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I recently read an interesting article on the KBB Review website. For those who don't know, this is the trade magazine for the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom industry. The article was entitled "Kitchens an afterthought to most architects, say designers". Here is a link to the article.
The article was designed to highlight a rift that has developed between some architects and kitchen designers as they seek to do their best for their clients. With that in mind, there should be no rift. If the aim is to satisfy a clients needs, then both should work together to achieve that end. However, there does seem to be a lack of collaboration when, in my eyes, the architect and the kitchen designer need each other more than ever.
The article took a straw poll of a small selection of KBB designers and found that most had experienced problems working with architects. Some interesting quotes were added to the article. Kitchen designer Johnny Grey said "One of the reasons I'm quite often limited by the projects I do is because you get a very status driven architect, they don't like other designers on site. So they push aside anybody who's got a vision or a skill.”
Glasgow based KBB designer Colin Wong agreed that "most commonly, architects treat kitchen design as an afterthought, a retrofit irrelevance and not really part of the fabric of the structure”.
The article ends with a response from Neil Wilson from Neil Wilson Architects in central London. In my opinion Neil's response was harsh but in fairness to him, I wasn't there to share his experiences with people from my industry. Here is Neil's quote taken directly from the KBB article.
"If designers aren't listening to me and providing what I want, then I won't use them. But if they do listen and they are intelligent then I will.
There are often cases where we spend a lot of time and effort designing a kitchen and then you go to a kitchen showroom and they want to redesign everything when I've spent weeks, if not months, doing it myself. I don't want them to change it. I want them to draw it up, price it, do CAD drawings and go from there.
I don't really use a kitchen designer per se. I want their product, I don't really want their input. But that's me, I'm a design architect, I'm doing a lot of residential work. It's a full service to the client and I don't want to hive off bits and give them to other people, which happens far too much in the industry, from project management to lots of other roles, and kitchen design could be one of them."
Whilst I admire Neil's honesty, he does come across as a difficult chap to work with here. I suppose this is a perfect example of how NOT to win friends and influence people. There is always a chance that the above quote needs more context, so it's best not to say too much more about it. However, it is worth me talking about my relationships with architects and why I feel a talented kitchen designer can enhance the finished home that a client focused architect should be looking to create.
I have worked with many architects over the years and my experience has been nothing but positive. When I am involved in a project from the beginning I can make genuine improvements to the layout of a house by focusing on the kitchen, the family and the way they plan to use the space. It's simply the case that the architects I have worked with have welcomed my attention to detail. They have acknowledged the fact that they are working on the big picture and appreciate the focus I can bring to a specific part of their project.
There is a problem in my industry and Neil's comments lead me to believe that he has come up against it in the past. The kitchen design industry is full of "salesmen selling cupboards" (a quote from Diane Berry). His reference to a showroom strengthens this assumption. I don't work from a showroom. A showroom is where you show off something you are selling. I work from a design studio. A design studio is where you create something special. There's a huge difference.
In my opinion, egos need to be put to one side. The only people that matter are the clients. They will be spending a considerable amount of money on their extension or house build. The chunk they put towards the kitchen will be a significant proportion of that budget. It needs to be right for them. Kitchen design and the spacial planning that goes with it is a specialist discipline that requires many years of dedication. A good architect has a huge amount of information to put across in their design. I for one understand why they don't want to focus on the intricacies of the kitchen, they have enough on their plates (pardon the pun). I certainly don't know any architect that has the time to devote "weeks, if not months" to personally design a kitchen. In every architectural project I have worked on, the architect has needed to outsource the kitchen design. They didn't consider it 'hiving off'. They looked upon it more as a collaboration. I also found that the clients were impressed to know the architect had brought in a specialist to assist with this important element of the project. My help reassured the client and took some of the pressure away from a very hard working architect.
Throughout these collaborative projects, we worked together and were full of mutual respect. The total focus was always on a beautiful home that enhances the lives of the people who live in it. I guess my only complaint is that in many cases I'm not brought in early enough.
It's all about respect for people's roles and talents. There are many elements needed to create a beautiful home and having a harmonious team involved in its creation is essential. I enjoy working with architects. I would like to work with more of them. I know I can help them and add real value to the projects they undertake. I have a passion for the work I do and I do it for my clients. They are my total focus and their happiness is paramount to me. If this post has resonated with you in some way, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to contact me through this website.
The kitchen in the image above is an excellent example of a client focussed kitchen. This traditional in frame kitchen was designed and installed by Your Space Living in April 2015. This project was a huge undertaking that required many hours of work and a lengthy consultation period with the client. The attention to detail is exceptional and I would never expect an architect to take on this level of work on top of their architectural design brief.
Categories: kitchen design