Firm Takes One Step at a Time to Satisfy Clients

Firm Takes One Step at a Time to Satisfy Clients

By John Filippelli

These are the sentiments of president Gail Drury, CKD, CBD, and company v.p. Jim Drury, who note that the firm combines a partnering philosophy with problem-solving capabilities to ensure that a client's project is seamless from concept to installation.

This is achieved, Gail Drury notes, by offering a comprehensive, four-step process that concurrently gleans information, helps develop a budget and ultimately ensures that clients are satisfied with their purchasing decisions.

"The whole process of designing a kitchen or a new home can feel extremely overwhelming to your average homeowner. Our goal as a design firm is to make the process as seamless and uncomplicated as possible for our customers," she explains.

To help her cater to her primary clientele upper middle and upper class suburban families who are renovating older homes Drury employs six senior designers and six assistant designers, all of whom are encouraged by Drury to earn CKD certification if they do not already have it.

To further entice her desired clientele, the firm boasts a well-located, 7,000-sq.-ft. showroom that comes complete with a working kitchen, and is filled with wares from Wm Ohs, Inc., Grabill, Ovation Cabinetry, Inc., Leicht, UltraCraft Cabinetry and Beckerman, as well as a variety of countertop materials and high-end appliances. "We have displays showing kitchens, vanities, libraries and offices," she says.

"Even though we have a beautiful showroom," she reports, "we attribute our success [more] to the reputation we have built over the years." That reputation, she believes, was created by her client-driven philosophy which has been essential to the firm's success since it first opened its doors in 1987.

"We consider ourselves more than just kitchen designers. We are problem-solvers, as well. We look at each project completely out of the box, and try to come up with multiple solutions to the design dilemmas presented by the individual project," she says.

Step by step
According to Drury, the firm implements a unique four-step process to ensure a project is done correctly and to the client's satisfaction.

Upon consultation with the client, a summation of the entire design process is offered, as well as the establishment of a budget.

"We do that by showing our portfolio of work and verbally painting a picture for our clients of what we can do for them. At that point we go through a budget analysis, giving the client a low to high end [estimate] of what the project might cost," she explains. "We also go over the rules of thumb as to what they should expect to pay in relation to the value of their home," she continues.

Once a budget has been established and a retainer fee paid, the staff will then gather information and measure the space, she says, adding that her staff utilizes extensive questionnaires for each room in the home a technique that allows staff designers to better understand a client's needs.

"[Once we have that information], the next step is to create three or four rough layouts that will show multiple design options," she says. "The key here is to help the clients select a plan or combination of plans that best fits their needs."
In fact, transforming the client into an active member of the design process not only makes the client feel more comfortable with their designs, says Drury, but also helps avoid pesky phone calls from clients second-guessing the layout after a project's completion.

Says Drury: "We brainstorm with our clients to combine the different solutions to come up with one perfect solution that fits all of their design and functional needs."

She concludes: "We help the homeowners to pull the design together by working with them on hardware, tile designs, flooring options and architectural details. We even do extensive detailed electrical plans and light fixture selection."

Stylish design
Citing an increase in new-construction projects in the area, Drury notes that the company has not necessarily benefited from this as much as it has been challenged in its design capabilities.

"Our market area is very high-end traditional, but we also do a considerable amount of more contemporary and transitional kitchens especially in downtown Chicago," she offers.

She adds: "We do a lot of traditional or Old World kitchens in the unfitted style, using cabinetry that looks like individual pieces of fine furniture, with the modern conveniences hidden away within the individual pieces."

For example, Drury describes a recent project where one of her firm's designers created a contemporary kitchen highlighted by glass countertops with the underside of the glass painted in a unique pattern by an artist. "The same design was also incorporated into the glass backsplash using different colors to complement the countertop," she notes.

Local motion
As diligently as the company staff handles its design process, Drury just as methodically markets the firm complete with a significant local bent.

"We are very involved with the local schools and colleges," she explains. A couple of times a year, we give seminars at our showroom for interior design students. In fact, we have met some of our best employees through the local colleges."

The firm, she notes, will also work with area appliance suppliers to set up cooking demonstrations that help to promote better awareness of the different appliances available, as well as show various cooking techniques. "We also donate our design services and sometimes product to be sold at charitable auctions," she adds.

But, she points out, "Our best publicity is gained from entering design contests and the follow-up stories written about us in local publications."

As a result of her concentration on community resources, a majority of the company's business is obtained through referrals, bolstered by advertising in local papers and the firm's association with local charities, she concludes.