KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for October, 2015

Oct 29 2015

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A Look at an Inspirational Design Studio

The Atlanta Studio has many predetermined, professionally designed color palettes and vignettes for inspiration and easy selection.

The Atlanta Studio has many predetermined, professionally designed color palettes and vignettes for inspiration and easy selection.

Atlanta-based national homebuilder Ashton Woods has opened its new state-of-the-art design studio – The Studio – where preliminary homeowners can work with designers to select the interior finishes they want in their new homes – from countertops to flooring to kitchen cabinets. The 12,000 sq. ft. space is one of the largest design studios in the area and features educated and experienced 10 designers.

Basement at Ashton Woods' Claremore

Basement at Ashton Woods’ Claremore

When asked how The Studio selects the manufacturers it wants to include, Leigh White, Ashton Woods’ director of design studios said, “The design team carefully selects reputable brand partners and specialty craftsman to provide the available finishes. The design team also travels to international shows to source innovative design finishes, such as the latest addition to the Atlanta offerings – Veneta Cucine kitchens.”

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The Studio’s other locations are in Charleston, S.C.; Houston; Naples, Fla.; Orlando; Phoenix; and Raleigh, N.C.

Ashton Woods' Brookleigh Wentworth Bath

Ashton Woods’ Brookleigh Wentworth Bath

Oct 27 2015

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“Rehab Addict” Nicole Curtis on Saving $$ in Renovations


Nicole Curtis, star of HGTV’s “Rehab Addict,” has made an art of introducing the comforts and conveniences of modern living while restoring homes to their former glory. She believes not all home renovations need to be complete makeovers and spends her time preserving the character of old homes to their former glory. Nicole has teamed up with Mitsubishi Electric to help old house owners discover heating and cooling systems that’ll work effortlessly within their historical homes. She is a self-taught home rehabber, licensed real estate agent and designer, and K+BB recently got a chance to talk to her about avoiding expensive kitchen and bath renovations.

K+BB: What are some of your tips for avoiding a costly kitchen renovation?

Nicole Curtis: First, figure out what exactly you [or your client] need in your kitchen – so many people do not realize what they need until after they have lived in it. If you just moved into a new old house, do not do renovate right away. Live in the house for at least six months and take notes everyday.

After many homeowners do the renovation, they have what I call the “regrets.” “I wish we would have spent a little more or added a larger range.” Take time to properly plan it, otherwise you will regret it. [Explain to your clients that] it costs a lot more to redo something after its put it in than to take your eraser to your pencil drawings and redo it on paper.

K+BB: Where are some areas where it is safe to splurge and save?

NC: Splurge on custom cabinets with solid wood materials and dovetail drawers. Natural stone countertops are heat and scratch resistant and can take years of abuse. We see these materials in homes that are more than 100 years old; we know their longevity.

I am never going to spend $500 on a light fixture in the kitchen because they are pretty trendy and will go in and out. I will spend $500 to make sure I do not have particleboard in my cabinet design. If they change the color or layout, I can split up wood cabinets and move them around. I can’t do that with particleboard, and it is a challenge to repaint.

K+BB: What about bathrooms?

NC: [Advise your client to] spend money on a licensed plumber. This sounds silly, but so many people think they can do it themselves, and water leaks are no joke. I have seen so many houses ruined because someone spent more money on the vanity during the renovation and did the plumbing themselves. They should have spent the money on a licensed contractor.

Spend more on solid stone materials, like a tile surround versus vinyl. Any time you caulk it lets moisture in and you will have to redo it again and again. I see people splurge on an expensive mirror and then put vinyl flooring in a bathroom. Flooring and fixtures should be first, and then use leftover money later for something like expensive wallpaper. (Nicole admitted she hates wallpaper!)


K+BB: In terms of historical properties, what are some elements of the kitchen you think it would be safe to reuse?

NC: There’s not a component that can’t really be reused aside from drywall or if you are changing a layout. Wood floors can be used, stone countertops can be reused, wood cabinets can be reused. When you use disposable materials, because they are not solid, once you try and tear them out or reconstruct them, they just kind of fall apart in your hands.

A lot of the older homes were built as 500 square feet in 1880, and then additions were made throughout the years. I find a way to take the old house and make additions, add floors, etc. They get the extra space, but we can still keep the old house standing, and the way to do that is to blend new mechanics. This keeps budget in check because we are not redoing an entire heating system for the whole house.

K+BB: Do you feel today’s consumer has a realistic idea in mind when it comes to budgeting for these kinds of projects?

