A virtual kitchen design consultation: what to expect

an extension with sash windows

What should you expect when you book a virtual kitchen design consultation? I experienced three consultations with different kitchen companies so I could explain what happens.

I’m lucky enough to be buying a house with a big kitchen extension. However, the actual kitchen they’ve built in it is tiny and barely fills a third of the space available. So I booked not just one virtual kitchen design consultation, but three with different companies, so I could tell you what happens during the process.

the floorplan for my space
The floorplan for my current kitchen, which I inherited and which barely fills a third of the space. The X is just space with a fridge bottom left.

A virtual kitchen design consultation with Smile Kitchens

My designer, Corinne, emailed and introduced herself before the virtual kitchen design consultation. She asked if there was a good time to have a ‘Discovery Zoom’. This was an appointment designed for her to take a quick brief from me as to the type of kitchen I wanted. I sent over photos of my current kitchen and space and she sent me the Zoom link. Then we hopped on the call for the virtual kitchen design consultation a few days later.

A virtual kitchen design consultation: what to expect

Smile Kitchens don’t have any showrooms, so a virtual kitchen design consultation is what they do and are very practised at. They send out samples of worktops and cabinets so you can inspect them for yourself before going ahead with the purchase. You never meet any of the team in person, and your fitter does the measuring up before Smile supply the kitchen. You don’t pay anything until your kitchen is delivered, so there’s no deposit required. Smile designers also don’t work on commission – the focus is on getting the right design for you.

Smile are extremely highly-rated on Trustpilot with a score of 4.9 – while the lowest score they have from any customer is 4/5! But the vast majority of their scores are 5/5. So customers are clearly very happy with the quality of their kitchens and their customer service.

How the design consultation started

Corinne was very friendly and sweet and congratulated me on my house purchase. We talked about what range I wanted to go for. I’m totally about the ultra-modern, glossy, streamlined and bright look so asked for the Jasper range in Chalk (white). We then chatted about what appliances I’d need in the kitchen. I said I didn’t need a dishwasher, as only my daughter and I would be living there. And I’d inherited a washing machine plumbed in inside a cupboard under the stairs, while I rarely used a microwave.

Smile's Jasper range in Chalk
Smile Kitchens’ Jasper range in Chalk.

A virtual kitchen design consultation: appliances

So we settled on an under-counter fridge, an under-counter freezer, a single oven, an induction hob, an extractor and a tumble dryer as the only appliances. I also chose an oak laminate worktop and white gloss handleless units.

There were plenty of options on offer, including an extremely useful ‘corner optimiser’ cupboard to maximise space. I also loved the bin cupboards, which used all available space.

Corinne then expertly created a design that was quite similar to the original, with an added peninsula and breakfast bar at the end. We then scheduled a second call to refine the brief.

An amazing 3D video of the design

A virtual kitchen design consultation: what to expect

What was really impressive was that Corinne then sent me an amazing 3D video of my design! You can view it here. It’s incredible to be able to see the kitchen from all angles and really imagine what it’s going to be like to live in the space.

I also received a package of samples by post, and it was reassuring to see and feel the materials for myself. I was really pleased by the cabinetry in particular as it was such good quality.

Then deciding on something different

I then realised that, as the kitchen in my previous house had oak worktops, I was replicating the same look. And while I do love timber, I decided it was time to try something different. So I told Corinne that I’d like to go for white worktops, and cabinetry in their Lykke Chalk range instead. She was totally open to any and all changes, which was very reassuring. She then sent me the plan and quotation along with another video, which you can see here.

a virtual kitchen design consultation
Smile Kitchens’ Lykke range in the colour Tusk.

Another package soon arrived in the post with white worktop samples. I’d yet to find my perfect match, so Corinne kindly offered to source me an ultra-white quartz for the worktop. Nothing was too much trouble and I was very grateful for her time and generosity. She also sent me a ‘check measure’ pack designed for fitters, which asks them to measure every last detail of the space, including the locations of existing services and pipework. I was impressed by their diligence and can see how they earned their Trustpilot score.

a virtual kitchen design consultation 2D plan
Corinne from Smile Kitchens‘ 2D plan of the kitchen.

A consultation with Benchmarx Kitchens

This time my designer was Ellie – we developed a good rapport and shared some funny moments. As can be an issue with every online meeting, there were problems with the sound on my end and I had to dial into the call to hear the audio. While on the call, I spent a good ten minutes looking for my phone, only to realise I was holding it! Luckily things got a lot better from then on in.

