Should you hire an interior designer for a kitchen renovation?

Many people believe that a high street kitchen company will create a free design for you when you’re buying through them, so why hire an interior designer? Let’s look at a recent case study, and see how ‘free’ these high street designs are, and whether they’re worth it.

I received an enquiry from a couple who, like a lot of people, had gone to a high street kitchen company for their kitchen design, but they just weren’t feeling good about the design that had been done for them. They couldn’t put their finger on why, as the ‘designer’ (read: salesperson) from the kitchen company had said that was the best they could have given the space they had. Afraid to commit to something they weren’t happy with, they booked a consultation with me to see if it could be better.


Here’s that big brand kitchen company’s best effort:

terrible high street kitchen design
Terrible kitchen design by a high street kitchen company

Shall we unpack this hot mess?

  1. Not all kitchens suit an island, particularly when there isn’t any seating, dining or storage on the other side of the island.
  2. There is a gorgeous large sash window that you can see in the visual, and another smaller one along the wall – these have been completely ignored in the design.
  3. The fridge freezer has been located near the patio doors, under a Velux roof light. Fridge freezers should be away from sunlight or they’ll overheat which will reduce their lifespan.
  4. The larder cupboard has been plonked at the opposite end with no connection to the rest of the kitchen.
  5. The sink area is horribly claustrophobic with no view.
  6. No thought has been given to lighting.

Overall, it’s a disjointed, uninspiring and ill-thought out ‘design’. They’ve simply packed in as many units as they can into the space without considering how the residents would feel using this kitchen, how practical it would be, or even how to incorporate the positive architectural features of the space.

Here’s some insider knowledge for you: kitchen ‘designers’ at many big brand companies are not designers, they’re salespeople who are targeted on the number of units they sell. Their remit is to fill your kitchen with as many units as they can. They don’t much care about how your kitchen will flow or feel, how to optimise your space or how to make the best of the positive features. Their main motivation is to close the sale and earn the commission. High street kitchen companies also charge a lot more for an inferior quality product compared to a supplier-only company, because of retail overheads, commission payouts and the expectation of being haggled down (“BUY NOW TO SECURE THIS LIMITED TIME SALE!” 🙄).


The couple realised the above design belonged in the bin 🚮  and booked me to design their kitchen. This was their brief:

  1. There would be no separate utility room, so the kitchen had to accommodate a laundry appliance and a broom cupboard.
  2. A 5-ring induction hob, oven, grill, microwave, American fridge freezer with water dispenser.
  3. Good storage (of course).
  4. Sociable: space to accommodate a friend or two for a cuppa (they’d assumed they would need an island for this).
  5. Dark blue cabinetry with a white worktop (normally I would suggest colours, but they were pretty set on a dark blue kitchen).


Under the large sash window, single pan drawer units form a window seat which celebrates the beautiful period feature while adding seating and occasional storage to the kitchen.

On the left, I created a corner dresser, with glazed wall units that would be lit inside with LED strip lighting. There would also be strip lighting under the wall units to illuminate the counter.

And to answer the brief of making the kitchen more sociable…

… the window seat is essentially a banquette… a lovely breakfast nook / informal dining area / a space to enjoy a cup of tea with a magazine or a friend.

The clients had previously thought they wanted a kitchen with an island, rather than a galley kitchen, as they had assumed the latter wouldn’t be sociable and would feel too ‘kitcheny’. I was delighted to show them otherwise. 😊  Happily, they loved my design, and a very nice bonus for them was that this much improved design actually worked out several thousand pounds cheaper when sourced from a supply-only company than buying from the high street company, thus making up for my design fee a few times over! A win-win in every way.

[Clients receive a pack of design documents including dimensioned layouts, information for the kitchen fitter, electrical and lighting plans, specifications for any custom work and a clickable shopping list for every recommended product – these are not shown here as they are for clients only, but the images here should give a pretty good idea of the overall design.]

So, a kitchen designed by a high street salesperson vs a kitchen designed by me… who would you pick? Feel free to play with the slider below compare properly!

Did you know – you don’t have to be in Nottingham to work with me? I can design for clients anywhere in the UK if you can (a) provide measurements / architect plans and photos, and (b) manage the design implementation yourself.  

1 Comment

  1. 12 May 2023 / 11:53 am

    Amazing kitchen design this is. Here in my city also Big kitchen companies pitch to design but most people don’t pay attention towards it. I think now I know the reason.

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