Company Supplies Solutions for Designers

HOUSTON, TX Most people are aware of the now-famous phrase "Houston, we have a problem." But for Julie Koch and the staff of Elegant Additions, based here, solving problems for Houston design professionals is just business as usual. In fact, the company prides itself on solving design problems by providing just the right plumbing fixtures, fittings and cabinet hardware to designers, architects, general contractors and custom builders.

Koch, the company's owner, explains: "We cater strictly to the design professional and do not accept any retail trade. Therefore, it is our business challenge to offer unique products that the design professional's customers cannot find themselves."
She continues: "Each bath and kitchen we do reflects the end user while securing the designer's role in the project."

Another unique aspect of the company is that the company will only sell projects for the Houston area, although Elegant Additions does receive product from across the country and even Europe.

"We do not solicit business from outside the Houston area. [Our belief is that] since the company is a 'Houston' original, we feel we have a much better pulse for what is really Houston."

This has not, however, prevented the company from taking on some unique projects. "We have worked on yachts and airplanes that belong to existing customers," she says. "Our goal is to have customers for life. We do many projects and quite often the clients [or their children] return for other home projects," Koch adds.

She continues: "[Since we focus on the Houston area], the entire sales team knows they are going to run into the end user and the design customer [in the community] and they want it to always be a 'happy' meeting."

She concludes: "[The point is that] we know that every home will have a sink, faucets and toilets, and we want them to come from us."

Work Ethics
According to Koch, the company has a very stringent non-interference policy during the design process. But, she adds, it is a policy that works well for her company and the design professional. "We are absolutely not here to design projects," she explains. "We are here to assist design professionals in creating spaces that 'work,' both technically and aesthetically."
Koch adds: "We'll give opinions if asked but only if asked."

To that end, Elegant Additions' approach can be likened to that of baseball umpires: They are doing their job the best when they are not interfering with the "game."

"We will use our design training only as a backup to our clients, but never to boast or use it to change a project. It is a very clear line that no one here will ever step over," she offers.

Koch further notes: "Each room we assist in has wonderful products that must meet the homeowner's needs. We don't sell our customers a bathtub because it is good for resale we sell them a tub because it is good for them. If it is not good for them, we create something else that they will love."

Showing the Way
Another key element to the company's success is its 6,000-sq.-ft. showroom, which is frequently updated to keep the look fresh.
By doing this, the company not only gives a new look to its over 40 product lines carried (including Dornbracht, Rohl and Omnia, among others), but creates a new experience for customers each time they visit.\

"We change part of our showroom every six months," Koch points out. "If you have not seen our showroom recently, you have not seen our showroom."

Koch notes that the showroom features "all of the usual working displays but done in unusual ways."

In fact, she notes that firm uses almost no vendor displays, electing to create its own instead.

She admits that, "It costs a lot to design and build your own displays and to use architects and designers whenever you need to add or remodel." However, she is quick to add, "It costs a lot more not to. We change so often that each change becomes a story."

Koch believes that frequently updating the showroom has a side benefit as well 'it keeps it fresh for the staff. "The staff has a joint working philosophy that they all spend too much time at work to not have fun and really enjoy what they do," she offers, noting that a constantly updated showroom makes the job more fun for employees, since there's always something new to see.

Selling the Story
As Koch points out, marketing Elegant Additions is a crucial part of its success.

"I think anyone in our business without a public relations firm is crazy," she says.

Therefore, she explains: "If we use photography, we use our own [projects and displays]. It is important to hire the best photographer you can afford. That way, each shot will be identified with the company, not just the vendor."

She continues: "It is also important to stay in touch with customers. They really want to hear from you and there are so many ways to do that."

In fact, she relates a story where in order to retain a famous Houston designer who was difficult to contact, the company sent a "chocolate" cell phone to her.

"We got her attention, and her business," Koch notes.

Koch also gains attention by hosting one major event and other smaller events each year.

For instance, this year's event a "Soap and Water" party featured waiters in lounging pajamas, soapy martinis, guest gifts and showers in the parking lot.

"It was great and got a lot of press. The best part was it's return was new customers and more loyal existing ones," she concludes.

Elegant Additions

Location: Houston, TX
Principal: Julie Koch, owner
Showrooms: One, trade only
Hours of Operation:
Mon. through Fri. only; serving the Houston design community
Employees: 10
Business Philosophy: "We love what we do, and you will, too."