Show Stoppers

Just as the “wow” factor has begun to take a back seat to the more homespun, traditional feel in home design, the sleek, bright-and-shiny look of kitchen and bath showrooms is toning down to take on the more casual, comfortable feel of current lifestyles. Kitchen and bath designers are continually being commissioned to create comfortable living spaces as opposed to showplaces, and showrooms are reflecting that transition.

But, without the splashy, in-your-face design elements, today’s showrooms have had to shift gears and create new ways to draw in clients – customers who, in these challenging economic times, are leery about parting with their hard-earned dollars.

From optimal locations to comfortable design to event coordination, the following kitchen and bath showrooms have created formulas that are spelling success in the most challenging of circumstances.

The Showroom Next Door

When Bill and Joe Feinberg, the owners of Allied Kitchen & Bath in Fort Lauderdale, FL, began the search for a location for their new, 15,000-sq.-ft. showroom, they didn’t go much further than their own front door. The two-story, state-of-the-art luxury showroom – double the width and height of the original – is situated right next door to the old location.

“The same location assured that past customers and South Florida residents would still know where Allied is located,” stresses Bill Feinberg.

Included in the facility – designed by Feinbergs along with international design firm Pavlik Design – is a state-of-the-art working kitchen and two functional bathrooms. Over 25 vignettes designed by members of the design staff are featured throughout the showroom.

The space also boasts one of the largest selections of hardware and plumbing in the area. Products in the updated showroom include cabinets from Omega, Holiday, UltraCraft and Adelphi, countertops from IceStone, Silestone and CaesarStone, and Toto, Hansgrohe, Ginger and Jacuzzi plumbing fixtures. In addition, technologically advanced systems throughout the showroom include multiple flat screen televisions and a projector system that continuously displays creative design ideas to inspire customers.

One of the key strategies that Allied has in place, however, is the offering of the use of the showroom to fellow vendors. “Since the displays are complete with large kitchen appliances in a beautiful kitchen setting, it makes it a perfect place for vendors such as Viking to show the beauty of its products in a natural setting,” stresses Feinberg.

Allied also openly offers the showroom as an event venue, and has hosted many functions – including organization and committee meetings, charity events and fundraisers, and networking events and socials. This strategic program – which provides guests with an upscale venue with a full kitchen for food preparation and live cooking demonstrations – has exposed the company to a broader clientele and launched its business into a new arena of service, according to Feinberg.

“We have hosted many culinary evenings, with special guest chef appearances,” he remarks. Recently, the showroom hosted a charity event for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation with Iron Chef Ralph Pagano from the television show “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Allied also recently hosted a special culinary evening for the Jewish Adoption and Foster Care Options (JAFCO) – East Chapter. In addition to contributing 100 percent of the event’s proceeds to JAFCO and absorbing the costs of the event, the company also donated kitchen plans for auction, with proceeds to benefit the charity.

Hosting these events has proven to be a great way for Allied Kitchen & Bath to give back to the community that it has been a part of for 25 years, and boost its recognition and widen its reach for those interested in a kitchen or bath remodel.

Bigger is Better

If some is good, more is better.

That is the sentiment of Amir Ilin, president of Kuche Cucina, who not only has two spacious showrooms in Paramus and Madison, NJ (10,000 square feet and 4,200 square feet, respectively), but boasts an even bigger product selection.

“In the showrooms, we show big kitchens and not vignettes. That way, customers can actually walk into a room that looks very similar to what they dream about for their homes,” notes Ilin. “We try and make it as complete as possible.”

He continues: “The showroom offers a large selection of products, and once people are inside and walking through the display areas, they should feel like they are walking through a real kitchen. The idea is to show them a lot.”

A lot indeed, as the firm’s Madison location has nine kitchen displays, two closets and two bath displays. The Paramus location has 14 kitchen displays, two closets and one full bathroom – as well as a selection of vanities and a home office.

Despite the abundance of displays, neither showroom is cluttered – another important distinction, according to Ilin. “I like to give the displays some breathing room. I’ll leave a lot of empty walls. I prefer having a visible wall, almost as if you are walking into a gallery or a museum,” he offers.

Ilin notes that the firm carries an abundant inventory of contemporary and traditional product lines, most notably from Pedini USA, as well as other private labeled items.

“While American-based company displays rarely change, European displays tend to change each year,” notes Ilin, leading him and his staff of designers to constantly stay abreast of new offerings on the market.

