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Archive for January, 2011

Jan 24 2011

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An organized kitchen of my own

Dbl flatware 2

It’s slightly past the first half of the first month of the New Year and so far I have kept all my 2011 Resolutions. This year the theme is: Organization!

  1. I will free my desk of clutter – Check!
  2. I will file all paperwork promptly – Check!
  3. I will open my mail and sort it as it comes in – Check Check!!
  4. I will meet my deadlines – well…….Almost Check!

There is just a touch of “smug” in my smile as I looked around my ordered office.

The desk is clear, paperwork is filed, and all the miscellany of design and business is neatly arranged. This was easy! Now it’s time to finish work on that time-sensitive project. All I need is a cup of tea. Another Check on the Resolution List is right at hand!

I entered the kitchen overflowing with optimism and self congratulations.

THUNK! That is the sound of a box of tea falling out of a cabinet and hitting the counter.

Ok, no problem. Obviously, one little kitchen wall cabinet needs to have the Resolution Treatment—later. I reach into the drawer to get my favorite antique silver tea spoon, the one with flowers running up its stem and a steak knife jabs my finger.

What’s going on here? “Cookie comfort” (weight loss was last year’s resolution) is in another cabinet, but the box is hidden somewhere behind pasta, oatmeal, containers of chicken broth and crushed tomatoes. I look around for the band-aids (I can’t remember where we keep them) and realize that my kitchen could be a poster child for benign neglect. All optimism and self-congratulations have evaporated as blood forms on my fingertip.

But wait! A little voice cries out of the darkness of disorder: You are a KITCHEN DESIGNER! People come to you to solve this problem, especially in small city kitchens like mine. Right!

I carry the tea, without silver spoon, and my paper towel wrapped finger back into the office. There, neatly arranged are kitchen organization resources and my photos and letters of thanks from the happy clients who benefit from them. I can fix this mess.

Before I start work on the other project, one more very important line item needs to be added to the Resolution list:

# 5. In 2011 I will do for my kitchen what I have done for those of Others’

I am beginning to feel optimistic again.

Roberta Kravette

Tall Pantry Pullout

Jan 14 2011

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The Smart Grid: the future of energy independence

On the eve of the greatest infrastructure overhaul since bringing electricity to the Tennessee Valley, less than 20 percent of the U.S. population has heard of the Smart Grid, let alone of how it will affect their lives in the years to come.

So what is the Smart Grid? A smart grid is an electricity network that utilizes digital technology. It delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers using two-way digital communications to control energy consumption by appliances at homes, condos and apartments; this will save energy, reduce cost and increase reliability and transparency. The Smart Grid will overlay the existing and outdated electrical grid with an information and net metering system that will include residential smart meters.

At the heart of the Smart Grid is the ability to apply two-way communication between sensing, measurement and control devices to the electricity production, transmission, distribution and consumption components of the power grid. This ability allows for the communication of information about grid condition to system users, operators and automated devices, making it possible to dynamically respond to changes in grid condition.

A smart grid includes an intelligent monitoring system that keeps track of all electricity flowing in the system, as well as the capability of integrating renewable electricity, such as solar and wind. When power is least expensive, users can allow the smart grid to turn on selected home appliances—such as washing machines—or factory processes that can run at arbitrary hours. At peak times, it could turn off selected appliances to reduce demand.

Today, energy flows and disburses with very little control or regulation, much like water flowing from a garden hose without a nozzle. With the Smart Grid, energy use and distribution will look and feel more like a train routing board at the station house. Energy will be able to be used, rerouted and terminated or regulated as required.  Solar or wind usage can be easily integrated into the system as demand requires, or terminated and supplemented due to changes in the weather.

Power failures and grid collapse will be a thing of ancient history as the system will be able to anticipate and reroute electricity due to grid disruption.

Home electrical devices, such as TVs, microwaves, ovens and refrigerators, consume over half the power in a typical U.S. home. With the introduction of smart meters and smart appliances, the ability to shut down or hibernate devices when not in use or when not receiving data could be a major factor in cutting energy use,

The brain of the Smart Home will be the Smart Meter, which connects the home to the grid and can provide the homeowner with a basic outline of their electricity use, thus helping them to identify activities that draw the most power. More advanced versions involve having individual appliances participate in a local network, which allows for a detailed analysis of power use.

Smart appliances will enable two-way communications in order to provide demand response management. Power utilities can provide a signal when electricity supplies are getting tight, thus allowing homeowners to set their appliances to respond accordingly by employing such means as temporarily shutting off the hot water heater or raising the thermostat slightly on a summer day. The homeowner will get lower electric rates for their participation, while the utility avoids power outage due to overuse.

To enable all of that to work, however, we need the right hardware in place. A 10-year-old refrigerator, oven or microwave will not contribute to nor take advantage of the Smart Grid. Many appliance manufacturers are already producing Smart-Grid-compliant appliances, and through new construction, remodeling and aging appliance replacement, many consumers are already installing the first wave of smart appliances in their homes without fully understanding their contribution to the future of energy conservation.

Kevin Henry

Jan 13 2011

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Why you’re in the right business as a kitchen & bath designer

I just received an email from one of my coaching clients who told me he lost a job to another designer, and not just any designer, a kitchen and bath specialist.

