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Including a Fitted Kitchen in a House Extension or Refurbishment
 

What is the best way to have a fitted kitchen designed, supplied and installed as part of a house extension or refurbishment project? I am often asked this as there are various approaches.

Island kitchen, Dormans Park, nr East Grinstead

Island kitchen, Dormans Park, nr East Grinstead Underwood Kitchens

One approach is to have the fitted kitchen fully designed and specified by the architect and installed by the builder as part of the contract works. This involves the architect specifying all of the components including the base and wall units, countertops, splashbacks, sinks, taps and equipment. Both the architect and the builder are paid for their services with regard to the kitchen.

Another approach is for the client to purchase the kitchen components outside the contract (either designed and specified by the architect or by a specialist) and provide them ‘free issue’ to the contractor who installs the kitchen as part of the contract works.

L-shaped kitchen, Forest Row

L-shaped kitchen, Forest Row Homebase KitchensHomebase Kitchens

Yet another approach is to have the fitted kitchen designed, supplied and installed by a specialist outside the contract after the extension or refurbishment work is finished. This avoids paying either the architect or the builder for any services with regard to the kitchen but has the disadvantage of pushing back the date when the kitchen is operational.

I have evolved an intermediate approach whereby the standard form of building contract is amended with a clause added requiring the builder to permit access during the final weeks of the contract (it is his site so he can otherwise deny it) by a specialist directly engaged by the employer under a separate contract. Subject to negotiation this approach can allow the client to procure a specialist kitchen design, supply and install ‘package’. The builder provides a ‘serviced shell’ for the kitchen (to suit the specialist’s design) comprising the finished floor, walls and ceiling plus capped-off services in the shape of hot and cold water supplies, waste, extract ventilation, gas, power and lighting.  The specialist then installs the kitchen into this ‘serviced shell’.  Finally the builder makes the final connections for the services and all fitted kitchen appliances and includes the kitchen in the project GasSafe and electrical certification.

Kitchen design is a personal thing for all clients in terms of the style and layout of the kitchen, the type and amount of equipment and the expense which can vary by up to a factor of ten. I think it is best for the architect to simply set the design parameters in terms of the location and general layout (such as an L-shape, galley, island, peninsula etc) and then allow the client to develop and finalise the design, supply and installation with a specialist.

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Your Home Office
 

Although it came into being in the 1990’s it has taken the current Covid-19 crisis to push the ‘you don’t have to be there to be there’ spirit of video conferencing into the business mainstream through the technology of Zoom / Microsoft Teams / Google Hangouts and so on and with it the idea of the home office. Working from home some, or even all, of the time has previously been a bit of a novelty but now it is firmly established and I doubt we’ll go back to where we were just a few months ago.

Home Office 1 photo Herman Miller

Home Office 1 photo Herman Miller

This change will be bound to have consequences for the design of our homes in terms of the ensuing ‘live / work’ arrangements. As it is less than ideal to get the laptop out to work on the sofa, the kitchen table or the spare bedroom there is a clear need for a new building type which combines home and family with office and work. Just as we should have a good mattress because we spend so much of our lives on it we should have a good home office space.

Home Office 2 photo Neville Johnson

Home Office 2 photo Neville Johnson

My approach to residential design is that it is better to have a few spectacular set-piece spaces (living room, garden room, kitchen / dining room etc) rather than lots of nondescript cellular spaces (unused bedrooms etc). The home office should be another such space. IMO it should be attached to, but separate from, the house with a separating door and a separate wc and a tea / coffee point. It should be architecturally distinctive and spacious with sufficient room for best quality, ergonomically designed furniture including a comfortable office chair, large desk and a meeting / layout table and chairs. It should have hardwearing surfaces but at the same time good acoustics. Network cabling for fast and smooth internet access and data retrieval and space for storage, printing, filing and a hard copy library all need to be integrated into the design to ensure that it is clutter free. Quality architectural and task lighting are needed as is good natural lighting, with adjustable blinds, arriving from more than one direction so that the light quality changes as the day progresses. Oh – and ideally a view.

Sounds almost too good to be true and we can but hope that in due course another of the gifts of modern technology will be a reduced four day week!