Choosing A Kitchen Design Studio – Part 2


In part 1 of this series we looked at the difference between the service provided by a DIY store, and a specialist kitchen studio like Design Matters. A great deal of extra attention detail and quality goes into a Design Matters kitchen, and specialists go to great lengths to ensure that your new kitchen will give you years of reliable service.

If you’ve started planning your kitchen project, you will already know that you have a lot of complex decisions to make. Modern kitchens are highly technical and details such as the type of fridge and oven you would like to include can have knock-on effects for the rest of the design. If you are also extending your home you are taking on an enormous project. Disrupting the focal point of the home will be stressful, and the process will probably take longer than you first imagined.

It’s very important to choose professionals who will solve problems, rather than create them, and make the process as smooth and manageable as possible. After all, you have a busy life too.

Visit our Downloads page for a free Kitchens Guide that will give you an overview of the process involved. In the meantime, how will you choose the right kitchen design team?

1. Where to start?

The Kbsa web site is a good place to start. All Kbsa members work to agreed standards and payment terms and their work is regularly vetted by the Kbsa for your peace of mind. Most independent studios work within a 30 to 40 mile radius of their base. Design Matters fits kitchens across Bucks, Berks, Oxfordshire and Surrey and our customers are happy to travel to see us for a few meetings in order to get great service.

2. Are they legal? A few conversation-starters …

  • If a studio offers to dispose of your old kitchen, are they registered waste carriers? Or can they show you that they use a registered waste carrier?
  • Can they talk to you about the way in which they recruit and vet their installers? At Design Matters we check our installers’ insurance, qualifications and experience every year according to the recommendations of the Health and Safety Executive. We also insist on evidence that their tools are PAT tested and visually inspected for safety, and we ensure they receive essential safety training.
  • We have a formal Health and Safety Policy and issue site-specific Risk Assessments and Method Statements for every project. This means we have checked the quality of our personnel, that they are qualified for the work, that their tools are in good condition, and that they are working to agreed methods to ensure that you are receiving the very safest service while they are in your home.
  • Most of our installers have been working with us for over 20 years and they are DBS checked for your peace of mind.
  • We have recently incorporated the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations April 2015 into our Health and Safety procedures so that we are fulfilling all our obligations under the law, and covering our work against any breaches of this law on your premises for which you would otherwise be liable.

3. Do they offer full project management?

Few of us are capable of fielding the call from the electrician to discuss the correct electrical load for the new induction hob, so ensure the kitchen studios you speak to are saving you time and costly mistakes, by managing the entire project from end-to-end. For example, is the studio prepared to liaise with your builder, architect and other trades? Discuss the kind of documentation you should expect to receive once you have placed your order:

  • Detailed order with full specification and written payment terms
  • Detailed plans and elevations for each wall
  • Colour perspectives for reference in case of query during installation
  • Detailed mechanical and electrical drawing of each wall showing the precise locations of plumbing and electric supplies
  • If a builder or architect is involved, the studio should be willing to provide extra copies of all essential documentation to all concerned
  • How many site visits are included in your quote? How much do they charge for additional site visits?
  • In the case of building work, does the studio carry out a site survey to check finished wall dimensions before furniture orders are placed?

4. Find a studio who listens

When you finally meet with a designer, be clear about your budget, timeline and the style of kitchens you like and dislike. Your kitchen designer should be a good listener, take extensive notes, and come up with a few ideas of their own if you are undecided. As a starting point, you could ask your designer to show you a few recent projects and listen as they talk you through them. Don’t be rushed, and don’t be so cagey about budget that your designer has no idea of the price-point you are aiming for. A quality bespoke kitchen will start at about £25,000 fully installed, including appliances. Some clients have much higher budgets than this. Avoid disappointment, and wasted time on both sides, by being honest about the amount you wish to spend at the outset.


5. Examine the portfolio

Some independents work for a single kitchen manufacturer, which means their projects have a distinctive ‘look’. Others, like Design Matters, can meet any brief imaginable by drawing on a varied range of suppliers. Make sure you can pick out a few projects that you love for each of the studios that you decide to visit.

6. Ask to see references

A good kitchen studio will ask customers for feedback after the project is completed. At Design Matters we have a folder of customer questionnaires available when you come in to see us. If you want to be sure about an independent specialist you could even ask to see a recent project. Most studios will have built up a good working relationship with recent customers and should be able to arrange this. A visit to an actual project will allow you to see that the quality of finish on site matches the quality you have seen in the showroom. Being members of trade associations such as the Kbsa and Trustmark are also good signs of customer satisfaction and quality.

7. Examine quotes in detail

Quotations are complex and can be difficult to read, but the detail can give insights into areas where added value is being given, and corners are being cut. Many customers take one studio’s design to another company to get a lower price and have trouble checking whether or not they are getting the same value. Among other things, easy-care options such as pyrolytic oven liners may be lost, and the overall specification may be downgraded for the sake of small savings. Over the lifetime of the kitchen, this will be a false economy. Take your time and compare quotes carefully, including any additional costs such as charges for site visits as mentioned previously. If you really want to work with a particular company, go back to them and ask about making a few changes to reduce the price. This gives your preferred supplier the chance to make the most of all the hard work they have already invested in coming up with a design for your project, and ensures you work with the design team of your choice.

8. Who owns the kitchen design?

The kitchen design remains the intellectual property of the original studio until you have either paid a design fee or placed an order. For this reason, some studios will not release the design to you until you have made a commitment to work with them.


Once you have selected your design team and placed an order, the furniture will be manufactured and orders placed. Your hard work and attention to detail in sourcing the right team for your project will pay off.  The project will run smoothly, potential errors will be minimised due to robust procedures at the studio, and you will have all the information you need as you begin enjoying your new kitchen.

9. Aftersales Help & Warranties

At Design Matters we provide all clients with comprehensive care instructions and warranty information as we hand over the completed kitchen. We are also available on the phone to help with aftersales queries, and we provide a one year guarantee on our installation on top of the usual manufacturers’ guarantees. Finally, we commit to retain all customer files for a minimum of 10 years in case you need a replacement part at some future date. Can the other studios who are quoting for your project say the same?

Scroll down for our free download (below) to read more about the process of commissioning a bespoke kitchen in our Kitchen Buyers Guide.

If you have a project to discuss, contact the Design Matters office today and speak to Richard Smithies or Neil Cadwallader-Kemp for a free no-obligation consultation.


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