A century ago, the emphasis for kitchen and bath design was all about sanitation and safety. Plumbing was paramount.
Today’s design is all about fashion with an emphasis on “different and creative” at every turn. While it’s hard not to get caught up in so many unique materials and products to gladden the hearts of most designers, we should also think about the aging utilities and services.
When I first started in kitchen and bath design, that wasn’t something we discussed, simply because appliances and plumbing fixtures of the day didn’t require much.
That’s all changed—tubs are getting larger, ranges grow more powerful and multi-sinks and faucets are becoming the norm.
I think we have to pay attention to our aging housing stock. The majority of homes in North America are reaching the 40-year-old mark. Many have outdated electrical panels or insufficient electrical supply. In homes older than that, some of us are still dealing with fuses or
old knob-and-tube wiring, or old cast-iron pipes and insufficient water pressure.
These systems were never meant for all the appliances and plumbing fixtures we have today.
Of course they can be updated, and some already are. But do you know the homes in your area well enough to make you hesitate over some of your specification choices?
For example, in California we’re dealing with failing 50-year-old gas lines. The latest home gas explosion in Cupertino was last week and follows the multihome explosion in San Bruno last year. The culprit is old pipes. My late father, who used to work for a gas pipeline, would have simply asked, “Where were the shut-off valves?” That there aren’t any isn’t a good sign. Do we know when the entire pipeline will be updated or replaced? Not really.
As a kitchen designer, does this make me hesitate about whether a gas range or oven is a good option for a client? Of course it does.
Unlike other rooms, we can’t always skim-coat a kitchen or bath with materials and call it new. As long as the “bigger, stronger, faster” products come into play, I don’t see this improving. Before we put a pen to paper (or a mouse to pad), this should be one of the first questions we ask a client: “What is the age of your house?”
I envy those of you working in newer towns and subdivisions.
Until next time, Kelly