MINNEAPOLIS, MN –
It has been said that “The secret of success is consistency of purpose,” and perhaps nowhere is this sentiment embodied more than at Belle Kitchens, llc.
After all, its principles – Tricia Bayer and Jean-Claude Desjardins – started the residential design firm seven years ago after years in the commercial sector, working on such projects as The Disney Concert Hall and Soldier Field in Chicago.
Bayer explains: “Jean-Claude and I have both studied architecture with time spent abroad and we both come from commercial backgrounds. Jean-Claude had more than 15 years in this industry in Montreal while I was a newcomer. Basically, we were specialists in the ‘architectural envelope’ of buildings.”
It was a joint desire for more personal relationships with clients and a need to focus more on design and less on engineering that led the pair to start Belle Kitchen, she says.
In fact, Bayer notes that the firm’s target clientele are “clients who are passionate about design and appreciate quality products, and those that are looking for someone to interpret their ideas into a beautiful space that they can be proud of.”
She continues: “We do not shy away from allowing a personal relationship to form between ourselves and our clients. Oftentimes we will enjoy a dinner or bottle of wine with them. In fact, we strongly believe that it is these relationships with satisfied clients that will keep our business very stable.”
To that end, while the firm specializes in high-end kitchen design, quite often the pair will take on other rooms in the home as well.
“We try to interpret our client’s desires and styles in a way that is expressive of them and creates the most beautiful and comfortable space possible,” she concludes.
Artists in residence
Perhaps the biggest competitive advantage that Belle Kitchen holds is that both of its principles come from a commercial background, so they bring a unique perspective to projects.
Bayer explains: “Quite often, we had to work through engineering challenges in our commercial experience and I am convinced that has given us the opportunity to dream big in residential design. We also do not allow ourselves to be discouraged by something that might be considered a significant design challenge or stop from pursuing an idea that to some might seem unattainable.”
She continues: “Our commercial backgrounds allow us to be aggressive and creative when creating unique spaces as they are able to ‘engineer’ designs that may seem unbuildable or too complicated for others.”
An example of this is an NKBA Design Competition award-winning kitchen Bayer and Desjardins designed with a striking stainless steel backsplash and solid walnut shelves floating.
“In order to make this contemporary kitchen possible we had a steel structure made that we mounted to the wall before the space was sheetrocked. This allowed us to accommodate the weight of the solid wood along with all the plates that were to be sitting on the shelves. We also integrated a walk in pantry door into the cabinets in order to keep very clean lines,” she describes.
She notes that this layout also gave the pair the opportunity to bring this style into the client's bathroom.
“This kitchen shows how diverse we can be when it comes to design. I believe we are able to execute a contemporary and sleek kitchen just as well as a warm, traditional kitchen,” she says.
She continues: “Again we take cues from our clients to make the spaces theirs, not ours. It doesn't mean we don't want to add our creative touch.”
Bayer adds that many of their projects will expand into basements, bathrooms, offices, fireplace design and even furniture and accessories selection.
However, she does note that the transition into the residential sector has taken some adjustment.
“Sometimes, it is hard to find manufacturers to create the concepts we dream up,” she says. “Things that are readily available in commercial are not necessarily going to be easy to access or be cost effective for a single residential application.”
In contrast, she says that working in the residential sector creates quicker project turnover and allows the pair to manage several projects at once.
“We are often revived and refreshed when moving onto that next design and I always seem to get that sense of excitement when starting to design a new project!”
She concludes: “Overall, good design is good design whether you are looking for traditional, rustic, contemporary or a combination of, and we pride ourselves in being able to work in many different design aesthetics.”
On with the show
The 2,200-square-foot showroom plays a major role in the firm’s success as well, says Bayer.
“Located in the International Market Square Design Center, the showroom features nine displays – some full kitchens – and other vignettes. The showroom offers full layouts designed to give homeowners sense of place, style and a room where they could envision themselves,” she describes.
Specifically, the showroom feature an eclectic combination of styles, including traditional and ultra modern option, as well as a variety of high-end product lines, including Wood-mode, Leicht, Sub-Zero/Wolf, Asko, Miele, Viking, Franke, KWC and the Patina Collection by Belle Kitchen.
She continues: “An important distinction is that our showroom is not meant to feel like a place to select things, but rather to envision yourself in a real living space.”
To make the entire sales and design process seamless, Bayer notes that she and Jean-Claude are both involved in a very hands-on way with the client.
“We often ask clients why they decided to work with us and most often the answer we get is that they simply like us and they trust us,” she says. “We’re very serious about what we do, but we also just like to have a good time. I also believe our showroom and our published work has established the fact that we are very capable of executing the beautiful designs we create. Beyond that it is the connection made with the client that creates a successful project.”
She continues: “We try very hard to create a comfortable and enjoyable experience. We want people to be amazed when they walk into our showroom, but also feel like good design and quality product is attainable. I feel like our showroom is a peaceful place and exhilarating too. If it is possible to feel both of these things at once I would say that is how our showroom feels.”
To enhance the experience, Bayer says that Belle Kitchen will be starting a major remodel of two of the showroom displays in the coming months.
“We feel it is important now to be aggressive in showing new product and to create new energy in our showroom,” she offers.
She adds that the firm also has a very capable team that helps with a variety of different tasks, including accounting, marketing and project management.
To that end, the firm has earned several notable awards since its inception, including the National Kitchen and Bath Design Competition Award in 2005, 2008 and 2010, as well as the 2010 MN National Kitchen and Bath Award and the 2010 MN American Society of Interior Design Award, respectively.
“We use these awards as a marketing tool to promote our design skills and attract the attention of publishers,” she adds, noting that the firm has also been featured in several local and national publications.