* Prices may differ from that shown
As you're probably sick of hearing by now, we had a new kitchen fitted a few months ago. The kitchen came from a company called Wren Kitchens, which I'd never heard of before but my husband is familiar with as he has a subscription to Grand Designs magazine, bought as a birthday present by yours truly. We only went to "have a look", and ended up buying the kitchen of my dreams! This is what happens when you go window shopping....
According to their website, Wren Kitchens are the "fastest growing kitchen retailer in the UK". I'm not sure whether they could actually prove this if you were to question them, but what is quantifiable is that they currently have 30 stores nationwide, with more opening soon. They have been in existence for 35 years, which is remarkable considering I'd never heard of them before.
Their website is full of promises regarding their high standards and quality control procedures, and they offer a 20 year guarantee on their cabinets. This gives great confidence in their products. They also operate "The Wren Standard", which basically means that they offer things such as soft-closing drawers and extra-deep drawers as standard, whereas most kitchen providers consider these to be extras.
More details regarding the company can be found at www.wrenkitchens.com
We purchased our kitchen from the Chester store, as we live on the Wirral and this was the nearest showroom. The showroom is clean and presented in a very appealing way. We stopped to look at a few different kitchens before deciding on the one we ended up buying. We had an idea in mind and as soon as we saw it there was no need for consultation - we simply gave each other the nod of agreement!
As is standard with kitchen showrooms, the product information placed around each kitchen wasn't overly forthcoming with prices. There were examples of how much a kitchen would cost with a certain number of units, but generally kitchens are so bespoke it's difficult to judge how much it's going to cost without going through the design process. Wren claim they can work with any budget between £1,000 to £20,000, but that their average typical complete kitchen sells for between £4,000 and £5,000.
==Ahem, we'd like to order a kitchen, cough cough!==
The first time we entered the shop (we ended up going for a wander then coming back), we were asked on arrival if we needed any help, but said we were happy browsing for the time being. When we decided we wanted to get a quote on the kitchen, there wasn't a staff member in sight. We hung around for a little while, trying to catch a member of staff, but nobody seemed interested in the fact we were clearly planning our kitchen and were planning to buy something. We ended up leaving the shop and coming back after we'd finished our errands for the day, as this way the staff would realise we were serious and might offer to help.
We sat with a lovely young man, who talked us through the design process in a non-patronising way. My husband has quite a lot of knowledge of all things house-related, and undertakes a fair bit of research before each stage of our house renovation, so he sometimes gets frustrated when people treat him like he's clueless. I, on the other hand, don't really have much of a clue about anything, so the kitchen designer we saw struck a great balance between not patronising my husband, but ensuring I knew what he was talking about.
Wren offer a free home measurement service, but my husband had brought the measurements with him as we were hoping to get an idea of prices from our shopping trip. The chap offered for someone to come out and check the measurements, but this wasn't necessary because at the time it was an empty blank canvas, and easy to measure accurately without anything getting in the way.
The designer put together our dream kitchen on his computer screen, right before our eyes, based on what we told him we wanted. This was the part I'd been dreading, because although I was looking forward to watching our dream kitchen come to life, I suspected we might be getting the "hard sell". As it was, the designer took our input seriously, and even offered us cheaper ways of doing things. He showed us samples of a real wood worktop, versus the laminated one, and basically told us it would add thousands to the cost and real wood needs treating regularly, so we went with the laminate. He gave us price options on the corner units ranging between the cheapest where you have to get on your hands and knees to see what's in the cupboard, to the most expensive which was a full pull out extending shelf unit.
We wanted appliances to be included in our purchase, and Wren price-match all appliances which basically means they do a search online and match the cheapest price they can find. They also threw in our full-sized Bosch dishwasher for £50, as this was a special offer they had at the time. All these things contributed to us getting the kitchen we wanted, within our budget.
==Two can play that game==
When it comes to negotiating when buying, the rule in our relationship is that I sit quietly and try not to let on how much I like something, whilst my husband tries to knock them down on price. As we were sitting to design the kitchen, he whispered to me "Try not to look too keen", and throughout the whole process he remained fairly nonchalant and non-committal. Once the designer arrived at the final price, it was probably around what we were intending to pay, but my husband's father is a salesman so we never leave anywhere without him trying to haggle - that's just the way he was brought up!
After the designer consulted with his manager to see if he could get a reduction on price (classic sales technique!), he knocked a bit off the final figure and finally I could stop pretending I wasn't immensely excited by this kitchen! The final price was in budget, and a fair bit cheaper than quotes we had had when we first started looking, from places such as Wickes and Magnet, although stating the price itself would be meaningless without seeing the list of things included, and the layout of our kitchen, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was good value.
There was a fair bit of checking to do before submitting the final order, as there are pages of brackets, handles and plinths included with the order which make it really tiresome. We placed our order, but asked that we could wait until after our honeymoon for delivery (new kitchen arriving a week before a wedding = very stressed bride-to-be!). They were great about this and told us just to let them know when we wanted the kitchen and they would deliver it. From memory, I think the lead time in normal circumstances is around six weeks.
Delivery was fairly hassle-free, although my husband dealt with it by taking a day off and telling me to go to work to keep out of the way! Apparently he had to tick off each item as it arrived, to ensure nothing was damaged or missing. They did tell us in the store not to panic too much about this, because if we later discovered something was amiss they would rectify it, as they understand it's possible to miss things when there are so many items being delivered.
We were kept up to date with the delivery process, although I think we found out on a Monday that it would be delivered on the Friday. This gave my husband chance to book a day's annual leave, and on the day he received a call confirming what time they were coming.
The only issue we had with quality, was when our kitchen fitter realised there was resin on one of the worktops which wouldn't come off. This meant we had to get another length of worktop delivered, which held up our fitting by a good week and a half and was a bit of an inconvenience as it meant the fitter had to come back unscheduled to take delivery and fit the missing piece. On top of this, I was getting increasingly frustrated that the kitchen was so close to being finished, but still not fully completed.
Once the issue with the worktop was resolved, however, the kitchen was finished and it does look top quality. Obviously, we've only had it a few months, but you can tell by the way the units are so solid that it is a quality kitchen. We have the twenty year guarantee on the units if anything does go wrong, but I'm very confident that we chose the best kitchen we could afford. The doors and drawers are all soft-close, the shelves within units are sturdy, the sink and tap are simple but elegant, and the appliances...well, I've reviewed them all separately so I won't bore you again! Our kitchen fitter said he has seen a lot of kitchens over the years, but he was also impressed by the quality of the kitchen.
I am very impressed with the product and service received from Wren, and would have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone who is considering making this huge purchase from them.
(Review may also appear on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)