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Aug 08 2018

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Introducing Sweeten’s Design Trade Renovation Program

Sweeten, a service that matches renovators and the design trade with vetted general contractors, has recently launched a VIP program for designers. Sweeten is absolutely free to the renovator; its network of contractors pays a small fee when they are hired through Sweeten. The company has nearly $900 million in construction projects in the pipeline and has been called the “Renovation Game-Changer” by Domino and one of America’s Hottest Companies” by Inc. magazine. If you have a client looking to renovate their home or business and are in need of a general contractor, you can use Sweeten to find the best general contractor for the project, and you’ll be rewarded with a $500 Visa gift card if they use the service. KBB spoke with Sweeten’s Randi MacColl, chief marketing officer, and Tyler Miller, marketing manager, to find out more.

What are the benefits of joining Sweeten?
When a homeowner or designer posts a project on our site, they are matched with three to five vetted contractors based on scope, timeline, budget, location and style. They can then check reviews and photos of previous work, decide whom they’d like to meet and get estimates. A project advisor is available to evaluate the bids, if they’re interested, and then monitors the progress at key stages. When the project is finished, we photograph and tell the story of the transformation on our blog, crediting and linking to the designer, and post it on our Instagram to our 500k followers. We provide the photography to the designer free of charge and often get placements on design media, including DominoArchitectural Digest, The Nest and more.

Design by Andrea Brodfuehrer of New York City-based Von B Interiors

How does the referral program work?
Members of the design trade handling the general contractor bidding process on behalf of their clients receive a $500 Visa gift card for every client who signs a contract with a Sweeten general contractor. To get started with this new Design Trade VIP Program, simply register with Sweeten, select “Start a renovation project,” and post your client’s project. While filling out the project details, select “representing owner” so Sweeten can follow up and confirm your eligibility as a professional in the industry. Learn more about the program and how Sweeten helps the design trade at https://sweeten.com/architects-designers

How many people can a designer refer?
You can refer an unlimited number of people, and we encourage you to share with as many as you would like.

Design by Robin Rathmann- Noonan of New York City-based Robin R-N

Who is eligible to participate?
You must be a professional in the design space with a valid employer or business. Upon posting your project, you’ll be prompted to provide a few details to confirm your eligibility.

To earn a reward, your client referral must be a new customer to Sweeten and not previously a customer under another email address or alias in our system.

Where does Sweeten plan to go next?
We hope to someday open in every major city in the U.S. Right now, we are available in the New York City and Philadelphia areas, but the plan is to be in eight cities by 2020. We also are working to connect the Sweeten community with a regular series of local mixers, as well as offering educational resources. Designers and architects tell us they send our cost and process guides to their clients as proof of what things cost!

Jul 22 2018

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A New Reality


Televisions with 3D capabilities and phones with professional-grade, built-in cameras are old news. What’s hot now is Augmented Reality (AR) – a type of technology that overlays the natural world with computer-generated images.

This might seem like stuff of the future or for video gamers alone, but it’s actually proving to be a useful tool in many industries, include our own. This week’s KBTribeChat discussed the fascinating possibilities that AR could bring to the table in interior design.

What It Is and What It Isn’t
Augmented means to add or enhance something. In the case of AR, graphics, sounds and touch feedback are added to create an enhanced user experience. Unlike virtual reality, which requires the user to inhabit an entirely virtual environment, augmented reality uses the existing environment and simply overlays virtual information on top of it, usually an image.

Enhancing the Interior Design Experience
Think of all the times you’ve tried to convince a client that a certain product or color would be best for their project, but they simply cannot visualize it in their current space. AR can take an image of the existing space and place a product – like a countertop or sink – virtually into the space so they can have a better idea of how it would look.

Clients and designers can also easily switch out products to compare and contrast, saving time in making decisions and ensuring that everything works in the space before it is installed.

Marketing with AR
Brands that implement AR into their system already have a step up; since the technology is considered young, the brands using it are considered innovative and forward. In addition, using AR demands repeat yet unique engagement with customers and can evoke an emotional and visceral consumer response.

“Augmented Reality is a great opportunity for manufacturers because it allows customers to explore products in new interactive and engaging ways in real time throughout the product sales cycles,” said Scott Koehler of Whispering Pines, N.C.-based Dream Kitchen Builders. Koehler is a design technology expert and a frequent contributor to KBB magazine.

Are you using AR in your business? Let us know on Facebook or on Twitter @KBBConnect.

Jun 18 2018

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Smart Technology: Yay or Nay?


The debate continues about whether smart technology makes sense in the kitchen. It’s hard to argue against appliances that notify owners of problems and schedule service. However, some object to delegating tasks and thinking to smart devices and worry that they are making us lazy – or worse, dumb and anti-social.

Who Is Interested in Smart Home Tech?
Because the baby boomer population continues to grow and people are busier than ever, one can easily make the case for employing smart technology in kitchen design. Configuring smart devices and appliances with smart phones, Google Home or Amazon Alexa lets you remotely complete tasks that normally require your presence or direct touch.

According to The New York Times article, “To Invade Homes, Tech Is Trying to Get in Your Kitchen,” only 5 percent of Americans own smart appliances. In a related survey from October 2017, RICKI – Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence revealed statistics about who is interested in smart technology: 69 percent of Generation X, 62 percent of millennials, 23 percent of baby boomers and only 2 percent of the mature population. If only 5 percent of Americans own smart appliances, these percentages translate to fairly small numbers, and interest does not necessarily result in a purchase.

