It’s Kitchens Week at Barxonomy, so I held an Instagram live with Matthew Harper from @theinstantkitchencompany. You can listen/watch the full interview on our IG TV channel @therenoguide, or find excerpts to the transcript below.
What is your background and experience?
Currently I am the owner of The Instant Kitchen Company and I also install kitchens and bathrooms as part of the family business, Calidad Installations here in Portsmouth. I’ve been in the trade about 15 years now; I started on the tools learning and have built up from there, started running the family business about 10 years ago. I’ve spent a lot of time working on home renovations and talking to clients and seen the good and the bad, the dos and the don’ts.
Is it better to stay onsite during a build or move out?
I would say where possible, it’s better to stay onsite. The communication with your trades is massive, if you can spend more time talking to your builders then you’re going to end up with a better job. For some people, the only choice is to move out, but if you can, it’s better to be there. Our Instant Kitchen gives you that temporary kitchen so that you don’t have to do without a kitchen when you’re doing your renovation. It keeps things up and running, it’s the heart of the home so it’s massive to be able to keep that going. So if you can stay in the house, it will be better for keeping things running smoothly.
What are some things that people don’t realise about re-doing their kitchens?
Design Layout! The one that we see a lot is, hilariously, where do I put the bin? I’ve seen people spend £30-40k on the kitchen and there’s a swing bin in the corner because they forgot to include it in the design. People will see things on IG or Pinterest and not understand the work required to do certain things as well. It’s important to get a design that works for you and your budget, and center it around how you and your family live their lives. It’s great having these grand lifestyle visions, but it has to be practical. Designs and products may look amazing in a showroom but people haven’t thought about cleaning or maintenance.
What are some design fails you’ve seen?
We had an installation where there was a freestanding washing machine put behind a kitchen cupboard door so it was an integral appliance. The problem was that the door was the same size as the machine and the customer or designer hadn’t allowed enough space for the hinges. We tried to tell them numerous times it wouldn’t work, and they thought they had these special hinges that would fix everything, but lo and behold it didn’t work and they weren’t over the moon. So again, comes back to communication and listening to the advice of people who know the practical implications of designs!
What are some favourite designs you have seen?
One is definitely my own – in our house we created a Harry-Potter-esque hidden cupboard. I took an IKEA Billy bookcase and used it to make a moveable bookcase to work as the door.
The other one was in a kitchen where the client was a disabled gentleman struggling with switches. He had an Insinkerator that he used quite a lot because taking out a bit was a difficult task so it really helped to have unused food go through the sink instead of a bin. But the button for it was an air-push button that was actually quite difficult for him to press, so we rigged up an infrared heat-sensitive mat under his sink, so he could tap that under the sink and that turned on the Insinkerator. That was really fun to see that design – it was a collaboration with the client, who was an engineer, and our electrician to figure out. It’s so rewarding when you take on a challenge like that and the client is really pleased with the result.
Do you have a preferred kitchen supplier?
Coming from a trades point of view, we use Howdens a lot. They’re a trades business so they have tradespeople at the heart of what they do. And from a stock perspective, when things change on a build, you can quickly get what you need from them and adapt on the spot. Especially in older properties where the plans have to change and customise along the way.
If you’ve got the budget to get something custom-designed for your exact space, you can go to the independent shops then that’s a great way to go, it’s someone’s career to do design that works for you. But other than that, kitchens are much for muchness, a lot of them are the same product. We like to use the analogy of a car – you can get a Fiat Punto or you can get a Bugatti Veyron – they’re both cars, but designed for different budgets, purposes, and with different materials. Stick with a budget that’s right for you, and you will find the right product to fit that. Especially at the moment, it’s worth checking out your independent high street kitchen retailer is a good idea.
For more on kitchen suppliers, check out my recent post here
Any other advice for designing a layout?
Get multiple designs done – from different places. Ask the experts, try and stay open-minded – even if you don’t like what someone’s come up with, it’s worth getting as many ideas as you can. And ask family and friends as well, get feedback on how different things work or don’t work for them in their homes. Don’t get fixated on the first idea, make sure it really is going to work – draw out a template of the island or footprint of what you’re considering.
Matthew Harper has over 15 years experience in the building industry. He co-founded Calidad Installations, a kitchen and bathroom installation company, and founded The Instant Kitchen Company, an innovative new solution that provides temporary kitchens to homes undergoing a renovation. Matthew provides expert advice and support to homeowners to help them avoid being ripped off by cowboy builders.