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Jan 13 2016

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Inside the Boutique Showroom

Boerne, Texas is an exclusive town – a diamond in the rough. Located in the heart of the Texas hill country it is generous in treasures and rich in history, with plenty of fine dining and shops to buy rustic furniture and the latest country gear. But one thing it lacked during this time of massive expansion was a tile design center that encompassed tradition and modern flare.

KBB spoke with Stefanie Teat of Tile Studio 925 to find out more.

TS925 show room
Why did you open up here?
Most local remodelers, builders and designers typically drive more than 30 minutes to San Antonio to search for their selections. We noticed the need and aimed our focus at “bringing the best-of-the-best to Boerne.” The homeowners of the surrounding towns such as Kerrville, Comfort, Fair Oaks Ranch, Pipe Creek, Helotes and Leon Springs now have the option to stay close to home. We are a new favorite to neighborhoods like Cordillera, the Dominion and Anaqua Springs. Our priority was to create a comfortable, classy environment where designers can bring their clients, come hang out, use our free Wi-Fi and have a place to work or relax in between projects. We plan to use our studio to bring Boerne and surrounding communities together by hosting classes, mixers, charity events and more.

tile studio store

Why did you pick this particular building?
After researching all of the available spaces along the I-10 corridor, we came across this gem. It was an old, dirty office space, carpeted with low ceilings, and particularly small. It was in need of a lot of work, but we saw that it had potential! With 20 years of remodeling experience, we immediately saw the vision and started creating a design.

Why changes did you have to make?
Due to the limited space, we knew we had to expand UP in height-which meant we had to remove the entire ceiling in order to make it higher. We expanded it to 10 feet. We analyzed how important it would be to have a private workspace for our staff so we built a wall that would also become the prized view of each customer as they entered our doors. We could not afford to waste the closet space so we converted it into a single office for the show room manager.

TS925
What are some of your standouts?
Due to the cramped area, we felt the need for a sliding glass door, which would give the appearance of a larger area by being able to see through it and let the light through. This door has become our WOW factor! The slender, vertical, stainless steel door handle helped create the theme for the office cabinet doors as well. After visiting several cabinetry companies, researching online and calculating our need to use every inch of wall and ceiling possible, my husband decided to make the cabinets himself. He knew exactly what he wanted and he got it, right down to the quiet close hinges.

cambria with bow
Talk about the design of the space.
Knowing that we would have an abundance of tiles of all shapes and sizes to display in a mere 600-sq.-ft. space we aimed to make each wall its own unique display. To the left we have custom shelves that each encase 12-in. by 12-in. glass and stone mosaics, and the middle area is for larger tiles and crazy odd shaped wall coverings. Instead of building our shelves up from the floor, we built them up on top of a base that contains diagonal slots – holding more than 400 tiles! Again, as my husband carefully planned this intricate design he realized that he would not be satisfied with anything less than perfection so he simply made them himself.

He then made a huge island that holds a refrigerator, two sides for larger tile planks and even inlayed cabinet doors designed to showcase tile on the outside as well! We chose Cambria’s Brittanica quartz countertop to really jazz it up. The right wall is made up of slat wall from floor to ceiling, which gives us the ability to be creative, artistic and versatile in our displays. We can easily change the scenery at any time, and it really elongates the depth of our store. White walls and bright lights accentuated the array of colors constantly on display. The bathroom was created to showcase the elegance of our upscale tile selections. We used all Emser tile for our bathroom and Caesar Stone for the countertops. The extended eight-foot door was installed to ensure that our Spurs (basketball players) customers won’t hit their heads when they are shopping! For our grand finale we spoiled ourselves with Emser’s Motion Advance porcelain floor planks, which blend perfectly with our color combination and are very durable in our commercial environment.

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Why do you think designers like your showroom?
One designer told us that it’s hard to lug huge samples from one store to another, and it takes up a lot of valuable time to drive to several locations. It is also difficult typically building a custom home that requires some of the basic brands that are affordable for a builder’s budget and certain exquisite, specialty tiles in key areas of the home that will wow the home owner and allow the designer to use her creativity. We offer the best of both worlds. Most high end tile stores will only carry upscale, very high priced tile, but we carry both, because as I mentioned, my husband had the designers in mind when he conceived the vision for this place. As we get feedback from our customers our store is evolving to meet their needs and become a one-stop shop.