Appliance Brands Need to Walk the Talk
I live in the North Carolina region known as Research Triangle Park, which is home to numerous IT companies from hi-tech startups to well-established giants like IBM. Local designers enjoy a higher level of interest in technology products here.

During a recent visit to The Appliance Center in Durham, N.C., I spoke with owner, Stu Stewart, and  marketing director, Kim Stewart. They supply appliances to the building and design communities, as well as homeowners. They report seeing a limited number of homeowners or builders seeking smart appliances, and 80 percent of consumers are not computer-savvy. The Appliance Center’s staff receives training on smart technology from the brands, which equips them with the knowledge to educate their customers.

Appliance sellers need to be educated and current with smart technology to efficiently sell it. Combine uneducated consumers with untrained sales professionals, and the percentages noted by RICKI are not surprising. If the seller cannot explain the benefits and uses of smart features, how likely is s/he to make the sale?

Maybe Bertazzoni president, Paolo Bertazzoni, has the right idea – the enduring Italian appliance company does not want its appliances to rely on a smart phone. The main objective for their appliances is that they cook well.
                              Bertazzoni’s 48-in. six burner and griddle

We live in exciting and changing times in the design industry. Some consumers will find the idea of smart technology in the kitchen irresistible. But me, I’d rather spend the extra money on a snazzy range and sit around the table talking with my family.

May 03 2018

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10 Ways Smart Lighting Can Enhance the Kitchen & Bath

System design and installation by Gramophone, Timonium, Md.

So much happens in the kitchen and bath that it’s often difficult to have the lights at the right intensity levels at all times. When you’re clients are cooking, they need the lights brighter; lower when they sit down to eat. As they apply makeup or shave, they’ll want the lights bright, but when unwinding in a hot bath at the end of the day, an intensity level that mimics candlelight is apropos.

In the past, we’ve relied on dimmer switches to adjust the intensity levels of the lights. While this approach still works well, smart lighting products have introduced a whole new level of convenience and control to the management of home lighting. Plus, these solutions are so much more cosmetically pleasing than the switches of yesteryear.

Here are 10 ways smart lighting can add value to the kitchen and bath:

1. Clears “Wall Acne.” It’s not unusual to see kitchen and bath walls blanketed with huge banks of light switches. There are two problems with this setup: It’s difficult to remember which switch controls which group of lights, and the numerous faceplates eat up a big chunk of wall space. Lighting keypads, by contrast, provide six to eight pushbuttons that can control all of the lights and take up only the space of a single-gang junction box.

2. Creates Activity-Based Preset Lighting Levels. Each pushbutton on a keypad can be programmed to set the intensity level of a predetermined group of lights, called a lighting “scene.” For example, a morning button on a kitchen keypad can brighten the undercabinet lights to 50 percent and the fixture over the island to 30. A cleaning button can raise every light to full intensity, and a romantic button can lower the lights to an intimate 25 percent. Likewise, in the bathroom, specific lights can adjust on the fly based on whichever button is engaged: morning, night, relaxation and so on.

Home systems design and installation by Global Custom Integrations, Hawthorne, N.Y., in this and below photo

3. Showcases Decorative Details. The wood grain of fine cabinetry, the mix of colors of a granite countertop and other visually stunning architectural details look even better with the right lighting. You designer who specializes in lighting can choose the best light source, fixture and placement, while a home systems installer can suggest the best levels of brightness.

4. Improves Comfort. With standard, non-smart lighting, the lights can feel blinding during midnight trips to the bathroom or the kitchen. A smart lighting system ensures that the lights are easy on the eyes during certain hours of the night.

5. Adds an Element of Automation. Imagine having your clients’ kitchen lights set at the perfect level when they arrive home from work. It’s possible with a smart lighting system. Driven by sophisticated microprocessors, it can adjust the lights automatically based on conditions like the time of day, occupancy and even the location of their smartphone (a feature called geofencing).

6. Personalizes the Space. Some people like a room brightly lit; others prefer an atmosphere that’s soft and subdued. A smart lighting system has the intelligence to set the lights based on who’s at home.

7. Sets the Mood. The biggest trends in home lighting are color and tunable white light. Smart LED bulbs are available that can glow in a rainbow of hues. This is all controllable through a mobile app, keypad or even voice commands. The bathroom can bask in a sea of blue to promote relaxation; a red hue can evoke a festive atmosphere when entertaining guests in the kitchen. If infusing the kitchen and bath with colored lighting seems too drastic of an approach, a subtler mood-setting alternative is “tunable white lighting.” These LED bulbs adjust their color temperature – as well as their brightness levels – to mimic daylight patterns. This can have a huge impact on the look and feel of the kitchen and bath.

8. Boosts Energy Efficiency. Dimming a light by 25 percent can cut electricity costs by 20 percent, according to Lutron Electronics. You can save even more if that light source is an LED, which uses significantly less electricity than an incandescent bulb. LED bulbs also last years longer – a huge perk if the kitchen or bath has hard-to-reach light fixtures.

9. Synchs with Music and Other Systems. Lights can go a long way toward setting the mood of a room; when a smart lighting system has been programmed to synchronize with a music system, the kitchen and bath can take on a whole new attitude. Classic music can play when the lights are dim; hip-hop when they are bright, for example. This can be easily accomplished by pressing a single button on a keypad or launching a command from a mobile app. A security system, thermostats and motorized shading can be integrated, as well, to completely alter the atmosphere of the room.

10. Provides Peace of Mind. Nobody intends to leave the lights on when they leave the house or go to bed. Lighting systems can be accessed and controlled remotely from a mobile app so that the kitchen and bath are always illuminated (or not illuminated) perfectly

Lisa Montgomery is the editor of Electronic House