Success Is in the Details

People say it's the little things that truly count.

Well, large or small, one location or several, kitchen and bath dealers are finding this saying to be true – so true, in fact, they are punching up their showrooms with a plethora of details.

And, as they add more details to their displays and extras to their service rosters, and pay even closer attention to the overall showroom experience, success is following. One might even say success is in the details.

Indeed, dealers have found that moving toward displays that show complete kitchen and bath concepts that are fully accessorized is the best way to allow clients to truly conceptualize these designs and picture them in their own homes. Just as one dealer did when he installed a new display that showed his flair for painted finishes and design detail that tie an eclectic selection of styles together, dealers around the U.S. are also adding details that show off their best work and design techniques.

In addition, they have also found that paying attention to detail in other areas, such as offering a variety of services, incorporating a library filled with sample books, holding cooking demos and hosting community events, equates with happy clients, referrals and showroom success.

Last, but not least, dealers are tailoring their showrooms to fit how they work. For instance, how about turning your home into a showroom, as one designer did? Another dealer goes for big impact in a small space, turning an old home into a showroom and dedicating the entire second floor to a full kitchen display complete with a walk-in pantry. At the opposite end of the spectrum, two different dealers chose to incorporate as many different displays into their showrooms as they could, in order to provide their clients with as many options as possible, and hit a variety of price points.

On this and the following three pages, Kitchen & Bath Design News spotlights a host of innovative kitchen and bath showrooms that are giving the term "detail-oriented" a new meaning.

Condo Is Now 'Living Showroom'

Most independent designers find it hard to maintain a showroom. But Julie DeJardin, owner of DeJardin Design, took a unique approach. She turned her Portland, OR condo into an appointment-only showroom that opened in April with two staff designers and a team of interior designers she uses on an as-needed basis.

As to why, DeJardin says while searching for a condo to buy in downtown Portland, she found that many people moving into the area were remodeling existing condos and lofts. She saw a chance to showcase products and styles that would aid these people in their efforts.

After she bought her condo, she spent a year securing products from vendors, suppliers and fabricators – such as Kohler, TOTO, Wood-Mode, Asko, Franke, Sub-Zero and Wolf – that would support her idea. Then she designed the 1,030-sq.-ft., curvilinear showroom, using those products.

"My clients, especially those buying condos and lofts, can see the products in place and understand how they apply to their own homes," she says.

There's one huge, multiple-cook, gourmet kitchen on the first level. It features honed French Vanilla countertops, metallic cork from Cortica Cork Concepts, Wood-Mode slab cherry cabinetry with an espresso stain, Sub-Zero wine storage, drawers and 700 Series refrigerator, a Wolf microwave/wall oven with a pizza stone and warming drawer, an Asko dishwasher and a Franke faucet and sink.

"The kitchen stands as a stage for the rest of the living room, which includes a home office with my design library. It has a home theater with Surround sound that's wired into the bedroom and bath. The living space is very functional, and designed for dining, entertaining, relaxing or working. There's a 6' dining room table that pulls out to 12' that acts as a desk during the week," notes DeJardin.

The condo also features a 7'x6-1/2' bath. The small space allowed DeJardin to be creative, she notes. For instance, she cut an opening in the wall between the bedroom and bath and installed an old leaded glass window between them to let in natural light from the bedroom. She mixed minimalist style, designing a vanity with open storage underneath and a square sink, with Old World faucets, using all Durango Beige travertine marble in the form of mosaics and pillowed tiles on the surround for the shower and undermount Kohler Tea for Two tub. She also installed a TOTO Jasmine toilet.

Small Showroom Details Make Big Impact for Dealer

The latest display in the Covenant Kitchens & Baths, Inc. showroom typifies Gerard Ciccarello's ability to take an eclectic grouping of styles and finishes and tie them together through small details that make a big impact. It also shows his firm's flair for the 1920s cottage style so prevalent on the upscale section of Connecticut shoreline it serves.