NC: I don’t think anyone ever has a keen eye on the budget. You should have two lists: a need list and a want list. With old houses, clients hate theirs because they are hot in the summer or cold in the winter. They will spend a lot on furniture when they need to first get back to the basics. I can’t tell you how many bathrooms I have walked into, and there is absolutely no heat source because they did not budget for it. Let’s make you comfortable in your home and work with you on what you have already, and then see where the budget is.

K+BB: Is it important for people doing a renovation to have a design expert on hand?

NC: I always think it is wise to have a design professional on hand because what looks good on a website or something you tear out of a magazine does not always fit in your space. What looks good on paper does not always look good in the field. A design professional knows that if you want to put in a 36-in. door, there can’t be a cabinet swinging into the door. It’s always good to consult one even if you are not hiring them for the whole project – even if you just have someone do the layout. You will never regret paying someone to help you to layout your design in the most efficient and budget-friendly way.

Oct 21 2015

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A Practical, “Middle America” Showroom


APR acquired Sage Supply in Johnson City N.Y. in May, and the purchase was a smart investment. The building was large with long-term renters and had multiple loading docks, a large warehouse and a showroom. It was in a small market but with untapped potential. Best of all, there were strong and knowledgeable staff dedicated and determined to make this new opportunity work.

Out with the Old
A lot of our acquisitions come with outdated facilities. This is part of the challenge: to create an attractive showroom on a very low budget with hopes of a fast ROI. In some ways the showroom was perfect. It had a long, fully windowed wall facing a busy street – perfect for displaying interesting product and signage to draw in the public. And because nearly everything was outdated or discontinued, we didn’t need to spend much time evaluating individual displays. But the vignettes were on hazardous platforms, and a lot of full-height walls blocked the area and made the displays feel cramped. The floor was badly stained from years of use, and there was even carpeting on the walls. We would have to be aggressive and start from scratch.

I was fortunate enough to have Brenda Higgins on board, who is the best salesperson in the market. She was a member of the Sage Supply team and stayed on with us during the acquisition. Higgins played a critical role in understanding the market and was instrumental in pointing us in the right direction. The population, income and demographics all pointed to the design of a very practical showroom with a strong emphasis on aging-in-place product. She described the market as traditional with the bulk of work being renovations of older homes and suggested items such as multi-piece shower units and traditional-style cabinets to reflect this need.


In with the New
We partnered with our preferred vendors to create a 3,500 sq.-ft. showroom, which boasts more than 12 tub shower displays, several handicap-accessible showers and a wide range of cabinet options for the bath and kitchen. Only four faucet lines are displayed, which was a change from our usual eight or more. We felt we could make a bigger impact by tailoring our product mix to the individual market rather than displaying items unlikely to sell in the area. Because 3,500 square feet can fill up fast, we wanted to make every inch count.

Allison Lorelli, business development manager for our showrooms, assisted in the overall layout and design. She has a new and unique role at APR and works outside the showroom developing relationships with other kitchen and bath shops, builders and contractors to drive business to our showrooms.


Challenges and Solutions
Although the work was to be a complete gut, there were challenges to the layout. Unlike the previous floor plan, we wanted to have clear sight lines from one end of the showroom to the other, creating a feeling of abundance and spaciousness. Lorelli emphasized the need for planned “empty areas” for freestanding displays and towers.

In our other showrooms, lack of clear and open floor space can become a real challenge. More vendors are producing and shipping merchandising and display vignettes that are self-contained – including their message and marketing – and we struggle to fit these in when too much of our showroom is permanently designed. Knowing this and wanting to be able to update frequently in the future with little investment, our layout had an open concept. We were very thoughtful in where we would build permanent walls and exactly what we would display there. It was also critical that our customers could see our offerings easily and understand what we we’re all about.


“Making sure our showrooms look and act like an extension of our customers’ business is important to us,” said Lorelli. “We had to make it simple, cost effective and yet still show product that gets people excited to buy.”

Early on, we decided to improve upon what Sage Supply started; they only had bathroom products. We added kitchens in the design, with a mid-price-point cabinet line. We are also adding tile and some lighting to provide our customers with a one-stop shop, and our other showrooms already embrace this approach.

“We don’t want a builder to send clients to three showrooms,” said Lorelli. “If we are making the investment, let’s save the customer time, money and energy and offer the complete package.”


Easy Access
Another concern was adding handicap accessibility to the showroom. When we purchased the company, it was virtually impossible to have wheelchair access to the showroom, as the main entrance is located at the top of a large hill with no nearby parking. If we are going to display aging-in-place product, we have to allow everyone a chance to visit the showroom, so we are adding new parking outside the showroom entrance. However, winter in Johnson City is quickly approaching, stalling this part of the construction until next year.

