It’s Not Intellectual Property – It’s Just Cupboards!

It's been a very long time since I exercised my DIY skills fitting out a kitchen and a bathroom during a hectic two weeks holiday. But the time has now arrived for an upgrade and, as I'm not getting any younger, I'm attempting to organize it so that someone else does the hard work. Preferably someone more competent than me. But, amazingly, I keep running into intellectual property issues. And I thought that was a problem only our industry faced.

It seems that the standard practice for kitchen and bathroom retailers these days is to measure your room and then show you a series of amazing 3D fully textured and shadow-rendered images of what it will look like when it's finished. They're so good that in one of them you can see the reflection in the fridge door of a kettle and toaster we don't have. OK, so they might ask you what color you want and what kind of handles you like, but it seems that you get pretty much no other choice on how it's designed. The suggestion is that "modern kitchens are so complicated now that only the computer can figure out what you actually need, and what will fit."

But, in the end, they're just wooden boxes with doors on the front. They come in a range of fixed sizes, and you can put them together in almost any combination. Yet almost none of the suppliers will give you a detailed list of the options and sizes. Perhaps they reckon nobody these days is capable of actually adding numbers together, or having the spatial awareness capability to judge what will work and what won't.

Then, after they wow you with the amazing 3D pictures and you ask for the dimensioned drawings and parts list so you can see what you are buying, the answer inevitably is that they aren't allowed to let you see these until you place the order because they are "intellectual property." I suppose they worry that you'll go somewhere else to order it, or just buy the units and fit them yourself. I'm surprised that the 3D pictures they do let you take away don't have copyright symbols all over the front and a list of terms and conditions on the back.

Mind you, when I discussed this with one fitter he asked me if, when I buy a TV or a mobile phone, I expect the company to provide a circuit diagram and a list of parts. Probably not, and he suggests that these days (with kitchens being "so complicated") we should think of it as a single package purchase, in the same way as buying a TV or phone. It's an interesting proposition, and maybe shows just how old-fashioned I am. Perhaps, in the world of high-tech kitchen design and implementation, DIY is a thing of the past. In the same way that doing your own car maintenance is now frowned upon and discouraged by manufacturers.

So what about when you buy a computer? At least with a desktop machine you can get a list of parts before you order it, because that's part of the decision process. Though you probably don't get to choose which motherboard, drive controller, or USB interface chip you want; where the manufacturer chose to put the memory and expansion slots; and what color the wires inside will be.

So maybe buying a kitchen and buying a computer involve the same decisions. I'll have one that fits in with my lifestyle, looks sleek, and has loads of storage space please. With blue LEDs all round the sides...

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