This past holiday shopping season proved one thing for certain: electronics are hot. With so many HDTVs, DVD and Blu-ray players, video game consoles and other electronics so popular, it’s no wonder the media room continues to increase in importance within the home. And, kitchen and bath designers are being called upon to tackle these other rooms more than ever.
“We often do additional rooms, and they run the gamut,” says Ken Kelly, CKD, CBD, principal of Williston Park, NY-based Kitchen Designs by Ken Kelly. “We do about nine to 10 wall units/home theater units per year, and they can run from a basic set of cabinetry to an elaborate $75,000 wall system. Other rooms represent, for us, about 8% total volume these days, which equated to over $400,000 in 2008.”
That percentage of total volume is typical according to designers surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News. However, some suggest that number could be much higher if more clients were aware of a firm’s ability to design such rooms.
Jolynn Johnson, CMKBD, CAPS, president of Crystal, MN-based Crystal Kitchen Center says, “With ‘kitchen’ in our name, people expect us to just do kitchens. They are surprised when they see a working entertainment center with a fireplace in our showroom. We get a lot of, ‘Oh, you do that, too?’”
In 2009, due to high unemployment and a slow economy, Americans stayed home more than ever. Holiday travel was down across the country while subscription entertainment services like Netflix (for DVDs) and GameFly (for video games) reported record growth. At the same time, the recession has led to more home entertaining, as opposed to spending leisure time at restaurants or other pricey venues.
As a result, “Media centers have become an important part of the home. Whether it’s a home theater or a media unit in the living room, clients want to enjoy all of the entertainment options with their family, and this is something all of the family can enjoy,” says Heather Kahler of Boston, MA-based Dalia Kitchen Design.
“It can be a great profit center because clients come into it already expecting custom furniture pieces to cost more,” says Johnson.
“Sometimes we’re building in a radiator or heat register, or going around a pipe or column. All of these things can be disguised in our custom cabinets. Other times we’ve been asked to build in special features like an aquarium or Christmas village. Odd sizes and angles aren’t available in furniture stores, but with custom cabinetry, it can be whatever door style, wood species or finish the client desires,” she adds.
Designers agree that an easy way to get a leg up on the competition when adding media centers to a design portfolio is to partner with an audio/visual company.
“In addition to incorporating several wall units/media centers into our showroom, we’ve teamed up with a home audio and video company in the area. The synergy works well and we’re each able to promote the other’s business,” says Kelly.
Other partnerships of this kind have benefited Dalia Kitchen Design, as well. “Media rooms are great places to introduce ‘smart home’ systems. We work with a company called Savant AV out of Osterville, MA, which we consider to be a leader in this market,” says Kahler. “They can enable a client to control everything in their house – lighting, temperature, appliances, automatic blinds systems and electronics – from a touch screen that can be freestanding or built into a coffee table. These systems are becoming a popular way to make clients’ lives easier by putting everything at the touch of a button.”
While getting the word out about a firm’s expanded design capabilities might require some extra effort, the best and easiest place to start mining for these projects is with current kitchen clients, designers agree.