Dealers Discuss Technological Advances Ahead

Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed the question to dealers and designers in the kitchen and bath industry: “How do you feel technology – including ‘smart’ technology – will affect kitchen and bath design in the coming years?” Following are some of their responses:

“I was at K/BIS in Chicago a few months ago, and I saw the 20-20 virtual showroom program. A client can make decisions on paint colors, tiles and floors and, with the program, see those choices come to life.

The more realistic a design can be or the more you can help a client truly visualize the space, the better. The faster you can do it, the better, as well. It’s a net gain.

It’s also a little scary, however, because as design programs get better, there will be attempts to circumvent people such as the designer.

There’s so much this type of software has done for the industry. We don’t need to meet with clients [in person as much] now. The design process has been streamlined and made more efficient, which is a big deal because people are so busy. It’s better for us. You lose the meeting, which is unfortunate because meetings help build relationships with clients, but online meetings are a lot more efficient because they have to be.”

David Porter, owner
Kitchen Design Studio
Gambrills, MD

“We’re a few years away, but eventually we’ll have automated refrigeration, cooking and food preparation. I thought it might have come years ago, but with the economy, it’s hard sometimes for new technology to get on its feet. We go back to basics when the economy gets soft, and that happens about every seven or eight years. We’ll start to make some inroads, profitability will be up, companies will begin to look at the potential of doing some real research and development and then, we slide back a little bit. That’s probably some of what keeps technology from making giant steps forward.

There’s a huge gap between the ability to use that technology well and the technology’s capability to do what it can do.

That’s where the real gap is, and it’s going to be that way for a long time, because we’re effectively requiring everybody who is involved in the work world today to be technologically savvy. The gap is in the ability to make the consumer feel confident. We need to make the technology simple to use, as well as dependable.”

Max Isley, CMKBD, president
Hampton Kitchens
Raleigh, NC

“Smart technology would make things easier for people with arthritis or the elderly, because you don’t have knobs that you have to push. It would make items easier to clean and maintain, because, for instance, some electric cooktops have integrated buttons. There is a refrigerator that has a microprocessor; since it’s an integrated refrigerator, the service tech can come out and plug into the microprocessor without taking out the whole machine. If there’s an issue, an Onstar-like program will contact the service tech, the service tech will call the customer and say ‘Your refrigerator is having an issue. I need to schedule an appointment.’ That eliminates the phone call from the customer to the service person.”

Sarah Frederick, designer
The Jae Co.
Columbus, OH

“Any time you have the ability to create a more realistic appearance with regard to a design, it stretches the ability to do the design, because the client can see first hand what something is going to look like. Some of the positive effects will be a more energy-efficient design and being able to keep our food in the right condition 24 hours a day, which will make food last longer so we don’t have to throw it out as quickly. The new technology in electric cooking will allow us to do a lot more than gas appliances, as well. Induction cooktops will change the attitude toward gas.

We’re working with a new program, and I’m encouraged by what I see with regard to the ability to design and put together complete drawings in a short amount of time. This will make us more efficient and make it easier for us to respond to client requests for quick designs. A lot of people don’t have time to waste, so they’re anxious for us to get something going pretty quickly for them. From that aspect, it will be beneficial. It loses some of its personal touch to me, but we can overcome it.”

Bill Wrape, CKBD, owner
Distinctive Kitchens and Baths
Little Rock, AR

“There are many areas in which technology does and will continue to affect the industry. It will keep moving at a fast pace and make the industry more viable as it goes forward. Technology makes it possible to reach more people, makes it affordable for more people and makes it a more successful process.

Any time you design something new, there are always phases that require a lot of research to work out the bugs. Problems do occur, but that’s part of all new concepts. Sometimes they fail before they succeed. Edison was once asked why he failed 50,000 times at inventing the light bulb and he refuted ‘I only experimented 50,000 times, but I succeeded once.’

I’m in design and sales, but I continuously work on patents for new products. Some of them fail, some succeed and some take years to complete. People like me come out with products daily. Technology opens more doors.”

Dana Ayler, owner
Cabinets Etc. By Design
Gardnerville, NV