*This post was originally written 2 years after installation. I’ve edited and updated the post 5 years on (2022).
Way back, before I trained as an interior designer, we did a kitchen renovation to our 1930s house and installed a Howdens shaker kitchen. Many of my course students are curious about the quality of Howdens kitchens, so I thought I’d write a full Howdens kitchen review including my experience of them. I hope this supports you if you’re in the stages of researching which kitchen supplier is right, or simply asking yourself “Are Howdens kitchens any good?”.
To clarify, this is not a paid or collaborative post. We paid for this kitchen and all views are 100% my own.
I live with my partner Neil (and co-owner of Fifi McGee, we run this interior design and renovation company together) in a 1930s fixer upper. No kiddies or pets live with us. We've slowly but surely been doing up the house to make it a long term home, helping fellow renovators by sharing renovation resources and an online course which has helped so many UK renovators build their homes on time and on budget, it’s called How to Renovate a House. The kitchen work I’m about to discuss was one of the major expenses we invested in and learned so much in doing it.
Howdens Fairford Review | Are Howdens Kitchens Any Good?
Our kitchen is the Howdens Fairford kitchen range which is in a ‘shaker style’ and the colour is Cashmere. The wooden worktops are Howdens 60mm solid oak block and we have an integrated Howdens dishwasher. All other appliances (cooker, extractor, integrated fridge freezer, sink) we bought separately from different suppliers. We opted for a G-shaped layout in the kitchen, meaning the units run along 3 walls and extend to a 4th peninsula which we use as a breakfast bar.
What’s our Howdens kitchen like after 5 years?
Honestly? We are still as blissful over our Howdens kitchen as the day we installed it.
The design of it has transformed the way we live, never mind the house.
We have more storage space than we can actually fill, more space to cook, bake, dance (!) and it's a really sociable part of our house with guests naturally gathering around the breakfast bar for a chat and a cuppa when they come to visit.
That said, there are some areas, like the wooden worktops and the worktop area around the sink, that are now showing a little wear and tear, through no fault of Howdens but my own maintenance slipping (I'll talk more about the worktops and maintenance later on) but overall the layout, the fit, the cupboards and units are all as good as when we first got them - with regular care/maintenance which I explain below.
It's a solid kitchen and will fare well for years to come I think!
In fact, many of our Reno Club members seem to think so too. Some have opted for Howdens kitchens like us. I never take it for granted how supportive the Reno Club community is. Every post helps other renovators learn and make informed decisions about expensive renovation work. Plus there’s a real mix of renovators in the group sharing experiences of DIY Kitchens, Wren kitchens and so many more.
The group is open to those who enrol on our renovation online course.
First, what was the Howdens kitchen like to install?
When we were looking into kitchens, the three main options we considered were Ikea, B&Q and Howdens.
If you're trying to decide, you should also read our post entitled "Why we turned down an Ikea kitchen for Howdens" which explains why we made the choice to go with Howdens.
In a nutshell, that post describes how you can save money on kitchen installation costs if you go with Howdens.
In terms of the install of the kitchen, it all went relatively smoothly for our installers although the shelving section between the top row of cupboards left a lot to be desired, we’ve since had this fixed by a carpenter who cleverly installed a supporting board to which our existing shelf was attached at the back of the shelf.
Could a Howdens kitchen be installed by a DIYer?
Because the Howdens kitchen cabinets come pre-built it certainly makes elements of the install much quicker/easier e.g. putting the cabinets in place. But in terms of the finer details, not really.
Our level of DIY is basic and were very reliant on the excellent skills that our kitchen fitter brought to the project. Things like cutting and sanding an expensive worktop were not something that we would feel confident in even attempting.
There's also a quite a bit of cutting of various pieces and since it was extremely important that the finish was flawless, we didn't want to attempt to assist.
Perhaps an advanced DIYer could get involved but it is in general quite a big job (of course depending on the size of your kitchen).
What is the quality of Howdens kitchens like?
We’re pretty careful people but we’ve definitely had our fair share of knocks and bangs and the cabinet and drawers definitely withstood the abuse. The structure of the units definitely feels secure and we’ve had no issues with anything collapsing.