If you’ve questioned your choice of professions in the last few years with the change in the economy, you’re not alone. However, you have a better opportunity than 80% of the other design industry professionals because you are a specialist.

Think about your doctor, do you pay more to go to a specialist or a general practitioner? I went to the www.StudentDoc.com website and the average family practitioner earns an average of $204,000 (high of $299,000) compared to a neurosurgeon who earns $541,000 (high of $936,000). That’s a 265% premium for the extra education and specialization.

I know you’re not a doctor, but compared to interior design generalists, your income is higher according to salary figures for your profession. Be sure to download our Interior Design Fee & Salary Survey eBook just published January 4, 2011. Based on those figures, your opportunity to make a healthy income is much greater than interior designers.

Also, the trends for 2011 show an increase in remodeling interest and activity especially with tax credits in your specialty area as shown in this graphic from NAHB:

gail doby
The news is significantly better for you than last year, so how do you capitalize on that trend?

I’ll share five favorite tips:

1. Joint ventures with an interior design generalist. Interior designers who aren’t CKDs or CBDs, but want projects that include kitchens and baths may welcome a joint venture so they can still get a job and do the parts they love.

2. Specialize even more. Think about the outdoor kitchen opportunities. People love to enjoy their outside space, so think about a marketing campaign around that specialty because it’s not nearly as stressful or expensive as a full kitchen remodel. Or, how about a campaign for Father’s Day to upgrade the garage with cabinets and organization. You can offer a gift certificate for wives to give this as a gift…and the husband just might be grateful enough to give his wife a master bath or kitchen renovation.

3. Direct mail campaign. You can create a great campaign around the growing trends. Affluent clients are starting to spend again, so develop a program with postcards, a special report about kitchen and bath trends that they can download when they opt-in on your blog or website. Then subscribe them to an email newsletter full of tips and stories. You do have one, don’t you?

4. Public relations. Approach your local radio or TV stations about an idea for a story. A press pitch should have a “hook,” so talk about the trends and perhaps you can land an interview. Be sure to add to your marketing materials and website, “As seen/heard on…”

5. Referral program. This is the perfect time of year to create a complete referral program. One for your referral partners like vendors, community leaders, business people and interior designers. Develop a second one for your current clients, and another one for your past clients.

January is the perfect time to re-energize your marketing efforts. Please post comments about your favorite marketing strategy during the last few years. Let’s help our industry shine in 2011.

—Gail Doby, ASID is the cofounder and chief vision officer for Design Success University, Your Shortcut for a More Profitable and Passion-Filled Design Business. Download your complimentary copy of the Interior Design Fee & Salary Survey eBook for more great ideas to increase your profits in 2011.

Jan 11 2011

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A New Year, A New Start

Happy New Year!  I hope this year is off to a rousing start for all of you.

One of the biggest changes to our industry from the recession has been the shift in homeowners’ perceptions of their homes from cash cows to long-term lifestyle investment.

Now this re-focus suits me (and probably a lot of you) just fine, although it does mean more time spent in reassurance, which I think will be our word of the year. Homeowners are leery of making mistakes. Some have been bitten badly by the cheapest bids and their own inexperience. With the new thinking above and a new year, many seem willing to consider expertise along with price.

So what can you do to position yourself first for the budding interest we’re seeing this year?  Here are a few steps I’ve taken during every post-recession recovery. (Okay, not every one. The first one I bit my nails like everyone else. By the third, I got smart, or at least like to think I did.)

  • Tightly tailor your first client meeting. At one time, everyone wanted to see the design possibilities and every photo in your portfolio. Now, the key word is “safe.” Homeowners want to see photos of projects that look like theirs. They’re reassured by anecdotes that you’ve worked in their neighborhood or even the same house plan. They want to see photos that most closely resemble their layout, materials and vision. They want to know that you’ve installed the very faucet or tub or tile that they’re looking at.

  • What do you know that a homeowner doesn’t? This is a tricky one because what I’m really saying is, “Can you answer the question the homeowner doesn’t know to ask?”  Case in point: Last week, I was in a tile showroom where a woman was yelling at the tile specialist. It turns out she had ordered some marble tile (the exact amount, of course) and two pieces didn’t look like the others. The showroom caters to the trade with few retail customers. Unfortunately, they expected her to know that stone might vary and to order extra. If your potential client is thinking about a stone backsplash, it doesn’t hurt to mention the need to order extra and why, or explain the different level of qualities in stone. (Can you get examples of poor, better, and best to show? A picture is worth…you know.)

  • Tell them how you’ll make their lives easier. Homeowners can’t hear enough about your level of detail, but they don’t want to sit through a 4-hour presentation. Break it down, “We have 3 easy steps to…based on our years of experience….” then elaborate on the points where they indicate interest.

  • Who’s part of your team? Key point. I can’t tell you how much the homeowners relax when we tell them that we took 3 years to find our subcontractors and that most have been with us 6-8 years. Take pride in your team. Relay stories about how they went to bat for both your clients and you.

  • Don’t forget to remind potential clients you’re still standing. It’s been a tough few years, but you’ve survived when others didn’t. You must be doing something right—right?

Until next time,