Westborough, Ma— New England is known for its crisp autumn days and cold wintry nights. It is also known for its stately old homes, colonials and Victorians. Mariette Barsoum looked at this combination and saw an opportunity.
For the past four years, Barsoum’s firm, Divine Kitchens, based here, has been specializing in looking at new solutions for long-standing problems with traditional homes.
“We really do a lot of traditional homes, Victorians homes and colonials, but lately we’re focusing on more contemporary homes and looks,” says Barsoum, a CKD. “Here in New England, one of the things we deal with is the cold weather. People want a good kitchen that gives them enough heating and lighting, which is important, because [unfortunately] the sun doesn’t shine all the time in the New England area.”
Breaking Down Barriers
Another issue with older homes typical of New England is the design.
“New England colonials tend to be pretty cookie-cutter designs,” says Barsoum. “The living room is on one side and the dining room is on other, and that makes the kitchens small. By removing a wall, it often creates a new space that offers new lighting opportunities and makes for an overall better space.”
Barsoum specializes in knocking down those walls, when warranted, and creating spaces that are more open and inviting.
There are many clients who are looking for just such an opportunity to upgrade their older homes while maintaining a traditional feel.
Barsoum also says that since she’s been in business, many customers have told her they were tired of being mistreated by other design firms. “People say that they love to deal with us because in the past, contractors took two years to finish a project, or they had no respect for our needs,” she says. “I believe that by listening to our clients, we give them the respect they need. That means showing up on time and completing a job on time.”
Barsoum’s business, which employs three other people, has a wide range of clients in the greater Boston area, including some who own homes on the resort area of Cape Cod. Most, she says, are young professionals in their 30s to 40s with children ranging from youngsters to high school students. But there are also empty-nesters looking to upgrade their homes now that the kids are gone. Some of her clients own vacation homes on the Cape and have decided that they will spend more time at these second homes when they retire. These clients want their vacation homes to become more functional as year-round homes.
Barsoum has also found that clients in her primary service area have grown tired of problems with their existing homes, which were built during the housing boom of the 1990s. Many of these homes, according to Barsoum, were poorly built with shoddy workmanship.
Barsoum leads the design team, which works with the client from the beginning stages of the initial sketches to the completed installation. The company will design the new kitchen, order and track materials, schedule tradespeople and coordinate deliveries and installations. The firm can provide licensed installation workers or work with outside contractors who are known to the clients.
Depending on the client’s needs, Barsoum works with the homeowner to determine if taking that wall out will create a more efficient space that is better lit and better ventilated. She also includes a full line of entertainment units, closet systems and countertops to round out her services to clients.
Recently, Barsoum’s designs won first place in the New England regional COTY Awards for kitchens under $50,000, and second place in the $50,000-$100,000 category. But, despite the awards, she believes that her success can be attributed to her attitude toward her clients.
“I think it’s being very honest and upfront to people. From the minute they walk in, they are aware that we’re not going to lie to them. We believe that listening to a client is very important. We want it to be a quality experience for our clients,” she says.
She also believes that people with limited budgets should not be excluded from the process. Divine Kitchens carries a wide range of products that can fit many budgets, including semi-custom and full custom cabinet lines. Barsoum performs a cost analysis with her clients to determine what will work for them.
Her showroom, covering about 1,000 square feet, includes nine vignettes that range from contemporary to traditional, along with one working kitchen. A second working kitchen is in the planning stages. The working kitchen is also used for a variety of local charity events, hosted by a local celebrity chef.
Promotion is handled through word-of-mouth, local advertising and a high-quality newsletter that answers typical client questions in a very direct manner.
Barsoum’s business philosophy goes hand-in-hand with her commitment to service: “Every client, no matter what their budget, deserves a design that will work for them. We will work within any budget and provide the right style and quality service.”