It’s all in the Displays
When working on the design, we were concerned about the total cost but knew that with plumbing products, working displays are critical. We had to ensure that our customers could see water moving through our product to allow them the opportunity to experience and evaluate their purchase. We opted to install working “wet rooms” with multiple showerheads, handhelds and body sprays in each. The working displays are inside two of our largest and popular shower layouts – one a popular Terestone custom shower with a large bench and the other the Aquabrass “Aquazone” shower/tub combination. We installed beautiful Roda frameless shower doors to finish off the space. Utilizing actual shower layouts in creating these wet areas maximized our selling opportunity.


Hits and Highlights
Another interesting design highlight of this location is the use of dyed and polished concrete floors. We selected a dark charcoal color – polished to a rich luster. Concrete gives the showroom a cohesive base by utilizing it for the entire floor, but because the material has natural cracking and variation in color, the floor is dynamic and interesting. We expect it to be relatively maintenance free, and staining is no longer an issue. It is also handicapped accessible; it is firm underfoot, easy to roll on and has no transition points – eliminating tipping hazards.


We also painted the entire showroom a vibrant aqua, which gives the showroom a cohesive look and allows the displays to stand out. Having one color allows the mind to focus on the product and avoids overloading customers with too much visual “noise.” It will also make it easy to change vignettes in the future; if we want to take something out that is funky and modern and put something completely traditional in its space, we don’t have to try to match the wall color or repaint.


Part of the Community

Throughout this process, we got to work with many Johnson City locals, including Testa Plumbing and Kraig Brigham contracting. When accessorizing the showroom, Brenda was able to display some gorgeous original artwork by her daughter. We are running promotions with our new neighbors, Olum’s, and a local radio station. We hope to be able to continue to work with local companies and become a fixture in the Johnson City community.

The showroom is now complete, and we are simply thrilled with the results. It was a long, hard process, but we succeeded at our goals and maintained our original budget. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive; customers are delighted by our product selection, service and expertise. This showroom was designed with our growth and the future in mind; we designed an extra work area for future staff.

– Jeff MacDowell is vice president of marketing and emerging markets for APR Supply Company. Allison Lorelli, business development manager for the company’s showrooms, also contributed to this post.

Oct 16 2015

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BlueStar-ry Night – An Evening to Remember

Retro Range

Retro Range

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of being in the company of three greats: BlueStar appliances, the Guy Gunter Home showroom and Atlanta-renowned chef, Ford Fry. BlueStar recently introduced its 36-in. Platinum Series Range, and the company wanted to show it off at this recently renovated Atlanta showroom. The icing on the proverbial cake was the demo cooking by Ford Fry, whose secret ingredient to making his steaks delicious is simply butter. A LOT of butter.

Ford Fry working his magic in front of the new BlueStar Platinum Series Range.

Ford Fry working his magic in front of the new BlueStar Platinum Series Range.

My boyfriend and I enjoyed sumptuous steak and scallops prepared by Fry and his team, and then we sat down with BlueStar Cooking and Prizer Hoods president, Michael Trapp, who told me about the new Platinum Series Range. It is now available in five widths and features PrimaNova burners, an interchangeable griddle charbroiler, full-motion grates and an extra-large oven with true European convection and a 1,850-degree infrared broiler.

The range is available in 750+ colors and finishes, and its new PowR Oven provides 40 percent faster preheating and a 30 percent increase in oven efficiency.

The range is available in 750+ colors and finishes, and its new PowR Oven provides 40 percent faster preheating and a 30 percent increase in oven efficiency.

Me and BlueStar Cooking and Prizer Hoods owner, Michael Trapp

Me and BlueStar Cooking and Prizer Hoods president, Michael Trapp

The Guy Gunter Home boutique showroom was a lovely space, having recently been renovated, and provides high-end appliances to the greater Atlanta area. The 5,400-sq.-ft. space features plumbing products, kitchen appliances and outdoor kitchen essentials from such brands as BlueStar, Sub-Zero, Wolf, Miele, Thermador, Toto, Rohl and Brown Jordan.

Me and Smitty

Ford Fry is one of my favorite chefs in Atlanta, and I am sad I have yet to dine in all of his restaurants. My favorites that I have been to so far are JCT Kitchen (right around the corner from me), The Optimist (where I went for a special birthday dinner) and The El Felix (this opened up in Alpharetta’s Avalon shopping center, and my boyfriend and I have been there too many times to count).

The event, hosted by BlueStar, was truly a delight. It was a joy to learn about their new range, to see the updated Atlanta showroom and to feast on some of the tastiest food I have ever had. For more information, please visit: www.bluestarcooking.com.