An independent source of kitchen design advice & ideas
Those of you who have been reading Majjie's blog for a while - or following me on Twitter - will know that I sometimes get involved in KBB (kitchen, bedroom, bathroom) industry wrangles about kitchen designer training. Or, more accurately, the lack of any such training.
As an independent kitchen designer, I'm well placed to judge the lack of satisfaction amongst consumers, when it comes to kitchen design. That's mostly at the lower end of the market, but it sometimes extends quite a long way up, to pricier kitchens too. And, in any case, those who buy inexpensive kitchens surely have just as much right to some decent design input for their projects?
Should only bespoke kitchens benefit from good kitchen design?
Of course, I don't get to see the kitchen designs that consumers are happy with, so maybe my opions are a bit biased. But, on the other hand, what about all those people who didn't come to me (or any other competent kitchen designer) - and who have put up with the boring, unimaginative designs ... or who have been "persuaded" to have something they didn't really want - or have bought a product which didn't really suit their needs - or worse still, end up with a kitchen that won't fit. The discontent that I see could well be the tip of an iceberg. And doesn't that represent a failing in the KBB industry?
A good kitchen designer needs to have a flair for design, of course, but a lot of the problems are to do with lack of training, too much emphasis on selling and not enough on designing ... and a complete lack of accessible technical information and design guidelines. I wrote about the problems and the lack of any proper training route here.
Another reason I'm interested, is because I get a few enquiries, via this website, from young people wanting to know how they could become kitchen designers, or asking for advice on learning their trade ... and I have very little to tell them. The best way for an inexperienced but keen youngster to get into the industry is to apply for a job with a direct sales organisation, or one of the big multiples that sell kitchens. You will then receive in-house training, where kitchen design principles will be skimmed over, and you will be taught to sell kitchens. From there, you can progress to working in more diverse kitchen retailers, if you wish ... but you will have to find for yourself the more detailed information that you need (and pick the brains of more experienced designers).
Higher up the market, some showrooms take on interior designers as kitchen designers ... but very few of them have any proper kitchen design training ... they have to learn on the job too.
There is an organisation that I believe should have been more concerned about this problem ... and that's the KBB NTG (National Training Group). So - because I have a fairly high profile website, when it comes to the KBB industry - and because I can! - I'm going to list my questions concerning training:
Open Questions to the KBB NTG and the KBB Industry
I ask these questions purely as an interested individual and to, maybe, facilitate the future of independent kitchen design (my particular enthusiasm), outside of the interior design profession. I have nothing against interior designers and many, of course, are talented kitchen designers (with post qualification experience and/or training). I strongly believe, though, that you don’t need to be an interior designer to become a kitchen designer. It’s a separate discipline.
Well, I went to the KBB Forum meeting in Nottingham yesterday. It's held under the Chatham House Rule - so I can't tell you who was there, or who said what, but I can tell you more or less what happened. I was there representing the Federation of Kitchen and Bathroom Designers (FKBD) - which may come as something of a surprise, since I often disagree with how Garry is doing things. We have the same basic desire, though, to promote a higher profile for designers (and design) within the KBB industry ... and Garry couldn't get there.
The main focus of the meeting was apprenticeships. The new WEBS training facilty is marvellous but the kitchen installers apprenticeship scheme is under threat, by new rules coming out in August. The rules are aimed at stopping bogus apprenticeship schemes - but they also affect the WEBS scheme whereby they actually employ the apprentices themselves, to get round the reluctance of self employed fitters to take on an apprentice. Everyone (apart from this stupid government) agrees that it's a brilliant scheme - so if you know anyone with any influence - get complaining!
The industry also needs more big employers (like the kitchen multiple retailers) - to use national apprenticeship schemes instead of just having in-house training schemes; although many of them use sub-contracted fitting firms - so, perhaps those should be the targets for fitting apprenticeships. Again, if you know anyone with influence, please spread the word. WEBS is apparently going to be involved in the new kitchen design NVQ too (but I still don't know it's correct title or any details).
I wanted to make six points, at the meeting, about the current problems with KBB design - but I was stopped from doing so. The Forum only wants solutions (or grand lobbying schemes) apparently, not problems. There was some discussion of whether kitchen design should be included within interior design, with me being the only one who emphatically thought it shouldn't. Worse still, it was even suggested that there was no necessity for any organisation for kitchen or bathroom designers. I think the Forum clearly demonstrated the opposite! If I had realised how closely associated the KBB Forum is with the KBB NTG, I could have guessed that my reception wouldn't have been very positive. I mistakenly thought it was a completely separate entity.
There are, of course, many retailers and showrooms who do put design at the forefront of their priorities ... but the "free" design model and the emphasis on sales to the detriment of design - far from being essential to the survival of independent retailers - is actually losing them business, impairing their image with the public, and costing them money.
The individual members of the Forum were all perfectly pleasant - and I was perhaps naive, in thinking that they'd listen - but, even taking into account their natural impatience at a newcomer who doesn't know what's gone before, I despair of raising the profile of design within such a "been there, done that, we know all about it" atmosphere. It's not as if the KBB NTG is open about it's plans and intentions, to ordinary designers.
Kitchen designers do, indeed, need to organise for themselves. Please have a look at the FKBD and the BKDA and join one or both, to strengthen our representation, get our voices heard and put kitchen design on a more professional basis.
Incidentally, although I picked up some information about what the KBB NTG is doing, along the way - there has been no formal reply to my original questions about training.
Apologies - I haven't had the time to keep this page updated recently. As some of you may know, I've been writing a book about kitchens and kitchen design and the dealine was the end of August. I've missed that deadline and have been given a few weeks reprieve - but the pressure's still on! And, of course, I still have my kitchen designs to do.
I have received replies to my questions to the KBB NTG - and I will try to add them here at a later date.