Dec 30 2015

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Making a Small Space Feel Not So Small

Kathleen Walsh Interior

Measure Twice, Buy Once
In smaller spaces especially, determining the right size for every piece is a necessity. When shopping, stick to your measurements! Even if you have to make selection compromises, everything will plop down in the room and immediately feel right.

Kathleen Walsh Interior

Hidden Storage Using every possible spot for storage is key – and yes, that often means going custom. Use the space under the bed, consider incorporating hidden drawers or shelving into stair structures and push the cabinetry to the ceiling. Incorporate double-hanging, pullout surfaces, flip-down surfaces, hidden drawers – use every trick in the book.

Incorporate the Kitchen
Integrate kitchen cabinetry into the greater space to give you more square footage in which you actively live. Blurring the border between living area and kitchen gives you greater flexibility and better utilizes the space your client has. I like appliances that are beautifully engineered and gorgeous to look at, when you want to admire them, but they also require that they blend in and disappear. Gaggenau’s fine lines and customization allow size variation and function versatility while being beautifully handcrafted and naturally luxurious.

Kathleen Walsh Interior

Be Mindful of Finishes on Furnishings
Using glass and Lucite furnishings will help give you the function that you need without visually taking up space. A few metal pieces will bounce some light around and help alleviate all items from feeling the same. You want varied finishes to allow your eye to move about a room. So you notice it all – it tricks the perception and makes a room seem bigger.

Lighting Makes the Difference
You need light in the center of a room without relying on floor and table lamps, so recess enough lights into the ceiling or consider chandeliers in the center of the room. Sconces work wonders and keep table-tops clear. Light all the shelves with library lights. Put everything on dimmers to achieve differing layers of light.

– By Kathleen Walsh of New York-Based Kathleen Walsh Interiors. Photos of Kathleen Walsh’s Pied à Terre by Marco Ricca

Dec 29 2015

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Design Your Best: Tips for the Professional

!Kitchen_Konstantin Kildinov_19

The kitchen and bath are the most elaborate rooms in the house and define the house’s character; and a great kitchen can raise the price of a mediocre home. As a designer or contractor, it is your job to provide the consumer with the best value for their budget and best design for their lifestyle.

Don’t Stay in the Box

As a designer, it is important to find new ways to differentiate each room in the house. Customers don’t want a cookie-cutter home. Instead of a generic or ready-made backsplash, use a unique patterned stone slab such as a cool onyx or something completely unpredictable that has a uniqueness of character. These little upgrades will set you apart when a customer is deciding on a designer for their renovation and design needs.

Bathroom_ Fabrizio Carraro_Pina House_03Unique patterned stone slab goes a long way.

Function – and Experience – First

The most important design aspect to keep in mind when renovating a kitchen is to make it functional. These nuances require experience such as knowing how to deal with dimensions and what is the most optimal place to locate any functional part of the kitchen (and the same applies for a bath.) This is why customers are hiring a professional. Make sure you are always putting function first and show your clients when they need clarification. Point out common mistakes made by less experienced designers or DIY’ers. No matter how well you market yourself, nothing can substitute for experience.

!Kitchen_Anya Garienchick (project of Alyona Yudina)_06

Think function first in the kitchen.

Sell Yourself

In today’s world, the contractor and designer must know how to market themselves, and a lot of referrals happen digitally. It is your job as a professional to increase your odds for business. Take a beginner class in online communication and social media. Create a basic website with relevant contact information, and update your social media presence to increase your chances of being hired.

!Bathroom_INT2 Architecture_Interior RDD_02

Find ways to differentiate every room in the house.

Style Sells

Finally, make sure you have consistent style. If you are not naturally a very aesthetic person, make sure that if you plan to mix and match color and patterns in your design that it does not clash or cheapen the overall look. One of the biggest renovation mistakes includes a well-thought-out renovation overshadowed by bad design elements.

– By Raf Howery, CEO of Kukun, a company that offers transparent home renovation tools, helping consumers hire the right professional at the best price. Learn more at www.mykukun.com.

Nov 11 2015

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Five Online Metrics You Need for Lead Generation (and Five You Don’t)

Image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For years I’ve listened to a host of consultants, speakers and experts talk to kitchen and bath companies about their online strategies and all of the different steps they must take to be successful. But when it comes to the online metrics that help companies to grow, the so-called experts are carefully vague, generalizing the online experience as “lead generation.”