The swing out cupboard where we keep our tins feels super strong and to be honest we probably overload it. We had one issue with the a bag of onions that went bad and discoloured the plastic coating on the swing out tray but that’s our fault really.
The wood worktops are the hardest bit to keep nice and free from wear and tear but that is to be expected (especially around the sink). Since we treated them with oil in the first year and now only do it very infrequently they have actually remained in pretty good shape.
Any tips for designing a Howdens kitchen?
So many. I’m about to write a post on “What I wish I knew about kitchen design before I became an interior designer” which I’ll link in this post when it’s live, but if you would like some advice today then the best place to start is with my free kitchen guide – how to design and order a kitchen.
Was our Howdens kitchen cost affordable?
We had a reasonable but still pretty tight budget for our kitchen so we did a lot of research into even the smallest details because we knew we didn't have a lot of money to play with. Howdens represented one of the more affordable options we researched.
If you’re interesting in finding out our exact costs they are shown as an example within our budget planner that appears in our renovation online course. We also have a post about the Howdens price list which is worth checking out.
What are Howdens worktops like to maintain?
Neil had reservations about us opting for solid wood kitchen worktops because of the upkeep.
In order to keep them smooth and free from rings, burns and the risk of water damage they need more maintenance and regular protection with oil or wax than other worktops like granite, marble, laminate etc.
When we first installed the worktops from Howdens, I was prepared to sacrifice the hours spent oiling them regularly, and was generally worktop crazy (I was the one sliding coasters underneath everyone's wine glasses at a house party 😂).
Anything that meant us having those sought after, charming, real wooden worktops. 5 years on, I would never regret opting for wooden kitchen worktops but if I had my time again I'd have been a little more honest with myself about realistically caring for these worktops day in day out.
They are a bit of a handful. If you're planning on renting your house out - ever - they're a definite no in my book, unless you spend more with a different worktop supplier who can treat the worktop so that it's virtually impenetrable.
How did I treat the Howdens worktops after installation?
I oiled our worktops using Osmo oil clear matt worktop oil (affiliate link) 3 times directly after they were fitted, and then once 6 months after.
Typically they need oiling annually.
You can see around the sink that water has slightly blackened parts of the oak block. And that's with pretty good care, not letting any water rest on the surface for long periods of time. There's a few dry areas now, in the high traffic areas where we do a lot of meal prep, in need of a light sand and another oil. But about 98% of the overall worktop space is still beautiful! And I often tell myself small dinks and marks build character - which is the look Neil and I love.
By the way we also have a pretty useful post if you’re wondering which kitchen worktops are best.
What about the kitchen accessories / additions Howdens offer? Did you get any and were they worth it?
Often when you shop with kitchen companies you can upgrade on certain accessories or additions like cutlery trays and shelving systems. We didn't go overboard on these upgrades as they soon rack up the price, but the ones we did go ahead and opt for we are glad we did.
1. 90cm cutlery tray
Really glad we got this as it makes the most of the space the wider 90cm pan drawers we opted for and organises cutlery, knives and utensils well. It comes out if you ever want to give it a deep clean. Not going to lie, not done that yet but looks pretty straight forward. 😂
2. 60cm cutlery tray
We have standard sized drawers located beside the sink and originally ordered a Howdens 60cm cutlery tray to go in to the top drawer as a second cutlery drawer. Honestly it got so tedious trying to find cutlery between the large 90cm draw and the small 60cm draw that we binned this off for an easier life. If you like to keep 'special' cutlery, like brass or silver for dining and special occasions then it could be worth it. But for us, we'd sooner an extra drawer to keep tea towels.
3. Built in bin and recycling unit
By far the best decision we made in the kitchen was to integrate a Howdens 70cl bin and 2 x 40cl recycling units so that they swing out from under the breakfast bar. Being a G-plan kitchen with no further wall space we didn't have anywhere to put a freestanding bin, nor was I keen on having recycling boxes cluttering the house. This addition was extra spend and meant we had to sacrifice a full 60cm wide unit to have, but it was by far worth the sacrifice! We have enough storage elsewhere. I like how being tucked under the oak it keeps smells at bay also.