Designed by Ciccarello, a CMKBD and owner/president of the Westbrook, CT-based firm, the kitchen display – which took third place in Category 9/Showrooms in this year's NKBA Design Competition – features three different finishes on the cabinetry supplied by Doylestown, PA-based Superior Woodcraft, Inc., tied together with mahogany touches in each area.

The display incorporates "a variety of concepts" designed "to assist the client with his/her inspiration," explains Ciccarello. For instance, the island is deep red, with a yellow concrete top that highlights different applications of concrete in one piece: a full grind on the sides and part of the top; inset stone on the top and edge; and a series of steps down one corner. "The island was also specifically designed as a place for client meetings. Pull-out mahogany tops with enough room for two stools with back rests provide seating across from the two undercounter stools," he further explains.

This kitchen display, along with others such as a library, home office, mud room and garden room, illustrate Ciccarello's firm belief in showing clients a full picture instead of just snapshots of design. "You get a whole-room feel this way," he says. Furthermore, it signifies his desire to show cabinetry and furniture in other rooms beyond the kitchen and bath.

This display – inspired by architecture he photographed on a trip he took with his wife and five children to Quebec – is one of the newer displays in the showroom, with more to come.

"We're in the process of a lot of redesign because we are actually about to purchase the building we've been leasing for 24 of the 25 years we've been in business. There are new displays going as we speak, and we'll gain about 400 sq. ft. for a total of about 1,250 sq. ft. of showroom space," he elaborates, indicating that owning the building will allow him to add a second story at a later date.

The redesign of the showroom also signifies a shift in Ciccarello's business model. "I now work with everyone who comes in the door and have a subcontracted design team for support, one outside bookkeeper and one in-house staff person, Kira Van Deusen, who handles much of the administrative stuff. She's also an artist and can work with clients when picking a color palette," he concludes, noting that the new model has allowed him to offer more personal service – even increase project volume.

Dealer Maximizes Physical, and Virtual, Showroom Space

It's not the amount of space you have, but the way you use that space that really counts. Just ask Dan McFadden, president of Past Basket in Geneva, IL.

"We have a small showroom that occupies the main and second level of an older home, with office space in the basement. We have little room to express many styles the way a large showroom does," says McFadden. "But, given the space, we felt it was better to transform the entire second floor into one full kitchen display, complete with a walk-in pantry. It tells a complete story while lending credibility to our design abilities."

Indeed, the display – which took first place in Category 9/Showrooms in this year's NKBA Design Competition – "may not be typical, but it certainly shows that if we can do a gorgeous Shaker kitchen, then we could do kitchens in other styles, too," believes McFadden.

The kitchen highlights the firm's attention to detail and its affinity for artisan work. "A key aspect of the display [is] the participation of local artisans. For instance, metal craftsmanship is seen in the hammered, pewter sink, copper countertops and pantry door fronts," says McFadden.

The second floor also includes a conference room with a large video display for client presentations and a library full of product books for clients to peruse unassisted. Downstairs, "we have integrated signage with images and text divided into sections that unobtrusively let clients discover who we are, our history, our approach, etc.," he says, noting the goal of the showroom, which offers cabinetry from Bentwood and Quality Custom Cabinetry, is to make clients feel comfortable.

While Past Basket's Geneva showroom only has a finite amount of space, it is able to extend its reach across the Chicago area, with a full kitchen display installed at the Abt: Appliances showroom in Glenview, IL, using appliances Abt sells, and up to Kohler, WI, where it has a full kitchen display in one of its three home accessories retail stores. The other two are in Milwaukee, WI and Geneva.

Further extending the firm's reach in the Chicago area is Past Basket's Web site, where clients can see professional photos of the firm's work.

Showroom Provides Detailed Visuals and Style Education

A showroom should be a detailed, visual interpretation of a range of styles native to the firm and the market it serves. It's a very good premise for any kitchen and bath dealer, but it's one Kleppinger Design Group holds dear.

