ask for a part-payment with which to progress construction of the kitchen in the workshop. It has to be recognised that after this stage any changes requested by the client will add cost to the project as construction will be underway, so we have to be clear that all concerned are happy with the specification.)
With considerable work necessary to remove a wall and re-level the kitchen floor a local builder was engaged, with Dowers overseeing the work as project managers. This has the advantage of enabling us to ensure that changes are not made that would impact on the planned kitchen furniture we are building and that services are properly positioned to avoid difficulties on installation.
Meanwhile back in the workshop the kitchen furniture is under construction.
And we do mean furniture; Unlike many companies who buy in mass-produced base units which are fixed-width assemblies, at Dowers we design and make our kitchen as a piece of furniture in sections specifically to fit the planned design and working areas. This means our kitchens have a distinctive bespoke feel to them with few vertical ‘joins’ visible. They have designed-in changes in depth both for added interest and to match deeper items such as, in this instance, the Aga. They are also incredibly strong and when it comes to fitting them, because our craftsmen have been responsible for the manufacture as well as the fitting, they already know the peculiarities of the kitchen and the project comes together more rapidly and professionally than might otherwise be the case.
During construction of this kitchen the client asked to see the it being made in the workshop and a viewing was arranged at a mid-point of the process where some items were complete and painted and others still under construction. (This isn’t uncommon and we are happy to facilitate viewings at any stage by prior appointment; it gives our clients confidence in their choices of style and colour, however Health and Safety considerations in the workshop and the need to not interfere with production schedules dictate that this has to be by prior appointment only).
Once both the building work and kitchen construction were at the necessary stages of completion installation of the kitchen began. (We ask for a further payment to be made at this stage, with one final payment retained until you are happy with all work and any necessary snagging). As previously mentioned the kitchen furniture is installed by our own staff, ensuring continuity and quality is maintained. The main installation was carried out by two staff members over a period of a few days, after which the worktop was templated prior to production. This is a standard industry procedure to ensure the precise fitting of worktops after all other variables have been fixed in place.