Shelter Dynamics

Our home is our shelter, so why not make it functionally and aesthetically dynamic? Cabinetry can be found in every room of the home, not just the kitchen, but are today’s kitchen and bath designers truly capitalizing on this?

Showrooms across the country feature incredible displays showcasing kitchen and bath cabinetry, but how many showcase other living areas of the home?

I was once waiting for a flight in Chicago, a Restoration Hardware shopping bag in hand, when a gentleman initiated a conversation asking what I had purchased. This, naturally, led to a discussion about what business I was in. When I told him I was in the cabinet industry, he replied, “Oh, maybe you can help me. I’m moving my office to my home and have been to a number of furniture stores and all I find is particle board junk! Where can I find good quality all-wood office cabinetry?”
I immediately informed him that any firm that carries kitchen and bath cabinetry will also be able to outfit him with great quality cabinets for his new office.

This brief encounter solidified my thinking that our industry simply does not market the design of other room cabinetry well. The words “kitchen” and “bath” are often in the title of our businesses, and these products are also what’s in our showrooms. But why can’t more designers break out of the rut and create truly “living” showrooms for customers to experience?

Most kitchen and bath firms – and most people, for that matter – tend to look at things from their own perspective.

Unfortunately, this inward focus can blind them to the things that are essential to moving forward and keeping up with emerging lifestyles. It takes humility to view the world from the customer’s point of view, but that’s exactly what today’s kitchen and bath designers must do. Ask yourself what your customers really need and want, even if the answer isn’t something you currently have to offer. Design centers and designers can capitalize on today’s lifestyle trends by taking their customer’s perspective when it comes to reinventing their showroom experience.

Customers’ lifestyles are changing, therefore their needs are changing. As a result, the way we present products and services must change as well. Thinking differently about showroom design and marketing strategies could quite possibly create exciting new profit centers and revitalize designers. Creating an experience-based showroom that spotlights innovative space planning for all rooms, technology and exceptional cabinet design could be the key.

It’s critical in today’s home to be able to create spaces that flow so that people may interact while performing day-to-day activities. As humans, we do not like to be segmented into specific closed-in areas. We like to congregate and socialize. So let’s focus on creating functional, social headquarters…exciting spaces for people to live and entertain in.

Showroom Layout

It all begins with the showroom layout. This educational tool will lead to better home layouts that meet the needs and desires of today’s savvy consumer, if well thought out and designed for the total home environment. The result is something I call “Shelter Dynamics,” a restructuring of interior space for smart design.

This smart design concept is simply a result of listening to customers. Instead of potential missed opportunities, like the home office scenario mentioned earlier, designers focus on the total living spaces in the home and market these. When it comes to cabinetry, we’re not just kitchen and bath designers any longer; we’re whole-home cabinet designers, with all of the added profit opportunities these entail. Cabinetry can unify spaces while providing intelligent storage solutions and facilitating socialization simultaneously.

If you’re up to considering an experience-based showroom, develop concepts to lay it out like an actual home. This could include incorporating locker-type cabinetry as you enter the showroom, just as if you’re entering from your own garage.
Next, you may travel through a butler’s pantry that enters a working kitchen to one side and a dining room with built-in hutches to the other; this can double as your more private “closing room.”

The kitchen may open into a family room that showcases a home theater wall and possibly a home office area. Somewhere nearby, a half bath could be tucked in for practicality – and double as a sales tool. Just be sure to make it special, so visitors to your showroom will really take note of it.

Beyond this will lie your master suite; this space can be extremely flexible. The bedroom area may be outfitted with built-in mirrored cabinetry and/or fireplace with mantle and flat screen TV above, plus a mini kitchen featuring a refrigerator, coffee station and microwave. Adjoining areas could encompass a master bath suite and walk-in closet with full laundry facilities.

Imagine your showroom’s walk-in closet featuring not only all the space a client would need to house clothing but, in addition, a laundry care area including washer, dryer, ironing board, steamer, etc., which would always keep clients’ clothing at the point where they put it on and take it off.

This not only makes for exceptional efficiency, it’s also perfect as we age. Who enjoys lugging that laundry basket up and down the stairs or even to the other end of the house? You may even consider a sink/makeup area in this space so everything is close at hand for clients getting ready for the
day ahead.

