K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for Inspiration

Sep 04 2014

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Is Houzz Helping or Hurting?

Image by cooldesign, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by cooldesign, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

K+BB recently asked our Designers Network LinkedIn group: What are some challenges you are dealing with as kitchen and bath professionals? Some of the responses were expected and others were a surprise. Read on and see if you feel the same way, and feel free to comment here or in our LinkedIn group.

Rex G. Hirst, CKD Au, Interior Designer at Let’s Talk Kitchens & Interiors

While I am in Australia, I think our challenge here is a universal one – to find reliable, ethical, creative, commercially savvy design/sales staff who put the client and their needs, wants, etc., ahead of their desire to simply make a pile of money. While we all work for a living, it seems to me that most people just focus on the “what’s in it for me?” While understandable, it’s never going to make you really successful, as your client’s will sense that they are just a paycheck for you, not an opportunity to do something special.

Too many people forget that making money is the result of success, so if you just focus on getting it perfect, the money will always take care of itself. It should be the result of your success, not the reason for working. Every great salesperson I have ever known has been driven by passion, not money. The funny thing is, these people also make the most money.

John Meade, Kitchen and Bath Manager at H. N. Hinckley & Sons, Inc.

My biggest challenge is keeping up the workload. With the economy doing better I have more customers, and they want kitchens that are more custom than ever, which requires more hours. This includes changing dimensions of cabinet boxes and face frames and even modifying door styles. Most of these clients are regular customers, so I have to keep up with their needs. We are not busy enough to hire another designer yet, so I am in that in-between stage with the pressure. It’s not a bad challenge and much better than the alternative – I’ll keep pushing to the next stage.

Houzz and TV Influence

Karen Hockley, CKD, CBD, Kitchen Designer

Having been a sales rep for a cabinet company for seven years and just re-entering the design world has been eye opening. One of the biggest challenges I am seeing seems to be the customer’s budget versus their wants and desires. In the last 10 years, I have seen a change in customers’ wants, which may be a reflection of consumers visiting Houzz and watching HGTV. Technology and innovation is moving so fast.

Ten years ago customers were focused on purchasing quality cabinetry and a great kitchen. What I am seeing now is everyone wants granite or quartz countertops and the latest appliances, and the quality of the cabinetry they purchase is not their primary focus. I wish there were more websites with real kitchens along with budgets for the job. This would go a long way toward helping consumers set realistic goals, expectations and budgets for their projects. It is always a rewarding experience making customers’ dreams come true, even on a limited budget. I believe this and passion for design fuels myself and many designers in the industry.

Cathy Osborne, Designer at Auer Kitchens

Houzz and “Property Brothers” can cause another problem – a sort of “wave the magic wand” syndrome. I have many customers who do have the square footage and the budgets to do those grand rooms you see; they know there will be enough storage and countertop space – with 600 square feet, how can you not? But they think you can skip the design phase and leap directly to a pretty picture of something that looks “just like this Houzz shot”…“except sort of like that one.”

To adapt the look to their space and have something to render and price, one must have a plan. How many islands? How many sinks? Coffered ceiling? Design consultations with certain clients can be frustrating because they get bored with the academics. You never see that step on TV where the fully designed 3-D kitchen springs forth from the space, and it is instantly perfect. Clients are seeking that “big reveal” moment and are disappointed that getting their dream kitchen requires time, hard work and not much drama.

Lai Fung, Project Development Consultant/Designer at Paris Kitchens

HOUZZ and TV renovations shows – kitchens are getting more and more custom and detailed. I’ve been in the kitchen industry for nearly 20 years, and homeowners’ expectations are higher than ever.

Debbi Washburn, Kitchen/Bath Designer

Early on Houzz you saw real, everyday homes and projects – ranches, split levels, capes, etc., great before and after photos of 70s kitchens with avocado green appliances and dark cabinets with vinyl floors, which were turned into beautiful little kitchens. Now when you do searches, most of what you see are these grand kitchens with 10-ft. ceilings. While it is great to see those for design ideas, it would be nice to have a search option for smaller kitchens – spaces that fit that tighter budget many people are working with.

I use Houzz quite frequently with my customers; it helps them express what they are drawn to. Most of the time they don’t even know that the doors are inset/custom or that the counter is some expensive marble or exotic granite, they just like the look and how it makes them feel. Then we look at it together and pull apart the photos to find out WHY they like it. By already knowing their budgets and the scope of the brands I carry, I can discuss with them cost issues and help them find alternatives. My customers often have gone to a big box store first, so not only do I have to get down to that pricing, I still need to show them their dream kitchen so they don’t have to settle.

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Aug 07 2014

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Designing an Attractive Weekday-Only Kitchen on a Budget

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Designer Jane Cunningham’s client, Peggy, and her husband had to sell their home in Las Vegas and move to Colorado to care for her ailing mother. When Peggy was recently asked to return to Vegas for a great work opportunity, she needed to buy a small place so she could travel back and forth.

“She needed a small house she could call home during the week and that she could decorate to her taste without other family influence,” said Cunningham, ASID, and CEO and principal designer for Room Resolutions.

Cunningham chose the cabinet and tile selections based on the colors Peggy was wearing when they met to choose colors – black and teal. Her new kitchen features pullout shelving, a Solistone Folia glass tile backsplash in juniper and flowing granite countertops. She chose a black gloss-painted, foil-raised panel door style called Regency by Lamination Technology Industry, along with GE Stainless Steel appliances and Hafele brushed nickel hardware.

All of these elements give way to what Cunningham calls an “I belong here feeling for a work-week oasis with potential for the beginnings of a retirement home.”

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Budget and Challenges

According to Cunningham, the budget was fairly small considering she needed to gut the space and relocate the pantry to a more functional location. She was also concerned with budget because she knew she wouldn’t be cooking much for herself during the week.

“It is also very challenging to find modern or contemporary tile while working in a small budget,” said Cunningham. “Peggy was truly set on having glass tiles in a modern teal color for a backsplash, and I really didn’t want to disappoint.

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They had to keep the existing footprint because the flooring had been replaced previously, and there were few tiles to use as replacements.

“Note to homeowners: Never do flooring renovation if you have an inkling that you’ll be doing more remodeling,” said Cunningham.

Peggy was in and out during the process of the remodel because of her work arrangement and flying home each weekend, but Cunningham said she actually made it quite easy and was very accommodating.

“It was fun to watch her make her design decisions based just on her wants, which appeared to be something she hadn’t been able to do in the past,” she added. “We all need that moment of self expression with no other opinions in the mix. She actually leaned on me – as it should be – to add reassurance that her selections would come together.”

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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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