The importance of product in a showroom is almost as important as the design of the space itself. So say Kitchen & Bath Design News' readers who recently participated in an online poll on the KitchenBathDesign.com Web site. When asked what they would be most likely to do for their firms in the next 12 months, fully half of the 340 respondents answered that they would be adding new product lines.
But product will only get a client to circulate around the showroom. What actually gets someone to sign on your business for a project is a curious combination of sales savvy, wow factors and a bit of mystery. Here, and on the next three pages, KBDN looks at four showrooms and the myriad approaches to designing, displaying and selling within them.
The old realtor's adage "location, location, location" holds true for the situation of a showroom, according to Rosemary Merrill, AKBD.
Merrill, along with Susan Brunn and Susan Jacobs, owns and operates Minneapolis-based Casa Verde Design.
"Our location was very thoughtfully chosen," she says. "By being located in a charming neighborhood shopping area, rather than a design center, we feel very much a part of the area, and benefit from local pedestrian activity."
Visitors to the showroom are exposed immediately to the core of the showroom's design aesthetic: open space.
"The open work space creates a very collaborative environment for the designers, which we feel creates the best end result for the client," Merrill continues, noting this allows visitors to move freely through the various vignettes.
Open for just under two years, Casa Verde is more than just a place to get ideas. Customers who like exactly what they see have the opportunity to incorporate those same items.
"We deliberately wanted to make sure that all of the showroom ‘props' seen by clients are available to them," she says.
The aim of the showroom, says Merrill, is to make the customer feel comfortable.
"Our showroom feels like a home. It greets you with a refined elegance and simplicity, yet it is warm and inviting," she concludes.
Designer Bev Adams, CMKBD, bristles at the notion that a showroom could possibly satisfy the desires of every client walking through the door.
Adams, principal and lead designer of Denver, CO-based Interior Intuitions says, "Showroom design should not simply be about vendor-blending. Good design is about behavior-blending.
"A lot of young designers seek to latch on to vendors and product lines and shove particular products down the clients' throats. Clients don't want that," she stresses. "They want to be able to dictate what they really want. The showroom should encourage that type of collaborative process."
The purpose of vignettes and showroom displays, according to Adams, is merely to present a picture of what a design may do for a client, not offers an exact blueprint of a project.
She continues: "There should be a display that really showcases the talent and creativity of the firm."
Illustrating ease of use is key, Adams adds.
"Provide the elements, whether through photos, vignettes, cabinetry, etc. that will show clients the operation of the products they are considering – or don't know about – and their ease of use."
Interior Intuitions is in the planning stages of its next major remodel, according to Adams. The focus for the new showroom is to display Adams' signature cabinetry line, Intuitive Cabinetry.
Adams believes firms do themselves a disservice if they do not consider a branding strategy such as creating a signature product for their showroom.
"There's credibility in it. Clients feel like they have an immediate point person. If the vendor is me, they known how to reach me, they know I will take care of them."