Designing a Showroom to Set Your Firm Apart

Since your showroom is the largest single capital investment in your business, it must represent substantial proof of your professionalism and value, while positioning your firm apart from the competition. Therefore, the best way to look at designing your showroom is to imagine it from a consumer’s perspective – and as if yours was one of several showrooms being visited that day.

In this two-part article, we’ll look at the best way to design a showroom that truly sets you apart from the competition, looking at the display areas (this month) and the conference area and educational aspects (in the October issue of KBDN).


Visibility & first impressions

There’s nothing more frustrating to would-be kitchen and bath buyers than having difficulty in locating a business when traffic is heavy and nerves may be on edge. But identifying a stand-alone building, clearly numbered, with great signage on a busy street within a mile of major highway makes it easy for you to find.

What’s more, you don’t have to fight for a parking space like at a typical shopping center. And through the showroom window, you can see one view of a kitchen display that is so inviting it quickly draws you to the entry.

As you enter, you see several couples perusing the displays, each accompanied by a professional-looking individual. Then you’re stopped dead in your tracks as you realize you’re standing in a Great Room kitchen that is gorgeous and appealing to all your senses.

You plunk yourself down in a comfortable armchair and drink in the ambiance. The kitchen is configured with an angled, corner double-bowl sink in front of a pair of casement windows. There’s a triangular plant well between the sink and the windows filled with colorful, sweet-smelling flowers.

To the right is a long counter space anchored by a large, built-in refrigerator. To the left is another long, lower counter space that ends with a pair of double ovens. Smack in the center is a multi-tiered, angled island that houses a down-draft cooktop, microwave oven and snack bar. Overhead is a pot rack with hanging copper pots and unusually shaped pendant lights. At the end of the island is a clever pet feeding space.

You notice the attractive interplay of materials and finishes. The main cabinetry is paneled and finished in a pale celadon green with a soft, light brown glaze. The tops are honed, speckled green-gold-black granite with matching backsplashes. Stainless steel appliances offer an appealing contrast. The island is done in a warm cherry finish that’s repeated in the family room cabinetry.

A distinctive-looking sign says, “Chapel Hill Great Room,” with a brief description. There’s also a counter card announcing an upcoming seminar: “Save Thousands on a Designer Kitchen.” Over the cherry-paneled fireplace is a large, flat screen TV that shows photos of kitchens intermingled with photos of happy homeowners and testimonials.


Getting to Know the Company

A person sits down and introduces himself: “Hi, I’m Ken Peterson. Welcome to Signature Kitchen & Bath. Could you see this kind of Great Room kitchen in your home?”

He asks permission to ask a few questions to learn about your project so he can help you make the most of your time. In this informal setting, you’re very comfortable answering. You notice that he’s jotting down notes as you talk, showing a real interest in what you’re saying.

Then, before you tour the remaining displays, he says: “Kitchens are really an intangible product. So these displays we’ll be seeing are just surrogates for the real thing. Your kitchen won’t become tangible until hundreds of pieces – from scores of suppliers – are assembled like a giant puzzle in your home by an array of craftsmen.

“Our job here at Signature Kitchen & Bath is to guide you so this puzzle fits together smoothly and seamlessly. We accomplish this with a division of labor among our staff – so they becomes specialists in specific areas – and a set of comprehensive management systems that deliver superior attention to detail. Our people – their experience, skill set and professional approach to your project – will make a night-and-day difference in the quality of the job, and hence your satisfaction with it.

“Our philosophy is to always discuss with you the pros and cons of various product applications, design concepts and service offerings so you are empowered to make the right decision for your family. It’s our way of making certain this new kitchen becomes as personal as your signature.”


Displays with a Theme

Ken demonstrates all of the functional and design features of this “Chapel Hill Great Room” display. You discover that all of the appliances and sinks are “live,” and the display is used to serve meals during open houses. Clients are encouraged to “try out” the appliances if they’d like.

Before leaving this area, a framed sign catches your attention: “Statement of Values.” The subhead is “Trust.” The copy reads, “We believe in delivering what we promise – NO SURPRISES – and treating your home and project as if they were our own.” There’s a signature and headshot with a caption that reads, “Lorey Cavanaugh, CMKBD – President.”

“This is our Key West Butler’s Pantry,” says Ken as he leads you into a compact galley space. The cabinetry is a shimmering white lacquer-looking contemporary door with pewter hardware, in the shape of a fish, and marble counters set off against Caribbean blue-green walls. Black and white mosaic tile floors, a porcelain white sink with pewter gooseneck faucet and a ceiling fan conjure up what Florida in the 1920s might have looked like.

Another framed Statement of Values sign has the subhead: “Personal Touch.” You stop and read: “Having a kitchen or bath done is a long and complex process – like giving birth. Our staff serves as your personal ‘coach’ from beginning to end. You won’t experience any of the disjointed or impersonal feelings common with home centers, national design center chains or consumer buying clubs.”

Each of the next eight to 10 displays presents different creative applications of cabinetry and appliances. Each features a framed Statement of Values signed off by the company president. Each has an identifiable theme with a sign that expresses how that theme was completed in the display.

A few of the displays even had flat screen TVs featuring videos on topics such as cabinet building, countertop options and cabinet installation.

The combination of these personal touches differentiates the showroom from the other three showrooms you’ve visited

The next step of the process – which takes place in the conference area – will be addressed in the October issue of KBDN.


Ken Peterson, CKD, LPBC, is president of the Chapel Hill, NC-based SEN Design Group and an instructor for the “Road to Recovery: Best Business Strategies for 2011” seminar, co-produced by KBDN. Peterson can be reached at 1-800-991-1711 or