With a selling solution such as this, you’ll never lose a sale because customers “didn’t know” you could design home offices, theaters, mantles or even closets. They’ll experience it all. In addition, this concept allows designers to specialize if they wish. Some may only want to focus on kitchens and baths, another may be more inspired by the vast array of technology behind home entertainment systems and the accompanying cabinetry design, yet another may be interested in closet, laundry and hobby stations.

No one can be good at everything; this type of project-type segmentation enables a company to offer differentiated services. It allows firms to tailor and sell products and solutions that meet the ever-changing needs of their customer base more effectively and profitably.

Let’s take a look at each of these areas individually.

Home Entertainment

A home entertainment room is great fun to design. Start by developing a movie theme with your client and let your imagination run wild. The goal is to make your home theater feel as much like the real thing as possible. There is a wide variety of equipment and seating parameters to make this a reality. If you’re not the resident expert, enlist the help of a local electronics specialist.

Try not to design yourself into a corner. We’re all aware that as soon as we make a technology-based purchase, it’s obsolete. Technology will continue to change and evolve, so leave room for flexibility and anticipate some of these changes.
Following are some home entertainment tips to consider:

¦ Selecting the television.

There are two things to pay attention to when buying a television: shape and size. To watch movies in their original widescreen format, you’ll need a television with a rectangular-shaped 16:9 aspect ratio rather than the traditional, square 4:3. Size-wise, suggest your client purchase the largest TV they are willing to invest in; 27" is bare minimum. Popular types include:

1. Rear Projection – the so-called big-screen television.

2. Plasma or LCD-light and thin, only 3"-5" deep. You can hang them on the wall, even above a fireplace mantle.

3. Front Projection – for virtually unlimited screen size

¦ Preparing the Room

. 1. Start with a rectangular room with as few doors and windows as possible.

2. Cover the floors. Bare concrete, wood and tile reflect sound waves that can muddy a movie’s dialogue and make sound effects harsh.

3. Upholstered furniture is excellent for sound absorption.

4. It is best to use indirect lighting, placed behind the television screen. If this is not possible, the next best solution is soft lights off to the side. Total darkness is almost as bad as too much light. Too much light will wash out the picture, too little will cause eye strain. Consider dimmer switches to adjust the ambient level of light.

5. The display should be at eye level, front and center, not off to the side, so people have to strain their necks.

6. For optimal viewing, the distance between the viewer and the screen should equal about three times the screen size. Therefore, a 40" television is best viewed from a distance of 10'. Determine where the television and seating will be located and calculate the screen size accordingly. And, just as in kitchens, make certain the cabinetry and the television you design will fit through the door.

¦ Choosing Speakers.

1. To reproduce the authentic cinema experience at home, you typically need five speakers and one subwoofer. Three front speakers should form a line with the television, parallel to the seating area; the two rear speakers should be positioned opposite each other on either side of the listeners, slightly above ear level. It matters less where the subwoofer is placed, but for the best rumbling effect, put it on the floor behind the seating area or against a wall.

2. Speakers sound better when they’re on stands or mounted on the wall rather than set on bookshelves or cabinets.
¦ Other Equipment.

When stacking your gear, make sure there’s at least 8" between the back of the components and the wall or back of the cabinet to allow for easy installation, servicing and ventilation. Receivers generate the most heat, so they need to go on top of the stack or on their own shelf with at least 2" of headroom and a clear path for heat to escape.

Keep in mind that your entertainment center should be able to accommodate DVD players, VCRs, receivers and remotes.

Home Office

An important element of business marketing is the branding and image of your company. Whether you entertain clients or not, your office design should match your brand. Successful branding requires you to look and “feel” the brand. Having creative business cards and a high-tech image – but out-of-date office furniture and equipment – will make you feel like an imposter, and will cause difficulty in projecting your brand to customers.

The working-from-home trend can mean big business for traditional kitchen and bath retailers. Many people who work from their homes are willing to invest significant amounts of money in built-in cabinetry to project the right image, function efficiently and provide a pleasing environment in which to spend 8+ hours a day.

Office design can be just as complex and thought provoking as kitchen design. When designing an office, take into account four main concepts:

1. The specific type of business and the unique needs that accompany it.

2. Your clients’ work style.

3. Workspace needs.

4. Equipment needs.

Whether your client is an architect, landscape designer or CPA, each will have unique storage, display and customer consultation space needs. In addition to equipment and wire management, designers need to be up on the latest technological needs.

