Episode 43: Kitchen Design Essentials – Flatpack Vs Custom Designed Kitchens

She walks through some of the core differences and what compromises may need to be made with a flat pack kitchen with its sizing constraints.

She also discusses material and hardware differences that may impact your decisions. As always, the focus is on Forever Homes, and she chats through compromises that may impact you later on, and cost a lot to rectify.


When it comes to kitchen renovation or building a new kitchen, it can be difficult to decide what route to go down in terms of flatpack or custom kitchens. You may wonder about the difference between a custom and flatpack design, and so in today’s episode, Frances chats about the key difference between off the shelf / flat pack kitchens and custom kitchens.

customized kitchen allows you to create a kitchen that is exactly what you what and needs as it is designed from the outset specifically for you, space and your requirements.  You will generally get a better finish and a wider selection of options to choose from in terms of materials, finish, and hardware.

If you’re creating a kitchen for your Forever Home, having the design that you want is important. Compromising on design elements due to flatpack constraints can be a frustration if you’re going to live there for 10+ years.

Frances has had flatpack kitchens in two apartments she owned in London and Amsterdam.  She had a top-end Ikea kitchen in Amsterdam and put her own stamp on it by adding handmade splashback tiles. However, she too at to compromise on the design outcome as cabinetry components did not go wall to wall and so she ended up with a gap at one end, which wasn’t ideal.


  • Limitations on the height of cabinetry – Flatpack has a standard cabinetry height so it won’t go as high as you would like or need.
  • Not all cabinetry sizes will suit the exact measurements of the kitchen which may compromise the aesthetic or functional aspect of your kitchen.
  • Often don’t have solid backs – Flatpack kitchens frequently have a flimsy backing board, it goes straight to wall – just like on a Billy Bookcase. Customised normally provides for a  minimum 16mm backing compared to abput4mm for a flatpack.
  • Can be limited in choice of materials, colors, and finishes
  • Hinges and hardware are not as normally as good quality –  They won’t have a lifetime guarantee
  • It’s can be time-consuming to install a flat pack kitchen.
  • With the additional labour cost, a flat pack kitchen may not be a cheaper option.
  • If ordering online – there is no room for error. You are responsible for the precise measurements to get the right size materials, so you bare the risk if it’s incorrect.  Also, if ordering online, ensure to get samples of the materials as colours can be different online.
  • Sometimes a flatpack kitchen can be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole to make it all work.

Custom kitchen

  • Built by a cabinet maker, so everything can be cut it to size and be precise. A designer and a Cabinet Maker – A designer is designing the kitchen cabinetry with a lot of consideration for functionality, flow, and owner requirements. A cabinet maker is the maker of the design, so is not necessarily considering other factors and may only be looking at cabinetry to fit the space.
  • Design is not just about the material and how many cupboards or drawers you can fit into space. Kitchen design is about how it works and flows and how and where you access what you need in terms of food prep, storage, cleaning and so forth, which all needs to be considered in-depth for a custom design
  • Fully custom
    • Give you more options in terms of Colour, Material, Finish and overall Design
    • Able to consider additional hardware features- i.e retractable pantry or bi-fold doors or other hardware features from kitchen hardware specialists
    • No ‘make do’ when sizes don’t fit – can be made to fit so it looks right.
  • Material sheet size dependent on material type. Std sizes: 2440/2700 x 1200mm. Having a customised kitchen allows you to work with different thickness of materials- i.e 16, 18, 25 & 33mm, which can be used for different aspects of your kitchen.
  • Add little details important to you and accessories
    • Specific drawer sizes, custom bin systems.
  • More flexibility on where you store what you need and how it’s stored to suit you.
  • Have the things as you want as you are involved in the design process.
  • Add in design features not always available with flat-pack Eg – retractable doors, BLUM pantry drawer system, customized drawer inners.
  • Can choose to have it made from materials higher durability, which may not be the case with flatpack materials.

Your kitchen is a space that needs to work super hard for you. It is the hub of the home where we entertain, do homework, and catch up with friends. A customised kitchen is designed to fit your needs and lifestyle which is an important element when building your Forever Home. Therefore, Frances always advises her clients to plan their kitchen carefully and get it designed as it’s well worth the investment for your Forever Home.


Available Services:

Book- a-chat

If you’re thinking about renovating or building your own “Forever Home”, get in touch with Frances directly, by booking a chat with her.

Kitchen Design Sanity Check

Kitchens are such an important part of any home and they need to work super hard for you. Getting the design right is critical to the functionality, flow and useability of the space ultimately affecting your lifestyle.

Want a second opinion on your kitchen plan? Book a kitchen design sanity check today.

Kitchen Bliss Package

Overwhelmed by the amount of decisions that need to be made when creating a stylish, functional and durable kitchen? What materials to select, what colours will co-ordinate together, what design is going to best suit the space, and your requirements.

We offer kitchen design packages that include joinery design and material selections for a complete kitchen design. Click the link here to find more.


Related Resources:

Why Internal Elevations are Critical for Your Home

Episode 41: Kitchen Design Essentials – Cabinetry Materials

Episode 39: Kitchen Design Essentials – Splashbacks

Episode 38: Kitchen Design Essentials-Benchtop Criteria and Materials – Part 2 

Episode 36: Kitchen Design Essentials – Benchtops part 1 

Episode 14: Forever Home LIVE- Joinery Drawings and Why Do Them Early On-

Episode 30: Kitchen Design Essentials -Kitchen Design Layouts and Location

Episode 32: Kitchen Design Essentials – The Builder’s Insight 

How to Choose the Right Bench Top 

Top 5 tips for selecting benchtops

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