Wednesday, 30 January 2013

FIRST WORD: Elephant in the open plan room

Editor of Kitchens & Bathrooms News, Philippa Turrell wonders why showrooms are still to reflect the trend for open-plan, 'living space' kitchens.

While industry pundits discuss kitchen trends from the LivingKitchenshow in Cologne, including their seamless integration into the ground floor space, few have pointed to the elephant residing in the room. It may be too controversial to discuss. It even may even be too inconvenient for this ever-increasing ‘interior fashion’ industry. But have UK retailers actually embraced open-plan kitchen design – let alone ground floor integration - and do their showrooms genuinely reflect this trend for ‘lifestyle living’ on the high street?
I don’t mean paying lip service to lifestyle living, with a breakfast bar or an island unit. Alongside galleys and L-shape runs, how many retailers show a transition from kitchen to dining through to soft seating in one display, demonstrating how these spaces work and blend together?

Open-plan has been the buzz word for the past 10 years in kitchen design. The style has been spread across the pages of glossy home magazines in WH Smiths, for some time. But are these ‘aspirational’ rather than ‘inspirational’ kitchens? Are these niche looks, only for the most discerning of consumer? Or – and here is the concern - are they showcasing looks that consumers want but can’t find in the average kitchen showroom?

Of course, I should add there are retailers who have designed their showroom around the living space kitchen trend. They have embraced the need to look further than the boundary of the kitchen wall and realised the potential profit of designing the likes of media areas. But these are the exception, rather than the rule.

So why has the kitchen retailer been slow to adopt the living kitchen trend and to reflect it in their showroom? If the consumer want is there for the lifestyle look, is it the UK housing stock that just won’t allow for expansive kitchens? Well, they are often combined with building works, such as an extension, so that can’t be true.

Is it a fear of losing the sale, that four small furniture displays must offer the better chance of securing the contract – by offering four times more choice? Well, not if the consumer can’t see themselves living in the three of four door run.  Is it too complicated to learn a new way of planning, from plotting boxes around a wall, to now embrace interior architecture? It could be a matter of training needs, rather than objection. Or is it simply a matter of a long-overdue refreshment, and reduction in available showroom manpower to instigate these changes, thanks to the tough economy?

The living space kitchen trend has shown itself not to be a fleeting fashion trend. And judging by the furniture on show at LivingKitchen, it is only going to grow in importance in home design. And for consumers who are able to refurbish their kitchen, this is the look they are craving to add value to their home.

So, perhaps kitchen retailers should take a close look at their showroom and see how it meets this living space trend. By extending a showroom display to include occasional table and chairs, low level soft seating and media area – adding them to your sales itinerary - perhaps you can improve your revenues and margin too.


  1. Ref Twitter comment. Kitchens, then bedrooms and bathroom furniture. Why not add to that with living area furniture?
    Same margins, less competition, lower showroom cost outlay.....

  2. Great information provided.Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing.
    modular kitchens Bangalore