Raising the Bar

As the footprint of many homes continues to shrink from the “McMansion” days, designers are finding innovative – and lucrative – ways to enhance their clients’ spaces and lifestyles. One such enhancement is the breakfast bar, an “other room” option that can satisfy many client needs while providing a potentially lucrative revenue stream for designers.

A breakfast bar can be as simple as a little nook off the kitchen for relaxing over a hot cup of tea, or it can be far more complex, such as the elaborate master bedroom suite “mini kitchens,” which may feature everything from built-in coffee maker, refrigerator and wine unit to sink and dishwasher, luxurious seating area and plentiful storage.

Whether basic or grandiose, these spaces all share one thing in common: They create the potential for added profit for kitchen and bath designers.

In fact, some designers indicate these areas are particularly lucrative because they create the opportunity to suggest design elements that can enhance convenience and relieve stress – two key hot buttons with today’s consumers.

“I would suggest that if you bring it up in a consultation, list it as a specially designed option so clients feel special and pampered,” says Jeani Lee, CKD, CBD, CAPS for Kitchen, Bath & Home in Ames, IA.

Pulse of the home

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the breakfast bar may very well be its pulse. It’s a place where clients can feel in control of their time and space, with everything at their fingertips. This can help establish a priceless sense of calm before a hectic day, or perhaps simply peace of mind during a leisurely morning with a pot of coffee.

“The key is for the space to reflect the client’s needs and style of morning routine,” says Lee. “Therefore, we as designers need to provide everything [they need to do this] in one location.”

“[The breakfast bar area] should be able to function without support from the kitchen to be ultimately convenient for your clients,” she continues. “The bottom line is our clients don’t have any extra time in their day, so the proximity and organization of these specific spaces help them achieve their goals.”

For example, one of Lee’s recent projects was originally a very small kitchen and hall with a separate living room. “I took out the wall and hall and added a bistro/coffee bar in the sitting room and kitchen area,” she says. “Now the client lives in this sitting room and kitchen and loves the combination.”

Removing walls is also key in many of Gary White’s designs. The owner of Kitchen & Bath Design in Laguna Hills, CA, and CMKBD, CID, routinely boosts countertop and cabinet sales by as much as 30% by integrating a breakfast area into the kitchen. “You can run cabinets down a wall continuously, integrate seating for breakfast, integrate media, and you boost profit sales because there’s more space,” he says.

And oftentimes White notes he’s integrating an area his clients may not have thought about utilizing. He explains, “Sometimes that space may have been an independent breakfast room or dining room [that rarely got used before]. My view is that people don’t like to eat alone. Our whole lifestyle is a little bit more simplified. It’s not English tea where we sit in a separate room and have someone else serve us.”

He continues, “We’re just reminding designers that this is a way to proceed for a more profitable project. Keep integrating the home, and one of the best ways to do that is to make a pivotal home center out of the kitchen. If you have to take another wall down to accomplish that, then do so. Look what it does for you!”

Rich Perkins, v.p., NVS Kitchen & Bath, in Manassas, VA, is also finding that integrated breakfast areas as an integral part of the kitchen are becoming more common. “A lot of clients are incorporating breakfast bars into nooks where they might not have enough space for an average-size table, or they’re incorporating additional chair space within an island or peninsula,” he says. “These spaces are such focal points that people want them to look like furniture with turn posts, corbels or wainscot panels. And when people dress up an island or peninsula, that’s profitability in terms of additional accessories and moldings. So, even if you’re not adding a whole new room, you can still expand profits.”

Product Placement

According to Lee, there are countless product categories that can be incorporated into the breakfast bar area, including coffee systems, wine storage areas, cabinetry, small appliances, sinks and faucets.

“Other items to incorporate include a toaster, bagel cutter, coffee grinder, tea infusers, juicers, coffee systems, French presses and any other utensils specific to their needs,” notes Lee.

Eileen Kollias, CKD, CBD of Eileen Kollias Design in Boston, MA, adds that other high price point items – such as bar refrigerators, single dishwasher drawers, exotic sinks and faucets and cabinetry to match furniture – are all fair game to suggest to clients.

“The upsell opportunities are definitely available in this area,” says Kollias. “For instance, I often suggest detailed cabinetry; quiet appliances that are, perhaps, paneled in wood; exotic stone and tile backsplashes; and beautiful lighting.”

Ron Purcio, CKD, president, Styles Kitchen & Bath Studio in Basalt, CO, notes that under-cabinet refrigerators and coffee stations are particularly popular. “Ensuring beverage convenience is important,” he says. “I always like to include a coffee area because it keeps congestion out of the kitchen. People can sit in this area and relax. I have found that breakfast areas are becoming more popular in larger kitchens because people can get ‘lost’ in a huge kitchen. A breakfast area provides a comfortable place for a few people to gather.”

One current project provides an ideal example of fulfilling client needs while adding profit to a project. Purcio and his design team are transforming a previously undefined space into a fully functional breakfast area that includes cabinets for extra storage, an under-cabinet refrigerator, booth seating for two, a coffee station and a cast glass countertop with accent lighting. “We’ve included a lot of nice things,” he says. “It’s like a piece of furniture.”

Perkins also encourages his design team to focus on selling related items into a space. “When volume is down, you need to turn to related items to pick up those additional sales,” he says. “We’re finding that we’re incorporating banquette (integrated) seating into breakfast nooks. A lot of times we will do them as accent pieces out of the same cabinet material that we do in the kitchen or island. In a breakfast nook area, where you’re trying to put a table in a bay window application, for example, it’s hard to have enough room. A banquette is a perfect solution. Again, it’s selling related items that boost the sale.”

“Overall, we find we’re in a fast-paced society,” he continues. “On occasion the whole family sits down in the dining room and eats a meal together. But more often we’re finding that families have meals on the go, at different times. And the majority of those meals are eaten at the breakfast bar. It’s becoming more of a focal point because of the fast pace of the lives we lead.”

Storage Savvy

While appliances, a quiet sitting area and effective lighting are all important parts of the breakfast bar, to provide the ultimate in convenience, the area must also incorporate that all-important storage space.

“Storage is very important because if this space cannot hold everything clients need, then they could talk themselves out of spending the extra money!” Kollias explains. “Therefore, it is critical to design well-organized areas with plenty of drawers for coffee, tea, wines, liquor, water, mixers and utensils.”

It’s also important that breakfast bars be designed to be self-contained, so that the homeowner doesn’t have to keep getting up to find, store or dispose of items, as this takes away from the restful quality that is so important to creating the proper ambiance of this space.

“As designers, we need to address all storage and immediate access needs within this space, including disposing of coffee grounds and package debris,” notes Lee. She explains that, in designing breakfast bars, she makes a point of organizing spaces for specific purposes to maximize the room’s effectiveness.

Beyond the breakfast bar

It’s also possible to take the breakfast bar concept to other areas of the home.

“If the project is a master suite, a coffee/wine bar area can be added,” says Kollias. “In fact, 90% of my designs now include a coffee/wine bar area in the kitchen, master suite or family room – especially when it is new construction.”

Lee also incorporates what she terms “bistro bars,” often within a master bedroom, which would likely include wine refrigeration. “These areas are complementary of the furnishings of the bedroom and extremely functional at the beginning and end of each day,” she says. “When the bistro bar is in the bedroom, I will usually add a sink for added convenience.”

Kollias concludes, “The trick is to design something so personal, clients just can’t say ‘no’ to it. You might have to redesign in a less expensive way to show them options, but they always come back to what they love!” KBDN