Understanding the online world – and its role in helping you grow sales – is more important than ever. So understanding online metrics – the right metrics – is critical to making better marketing decisions and evaluations.

Here are five pairs of common online metrics and explanation regarding why one matters and why the other is likely to be misleading to you.

1. Visitors vs. Visitors from within Your Marketing Territory. Do most of your customers live in a specific geographic area? I’m willing to bet the answer is yes. After all, kitchen and bath designs or remodels by their very nature involve showing up, in person, at the homes of your prospects.

The broader point is that you can’t sell a kitchen or bathroom to homeowners on the other side of the country. If you operate in a territory 100 miles around St. Louis, why would visitors from Seattle matter to you?

If you hire a firm to boost your website rankings (commonly known as an SEO firm), we recommend that you incent your provider not just to drive traffic, but to drive traffic from visitors in your particular sales or service area. You can track the location of visitors through a free Google Analytics account.

2. Leads vs. Issued Leads. What’s “a lead” anyway? The truth is, it could be almost any name, address, phone number or combination thereof. And for many lead-generation companies, that broad definition is exactly what they use when promising to “deliver leads.”

But that’s not what you need – particularly when it comes to online lead sellers. Instead, you want to measure “issued leads,” defined as leads given to a salesperson to follow up on after your team has spoken to an interested homeowner. Those are the leads that result in sales.

Lead quality matters, and there are important differences between what one provider considers a lead and what you consider a good sales opportunity. Here’s an example: According to lead sellers, a “bathroom remodeling lead” could be a $60,000 master bath project or a $400 tub re-glaze.

There are huge differences among these opportunities – even though lead sellers typically refer to them the same way. It’s a game so many lead-generation companies play to goose their numbers – and their profits.

3. Clicks vs. Conversions. Clicks have been around as an online metric since the dawn of the Web, but clicks for their own sake don’t matter. Clicks from India, for example, are not only not in your marketing territory, they probably aren’t even real people (e.g. “click-bots”). Traffic that stays on your website for a second (literally) also isn’t coming from a real person, let alone a bath or kitchen prospect, and doesn’t provide any value to you. Yet, these register as clicks.

Online marketing companies will also do things to deliberately increase their volume. It’s incredibly easy to send unqualified traffic from social media promotions or to place links to your site all over the Web – where they know it will get phantom visitors. Or, they can resort to dozens of other methods that appear to generate visitors.

You want flesh-and-blood homeowners visiting your site, so you need to move from “clicks in general” to “clicks that matter.” Which clicks matter? Those that lead to conversions. Google Analytics can help you see where the clicks come from, who spends time on your website and whether they’re interested in your kitchen or bath options.

4. Phone Calls vs. Qualified Phone Calls. Pay-per-call services are growing in popularity; they generate leads in the form of phone calls to you, and you pay based on the number of phone calls you get. When you sign up with a service to generate phone calls, it’s in their best interest to generate as many calls as possible. Shady tactics include putting your name and number out to cold call lists and auto-dialers, as well as having technology to call you at night – after business hours. Then they trumpet their results back to you: “Look at all the calls our program is generating for you!” The solution is to monitor your telephone traffic by checking for length of call, listening to sample recordings and understanding which calls are billable vs. those calls that are no good.

5. Social Followers vs. Reviews. “Followers,” “Likes” and “Fans” on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and elsewhere are all the rage these days. Not only are these social metrics hip, they’re easy to measure.

The problem is that few have found a significant correlation between this type of activity and leads for kitchen and bath businesses. Social media has a supporting relationship for your brand, but it doesn’t drive any volume of leads.

Social reviews by customers, on the other hand, are extremely valuable because reviews are a new type of “online currency.” The more you have, the more likely Google, Yahoo and others will rank your website near the top of your local kitchen and bath listings.

The important thing is to make sure you actively ask customers to go onto Yelp, Google and Angie’s List and review your company. It will take the homeowner five minutes, but it can pay big dividends for you in the search engine rankings.

Activity – even precisely measured activity – can be easily confused with results. Nowhere is this more common than when gauging success online. If you keep your focus on the metrics that matter, you’ll drive more sales via the Web. All the best in online success!

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