Designers’ Tips for Developing a ‘Signature’ Style

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Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed the following question to dealers and designers in the kitchen and bath industry: “What are the best ways to handle cost control?” Following are some of the responses KBDN received.

“This is a tough question because I don’t always have the luxury of designing what I would like to see in a client’s home, primarily because of the project budget. I do know our clients are more educated as to what they want and have researched their purchases before they step foot in the door.

“Today, a softer look with more neutral colors in the fixtures is where I normally start with a client. We’ve been putting out black, green and pink kitchens and baths for years but now, more often, I find people don’t want to get locked into that anymore.

“We then go to the cabinets, which can be light or dark depending on the client preference. And based on budget, we can go from the practical chrome to the upgraded satin nickel.

“I always try to put an element of excitement into the mix with a striking countertop and bold paint if the customer is open to it. I may also choose to contrast the lighting and accessories.

“I think my signature is to bring the customer current with what works for today’s kitchens and baths by putting an element of excitement into the mix with contrasting textures of stone and tile.

“I also encourage them to not be afraid of color. If they like what looks exciting in magazines then we can add something into the mix that will make them excited about the room that they will be using for a long time to come.”

Pat Holjes, CKD, CBD
Excel Interior Concepts
Lemoyne, PA

“A designer’s signature can develop over time by happenstance. As an interior designer, I have a preference toward certain design aesthetics, design practices, favorite materials and equipment, furnishing styles, etc. and have developed design elements that I work into our remodeling projects.

“These design elements or ‘signatures’ only help the project to have a better outcome.

“If a designer wants to focus on developing a design signature they should find a specific need and fill it in a unique way. It could be a unique way to solving a problem with the function and use of a space, or a familiar material or equipment used in a new application. 

“Know what the difference is between ‘signature’ and ‘style’.

“Over the years of watching and reading about designers and their ‘signatures’ they are not always so good. I remember one interior designer who wrote that every room should have a bit of pink in it! Another designer never deviates from a type of light fixture that they use, whether the space gains from it or not.

“The thing to remember is that a ‘signature’ should exist to benefit the project, not just to leave a calling card. Do the best that you can do and incorporate it if it works.”

Andrea Langford, ASID
Langford Kitchen Studio
Albany, NY

“I don’t really look so much for a particular style or product line – given that as remodelers we serve a wide variety of clients and tastes – so much as a willingness to be flexible. And, if you’re not flexible, tell us up front what you will and won’t tackle.

“The signature I’m most interested in, and which has been the single biggest source of frustration, is one of accountability and follow-up service. I want to know that any installation problems, defective parts or similar items will get the same attention as my original sale. I need to know that I can represent to my clients and prospects that you are concerned about long-term satisfaction, not the immediate sale.

“For a ‘design signature’ I simply want suggestions based on professional and relevant experience combined with an acknowledgement and sensitivity/empathy with the customer.

Gregory A. Miedema, CGR, CGB, CAPS
Dakota Builders, Inc.
Tucson, AZ

“As in any business, you have to have something to make you stand out. Whether you’re an interior designer or specifically a kitchen and bath designer, you don’t want every kitchen to look the same. You need to have something that stands out above the others.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be something like a particular countertop you always use in a design; it doesn’t have to be that simple, because that wouldn’t be very clever. All of your kitchens would look the same, and wouldn’t be right for every client.

“But say, for example, when you create a kitchen design you also design a custom lighting system that accents your larger kitchen design, and that is part of each kitchen you create, as well. Something like that will become what you are known for. Generally, though, if you want something different to sell yourself as a designer, it’s going to be some kind of attention to detail that only you do, and that is why clients will seek you out and recommend you to others.”

Patricia Davis Brown, CKD, CBD, NCIDQ, ASID
PDB Fine Cabinetry
Vero Beach, FL