Design Regulation Comes Under Fire

Joining the fray over who may or may not provide interior design services, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) has joined with the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) and other national organizations in opposing what it describes as “restrictive and unnecessary design regulation.”

Roughly half of the states have some form of legislation regarding interior design title or practice, although recent legislation has faced opposition. A California bill requiring licensing of interior designers died in committee earlier this year, and the Alabama Supreme Court recently struck down the state’s interior design practice act.

“The proposed regulation stems from the efforts of a small but influential group of interior designers who are lobbying state legislatures across the United States for legislation that would regulate who may provide interior design services to the public and would prohibit the large majority of designers from practicing their profession,” says a joint press release issued by the two organizations.

“There is a concerted effort on the part of a select few designers who insist that everyone seeking to practice interior design attend their approved schools, pass their approved exam, and apprentice under them, all without any demonstration that the current practice of interior design by those who don’t meet these self-imposed standards is in any way a cause for concern. Such unnecessary and anti-competitive legislation will limit consumer choice in retaining the services of a professional designer, while increasing the costs of design services beyond the reach of the ordinary consumer,” said Edward S. Nagorsky, general counsel and director of legislative affairs for the NKBA.

The proposed regulation includes many of the services that members of NARI provide on a daily basis. “NARI resolutely supports the NKBA’s efforts on this issue,” said Gwen Biasi, director of marketing and communications for NARI. “It is essential to protect the remodeling industry from disruptions in businesses that already face significant challenges by market conditions.”

On the other side of the controversy, the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) supports regulation in the interest of the pubic good, according to its Web site. The National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) administers a licensing exam that is required in some jurisdictions.

Kitchen Trends

Preferences Change Little

Kitchen activities, design preferences and product applications have not dramatically changed over the past two years, although technology continues to be integrated into consumers’ lives, including their kitchens, according to a report issued by the Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI), Charlotte. N.C.

RICKI’s newly released “Remodelers 360: Trend Report” was aimed at examining how Americans use their kitchens, as well as their design preferences and remodeling experiences. The research study, according to RICKI, was first conducted in 2006 and then repeated early this year to determine if significant differences exist in the findings. Some 10,000 consumers — defined as those who remodeled or made improvements to their kitchens in the past 12 months and spent $2,500 or more — participated in both projects, RICKI said.

Kitchen renovations remain “at the top of the list” in adding value to a home, and Americans still spend more on renovating their kitchens than any other room in the house, according to RICKI. Although kitchen remodeling projects are down from two years ago, spending levels have remained steady among those who remodeled, RICKI reported.

Of the 17 activities that take place in the kitchen — from entertaining to paying bills — only one activity was significantly more likely to occur in 2008 compared to two years ago: “use a computer” (up to 9 percent from 6 percent), RICKI said.

Other key results of the study were as follows:

Survey respondents were asked “if they were changing their kitchen now and had no budget constraints, on which of 11 different product categories would they be willing to splurge.” The products mentioned most often both in 2006 and 2008 were cabinets (20 percent in 2006 and 19 percent in 2008), countertops (14 percent and 22 percent), and range/oven/cooktop (18 percent and 17 percent), followed by a refrigerator (14 percent both study periods).

The only feature exhibiting a statistically significant difference over two years was countertops, with 14 percent of remodeling consumers in 2006 saying they would splurge on countertops compared with 22 percent who said so in 2008.

When asked to choose from a list of 22 adjectives to describe their “ideal” kitchen, the top five were identically ranked in 2006 and 2008: 1) organized (80 percent in 2006 and 79 percent in 2008), 2) comfortable (74 percent and 73 percent), 3) open (71 percent and 66 percent), 4) warm (60 percent both study periods), and 5) family (60 percent and 56 percent).

The percentage of respondents who purchased appliances for their latest kitchen remodeling project increased from 72 percent in 2006 to 80 percent in 2008. The average number of products purchased overall declined slightly, from 8.5 in 2006 to 8.1 currently.

When respondents were asked what they would do differently if they had it to do over, their responses stayed relatively consistent from study to study. However, there were twice as many in 2008 who volunteered that they would “hire a professional/use someone different” (4 percent and 10 percent, respectively) and “get different/better countertops” (4 percent and 8 percent).

Close to one-third of kitchen consumers (31 percent) said they were content with their newly remodeled kitchen and noted they wouldn’t change a thing if they could do it over, down from 41 percent in the 2006 study. Conversely, slightly more than half of homeowners in 2006 (56 percent) noted something they would do differently compared with two-thirds (67 percent) in 2008, “suggesting a sizable majority of people could use consultation with a kitchen remodel to assure they complete the project with no regrets,” RICKI said.

In both studies around three in 10 consumers said they would spend more on their kitchen project if they were doing the same project now (33 percent in 2006 and 30 percent in 2008) — even balancing budget realities. Consistently fewer than one in 10 said they would spend less (7 percent in 2006 and 8 percent in 2008).

“This indicates manufacturers, contractors and other involved parties are likely leaving money on the table despite a decline in remodeling jobs,” RICKI concluded.

Sustainable Design

NKBA Competition to Feature New Categories

The National Kitchen & Bath Association has added two new categories, aimed at recognizing sustainable kitchen and bath design, to its annual design competition.

“The Best Sustainable Kitchen Award,” sponsored by GE Monogram, will honor those designers who have created the most environmentally responsible kitchens throughout the year, the association said.

The NKBA also announced that innovative approaches to water and energy savings in the bath will be honored for the first time with a “Best Sustainable Bath Award” category in the association’s 2009 NKBA Design Competition.

Formerly named the “Smartest Hot Water Award” in its 2008 competition debut, the new bath design award, sponsored by Rheem Mfg. Co., goes beyond hot water delivery “to recognize the expanding array of sustainable solutions being applied in today’s new and remodeled bathrooms,” the NKBA said.


Uponor Closes Canadian Facility
In response to the downturn in the construction market, Uponor closed its manufacturing facility in Saint John, New Brunswick. Uponor North America’s primary manufacturing facility in Apple Valley, Minn., will remain in operation and recruit new employees, the company says. Uponor is a supplier of PEX-a plumbing, fire-safety and radiant heating and cooling systems in North America and Europe.

Company aims to right-size
Whirlpool Corp. announced it would lay off approximately 700 employees at its Fort Smith, Ark., manufacturing facility. The layoffs are expected to begin in November 2008, and there is currently no timetable for when employees may be called back to the facility. The company also recently announced a voluntary layoff of 120 employees at its Evansville, Ind., manufacturing facility.

International Trade

Paslode Fair Pricing Confirmed

Paslode, a major producer of pneumatic and cordless fastening products, has been cleared by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) of accusations that it “dumped” Chinese-made nails in the US market. The DOC investigation concluded, however, that other Chinese-produced nails were being dumped. Dumping generally is defined as exporting a good at a lower price than might be charged in a domestic market or selling at less than fair value.

Building Materials

Norandex Continues Expansion

Norandex Building Materials Distribution continues its market expansion with the announcement of two new branch locations in Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas. This announcement comes just weeks after Norandex acquired two new locations in the Baton Rouge, La., area. In Portland, Norandex has acquired limited assets from Crown Building Materials, a longtime building materials distributor.