Have you considered updating your showroom, expanding or even moving into a new space, but wondered if it was the right time? Despite the current downturn, this might be the best time to start planning an image upgrade. Many experts believe that by taking steps now to improve your business, you’ll have an immediate competitive advantage when the economy again starts to grow.
While the thought of investing in a remodel can be overwhelming, don’t let your fears get the best of you. If things are a bit slow, take advantage of this time to focus on your showroom. There’s no better way to demonstrate your design expertise to your customers than by your own example.
Whether you’re starting small or going all out, the key to a successful remodel is planning and preparation. Give your project the same level of care you put forth for your customers and you’ll find yourself rewarded with the same outstanding results!
This month, I’d like to share the story of one showroom’s successful renovation and lessons that can benefit any business, regardless of the project’s scope.
A Model Remodel
Drury Design Kitchen and Bath Studio in the upscale village of Glen Ellyn, IL is an award-winning design studio that has been helping Chicagoland residents to achieve their dream homes for more than 20 years. The prolific company has successfully completed more than 1,000 projects in the greater Chicago area. Started in founder Gail Drury’s home, Drury Design now shines in its current locale – a two-level, 7,500-sq.-ft. showroom that serves as a premier destination for the ultimate kitchen and bath shopping experience in the village’s charming downtown.
“Our old showroom was 1,200 square feet and we were bursting at the seams with eight employees all working in one very small space,” Drury recalls. She settled on the site of a former furniture showroom, appealing for its location in the center of an established high-end neighborhood rich in older homes ripe for renovation. The challenge, Drury learned, was the building itself.
Mastering the Imperfect
Getting the perfect showroom address doesn’t always mean the building will itself be ideal. But just as you encourage your clients, you must start to dream, plan for the possibilities, see beyond the existing space and work through any site issues. And you should apply this creativity whether you’re moving into a new showroom or recharging your existing space.
For Drury, that meant reconfiguring her business around an older two-level building with one of those levels below ground. The building also lacked an elevator, which was required by code. Drury Design embarked on an extensive interior remodel that would eventually result in the prime street level devoted entirely to her showroom and the basement level housing the offices, conference room and material selection areas.
“The permit process was grueling,” admits Drury, who was faced with the prospect of installing an elevator in a building that had two feet of concrete between floors. After many meetings with the village, Drury successfully demonstrated that the building’s existing furniture lift could provide access to the lower level for customers with disabilities. Higher handrails on staircases were among other modifications Drury made to bring the building up to code.
Drury’s ability to adapt to and embrace its surroundings reminds us of the following dos and don’ts:
- Do take advantage of your design skills to overcome roadblocks. Can’t build out? Go up or down. Use your most expensive real estate for your showroom, the place where your customers will dream and be inspired. Multiple levels offer the perfect solution for keeping less tidy areas out of immediate sight.
- Do consider alternate design solutions. For example, when faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, like the lack of an elevator, Drury Design presented the village with a viable alternative.
- Don’t be afraid of older buildings, especially in a great location. You may face more code issues than you would with a newer building. But you’ll also have a space that stands out with its unique architectural details and vintage materials not found in modern construction.
Go with the Flow
How do you determine the best way to use your space? For Drury Design, the decision was based primarily on the flow of customers through the space and its function.
“It was important to maximize the exposure of the windows from the street. A two-story showroom gives you the opportunity to create a “wow” space on one floor and locate the functional, everyday work areas out of view,” says Drury. “There is nothing worse than a messy office flowing into beautiful display areas. The decision to locate the office areas on the lower level was easy, although there are days we miss the sunshine.”
Drury has some suggestions for others considering a two-story layout that are applicable to other floor plans as well. Consider the following:
- Manage how you greet and interact with your customers. A reception area is a must if there are no offices on the main floor. Because the business has two entrances, Drury Design also installed a computerized video monitoring system, which allows employees to see anyone entering the showroom at any given time.
- Ensure wide entrances and staircases with engaging ends. Some customers are wary of going up or down stairs into areas they can’t see because they don’t want to feel like they’re being closed into a corner. Keep these areas open and inviting by incorporating mirrors, lighting and displays that wrap around corners.
- Reconsider your layout. Make sure your customers are guided through the showroom in such a way that they don’t run into any dead ends or miss any areas.
- Be creative when displaying samples and keep the clutter at bay:
Work with vendors and carpenters to create custom storage solutions. For instance, Drury developed special kiosks to house granite samples within price groupings for easier viewing.
Consider carpeted walls that make it easy to attach Velcro samples or assemble presentation boards.
Use slat walls to encourage easy viewing of hardware while minimizing mess.
Think you’re ready? Here are some planning dos and don’ts:
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you try to design too many displays all at once, you won’t be able to give them the attention they deserve.
- Do take it one step at a time. Design displays for a large space over a period of two years or so. You’ll save money, stay at the forefront of what’s new and find that fewer displays become outdated and need to be replaced all at once.
- Don’t let messy renovations take control of your showroom.
- Do find creative ways to block off spaces that are not completed. Drury used curtains to cover openings in unfinished areas and suspended large photos of the firm’s best kitchen projects in front of the curtains until the display areas were complete. Set lighting to highlight photos and not the hidden mess.
- Do treat your remodeling project just like you would a customer’s home. Complete all the detailed drawings and selections in advance to ensure a well-conceived plan.
- Do make an installation schedule and stick to it!
- Don’t use your displays as fillers for your installers. You’ll end up with your showroom torn up for months.
- Do plan the work for a slow time of year so that it will have the least impact on your bottom line. Remember, if not properly planned, renovations can steal away time that is better spent on your primary objective – making sales.
- Do work on your design and have your plan in place – even if you can’t get started just yet. When business picks up and you have the money to invest in your showroom, you’ll be ready to go!
Remodeling your showroom may seem like a daunting task. Plan wisely and you’ll be prepared for many of the challenges you’re likely to face. Keep your project manageable; remember, bigger isn’t always better. Trust your talents and creativity to see you through the rest, and remain flexible.
Plan for today’s needs with an eye toward tomorrow’s. When the dust settles on your renovation, both literally and figuratively, you’ll have a showroom that attracts prospects and helps turn them into customers.