Visual Effects

For Loriann Savarese, CKD, for Lomita, CA-based South Bay Design Center, a dynamic showroom needs to appeal to the senses.

“For a showroom to be great, it needs to show the latest and greatest products in the industry,” she comments. “It is very important for the showroom to be clean and organized – not cluttered.”

Savarese adds: “Staging the kitchen vignettes with accessories to dress up the space is also very important, and really helps clients envision their new dream kitchen in their home.”

South Bay Design Center offers quite a bit in that regard, with three different divisions (kitchen remodel, bath remodel and kitchen cabinet refacing) spread among 3,000 square feet of showroom space. There are 15 kitchen vignettes and two bath displays in the showroom, each showcasing leading kitchen and bath product lines such as cabinets from Dura Supreme, Medallion, Decora and Kemper & Prestige. Countertop brands and materials include Silestone, CaesarStone, Cambria, Zodiaq, soapstone and granite.

“I believe our biggest selling point for the showroom is the size and amount of displays we have,” Savarese offers. “Seeing the whole kitchen on display really helps clients visualize what their kitchens are going to look like.”
Many of the kitchen vignettes in the showroom have been designed according to NKBA aisle guidelines; vignettes have 36" walkways, all the way up to 45" walkways, “so clients can have a better understanding of what the spaces feel like.”

In addition to the vignettes and products, the design center also features a 42" flat screen television, located in the first display upon entering the showroom. “The television has an ongoing slide show that showcases before and after pictures of our recent projects,” Savarese explains. “Many customers will look at that screen to see the type of work we do and get different design ideas. They may even see a ‘before’ kitchen that looks like theirs. It has been very beneficial to us and adds to the clients’ showroom experience.

A Living Space

“Timing is everything” – so the saying goes.

For In House Kitchen Bath Home in New York City, the timing of its opening – September 2008 – could have proven disastrous, given the economic events that transpired in the months that followed. But, the showroom held its ground in its first few months, and since early this year, it has flourished. According to principals Michael Markoe, director of sales, and Dave Burcher, design director, New Yorkers are spending where it counts – at home.

In House has been rapidly gaining word-of-mouth buzz as one of the area’s premier showroom for the kitchen, bath and home, according to the two principals. The location – on the ground floor of the NY Design Center at the intersection of 33rd Street and Lexington Avenue – has provided the 3,300-sq.-ft. showroom with a steady stream of customers.

“It’s really an amazing space, with wraparound windows and entryways both inside the Design Center and on Lexington Avenue,” comments Burcher. “The corner window frontage is bright, airy and open; it can be viewed from every vantage point.”

The entrance from Lexington Avenue “provides an entryway that one would see in a home, which provides more display space, and sets up the entire concept for the showroom,” he continues.

The new space, designed by Markoe and Burcher along with architect Daniel G. Failla, unfolded according to a specific vision: “To create a showroom that showcases all of the rooms throughout your home, done just the way that people use them,” according to Burcher. “The ‘Home’ concept is paramount to what we are doing, for each vignette is displayed as it would be in a gallery, with a museum-like approach: vignettes with full concepts of the room, designed and stocked just as people would use them.”

He believes this is what sets In House Kitchen Bath Home apart – “the feeling that you are actually in a home, along with the traffic pattern and easy flow of space,” he reports.

“The entryway transitions the customer from the intensity of New York City to the serenity of the showroom space, where there is music, flowers, a clean simple design – a Zen approach and a soothing vibe,” explains Burcher. To the side of the reception area is the kitchen section, which flows into the Selections Room, opposite the concierge desk. Behind the concierge desk is the bath area, which flows into the library and home office, media room and dressing room.

“Everyone who enters comments on the warmth they feel when inside the showroom…as if they’re in a comfortable, beautiful, well-designed home, with a traffic flow that enhances the experience,” he comments. “What’s so unusual in this showroom is that lifestyles and vignettes are presented as people actually live in them.”

Each vignette in the showroom is designed to look and feel like a certain neighborhood of New York City – they are even named for that area. At the center of the reception area is the vendor wall, which highlights the company’s partners’ names and logos. Among the companies represented are Wood-Mode, Alape, Empire Industries, Sonia, Blanco America, Dornbracht, Franke, Hansgrohe, Jaclo Industries, Native Trails, Toto, Miele, Sub-Zero, Viking, CaesarStone, Zodiaq and Corian.