Jo Buckerfield

‘You need a degree to design kitchens,’ claims retailer

Anyone designing a kitchen should have a degree, a retailer has argued.

Jo Buckerfield (pictured), design director of Your Space Living in Glamorgan, said that good design matters, and that having a relevant degree-level qualification sets a standard that is universally recognised.

She said “any Tom, Dick or Harry” could set up as a kitchen retailer, claim to be a designer and provide a substandard service and that she was shocked at how few qualified designers there were in the KBB industry.

Although, she did add that some good designers without degrees do exist, albeit few and far between.

“If you do have 30 years of experience creating stunning interiors that send your clients weak at the knees, add value to their homes and enhance their lives for the better, then fair play, I salute you,” Buckerfield said. “But if you have 30 years of experience selling boxes on walls that aim to barely satisfy your clients’ uneducated expectations and maximise profit over value, then your business is in serious jeopardy.

“If you are running a business that falls somewhere between those two extremes, I believe you need to consider the qualifications of your designers.”

Although Buckerfield argued the need for a degree, she didn’t agree that the Bucks New University Kitchen Design Degree was necessarily the answer. She criticised the design degree for its “part-time” commitment over the three years and went on to explain that a degree should benefit from full-time access to lecturers and university resources.

She also stated that the modules in the design degree are too niche for young people still pondering their career options.

She believed that more general degrees, such as product and furniture or interior and spatial design, were the way to go. She also alleged that a degree in the arts starts at an early age, long before monetary reward becomes a factor.

She claimed that genuine talent would be identified in the classroom, and then be channelled through Art GCSE and A Levels before embarking on a Bachelor of Arts degree. Meaning a designer would spend a potential nine years in artistic study before entering the professional world.

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However, kitchen designer and owner of Rugby Fitted Kitchens, Trevor Scott argued that funding degrees for staff is too expensive and not worthwhile for a retailer.

“Three years, at not inconsiderable expense, and then they leave halfway through because the studio in the next town has offered them a higher basic and more commission because I couldn’t, thanks to the cost of all that training. So, it’s Catch 22,” he said.

He also argued that people generally stumble into the KBB industry from all walks of life and that it would be slim pickings trying to find current industry representatives that left school and went to college with furniture or space design as a career choice.

“To suggest to say a 45-year-old that he or she cannot become a kitchen designer simply because they didn’t study the right degree is utter rubbish,” he added.

While the KBB industry may currently be an “unregulated jungle”, Buckerfield didn’t think regulation was the answer.

“In the realm of interior design, at least from a visual perspective, you’ll never get any agreement that could lead to a set of satisfactory standards,” she said. “On top of that, who will regulate the regulators? It’s likely to be the companies with the deepest pockets who will ‘guide’ the industry in a direction that generates them the biggest market share and highest profits. Ultimately, regulation would stifle creativity and encourage the cookie-cutter retailers who already dominate the industry for all the wrong reasons.”

However, Scott disagreed, saying that the industry needed an umbrella trade body that could “bang the drum” where legislation was concerned and enforce changes to standards.

“I suspect, in most quality establishments, all of this is undertaken in-house by more experienced staff, either informally or as part of an on-the-job learning programme,” he concluded.

  • For more on this story, see our February Training & Education Special

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