K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Jun 25 2015

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When Design Changes Lives

Every year since 1973, interior designers have transformed a luxury Manhattan home into the Kips Bay Decorator Show House. Over the course of four decades, the project has raised critical funds for after school and enrichment programs for New York City children and has inspired design enthusiasts throughout the world.


Set this year at the Arthur Sachs Mansion, the home showcases the designs of 22 designers and architects – led by designer Bunny Williams – across a five-floor, 9,600 sq.-ft. townhouse in support of the organization’s 100th anniversary.


K+BB got an insider’s look at the house and some of the rooms within. For the kitchen, designer Christopher Peacock used a soft yellow backdrop with a mix of dark and white painted cabinetry. A wood slab makes up part of the island, and a plaid tile backdrop anchors the design with gray and white stone with yellow accents.


“I wanted to make the room formal but fun,” said Peacock. “It’s located right off the main foyer, and so the room needed to be elegant and a little more formal –  and not ‘pretty.’ The darker colors and sophisticated backsplash and hardware gave it that feel.”


The Midnight Manhattan Lounge, complete with a cocktail bar and full bath, was inspired by designer Charles Pavarini III’s favorite Lapis ring. Blue tile and marble make a dramatic statement, along with a silver leaf treatment on the ceiling and a baseboard made from a glass mosaic.


One bath, designed by Peter Sinnott IV, features a charcoal and white-striped zebra stone tile on the floor. The shower highlights a marble mosaic of vertical matchsticks framed in a blue glass pencil liner. Marble countertops and walls with pops of sea-blue glass complete the composition.


“In keeping with the architecture and history of the townhouse, I wanted to create a modern, classic space that would be relevant to today’s lifestyle,” explains Sinnott.

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Jun 19 2015

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Feng Shui in the Kitchen and Bath

One modern home in Hong Kong took all the buzz about eco-friendly materials and health-conscious kitchens and baths and took it to a new/old level: Feng Shui.

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“It’s a modern and classical Scandinavian design – clean and minimal,” said designer Nelson Chow of NC Design & Architecture.

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This flowing look starts with balance and harmony: like doubles in every room, seating conducive to conversation and fixtures that point all the light in one spot. For this 2,700-square-foot space, a sense of peace starts at the entrance and leads through to a living and dining area, an open kitchen and an open bathroom. A neutral palette of consistent materials in the three areas diminishes the notion of boundaries and maximizes volume.

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Keeping with Feng Shui theory, every wall pane is curved, from the glass windows to the walls and fixtures. A wooden feature wall (secretly a storage space for appliances) moves from the living room to the kitchen.

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“The feature wall graduates from gun metal gray in the living room to light ash in the kitchen, corresponding to the differing lighting levels in each area while creating a playful drama that draws in natural light to illuminate the apartment,” said Chow.

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Branching off from the main area is a seamless corridor that frames a sculptural freestanding bathtub. After this partial view, occupants enter a small bathroom covered in blue hexagonal wall tiles. Three large, artificial skylights cast light into the living, dining and bathroom areas.

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“The graphical patterns of the wall tiles and warm tonal graduations together form a contemporary yet unique design that maximizes volume,” said Chow.

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Jun 17 2015

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Tips for Making a Lasting Impression on Your Clients

Image from Idea, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image from Idea, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In our K+BB Designers Network LinkedIn Group, designers Anne-Marie Harvey, AKBD, and Cathy Osborne discussed this topic: How do you leave a lasting impression on your clients? Do you follow up after a project to see how things are going?

We want to share the discussion with you.

Anne-Marie Harvey, AKBD

I make an effort to get to know my clients and understand their needs and preferences. Rather than trying to “sell” them something, I take more of a consultative approach in attempt to solve a problem.

I also try to keep a positive attitude – even when something goes wrong. These things, I believe, leave a lasting impression. I do follow up with past clients with holiday greetings and supporting any businesses or efforts they endorse whenever possible.

Cathy Osborne

You leave a lasting impression on a client by letting them know that they have left a lasting and positive impression on you. I love Anne-Marie’s comment about supporting their personal efforts. It is really important to make a mental note of things they may have shared casually, such as “That’s not a good day for an appointment. I volunteer on Wednesdays at the Food Bank.” Now you know something that is truly important to your client. You might comment: “That must be really rewarding. I’ll bet you have changed lives.” That brief dialogue can lead to a stronger connection between you and your client.

Remember their kids’ names, greet the cleaning lady. The lasting impression will be that you interacted with them as a whole person, not someone spending X thousands on “The Smith Project.”

Anne-Marie Harvey, AKBD

One of my past clients makes jewelry, so I attended her first show and bought some of her pieces! This couple had spent two years in the Peace Corp in Belize before moving back to the U.S. The wife had mentioned that she fell in love with an exotic wood called Purple Heart, and she loved the color purple. When they decided they wanted a second material for the upper level of their island, I remembered the exotic wood and found a local source. I also found granite that had purple streaks and mineral deposits. It brings me great satisfaction when I can find elements my clients really love!

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Jun 04 2015

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The Five Online Personas of Kitchen and Bath Buyers

You’ve all heard that when it comes to finding homeowners who want to remodel their kitchen or bathroom, the Internet is where it’s at.

Estimates indicate that 80-90 percent of homeowners conduct research on the Internet before they move forward with a major purchase. So people are doing more online research than ever before – and spending more time online thinking about their kitchen and bath options – before ever talking to a remodeler.

