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Buying a kitchen post lockdown

It has been 12 months since we browsed kitchen retailers and wandered around showrooms without restrictions. A year ago, we didn’t need to think twice about inviting a kitchen designer or installer into our homes and there were no issues with trade people working alongside each other in an enclosed space.

However, the retail environment changed overnight in response to the Covid-19 pandemic making planning, or continuing with interior projects, much more difficult. The desire to renovate, refurbish or make simple improvements has dramatically increased as we try to make whatever space we have work harder. The kitchen is no exception as families use work surfaces and islands to prepare and cook food, entertain children, home school, link with work colleagues via zoom and enjoy newly discovered hobbies.

So how should we tackle kitchen related projects in the ‘new norm’?

Larger home improvement retailers, kitchen specialists and smaller independents have all had to adapt to make it easier for us to plan, design, and commission our dream spaces from the comfort of our own homes. More emphasis has been placed on online tools, services, and virtual showroom tours. Video appointments have become a given and any installations have had to take place in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

To get an idea of overall space and dimensions there are several free virtual online design services available – these online options help map out your current kitchen layout in the same way in-person kitchen designers do. For creative ideas, gone are the weekends spent wandering around showrooms, instead spend time online on sites such as Pinterest. Pull together a couple of boards detailing items and design ideas that you like - these can then be shared eventually with kitchen designers. Once you have your ideas down in one place, shortlist kitchen companies based on styles and features that match your ideas whilst always bearing budget in mind. Don’t forget to ask family and friends for local recommendations and then contact them to chat through their services over the phone before booking any online appointments with their designers. Your first call should cover your preferred styles and colour, layout, budget, measurements, and must-haves.

Under normal circumstances the next step would be visits to showrooms at your leisure. However, more pre-planning and forethought is now required. While home improvement stores are open for business, many kitchen specialists and independents are by appointment only and may only allow one person in at a time. With additional sanitising and cleaning between appointments, there will be fewer time slots available. Some companies offer 360 virtual tours of their showrooms which allow you to see their displays, others offer calls with staff who walk around the showroom talking through designs and models etc.

Online design meetings may sound daunting, however, there are benefits as they allow you to share your current kitchen first-hand, albeit virtually, with designers. You can screen share your Pinterest boards, and they, in return, can share their designs. Often these consultations will take place at a more suitable time to fit in with work and childcare commitments – it’s not all doom and gloom! When it comes to ordering, the major difference from pre-pandemic is timescales. With many homeowners planning further ahead than usual and with impact on European suppliers’ deliveries, timings must be considered carefully.

As for installation, it’s definitely worth calling the fitter beforehand, if sourcing your own, to double check arrangements and discuss specific requirements such as toilet and refreshment facilities – do you need to hire in a portaloo? Will they need to bring their own mugs and kettles? Is there easy access to hand washing facilities? It is important for everyone to understand the working environment and to minimise the number of individuals on site at any one time. Stock shortages are the biggest challenge but with good communication scheduling nightmares can be avoided if all parties liaise regularly. As for appliances some retailers are offering a more limited installation service, especially integrated appliances so make sure you book well in advance or hire an independent electrician or plumber.

While the pandemic has had a major impact on the interiors industry, kitchen retailers and specialists included, it has been a positive learning curve for many – designers, installers, suppliers as well as homeowners – and has shown how well we can all adapt, innovate, and support one another when necessary.

29th Mar 2021