K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Jul 31 2014

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Slimming Down

It’s not just the millennials that are facing kitchens of tiny proportions. Between the struggling economy and the prominent baby boomer population, more and more homeowners are looking at downsizing.

At a press event with General Electric last week, I got to see the newest prototypes in micro-kitchen concepts and what might be next for city apartments and small homes. GE’s six ft., linear piece did not seem at first any more than ordinary until I learned all that was in it.

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Within a standard countertop height and depth and a standard module of 24 inches wide, the concept contains a full kitchen suite. On the left hand side, an induction cooktop sits atop a microwave and an oven, which are hidden behind a walnut cabinet front. The centerpiece, topped with additional counterspace, holds the refrigeration module. The third module on the far right is the cleaning module, complete with a sink, disposer and dishwasher.

Everything could just be crammed in this tiny space, but consumers want to integrate technology and retain the luxury of a full size kitchen. Even if they are downsizing, they are not willing to give up those modern touches they’ve come to love. GE’s micro-kitchen prototype therefore has ventilation integrated into the backsplash, as well as a task light and cutting board on top of the kitchen sink. The touch screen technology on the oven, refrigerator and dishwasher give the user multiple options and increase space with the lack of knobs and buttons.

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What’s next for the micro-kitchen? GE and its FirsBuild online community are exploring ways to customize these concepts and offer different options for whatever the situation. Current ideas include an overhead cabinet as well as the standard countertop height piece, and a kitchen that hides a laundry system too. As available households shrink and people move towards the cities and downsize, micro-kitchens are truly the kitchens of the future. Start thinking small.

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Jul 16 2014

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Helping Clients Identify Their Style

Metropolitan Cabinets & Countertops copy

Many homeowners’ busy lives prevent them from being style-conscious, causing them to use the wrong terminology when referring to their personal taste or claim they are not particular. How can a designer best help these homeowners who may never have given a thought to what they ideally would want in their homes through this overwhelming process?

Here are some tips from some experts:

1. Get visual. Assemble a binder, PowerPoint or PDF you can keep on your desktop or tablet. In it, have images of five different style kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, accessories and maybe pieces of furniture as a conversation-starter exercise.

“If someone seems to have little opinion, I will show them two choices and ask, ‘Which do you like better?’” said Kate Brady, manager of showroom operations for General Plumbing Supply in Walnut Creek, Calif., and president of the Decorative Plumbing & Hardware Association. “People have trouble making choices when offered more than two options at a time, so keeping it simple works. Doing that four to five times gives me a good idea of what direction they are going. It is a simple method that always works.”

2. Give them homework. Alternatively, you could ask your client to bring along blueprints, sketches and their “Idea Book.” “The idea book is usually made up of pages torn from a magazine or a print-out from one of the online social media design sites like Houzz,” said John Murphy of Redlon & Johnson, a leading New England wholesale distributor of plumbing products, and president of the National Association of Plumbing Showroom Professionals. “Their taste can be made clear by pointing out what they like in the picture and, of equal importance, what they don’t like.

3. Look for clues. Observe details such as whether the individual is right-handed or left-handed and what colors they are wearing. “Clients wear colors that they like and are partial to,” said Murphy. “Do not be surprised as the client leaves if they have chosen paint, tile, fabrics and fixtures that will match the clothing they are wearing when they visit your showroom. And physical observance of motor skills can impact everything from the location of faucet handles in the kitchen to flush handles on toilets or hand-held showers in the bathroom.”

Transitional Style Gaining Speed

”Transitional is a style that appeals to both younger and older consumers,” said Brady. “We’ve moved away from a highly decorative style and gold finishes that were popular before 2008 toward a design style that is plain, simple and easy to maintain. Consumers want to create spaces that are more flexible and will have a longer life. That’s what’s fashionable now. Generally speaking, younger consumers favor a more modern design, and older consumers favor more traditional design, but transitional design tends to appeal to both.”

Brady has noticed geographic differences in design preferences as well. “I worked in Florida from 2004-2008, and the East Coast tends to skew more modern or contemporary,” she said. “The community I work in now tends to be more traditional, but not far away in Napa you’ll find more fans of contemporary design, so I guess the best advice I could give someone in terms of identifying their client’s style is to treat them like an individual, not a stereotype.”

Murphy agrees. “It’s a challenge to identify someone’s personal design style,” he said. “The same client who owns more than one home may even have several different styles depending on where those homes are located,” he added, noting the same regional differences on which Brady commented. “Someone living in Santa Fe is going to have a different approach to personal design than someone living in Boston.

“Along the coastline from Maine to the mid-Atlantic, you’ll find the cottage style is more popular. It’s less formal, less ornate. It favors brushed finishes vs. polished. It’s more conservative and less stylized,” said Murphy. “In more metropolitan areas like Manhattan, Chicago, Minneapolis and Los Angeles, the contemporary style is more popular. It’s very current and sophisticated.”

“When it comes to the kitchen, consumers want choices that complement their main faucet,” said Jack Backstrom, director of global water products planning for InSinkErator. “Their preferences regarding the size of their water dispenser, for instance, depend on the size of their traditional tap. Generally speaking, consumers want their water dispenser to be understated…they don’t want it competing or contrasting with their main faucet.”

