The only other real development to affect kitchens and bathrooms is the general and essential emphasis on energy conservation. The world’s diminishing resources and rising costs have at last caused us to cut our cloth accordingly, and in the two rooms in question, this has resulted in extra insulation for energy-consuming equipment, assisted circulation in ovens which reduces cooking times and temperature levels, more interest in showers since they use far less water than baths (and in shower units equipped with instantaneous water heaters) and the careful insulation of hot water tanks by householders.
Before you rush into redesigning your room (whether it is a kitchen or bathroom) or even building a new one, remember that it may be necessary to comply with certain statutory requirements. If the room is to take the form of an extension and is over 15% of the overall size of the house you need such permission. And if you are making any structural alterations at all – knocking down internal walls, rearranging the plumbing, moving windows, etc. you will always need to have your ideas looked at and approved by the local building inspector or, in the London area, the district surveyor, one of whose tasks is to ensure the safety and sanitariness of both your own and your neighbors’ properties. So consult the appropriate departments at your local authority offices before you start work. Then there is the question of home improvement grants.
These are of various types, some statutory, some discretionary, and may be available if you are building a kitchen or bathroom where once there was none, if you lack amenities such as a hot water supply, or if you are doing conversion work. Get full details from your local authority and make your application before you start work. Grants cannot be given once the work has commenced. lf you are going to employ an architect, he or she) will deal with any applications regarding planning and building regulations. In fact, this is a good point at which to define the architect’s role. For kitchens and bathrooms are often difficult to plan and expensive to equip and in many cases, it is well worthwhile to employ an architect to ensure you are spending your money in a sensible, logical fashion. An architect may be a man or a woman (though for simplicity l shall refer to him). He is trained, as no other professional person is, to plan the use of space in the most economical, logical and aesthetically pleasing fashion. He will incorporate the necessary technical services (heating, fume extraction, plumbing, etc.) in an efficient, functional and economical way, and then supervise the construction of his scheme, be it kitchen or power station or any size of building in between, to the satisfaction of his client.
Besides all this he is commonly required to act as a go-between, whipping boy, financial adviser and occasional labourer. Not all architects are good in all these roles. Some are. Choose yours carefully. ln the context of kitchen and bathroom design, look at work which has been done for friends, look for schemes you admire in the home magazines and, best of all, consult the client’s advisory service of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 99 Portland Place, London W1, who will give you a list of potentially suitable architects in your area. But do not take their descriptions on trust. Look at the candidate’s previous work, talk to their clients. That way your choice is likely to be a good one. An interior designer is not normally qualified to cope with structural work, such as a new extension or large-scale alterations. He could, however, undertake the replanning or refurbishing of an existing kitchen. To find the best person for the job consult the Design Council, 28 Haymarket, London SW1, for a list of possible candidates and then – as with an architect – make your own careful inspection of previous work. Do not, incidentally, assume that a woman will design a better kitchen or bathroom than a man. She may, but not necessarily so. A good designer is a good designer, of either sex.