Showrooms, at their very best, possess something slightly magical, a chemistry of sorts. These are where carefully crafted displays of brilliant new products meet customers for the very first time; where designs are realized, deals are made and dreams brought to life.
Innovative showroom design is pivotal in the selling process, from bringing customers through the door all the way to breaking ground on a new kitchen or bath.
From a southern start-up showroom headed by a young designer with a passion for client comfort to a chic New York showroom that’s two parts Museum of Modern Art and one part Italian minimalism, today’s showrooms have to respond to savvy, demanding clients with tastes as fickle as the tides. No matter the overall aesthetic or geographic location, one thing remains constant: The passion for design and the know-how of competent designers and salespeople turn what could otherwise be a run-of-the-mill business transaction into a daily granting of clients’ wishes.
Here, and on the next three pages, KBDN profiles four innovative kitchen and bath showrooms.
Thurston Kitchen & Bath - Boulder, CO
While Colorado often evokes rustic scenes of woodsy ski chalets, Thurston Kitchen & Bath recognizes that Colorado residents enjoy design diversity as much as anyone else.
Texture, color and chic style are the hallmarks of this new Boulder-based beauty. From Arts-and-Crafts period cabinetry to European frameless, the firm offers an eclectic mix of products.
“We show many different cabinet styles and each display is visually distinct from one another,” explains Michael Cross, a designer at the Boulder showroom.
Cross says the firm either displays or carries cabinetry from Woodland, DeWils, Ovation, Embassy, Omega and Hallmark, among others. Countertops include a variety of quartz surfaces, concrete, granite, soapstone and IceStone, a material made of recycled glass. Appliances include Wolf, Sub-Zero, Asko, Thermador, Viking, Aga, Gaggenau and Turbochef, among others.
Most importantly, Cross says clients can expect a warm welcome on their first visit.
“We offer a comfortable atmosphere and as much knowledge as our clients can handle on their first visit,” he concludes.
Modern Art in Modern Setting
Urban Homes NY - New York, NY
Don’t let the artful displays and playful color schemes fool you: Urban Homes NY, a full- service design firm, is serious about its New York City design street cred. In business since 2005, UHNY’s design studio was created by Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen of Workshop/apd, and took approximately eight months to design, according to Derek Zylewicz, president of Urban Homes. Since UHNY opened its doors, there has been one major remodel.
The firm’s designs range from traditional to ultra-modern, and Zylewicz cites the flexibility of his staff as the company’s greatest strength.
The company is also in the midst of organizing its next update, to reflect the newest trends.
“We’ll be displaying the newest innovations from Italy, including their new style of curved cabinetry and new exotic wood finishes, Yellow Pine, Olive and book-matched finished veneers,” Zylewicz says of UHNY’s plans.
The showroom carries Aster Cucine, Cuisine Ideale, Cabico Custom Cabinetry, its own line, Urban Homes Custom Cabinetry, and its line of LEED-certified Green Cabinetry. Other products on display include quartz countertops from CaesarStone, concrete tops from The Concrete Design Studio and glass tops from Canadian glassmaker ThinkGlass.
The space was designed to take advantage of car and foot traffic, and much thought was given to how the space would be perceived from different angles, from both the outside and inside. “Due to the changing angles of orientation of each of the displays toward the street, the viewer is perpendicular to each plane at a slightly different point. This technique creates the illusion of multiple focal points, allowing each one to be framed independently of the others,” explains Zylewicz.
Selection centers are peppered throughout the space, and samples are tucked away in the vignettes.
“We will then show them our portfolio, so they have a good idea of our work quality,” he concludes.
Start-up Adds On
A Contemporary Cupboard - Stateboro, GA
When Kim Grantham and her husband were building their home four years ago, she was disappointed by what she perceived as a lack of diversity in kitchen and bath showrooms in her area.
“I had a hard time finding what I wanted for each room; I felt the selection in the area was poor and it left me frustrated,” she says.
She then decided to do something about it. A few years, a lot of research, some NKBA courses and a SEN Design Group membership later, Grantham is the owner and designer of A Contemporary Cupboard.
The two-year-old firm celebrated the grand opening of its showroom in February of this year.
“I’ve been in this space since early 2007, but I wanted to get the studio absolutely perfect before I opened the doors to the public,” says Grantham. The 1,400-sq.-ft. studio space includes several vignettes, a selection center, a coffee bar and a cabinet comparison wall.
Ken Peterson, CKD, of SEN Design Group, designed the floor plan of the space, which includes offices and a conference room. The interior was designed by Grantham and Sue Meikle, an interior designer on staff.
Grantham’s distaste for clutter comes through in the lack of knob selection boards and visible brand names on the product displays, creating a more home-like feel.
“I’ve managed to keep out the feeling of being overwhelmed by product. It puts the client at ease, setting aside the business end of it at the beginning, like they’re walking around in a few rooms of someone’s home,” she describes.
For Grantham, innovation is about the ability to constantly change out and add product to fit the evolving needs of her customers.
For example, the designer recently noticed that many of her existing and potential clients had an interest in wine, or collections of wine at home. It inspired her to bring a new line of wine storage products from Kessick into the design studio, and now the firm is in the process of creating a wine cellar environment in the showroom. Grantham and her staff have created an event out of the new interest in wine rooms and next month they plan to host a wine tasting at the showroom.
The Greenest of the Greens
Urban Jungle - West Oakland, CA
A lifelong environmentalist, Jeff Hunt, president of EarthSource Wood Products, has created a space that takes the guilt out of using wood. In fact, Urban Jungle, the company’s wood showroom built into an existing EarthSource location, thinks outside of the box, and very much into the forest.
So for Hunt and company, it wasn’t hard to convert clients to the “green theme.”
“Our area is right in the middle of a new ‘green corridor,’” says Hunt. “We feel this showroom is perfect for capitalizing on the Bay Area’s green movement.”
EarthSource’s products were among the first to be certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council. Specializing in cabinetry, household wood products and outdoor living environments, Urban Jungle opened in late 2007, to serve a client base including architects, designers, woodworkers and carpenters.
Few showrooms are also wood product distributors and fewer still can lay claim to having certified sustainable exotic hardwoods. Urban Jungle can claim both.
The footprint of the 2,100-sq.-ft. showroom, which was designed by Marion Hunt, is minimized by the use of natural light and heat sources. The showroom includes three general display themes: indoor, outdoor and wall treatment. Using no hand samples or catalogs, EarthSource features wood products in installations so they can be appreciated in an end-use application.
Located throughout the store are a cabinetry section, a bamboo furniture area and an outdoor furniture and decking zone. The walls are paneled and the floors are made with a patchwork of exotic, sustainable flooring brands that EarthSource carries.
The showroom also features a display of exotic flooring from Smith and Fong Plyboo’s Neapolitan Strand Bamboo to Guatemalan Ramon Blanco.
Offering a teaching area for EarthSource employees and a meeting area for architects and designers, the company hopes to provide a better understanding of the products for the public and intends to hold educational seminars and events with guest speakers as well as craftsmen-specific events.