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Jul 07 2014

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The Seven Most Common Negotiating Mistakes

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While even the word negotiation can evoke fear, stress and anxiety for many, the intent is quite simple: to discuss and ultimately agree on a deal. Whether it’s a multimillion-dollar contract or just deciding where to meet for lunch, life is rife with negotiations. And, the negotiation process is a lot like a chess game where strategy reigns supreme – one thoughtfully considered move at a time. Make a careless, shortsighted, ill-conceived move and suffer the perilous consequences.

Even when faced with the most daunting of deals, regarding the act of negotiation as a ‘game’ may alleviate the apprehension and give you the confidence to make power plays that will ultimately facilitate your desired result. Unlike strategy games like chess, however, the most effective deals are a win-win proposition for all parties rather than a winner-loser result.

To help individuals maximize their bargaining prowess in business and in life, below are the most common mistakes made during a negotiation:

  1. Lacking confidence. Many people think they need to show a certain kind of confidence, like being loud, bold or brazen, to successfully negotiate a deal. Others think that a lot of experience is required to be a good negotiator. Most of the time it merely takes tenacity and good old preparation to ensure you are aptly equipped to assert mutually desirable terms, anticipate objections and discern what are motivators or hot buttons will resonate with your opponent.
  2. Thinking something is non-negotiable. When you think like a negotiator, everything is negotiable! When you decide that the terms for anything can be changed in your favor, a world of opportunity presents. Of course, as with most things in life, there will be rules to adhere to with each deal on the table, which are needed to evade chaos and keep discussions on track. However, even rules can be modified if you simply propose an ethical, viable and mutually beneficial alternative solution.
  3. Not building relationships first. This is probably one of the biggest mistakes individuals make in regard to negotiation and business in general. Perhaps you have attended the standard networking event where you give dozens of cards out without having a real conversation with anyone. It’s time to slow down and start making real connections with people – particularly those with whom you might be involved in a deal later on.
  4. Not asking for what you want. There is one key truth in negotiations: You must ask for what you want. People naturally fear rejection or were taught not to be greedy as children, so we instinctually refrain from asking for things in life. It is important to understand that if you don’t ask you don’t get, and the only way to master the art of rejection is to get rejected and keep asking.
  5. Talking too much. This is a sure-fire way to kill a deal. Have you ever been offered a product or service and the salesperson kept talking until she talked you right out of the purchase? When discussing a deal, if you simply stop talking and get comfortable with the awkwardness of silence, your ability to win your argument, sell the product or a get concession in the negotiation increases significantly.
  6. Not documenting. The importance of getting the final agreement in writing cannot be stressed enough. Even better, consult with a contracts attorney to review contractual documents or any that require a signature. The purpose of a written agreement or contract is to provide protection for both sides and alleviate any ambiguity of terms. Documenting the agreement eliminates such perception problems and protects the interests of all parties involved.
  7. Signing without reading. Before you sign on the dotted line, it’s imperative you read what you are signing – no matter how large of a packet it entails. Modern life is fast-paced, making it difficult to focus and causing some to sign legal documents without reading them first. Make sure you read any agreement or contract in full to ensure you are not confirming terms you will regret and cannot undo, which can cause copious problems for your future.

Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez is author of Think Like a Negotiator and is the CEO of Dynamic Vision International – a specialized consulting and training firm that helps individuals hone negotiation skills. She is also a nationally regarded keynote speaker, session leader and panelist on the art of negotiation. www.ThinkLikeANegotiator.com.

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Jun 19 2014

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A Passion for Design

Nate Berkus

What makes a kitchen really great? According to Nate Berkus, it’s all about YOU.

Last night I attended a press event in New York City for LG Electronics, a world leader in electronics and home appliances, to view their new ‘Studio’ signature line. According to Nate, who stood before a gorgeous kitchen he designed with LG’s sleek new appliances, it’s all about the things that matter to you. He talked about how daunting a task it is to design a kitchen, given the high cost and the idea that it’s such a long-term commitment.

How do you design a space you love that will withstand the test of time?

“I’m excited to help consumers create a signature kitchen incorporating the best foundational elements from the LG Studio suite that will help make this space both intensely personal and functional for years to come,” said Berkus, artistic advisor for the LG Studio high-end kitchen suite.

Aside from the fact that Nate is personable and friendly, his passion for design is what makes him the great designer that he is. He talked about how important personal style is in any design project. It’s not enough to design a space that functions well. Adding your own personal elements is what truly makes it yours. Starting off with a well-designed suite of appliances and infusing your individual style is what will create a timeless, fluid space.

So that vintage set of glasses or the funky canister you bought at a flea market, are all integral parts of your personal space. Marrying old and new, smooth and textured, dark and light – and mixing metal finishes is what makes a kitchen YOURS, or as Nate says, “intensely personal.”

Designers take note: It’s not enough to design a well laid-out, functional kitchen. Taking it further and creating a very personal space for your client is what will make you a GREAT designer. Listen to your client intently, ask questions about their lifestyle, their collections and their passions. Take risks, and think outside the box. Be passionate.

Thanks, Nate.

You can view the new line of Signature Studio appliances from LG at: http://www.lg.com/us/appliances/discoverlgstudio

 

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