The Fairfax, VA-based firm began two years ago and now has approximately 17 displays across 5,000 sq. ft., including a large, Crystal kitchen display devised by designer Andrew Gay that received an honorable mention for its attention to detail in Category 9/Showrooms in this year's NKBA Design Competition.

According to Gay, the display is a fully accessorized amalgamation of several styles that come together to showcase one look, and it stands as the centerpiece of the showroom. "Many of the details shown are those most requested by clients. A variety of cabinet choices is presented, but the true focal point is the custom hood and mantle, which incorporates carvings, large dentil molding, a custom valance and paneling," explains Gay.

While a more contemporary kitchen sits adjacent to this kitchen, Kleppinger Design Group's showroom mainly highlights the detailed, traditional style popular in and around the Fairfax and Washington, DC area it serves. However, the firm feels it's important to show options, offering four different cabinetry lines – Mid Continent, Shiloh, Crystal and Dutch-Made – plus, Corian, granite, Zodiaq, Cambria, some soapstone and concrete supplied through local fabricators.

According to Gay, another key element of the showroom – beyond its visual interpretation of style – is the layout, which is designed to lead clients through the space, from one display to the next, giving them a chance to see how different products and materials can be mixed.

"Clients see three displays from three different cabinet manufacturers when they enter. Each are appointed differently but are full of detail. Around to the right clients then view vanities, and then more displays, each one carefully placed so there's little redundancy. It gives clients a real education. We can then take them to a large space in the back that houses all of our samples. There, clients can pick and choose and mix and match," concludes Gay.

Showroom Creates Tactile Environment for Clients

When Jim and Linda McLain decided to expand their then 27-year-old showroom in Charleston, SC, two years ago, they decided to do it in a big way. And, they also wanted to create a completely tactile environment, full of details and accessories for their clients and prospects.

The solution, they decided, was to keep the existing 2,400-sq.ft. Signature Kitchens & Baths of Charleston, Inc. open while building a new, three-story, 7,500-sq.-ft. version directly behind it.

While Linda McLain, a CKD, ran the old showroom, Jim McLain, a CKD and licensed builder, built the new facility with the design expertise of Claudette Pimm, CKD, CBD. When it opened in November 2003, they knocked down the old building. A grand opening was held in April 2004.

"This added space allowed room to feature areas that hadn't been displayed, increasing the showcasing of designing abilities and introducing an expansive product selection," notes Linda McLain, who counts Wood-Mode, Quality Custom Cabinetry, Habersham and Sterling among the offerings. The firm also fabricates Corian, and is a dealer for granite and marble done by another local fabricator.

"The intent of our expansion was to create total environments that engage all of the senses and offer a full picture through full accessorization. The enlarged space also allowed us to try different looks, stylishly combine products at different price points and lay them out in an unusual way," explains Linda McLain.

For instance, as clients enter the showroom they see the fully functional and stocked Brookhaven by Wood-Mode Hemingway Bar. The display – which was designed by Jim McLain and was the second-place winner in Category 9/Showrooms in this year's NKBA Design Competition – evokes "the experience of journeys through a by-gone era" with "thoughts of romance and far-away places" through its mix of materials and use of accessories. "It's patterned after an old hotel Jim saw in Africa at 16," notes McLain.

Textured, faux-stained walls and ceilings look discolored by the passage of time and tobacco smoke. Concrete flooring and tops contribute to the feeling of graceful aging. And, Sepia-toned photographs softly reinforce the feeling of simpler times.

The new space has also allowed Signature to expand into appliances, offering those from Sub-Zero, Wolf, KitchenAid, Whirlpool and Frigidaire, among others. "We're also tapping into a new area as a result – outdoor products," notes Linda McLain.

The showroom also has a live kitchen display that has enabled Signature to offer cooking demos and classes and hold parties for architects and builders.

Other innovations include the way the showroom markets itself after-hours. "We keep all of the lights on the first floor on at night. People walking by can see all the way to the back. We also keep a wide-screen TV on a continual loop that shows people who we are and what we do. We gauge the after-hours traffic by the amount of hand prints on the front windows, and there are many," concludes Linda McLain, with a smile.