Is the office designed for household management or does the client have a big demand for MP3 technology or games? If it’s the latter, speakers, subwoofers and larger monitors become critical to the mission.

In the end, the goal is to create an ergonomically sound work space that combines function and aesthetics by utilizing high quality, durable cabinetry.

Here are some home office items to consider:

¦ Where will the home office be located? Privacy is important, and if customers will be coming to the client’s home, should there be separate office access?

¦ Storage issues: Based on the clients’ needs, you may want to consider the following:

1. Are frequently used items such as the stapler, tape dispenser, etc. within easy reach?

2. Can you include bookcases?

3. Is there adequate file storage?

4. Have you addressed electronic equipment storage, wire management and ventilation? This might include bins and cubicles for materials geared toward the client’s individual profession. Likewise, it’s crucial to have adequate display space and sample storage, where warranted.

¦ Check ergonomics. Consider the following:

1. With a computer monitor, the user’s eyes should be 24"-36" from the computer screen and the top of the monitor should be below or at eye level.

2. Thighs should be horizontal, lower legs vertical with feet firmly on the floor or on a foot rest. A slightly reclined chair posture is best to reduce vertebrae pressure and minimize lower back pain.

3. Keyboard height should be 24"-27" off the floor.

¦ Consider the type and sizes of equipment. The home office may include a computer monitor, printer, scanner, fax machine, CPU (horizontal or vertical), shredder, photo printer (home offices have become the new dark room), speakers and a telephone.

To reduce eye strain with the monitor, select one with a high pixel count and a high refresh rate. A higher refresh rate means less flicker. Additionally, be sure to place light sources perpendicular to the computer so they won’t shine in the user’s eyes or reflect on the screen.

Locker Storage

Looking for an ideal space to store backpacks, coats, shoes, sports equipment and other similar items? Locker components or built-to-order cabinetry may be the ideal solution. It’s much easier to hang coats on hooks vs. hangers. They might actually end up where they’re supposed to be!

Consider the following tips for organizing a locker area.

¦ How many people will the area service? For maximum efficiency, be sure to provide a separate section for each person.

¦ How much shoe storage is necessary? Keep the shoe area out of the traffic path.

¦ Seating may be designed between units for ease of putting on and taking off shoes.

¦ Be sure to include storage for other items such as sporting equipment, umbrellas, backpacks, hats and gloves.

¦ Plan a space for message organization. A small drawer can be utilized for school papers a parent must attend to, while a file drawer could be incorporated in a seating area for each child. Once mom or dad have reviewed the school paperwork, permission slips, lunch money etc., they can be filed by day of the week. Finally, consider adding a chalkboard or white board using a fluted filler as the chalk/marker rail.

Laundry Area

When it comes to rooms in the home, the laundry room is probably high on the list of homeowners’ least-loved spaces. While many cooks relish their time in the kitchen, there are very few homeowners who look forward to their next trip to the laundry room.

Perhaps designers can change that with a little ingenuity, greater efficiency and a dash of color. Several of the most important laundry room trends include relocating it and utilizing upscale equipment and materials.
Here are some laundry room items to consider:

¦ Look at the type of washer and dryer – are they stacked, elevated, front-loading? This will impact the design of the space.

¦ Think about adding in a steamer or home dry cleaning system.

¦ Consider adding a concealed, wall-mounted, drop-down ironing board to the space.

¦ Cabinetry should be specified to house laundry detergent, fabric softeners, lint removers, etc. A pull-out base waste basket and tilt-out sink base for stain removal pens will also make the space more efficient.

¦ The ideal location would be next to the largest source of dirty clothes; this could be near the bedrooms or in the master bedroom closet.

¦ Good lighting is essential; we must be able to tell the difference between black and blue socks! A natural light source is an added bonus, if possible.

¦ Sorting bins are great to separate hand washables, whites, darks and colors. You can also plan a bin for dry cleaning or even, perhaps, one for charitable donations.

¦ A wide flat area for folding, if incorporated into a larger master bedroom closet, could be a central island near a window or under a skylight.

¦ A sink with a drip drying rod above would be useful.

¦ Experiment with bright, uplifting colors.

¦ Add additional insulation to the walls to reduce noise in adjoining rooms.

This information will get you off to a great start designing other room spaces. Whether it’s for your showroom or the end consumer, have fun and create dynamic spaces for every room of the home. KBDN