Win big for small projects

27 Sep, 13

We talk to Garry Milligan, founder of the Federation of Kitchen and Bathroom Designers, about the Marion John Design Awards

The Federation of Kitchen and Bathroom Designers (FKBD) has launched the Marion John Design Awards, to recognise the skill in creating workable and stylish spaces in small rooms. Founder Garry Milligan says that the UK and Ireland needs awards that recognise the work in the majority of British homes, which are typically small projects

Q: There are a lot of design awards presented in the industry for kitchens and bathrooms, so why did you decide to launch another program? 

Garry Milligan (GM): Our competition is unique in that entry is only open to designs for smaller kitchens and bathrooms.  We wanted to encourage entries from designers who deal with what might be called regular housing stock, the two up two downs, the suburban semis and of course flats and apartments. These projects account for around 75% to 80% of UK and Irish business, but they rarely feature in any design awards.

Q: Do you see yourself in competition with other awards?

GM: I don’t think that competition with other awards is something of significance.  We welcome entries which might be entered for other awards and we make no rules to prevent competitors entering their projects for other competitions.  Any initiative which encourages good design should be supported by the whole kitchen and bathroom industry. We should put aside our in-built competitive instincts, occasionally, and work together for the common good.

Q: Why have you attributed the name Marion John to this Design Awards programme?

GM: Marion John was an independent kitchen designer who sadly died earlier this year.  She was a passionate supporter of good design and believed that every client, regardless of project size or budget, should have competent design advice. This is something the FKBD also believes, and forms an integral part of the philosophy behind our new competition. So we felt it was a fitting tribute to Marion, to name these awards after her.

Going forward, we hope to make this competition an annual event. We are looking at ways to use the awards as a basis for raising funding to help young people who may be considering a career in the kitchen and bathroom design world.  That indeed would be a fitting legacy for Marion.

Q: What constitutes in the design rules, a small kitchen or bathroom? And do small bathrooms or kitchen projects necessitate that they are low-cost?

GM: We gave a fair bit of thought to this one, and for the competition the limits are set at 10 sqm for a kitchen and 5 sqm for a bathroom, overall floor area.  In fact there are many typical UK kitchens and bathrooms which will be smaller, but we felt these were realistic and fair limits.

There are no limits set on the cost of projects, but we have made a separate category for bespoke products.  A small project is not necessarily a low cost project, although it’s probably fair to say that most small projects are not for mega-wealthy clients. We are trying to find designers who have used skill and imagination to make something special in a typical UK or Irish kitchen or bathroom.

Q: Do you believe small kitchens or small bathroom require greater design skills than their ‘lifestyle’ counterparts?

GM: Every project has its own challenges and in smaller areas the greatest challenge naturally is using space effectively.  Thankfully, today, most manufacturers produce a wide selection of sizes and compact fittings and appliances are widely available. However it is a tricky task for the designer to find space for the requirements and demands of a modern customer in a typical suburban home.

The creation of a kitchen or bathroom which is both practical and good looking in many properties is quite a task and I have no doubt is often more difficult than designing a “lifestyle” project where space is not a problem. People today have great ideas about what they want in their kitchen or bathroom, as they see beautiful images in magazines and on television, but they rarely have any concept of how these ideas can fit within the limits of their home. That’s the designer’s job, and it’s not easy trying to explain to a client that they can’t fit in that island unit they want so much.

This is a task made even harder when many of us know that someone close by will in fact, happily sell this client their island unit even though they will need to diet strictly to be able to walk past it!  The art of designing for smaller rooms is having the vision and imagination to manage the clients expectations, to balance the client’s wish list with reality and of course to avoid losing the sale!

Q: What categories are included in the Marion John Design Award? And what do designers need to do to enter?

GM:  There are four categories for entries.  We have divided the kitchen and bathroom sections into projects using only “off the shelf” components and products as the first category, and projects using all or some bespoke products as the other category.  There are exceptions for worktops, where solid surface of stone are allowed in any category, although strictly speaking they are bespoke products. We also plan to make an award for consideration of sustainability issues.

Q: Who is on the judging panel?

GM: The final judging panel has not yet been announced but will include experienced designers and kitchen and bathroom press representatives.  Judges will be looking for designs which have met the clients brief and made imaginative use of the available space.  Practicality, visual impact and originality will be important.

Q: What will the winning designers receive?

GM: We are producing a trophy for each category which will be presented to the winners, and also certificates for runners up.  The winning projects will be displayed on our web site along with the details of each winner and their company/employer, visible to the public and trade alike.

We intend to make presentations locally to the winners and hopefully generate some local publicity for them also. 

For more information on the Marion John Design Awards visit www.fkbd,eu, the deadline for entires is October 31, 2013.