TUCSON, AZ –
How does a firm with little to no formal training in kitchen and bath design – and during a historic economic downturn – manage to not only survive, but become a finalist fixture in national design competitions?
Lori Carroll, professional ASID/IIDA, NKBA member and principal of Lori Carroll & Associates based here, has the answer.
“My kitchen and bath expertise comes from years of experience and a passion for this category of interior design,” she says.
Indeed, with a creative marketing approach and design portfolio Carroll’s firm has become a regular finalist in the annual NKBA Design Competition, having earned the Best Overall Bath/Powder Room award in 2009, first place in the Powder Rooms category in 2008 and the Best Overall Design in 2006 with a stunning open plan kitchen.
With a focus on high-end residential projects, and catering to a primary clientele of successful couples who are looking to retire or build a tranquil retreat away from their busy professional lives, Carroll knows she has carved out a unique niche for herself.
“Most of the projects I work on are custom homes ranging from 5,000 to 15,000 square feet. I like to create a strong alliance between designer, architect, contractor and the homeowner. That’s been the key to my success.”
She concludes: “While kitchens and bathrooms were not necessarily my intended specialty, my goal has always been to build a reputation around innovative design, unique product selection and superior, consistent customer service. Those fundamental objectives still hold true today.”
One of the keys to Carroll’s success, interestingly enough, came from one of the most challenging times in the industry.
She explains: “Even during the economic downturn I continued to market and advertise. We had to get creative and search for ways to be seen while working with a much smaller advertising budget.”
Specifically, her staff assumed much of the marketing in-house, providing professional-level photography of projects, as well as creating ad copy, graphic design and creative writing.
“Through nurturing business relationships with several different trade magazines we were able to offer our own materials and are now being featured in local, national and international publications at little or no cost,” she says.
She continues: “Design competitions have always been a great marketing tool for me. I’ve been fortunate to be involved with so many fantastic projects, photographing and submitting them for design awards – and winning has been an added bonus!”
She quickly adds that being a loyal customer to vendors has created some unique marketing options too as many vendors will feature designers in the ‘ideas’ section of their Web site.
“Downloading photographs and coming up with colorful descriptions became a great way to showcase my designs at absolutely no cost,” she says.
“Making sure my name stayed out there became extremely important. I insisted on maintaining an advertising and marketing budget even during the worst part of the recession. It was also a way to support my local economy which, in turn opened doors for me elsewhere,” she adds, noting that the firm has been featured in periodicals from Mexico, the Netherlands and Egypt as a result.
The firm also recently hosted an event in the Tucson area that was sponsored by Phoenix Home and Garden and featured several of her vendors sharing their expertise during an exclusive after-hours event, she notes.
She concludes: “Almost all of my business comes from referrals; either from architects, contractors or past clients. Working closely and being loyal to the same gifted architects and builders over the years has definitely given me an advantage.
For Carroll, creating unique kitchen and bath designs begins with an equally unique and personalized design process.
“After an initial consultation with a potential client, I schedule a tour of local showrooms where everyone can get a hands-on preview of what is available in the market,” she explains.