By any other name

Kitchens aren’t all the same, except when they are.

I used to work with a designer who’d tell customers that he’d met Cooke and Lewis, the chaps who’d created B&Q’s then higher kitchen brand. In fact, Cooke and Lewis were imaginary people, invented by the agency which actually had created the brand.

There was a time, not very long ago, when kitchens at Benchmarx, Homebase, Magnet and Wickes (and, for that matter, even Argos) all came from the same place. No wonder people think kitchens are all the same.

It’s not that simple anymore, and it’s not easy to find a straight comparison anywhere, either. B&Q has a close relationship with a kitchen comparison website, which generously compares factors which reflect well on B&Q; Wren shows examples of its competitors’ cabinets in its showrooms, but it chooses the comparisons very carefully. Some marketing goes further, and simply lies; and then it doesn’t help that you’ll often get your information from a salesperson, who’s had a few days’ training, itself perhaps biased, and then applied his or her own twist to it – and is on commission.

Door materials are a huge subject, which doesn’t receive a lot of attention; I’ll have to write about it one day. Cabinet construction is talked about most. The examples below show what kinds of things are considered. Generally, thicker carcase panels are better; thicker backs are stronger (but don’t be fooled by the simple phrase “solid back”, because you can have a solid sheet of paper); glued-and-dowelled construction is likely to be stronger than flat-pack-style metal cam and dowel, and some kitchens described as rigid are only flat packs assembled before delivery; soft-close hinges and drawers, and full-extension drawers, are easier to use and more durable.

Kitchens in the UK mass market are not bespoke. Apart from the flexibility, bespoke cabinets don’t have all those extra holes inside. At least one retailer uses the term “bespoke built” for its rigid kitchens: whatever they might mean to imply, all it actually means is that they build them just for you – as do their competitors. Similarly, “ready to assemble” and its variations are euphemisms for flat-packed.

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