4. Corner unit swing / storage
You know those corner units in your kitchen that you always seem to lose things in? An onion rolls to the back and gets lost and goes mouldy, or you just stack up pans and baking trays in the corner making a right ol’ racket every time you’re trying to find the one you need… well this corner unit swing, a swing in, swing out rack that’s built into the cupboard is the solution. They’re on the expensive side but we bought 1 and it’s perfect for stacking our tins and veg. It really utilises the space well.
Have we had any problems with the kitchen?
I’m struggling to think of any problems. The only issue we’ve had to contend with since installing the kitchen has been the fridge freezer. We bought it from Mark’s Electricals so nothing to do with Howdens, and had problems with the light inside the fridge.
In terms of the install of the kitchen, it all went relatively smoothly although the shelving section between the top row of cupboards left a lot to be desired, we’ve since had this fixed by a carpenter who cleverly installed a supporting board to which our existing shelf was attached at the back of the shelf.
I had my heart set on an open shelf area I could style, rather than a row of cupboards - to add interest to the design, but Howdens couldn’t really offer me much in the line of bespoke shelving. So I had to get creative.
I worked with our builder to use some leftover end panel (tongue and groove that was used to finish off underneath the breakfast bar) which worked well. We also used Bottle Blocks as opposed to a bespoke wine rack which would have cost us a lot more money!
What are Howdens Lamona appliances like?
Lamona appliances are the Howdens 'own-name' appliances. When we were researching Howdens we couldn't find that much out about Lamona but since it worked out cheaper we installed a Lamona integrated dishwasher and honestly, it does a great job.
The dishes very rarely come out other than sparkling clean and it's pretty quiet too, we really have no complaints about it.
We have heard that the ovens cause some trouble so it might be worth googling about those.
Are we pleased with the colour?
I was naturally really nervous about committing to a kitchen that wasn’t white like our previous home. Being the sort of person who grows tired of colours. We settled on the Fairford range in the colour Cashmere, and while it does have a slightly lilac tinge in some lights, I still really like it.
It has a calmness about it that makes me want to cook and clean in there.
Howdens also do a paintable range for a higher price tag. If you have the money, it would definitely be worth investigating these because we are now stuck with this one colour.
What are Howdens units like to clean?
It takes me absolutely AGES to clean this kitchen. Probably about 2 hours when I’m doing my weekly clean, and the rest of the house combined takes about 2 hours!
We're quite a motivated couple when it comes to chores and cleaning so I will say that it’s pretty well maintained, which is another reason why it’s fared well over the 5 years we’ve had it.
The lighter colour on the cabinets aren’t so light that it shows every finger print or food stain, but the cupboard doors and kick backs do need wiping down at least once a fortnight.
The matt finish means you can’t see many finger prints, and I can quite quickly wipe all the doors down in 15 mins with some diluted zoflora in a spray bottle, and a damp sponge.
How does it compare to B&Q or Wickes?
There are so many B&Q Kitchens reviews out there, same for Wickes, to help you decide which is for you. What we can comment on is design. Our B&Q and Wickes design appointments just didn’t wow us and didn’t provide us with the options we wanted so Howdens topped trumps.
Are Howdens Kitchens good value?
Absolutely, without question. The reason why I can confidently say it was good value for money is because of several things…
It still looks as good as new
There are no cracks, no dents, no warping even 5 years on
It’s not thrown a single issue since the day we installed it
If I had to move and buy another kitchen, Howdens would get my custom. I wouldn’t waste time getting designs from B&Q/Ikea like I did previously.
In 5 years time, I’ll revisit this post and potentially have a little more to say, but if our kitchen remains as lovely as it is today I’ll be every bit as smitten.
**EDIT** This post was originally a 2 year review. I’ve just reviewed the post 5 years on and the kitchen is still in great condition, all of the above still applies. However, as my practice as an interior designer has evolved, I’d definitely look at alternative kitchen suppliers closely for future personal projects.
Howdens will always be a strong contender in our future homes when there’s budget constraints, but I’d explore bespoke kitchens first as the customisation and finish is next to none (provided you get a reputable joiner). I’d also strongly recommend opting for paintable cabinets to change the colour of your kitchen in years to come. This is one regret I now recommend to all my clients. Go paintable if you can afford to!
Hope you enjoyed this Howdens kitchen review, thank you for reading!
PS. If you can’t make up your mind about which company to go with, our B&Q kitchen review might come in handy.