The appliance of science

Claire Alonge of Extension Architecture explains how a considered approach to sourcing kitchen units and appliances can bring dividends for housebuilders and developers looking to please their customers.

Whether you are a project manager, architectural or interior designer, builder or developer, you will likely have had considerable experience shopping for products. This can often be too much like a guessing game.


Your clients look for good value, style, design, and well-functioning appliances. Most people realise that a new kitchen is a ‘large purchase,’ so your buyers may already be aware of material costs.

Design is frequently another added cost. Many suppliers, however, offer a design service gratis with their purchase.

Another main cost that must be planned for is fitting. It is important to find the best quality units, materials and appliances available for your budget. Good value should include an excellent fit-out service, as it is crucial in achieving the best angles for the new units.

Key Factors

Other elements may be more important to some than costs. For example, sophistication of engineering may be a priority, e.g. mechanical openers/technical detail, or a good guarantee service on units, at least the standard guarantee on appliances, or not paying extras for insurance or extended guarantees.

From a builder’s point of view, installation is a key factor when choosing kitchen parts. Builders tend to appreciate ease of fitting, ease of cutting holes, ease of access for wiring and pipes, efficient delivery timespan, as well as good delivery service in terms of careful handling, flexible and mutually convenient delivery times, and complete and accurate orders.

Builders also like unit carcasses delivered fully made up, with only doors and drawers to be added. This is better than half-assembled or flat-packed deliveries because potential defects such as the hinges not being aligned perfectly, or drawers not being screwed to the nearest degree, can be ruled out. It’s recommended to ask to see a section or top cut to assess ease of cutting material, as well as to look for reviews on their delivery service.

Developers might look for pretty much the same list as the builders, although this may depend on the target range of tenants or buyers. For example, if the property is aimed at smart professionals, then the points like aesthetics, engineering and functionality will be more important. However many developers will be looking to simply maximise their return. To this end, they may not purchase top-end appli- ances, because they will have in mind cost versus investment.

Design & Functionality

Though your kitchen supplier might offer a design service, it is good to be aware of a few design principles based on functionality. Base your kitchen plan around a flow of movement that connects three stations for washing, cooking and preparation. In very large kitchens, place these areas so they are not too far apart. The rest of the space could be additional storage, seating, ornament and free design. Place the sink area looking out of a window, as daylight gives a better user experience. This will also make plumbing easier. Focusing on the users’ experience – as well as quality and looks – will yield more recommendations later.

Consider also ventilation and extraction in your layout. Plan the layout before the first fix, so the electrical supply is conducive to your outline design or diagram.

While it is important to compare prices and styles as much as reasonably feasible, also make sure to look at technical functionality and wear on corner unit mechanisms, overhead storage hinges and deep drawer runners.

Also, check the durability of units in- store, and even ask them to demonstrate the unit’s weight-bearing properties. When high quality units have been installed, homeowners will appreciate the exceptional weight-bearing strength of units later down the line, along with the durability of cosmetic unit facades in terms of wear and tear or flaws. A strong kitchen with a good fit-out will feel newer for longer.

Claire Alonge is media designer at Extension Architecture