Design Firm Grows By Capitalizing On Team Concept

Design Firm Grows By Capitalizing On Team Concept

By John Filippelli

For Livingston, this approach has enabled his firm to specialize in unique and functional designs that incorporate the needs and desires of its upscale clients. He states, "Each project is handled by a team of professionals, not just one designer. All of our 13 design staff members have an education and background in kitchen and bath design, and have over 75 years experience combined. Therefore, whether it be large-scale condominium projects or unique individual residences, [we strive to meet] the different needs and tastes of each homeowner."

Livingston believes his firm's business philosophy helps to attract and keep clients.

"Our business philosophy is simple," he notes. "Treat each customer [as if each is] special. Listen to their needs and help them visualize and realize their dream home."

Not coincidentally, he notes, this philosophy has also earned the firm the national number one ranking in sales volume among dealers of Wood-Mode. Even more impressive is that it's the fifth time in the past six years the firm has received this honor this year becoming the first dealer ever to reach more than $10 million in sales.

But ,while Livingston certainly has had a lot to do with the growth of Smartrooms, Inc. he joined the firm eight years ago when it was only number 25 on that list he believes the firm's continued success is due several key factors.

"We've been able to earn these achievements because ours is one of the best-equipped firms in town to accommodate residential, development and high-rise properties," he says. "We have a large design and project management team and a [new] 5,000-sq.-ft. showroom [on tap]. Not only are we able to handle large projects, but we can manage multiple large projects simultaneously."
The firm's 13 design professionals offer full-service design, as well as consultation services.

Showroom delight
The company's current 4,000-sq.-ft. showroom is based at The Merchandise Mart, the home to interior designers, architects and the building/remodeling community in the Chicago area, Livingston notes.

"Our showroom offers an opportunity to meet with what I consider to be the most talented kitchen designers in the industry. Each designer is specially trained to design and engineer Wood-Mode cabinetry into their spaces, creating unique and individual kitchens or rooms that becomes an extension of the client's living style," he says.

"We make sure that we offer a friendly, relaxed and welcoming atmosphere for our clients." He adds that most of the firm's clientele are referrals from previous customers.

As Livingston explains, a great benefit of the showroom is that it affords customers the opportunity to see available styles in a kitchen setting.

Aside from Wood-Mode Fine Custom Cabinetry, the showroom offers a variety of appliance, sink and faucetry products, as well.

"We pride ourselves in always having available the latest door styles and colors to see in our showroom. Our specialty is our ability to produce custom colors and finishes that are new and fresh, meaning customers won't see their kitchen anywhere else," Livingston says.

Of course, change is growth frequently means change, and Smartrooms, Inc. is no exception. To that end, the firm's showroom which currently features 16 displays, including kitchens, bath vanities, offices, libraries and entertainment centers will be replaced in September when the company relocates into its new 5,000-sq.-ft. showroom, complete with an expanded 20 displays, according to Livingston.

Creative collection
The new showroom, like the old one, will feature Wood-Mode Fine Custom Cabinetry designed with a variety of stone, sinks, faucets and appliances, depending on the clients requirements.

Livingston notes that when he started managing Smartrooms, Inc. in 1995, he began designing what was then considered traditional-style Wood-Mode cabinetry into all styles and tastes. He would incorporate trims, moldings and little-used materials into styles ranging from contemporary to Old World. As a result, his designs garnered notice in design magazines and earned him several awards.

But, despite his personal accomplishments, it is his team of designers that Livingston credits with Smartrooms, Inc.'s success. "I feel that we have dedicated and experienced staff members who really enjoy what they specialize in," he proudly notes.

Continuing education is another key ingredient to the company's success, and Livingston offers seminars and in-house training programs for both customers and employees.

All of Smartrooms, Inc.'s 16 employees also attend Wood-Mode School, an intense four-day educational seminar at the manufacturing facility in Kreamer, PA to gain a better understanding of the products they sell, Livingston adds.

Adding to the full-service approach of the firm, Smartrooms, Inc. also participates in a variety of charitable programs and organizations, including the Home Builders Association of Illinois and the Spirit Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps child-care facilities, assisted-living centers and shelters for survivors of domestic violence.

For Livingston, this doesn't just make Smartrooms, Inc. part of the community, but, more importantly, part of a team.

Smartrooms, Inc.

LOCATION: 1356 The Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL
PRINCIPALS: James W. Livingston, CKD/pres.
HOURS OF OPERATION: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Mon.-Fri.; 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., Sat.
SPECIALTIES: High-end residential projects; full-service design and consultation.
BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY: "Treat each client [as if each is] special, and listen to their needs. Help them to visualize and realize their dream home."