Client Comfort Key to Expanded Cabinetry Showroom

In an effort to showcase as many styles and finishes of cabinetry that Lakeville Industries offers, the firm decided to completely gut its existing showroom and annex some office space to create a brand new showroom.

"Our existing showroom didn't show them all. We actually ran out of showroom space a year and a half ago, and we were also in need of more office space," explains Richard Sirlin, president of the third-generation, wholesale supplier of cabinetry in Lindenhurst, NY. " So, we sat down and figured out what we would need for the next 10 years. Then we gutted everything and turned a 4,000-sq.-ft. showroom into 7,400-sq.-ft. one, and added more office space, for a total of approximately 10,000 sq. ft.," he reports.

The space is divided into eight to 12 displays areas, and each area, and display, is fully accessorized to lend a complete experience.

"Our goal was to create something that people buying at all price points would feel comfortable with and find as many options as possible," elaborates Sirlin. It was equally important that the showroom offer a plethora of design options and a style education.

To that end, the appointment-only showroom features a whopping 50-plus kitchens and 25 bath vanities from five manufacturers: HomeCrest, Medallion, Crystal, Plain & Fancy and UltraCraft. Plasma screens are located throughout the space showing manufacturer videos on a loop.

There are rooms exclusively set aside for cabinet samples, counter-top materials and decorative hardware, and the showroom features a plethora of high-end appliances. The showroom also has rooms designated for meetings with clients referred by contractors and builders, architects and designers.

"The feedback we received at the opening in June was fabulous," reports Sirlin, noting that Lakeville's approach was reinforced by the event's guests. "And, although we are happy with our product mix now, the long-term plan is to keep the showroom fresh, keeping styles and finish current. This new space affords us the room to do that for the next 10 years."

New Displays, Expert Staff Are Showroom's Biggest Assets

Measuring approximately 12,000 sq. ft., Modern Supply's new showroom uses a series of modular displays that can be easily and cost-effectively removed and updated frequently to keep up with the flow of new kitchen and bath cabinetry, appliances and lighting it offers to new-build and remodel clients. And, each display is enhanced by very subtle product listings so clients can explore the showroom sans pressure.

"We completely gutted the old 8,500-sq.-ft. showroom space last August to make room for a new, easier, more cost-effective and user-friendly way of showing off our products," says Dottie Ramsey, president/COO of the circa-1949 firm, which has seven locations in addition to this headquarters showroom: two others in Knoxville; one in Johnson City, TN, which was remodeled earlier this year; one each in Chattanooga, Sevierville and Morristown, TN; and one in Bristol, VA.

This showroom used to have floor-to-ceiling walls with vignettes. Now the displays are organized using a series of half walls that allows clients and prospects to move through the showroom with ease and take in everything at a glance. At the center of the main 9,000-sq.-ft. section are separate, open offices for Modern Supply's design staff of six.

Located directly behind it is a 3,000-sq.-ft. section that used to house modular offices. It first served as the temporary showroom during the make-over, but as the redesign neared completion, Ramsey says it stayed in place as a secondary showroom. The secondary section also houses a huge work area where clients and designers can mix and match products, plus an enclosed children's area that has everything from coloring books and games to DVDs.

The new showroom held its grand opening in June of this year, showcasing an extensive product roster that includes Quality Cabinets, StarMark, Porcher, American Standard, TOTO, Delta, Rubinet, Thermador, Bosch, GE and KitchenAid, among many others.

Beyond its new showroom, Ramsey points to the staff as the most innovative aspect of the new showroom. She also points to the first person anyone coming into the showroom meets, the receptionist, as the first stop in educating, helping and capturing clients.

"You can have a great showroom, but it's the people that make it great. 'Picture how you would want to be treated' is our mandate. Our receptionist is a great example. She greets everyone that comes in with a smile, getting them something to drink, chatting with them while they wait, answering questions about our showroom, and always finding help for them in the form of one of our designers or literature – which she has at her fingertips," relates Ramsey.