Small Kitchen Transformations Garner Big Results

VERO BEACH, FL— Patricia Davis Brown likes taking chances, and she likes to think big.

But the owner of Patricia Davis Brown Fine Cabinetry can also think small when she has to, and relishes the challenge of transforming a small kitchen space into something spectacular. Her small-space design skills are helping her to make a big impact in the high-end homes that grace the beach-front community where she practices her trade.

Vero Beach was a well-kept secret until about five years ago, a secluded area of gated communities and ocean-front homes tucked behind the dunes along Route A1A. “It’s a beautiful place,” she says, “We were booming like the rest of Florida, but now we are really booming.”

The changing clientele has helped her firm to grow, and she is careful to cater to her long-time customer base as well as the new clients moving her way. “It’s been very much [a] blue blood [community here] for many years, but now [the demographic is] changing, and there’s a new group of younger people, 40-somethings with money, as well as some new retired people who have money to spend,” she notes.

These busy young professionals are looking to find a designer who can translate their vision and help bring their projects to life. Brown comments: “Most young professionals here are two-income families. They’re not going to do it themselves. They want a professional to help them.”

Designing Small Spaces

Enter Brown, who says high-end homes don’t necessarily mean big kitchens. In fact, in many cases, the exact opposite is true, according to Brown, who explains that making these spaces special takes special skills.

“I think you will find a lot of small condos in very high-end areas, and you’ll find small kitchens in these high-end areas,” she says. But that doesn’t mean these clients are going to be satisfied with anything less than the best, from custom cabinetry to specialty appliances that fit their kitchens – and their lifestyles ­ – with exacting precision.

Indeed, regardless of the size of the space, a key component in the equation is the design, Brown states. This can make all the difference, particularly in small spaces where creativity is essential to maximizing both function and visual impact. It’s a matter of looking at what’s possible, she says, by examining the space that’s available and then using that to envision the space that could be created by removing walls or similar obstacles.

She also believes it’s important to show clients the kinds of space-saving appliances and innovations that are available today, including under-the-sink dishwashers, very small refrigerators that can fit in tight spaces and dish pantries.

Another trick is custom fitting cabinets much closer to the countertops, creating additional shelves and storage space without infringing on the counters.

“Don’t be afraid to do wild things in a small kitchen because those things can make or break it,” she advises.

A New Showroom

Brown, a CKD and ASID member, is also licensed in interior design by the state of Florida. She has spent the past 16 years growing her business, and recently moved into an all-automated, 2,200-sq.-ft. showroom that’s double the size of her first showroom. The new showroom has become a local showplace.

“I’ve stayed true to the high-end market,” she says. “I like it and I like the people, and it’s an easier market to do business in.”

She made a big splash with the opening of her new showroom. “Instead of having a big party, I personally invited high-end builders, contractors and real estate agents and gave them personal showroom presentations,” she says.

Brown loves to hold special events. She invites major appliance companies to demonstrate their products for members of the public and puts together two-hour seminars with builders, plumbers and other area tradesmen. There are even wine-tasting events, and at all of them, Brown acts as Master of Ceremonies.

To reach out to the public at large, she’s put up DLP TVs at the intersection outside of her showroom. The TVs flash images of her work to passers-by. “It’s like a constantly moving billboard,” she says.

She also promotes her work and her knowledge as a local radio talk show personality on stations serving the Indian River/Port St. Lucie area. “Younger people are looking for someone who can put a special team together,” notes Brown of her show’s focus. “They realize one person can’t do it all. I teach them how to choose an architect, how to interview a builder. You need a team of experts to design the project right.”

Brown recognizes the need to keep her name out there. As such, her work has been featured in numerous design magazines, including Vero Life, Florida Design, Florida Architecture and Traditional Homes & Design.

She’s also been recognized with numerous awards, including second place in the Sub-Zero Florida Design contest, and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Florida Chapter Awards in 2005. She also earned first-place, third-place, and honorable mention awards in the NKBA’s Design Competition for 2006 in the “Other Rooms” category.

This year, Brown was a judge in a national competition for KBDN sister publication Qualified Remodeler, and has been a guest speaker on design-related topics at several national trade shows.

Design Diversity

In recent years, Brown has added a new-found knowledge of integrated lighting to her repertoire, something that she says has allowed her to provide a complete design package to her clients. Since many designers have limited lighting knowledge, it is one area that sets her firm apart from the competition.

Her firm is also comfortable designing children’s spaces, as well as universally designed spaces for those with special needs.

“I have a son with a disability,” says Brown, who made modifications to her own home to allow her son easier access. “He’s made me a better person – and business person.”

From that project, she started to do some pro bono work for area families with special needs. “We try to do one of those a year,” she notes.

Her business philosophy says much about who she is: “I fill in the niches that others can’t. We’re going to make our clients happy. If you make a client happy, it can’t help but help you in the long term.”