Again, I chose white units and white worktops – and this time the cabinetry had brass trims, as this was an option. The style I went for was Richmond in True Handleless. Before designing the kitchen, Ellie wanted to know what I intended to use it for most.

Benchmarx' Richmond True Handleless range
Benchmarx Kitchens‘ Richmond True Handleless kitchen in Matt White.

Explaining about my living situation

A virtual kitchen design consultation: what to expect

To start with, I explained that it was just myself living in the house, and also my eleven-year-old daughter half the time. I also told Ellie that I rarely cooked, because I was on a weight loss diet full of bars and protein shakes. However, Ellie persuaded me this could change in the future if I got a boyfriend and wanted to entertain. Her rationale was that I needed to future proof the kitchen in case my circumstances changed.

We also agreed that it would be easier to sell the house further down the line if I had more appliances in it. Ellie advised against an under-counter fridge and freezer because they had limited capacity, and recommended a microwave. In addition, she said that having the washing machine and tumble dryer in the same room made sense. And she designated a cupboard which was the right size to house a dishwasher in the future if I wanted.

a virtual kitchen design consultation
The Benchmarx Kitchens design featured brass profiles and a brass extractor hood.

A surprising and inventive design

Ellie then created a surprising design I hadn’t anticipated but which worked really well – a tall block of appliances at the back of the kitchen. There was then a small gap, to allow the doors to open. I asked if this gap could be closed, but Ellie explained that this wasn’t possible due to the ‘True Handleless’ style of units I had chosen.

The rest of the kitchen formed an L-shape with a peninsula and breakfast bar at the bottom. Instead of a sink on the peninsula, Ellie placed the induction hob.

But she stressed that this was only the first of a series of consultations if I wanted to proceed with the design. We would decide later exactly where everything would go, including the bins.

The final design

a virtual kitchen design consultation 2D rendering
The full Benchmarx design, featuring a tall bank of cabinets, then a small gap between them and the rest of the kitchen, due to the type of units I chose.

Benchmarx don’t offer video walkthroughs of their designs, but they do send out samples and also have hundreds of showrooms around the country.

A virtual kitchen design consultation with Magnet

My third designer was Gemma Henders of Magnet, and she was really lovely. We started with a quiz on the Magnet website – Gemma asked me to use Magnet’s Kitchen Style Finder to select two home décor trends I liked the most from a selection, so I chose Japandi and Neutral. I then had to pick three colour palettes from a range, so I picked Clean Whites, Neutral and Minimal and Earthy Shades. Next I had to choose how I wanted my kitchen to feel, so I said Natural and Healing. And finally I added the two main purposes for the kitchen: Family Dinners and Working from Home.

Magnet Integra Hoxton range
The Magnet Integra Hoxton range (though my units were Gloss White).

In the end, I chose the same style of white handleless units and white worktop. The range was Integra Hoxton Gloss White with brass profiles, and I chose Silestone Miami White Quartz worktops.

This kitchen consultation was slightly longer than the previous two, as we discussed more options of where everything could go. Gemma was very accommodating – she said “I’m not going to be the person who lives with the kitchen for 20 years, whereas you are.” So she asked lots of questions as to where I wanted the appliances, etc.

a virtual kitchen design consultation
The Magnet design featured brass profiles and, in addition, brass plinths.

The resulting design was similar to Ellie’s. One difference was that the worktop joined up, though this would be a tricky bespoke addition involving panels. Another difference was that brass plinths were available as well as white plinths, so I chose these to make the design extra-luxe.

a virtual kitchen design consultation
The Magnet Integra Hoxton kitchen which Gemma designed, with joined-up cabinetry.

Magnet offer 360⁰ panoramic walkthroughs, which are impressive, and you can view mine here.

The quotes

I was going to include quotes for each of the designs here, but as I’d chosen a different spec for each they’re not really comparable. In addition, some included appliances and installation and some didn’t. But broadly speaking, the full kitchens including appliances and installation came in at between £13,000 and £26,000.

The final analysis

I really enjoyed all the consultations. All three designers were very different but I genuinely felt as though I could have been friends with them all. The kitchens were wonderfully well-designed and I thought they were all brilliant. Even working in interiors, I definitely think it’s worth getting a designer to design your kitchen rather than doing it yourself. They do it every day for a living so think of things you’d never have considered.

I haven’t made any decisions as to which kitchen to go for yet, but the consultations have given me lots of food for thought. I was also surprised as to just how fascinating and satisfying a virtual consultation can be. These days, you don’t even need to leave your kitchen to get a new kitchen designed!

Want to read more about kitchen design? Here are some great kitchen planning ideas for a beautiful space.

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