Are the fixtures in our homes becoming more predetermined?

When it comes to kitting out a new home, it seems there are more regulations than ever before. Whether it be planning permission for an extension or getting past listed status to try to make changes to a window fitting, there will more often than not be some kind of hurdle to overcome.

But even after the legalities, there are some situations where the dimensions of a home can have a huge influence on the purchases that we make. These constraints can come from the home itself or indeed the manufacturers who are creating the products we buy. But why is this the case?

Trends in the construction industry

One reason for this lack of variation in modern homes is the fact that the construction industry is acting on more homogenised values than used to be the case. Architects used to be freer to come up with more innovative ideas when it came to designing new homes, but nowadays they are much more likely to follow a templated brief or be at the mercy of big-time developers.

This makes it easier to market, value and indeed complete construction on these homes. It goes without saying that if a builder has already constructed the same home 100 times before, then they will have become quicker at carrying out the process over time. But could this then have the potential to prevent some prospective residents from making the personal touches they would like?

The perfect example is a new fireplace. This can be a new addition with the ability to light up a room in more ways than one, but some customers are finding their choice has become restricted.

In order to gain an insight from the professionals, we spoke to Jamie Rotherham, who is the Design Director at J Rotherham stone masons, one of the UK’s most established creators of fireplaces.

He said: “It’s simply the case that some people will have a home that can fit a gas fire of a standard size, that’s why they are made in certain sizes.”

Jamie’s explanation is borne out of the fact that J Rotherham has got to a point where many of its off-the-shelf models now come in homogenised dimensions and styles – more so than was the case when the company began its operations in 1927.

But this is not necessarily a bad thing. Jamie goes on to say that although this might seem more restrictive, it can significantly bring down the price for the consumer. And there’s always opportunity to make customisations to the stock model once it has been put in the home – much like brightening up a blank canvas with an immersive piece of artistry.

The difficulties for manufacturers

Speaking to Jamie also gave a chance to empathise with the challenges that manufacturers face in terms of keeping their products different.

He went on to discuss how there is so much of a focus on productivity and efficiency in the modern day – while also keeping the price affordable for the customer – that it occasionally operations management as opposed to a vibrant vision that dictates the outcome of a design.

The Director added: “It’s got to a stage where we have things very finely tuned in the factory. I kind of designed them to fit in with the way that we manufacture them. I wouldn’t like to use the word standard though.”

One pressure that wasn’t present for the producer at the conception of J Rotherham was the competition that comes from other areas of the world where cost price is much lower.

The philosophy of mass production in the Far East in particular means that innovating is very difficult without having your design immediately mimicked and sold off at half the price, even when postage and packing fees to ship it halfway around the world are considered.