Designers Assist Clients With Design Decisions

Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed the question to dealers and designers in the kitchen and bath industry: “What are the best techniques for helping clients make decisions during the design process?” Following are some of their responses:

“First of all, it is important to uncover what the client wants before the design process begins. Probing, asking detailed questions and offering suggestions and ideas along the way help to flesh out what it is the client is really after. The first thing is to really understand what they want.

Secondly, I work hard to pinpoint potential solutions that directly meet those requirements and narrow down the options. I come up with no more than three. Then I’ll present the three options and the reasons they were selected by way of explanation. Generally, we’re able to come pretty close.

I work closely with interior designers that I refer our clients to. With some of the other, more esoteric things, I encourage my clients to work with another interior designer. If they do that, then I have somebody I can collaborate with. Together, we put forth the solutions to the whole space.”

Duval B. Acker, ASID, CMKBD, v.p.
Kitchens By Design
Mt. Pleasant, SC

“Listening is critical to helping clients – listening to their wants, needs, likes and dislikes. We also look at the space they currently have and find out what doesn’t work. We develop a wish list with them: What do they want an area to do for them, what are the needs of the space, what are their desires?

There are so many things, it depends on each person. Each client is key. They know themselves best. We really like to customize ourselves around our clients, and no two are the same. Everyone is individual.

Some people come in and know exactly what they want – exact color, finish, everything. Other people come in and haven’t a clue. Then there are the people in between. There’s such a wide range of clients who come in, it goes right back to listening to everyone as an individual and figuring out what their needs are. It’s fun, though. I actually really enjoy that. It’s one of the most fun parts about this job.”

Carol Peden, AKBD, designer
Kitchens of Stillwater
Stillwater, MN

“I begin the design process by asking about how clients prefer to make their decisions. It’s part of the process, and I break it into three different scenarios. Those clients who like to see everything out there, feel like they really covered the market, thoroughly understand all of their choices and are comfortable making a decision – that’s style one. Clients who give a general idea of what they’re looking for style-wise, and have someone there to narrow the field down to two to four options that would work that so they’re not overwhelmed – that’s style two. Those clients who come with a general idea, have someone put together one plan that they can focus on and then have us pull parts of it out and put new things in and work with a single concrete plan – that’s style three.

We start with an understanding of how they prefer to make their choices. Then we move forward with critical path choices to make. We usually make the suggestions and then send people out to do a little homework and make sure that they touch and enjoy the products that we suggested. It’s an interactive process from there.”

Kathie Maughan Francis, principal
Maughan Design
Portland, OR

“We always like to limit the clients’ choices by having them do their homework before they come in. During the pre-interview process, we always try to set out a few selections for them. In having pre-meetings with clients, you find out as much as you can about the project so that you can guide them in a direction. Clients are always looking for you to guide them. One thing we’ve found that has helped is that we offer a huge selection for them.

We’re very involved in the process. All of our designers are very involved, but every project is different. Sometimes there will be another designer involved with the project, so we’ll take a back seat to them. Usually, by the end, however, they’re asking for our advice.”

Peter Johnson, sales manager
Specialty Cabinets
Prescott, AZ

“I often have the clients clip pictures from magazines to begin the process. I study the pictures with them to find the similar or repetitive selection of either the style or color. Often they’ll pick photos, but not realize what the repetitive thing about each photo is until you point it out to them. The design is usually all clumped together, all square doors or all inset doors or all certain color groups.

I also like to show them a lot of product and see their reaction, because people are often excited about certain things, but not others. The items that they do seem to be moved by emotionally, I like to focus on those areas to try to work them into their designs.

You have to just suggest a lot of color combinations and things that they don’t realize work really well together, because most people are new at it. We’re also trying to keep their minds open to the new and current options and latest colors.
We definitely are directly involved. We meet them at the home and in the showroom, and we choose the colors for countertops, cabinets, wall coverings and often flooring. We usually are in that entire process with them.”

Carol Landry, CKD
Cabinet Gallery Ltd.
Woonsocket, RI