Monday, August 01, 2011

The great cross-country kitchen hunt

We're in the process of choosing kitchen units for our new extension, which is due to begin building work shortly. Easy, you might think. Swan along to your local kitchen showroom or DIY store, pick a kitchen you like, get a plan and quote, put in an order and wander off again. If only.

So far we've had five different quotes from five different providers; some high-street, some local; some large, some small; some ready-made, some bespoke. And the results surprised us mightily. Contrary to popular belief the DIY stores were *not* the cheapest, in spite of economies of scale. In fact Wickes proved to be the most expensive quote we had from anywhere, for any type of kitchen.

In the end we'd whittled it down to two - one for ready-made units which was slightly cheaper, and one for a bespoke kitchen which was more expensive - but still well within our budget. We ummed and ahhed, and ummed a bit more, and simply could not decide which represented the best value for money. Part of the problem was that we hadn't seen the exact ready-made kitchen we wanted; our supplier had a similar one in his showroom but not that design, so all we'd actually seen was one cupboard door and a pretty picture in a brochure. Not the best thing to base a purchase of that magnitude on, so on Saturday we headed off across Cumbria to a different showroom which had our kitchen on display.

It's at this point that you start to realise just how big Cumbria is. It took us an hour, driving north via Keswick and Bassenthwaite Lake, to get to the right area. And it took another twenty minutes to track down the showroom, in spite of using sat-nav, and phoning the place twice for increasingly desperate directions. Turned out we'd driven past it four times but it's hardly surprising we kept missing it since it was tucked away on a tiny business park (of just two units) behind a row of houses in a one-horse village in the middle of Absolutely Sodding Nowhere, mid-way between Carlisle and Cockermouth. There was nothing there - a few quarrymens' cottages, a farm or two, a tiny church... there were no signs for the showroom and none of the streets had names. Cue much driving round in ever more bad tempered circles.

However, find it we did, and they had the right kitchen on display so we could clamber all over it to our hearts' content. Actually, it only took about five minutes, because it wasn't what we were expecting at all. Far from being the stunning, lovingly-built kitchen we'd been led to believe, it was actually cheap, relatively poorly constructed and very, very modern. The doors didn't fit very well, the surface finish was decidedly rough-and-ready and the interior fittings were standard high-street crap. It was disappointing after a 50-mile drive, but it's saved us paying out all that money and being devastated by the result.

On the way back we called in at Bassenthwaite village (tiny, remote and wonderfully higgledy-piggledy) and then for a coffee at the Old Sawmill tearooms, part of the Mirehouse estate. The latter had some great-looking walks and forest trails leading off from the doorstep so we've bookmarked those for another time.

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