Ask Judy Litt and she will tell you that, much like the game of baseball, kitchen and bath design is a game of inches. In fact, that is precisely how Litt – an interior design convert and now showroom supervisor for Aaron Kitchen & Bath Design Gallery in New Jersey – describes the difference between being an interior designer and a kitchen and bath designer.
“You definitely have a little more forgiveness in interior design projects, whereas every inch matters in the kitchen and bath,” she explains. “If you are off by two or three inches [when designing a kitchen or a bath], something might not fit and it could possibly ruin the whole effect. Kitchen and bath design is much more technical, spatially interesting and challenging in that respect.”
According to Litt, while kitchen and bath designers are involved with kitchen and bath products 100% of the time, typical interior designers only spend about 20% of their time with kitchen/bath products, with only 10-15% of interior designers even specifying these products. “A typical interior designer would focus more on upholstery/furniture/furnishings,” she explains.
Overall, she sees the difference in the two fields as “a question of technical knowledge. As an [interior]designer, the skill set is with an overall picture. You are trying to create a mood or atmosphere and then blending the pieces together. Once you get into the kitchen and bath, you’re doing more of a specialty. Every inch matters; layouts matter. It’s more physical.”
Before switching over to the kitchen/bath industry, she states, “I was a generalist. I was in my own business for 15 years, and over the years, I started doing kitchens and baths as part of my business. I liked doing kitchens and baths better because I liked the preciseness of it. That’s why I left [my previous field] – because the opportunity presented itself to specialize in kitchens and baths and get away from the generalist mentality.”
Part of it also has to do with her desire to forge closer relationships, Litt explains. “As an independent designer, you have your sources that you go to, but you don’t really form the deep relationships [that you do as a kitchen designer].”
In her position with Aaron Kitchen & Bath Design Gallery, the showroom entity of parent company Aaron & Co., Litt gets the opportunity to establish close relationships with clients.
“What sets our company apart is the attention our customers get in the showroom, and the fact that we have a customer service department to handle any situation,” she offers.
The firm, led by president Barry Portnoy; v.p. and treasurer, Richard Laudino; and vice president and secretary, Frank Laudino, caters to building contractors, plumbers and homeowners. The company has been a supplier of kitchen and bath products for some 25 years, starting with one showroom location and growing into three locations in central New Jersey.
“We don’t do installation, because we’re from the wholesale end of it. But, we will supply everything and work with [clients throughout the design process],” she explains.
Since the firm does limited advertising, Litt sees referrals as key to spreading its message, and strong customer service plays a big part in that.
She explains: “If someone is referred to us by a contractor or a plumber, they are told to call to schedule an appointment. We like to spend [time with our customers], so if a person simply walks in, it becomes pot luck.”
At the appointment, the customer is asked to bring in rough measurements or blueprints, Litt notes. “We want to make it clear that we can’t help them if we don’t know where we are starting from,” she explains. “Once we sit down, we will convert things to scale, so that they can see how things relate to one another.”