So what exactly are they doing when they are online? And how does that affect their attitude before they pick up the phone or walk into your showroom? We’ve identified five different types of personalities and the online behaviors they exhibit before they call you. Each one displays different behaviors that directly influence how they purchase.

Image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.



#1: The Straight Arrow – Make it Easy for Them
Everyone loves Straight Arrows – and not because they’re good people with a strong sense of morality. We love them because they make fast decisions and have a very quick trigger.

Typical Straight Arrows are often homeowners where both members of the home work full-time jobs. They have children or other family members who keep them very busy with extracurricular activities. These factors force quicker decisions by homeowners who want a friction-free process – they need someone good – NOW!

This is certainly not (unfortunately) the majority of your prospects. However, it represents an important subset of homeowners who realize they have a problem but who don’t have much time to research and compare solutions. They go online because they can find a designer or remodeler fast.

The good news is that Straight Arrows often don’t fight for every last dollar. Timing, schedules and an easy sales experience are much more important to them than counting the extra pennies at the end of a job. The easier you make it, the more likely Straight Arrows are to buy.

#2: The Reputation Detective – Who Are You…Online?

Reputation Detectives have a very different behavior once they’ve identified you as a potential with which company they may want to work. Rather than contacting you immediately, Reputation Detectives continue their process by investigating you online.

They go to sites like Yelp, Angie’s List and Google looking for reviews others have written about your company and to understand what your customers think of you. These homeowners are focused on avoiding being scammed. Moreover, they don’t want high-pressure sales tactics.

Rather, they are cautious and want a reputable kitchen or bath company that will provide top-quality design and construction. As with Straight Arrows, their objective is not to minimize every last dollar they pay you. They will spend extra money so long as they’re convinced they’re getting experts and not a fly-by-night operator.

#3: The Product Geek – Let Them Eat Data

The blessing and the curse of the Internet is that it delivers more information to homeowners than they could ever possibly process. These days, most homeowners can easily drown in the volumes of content they can find on new kitchen or bath designs.

But Product Geeks really like to dig up and read as much material as they can get their hands on. They’ll spend hours online researching exactly the type of steam shower or backsplash designs they want before contacting you. In short, Product Geeks consider themselves as informed as any of your sales reps.

In support of the Product Geeks, I encourage residential designers and remodelers to offer as much information as they can on their websites, which will certainly help improve your search engine rankings. And it will show Product Geeks how your offerings compare with what they’ve learned elsewhere on the Internet.

Effective websites layer the information they present to enable visitors to interact with it.  Rather than presenting it “en masse,” display information as snippets that allow your prospects to interact with your site by clicking on the material in which they’re interested. In this way, website navigation and interior hyperlinking will make you a hero with this crowd.

#4: The Price Monster – Selling Price-Obsessed Homeowners
We all dislike prospects who think price first. They’re difficult to set appointments with, difficult to sell and difficult to close. But even in a strong economy, Price Monsters are everywhere.

When this group goes online, they have to do everything they can to understand pricing and potential cost savings before they let you in their homes. They do searches for terms like “kitchen remodeling costs” “cheap kitchen remodeling” and “affordable bath remodels.”

Your hidden challenge with Price Monsters is not tied to your products or your sales techniques. Rather, it comes from Google, which now displays its Retail Listings high on its search results pages. Among its retail listings, Google shows search results for behemoths like Home Depot, Overstock.com and Amazon at deceptively low prices.

Within these retail listings, Price Monsters will see that they can get a walk-in tub for $1,600! But of course what they don’t see is the low quality that likely comes with that low price. They also don’t see any reference to shipping, installation, plumbing or craftsmanship.

Unfortunately, it’s that low price that invariably sticks in their heads.

Here are some tips for succeeding with Price Monsters:
- Don’t price over the phone. Homeowners who are really ready to buy will come to your showroom or have a design expert into their house.

– Don’t fall for their persistent requests for a ballpark price.

– DO make strong offers on your website. Price Monsters love saving money – whether via coupon, a posted discount or as a carryover from your offline advertising. These hooks grab Price Monsters and get them to raise their hands.

#5: Well Wired – Selling to Wired Homeowners

The final persona is currently the smallest, but its also the fastest growing. Wired Homeowners will do online research…but often after they head to their social networks where they ask their friends or followers for kitchen and bath referrals.

You see constant posts on Facebook and Twitter such as: “Has anyone ever hired XYZ Kitchen and Bath?” Wired Homeowners have moved well beyond simple reputation searches on Yelp and Angie’s List, to broad requests for information via their Facebook and Twitter connections.

Wired Homeowners will also check social media you’ve made on behalf of your company.  Because they are active Facebook and Twitter users, they will check if you’re posting regularly and if you regularly update your pages with new material. For this bunch, it’s not what you post so much as that you are active on social media.

While this group of prospects is still small – and relatively young – 10 years from now, a much bigger percentage of your target prospects will be using social media for these referrals. So keep those social media accounts fresh and active!

In Conclusion

It’s still hard to get good leads from the online channel, but it’s not hard to understand the behaviors of homeowners online. If you can give your sales team a thorough understanding of what prospects are doing online, they are going to be more successful at getting into that home and selling remodels.

– Todd Bairstow, co-founder and principal, Keyword Connects (keywordconnects.com).

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