The Marriage of Design & Profit

Here's a few questions for design professionals to ask themselves the next time they sit down to design a kitchen:

During the design process, do you think about the kitchen's aesthetic qualities, or about uncovering ways to build extra profit into the project?

Do you think about the kitchen's functionality, or about trying to avoid common design mistakes that result in' margin erosion?

Do you think about providing a creative lifestyle solution for your client, or about creating a "signature" design that could mark you and your company as something really special?

The answer to each of these questions should, ideally, be identical.

It should be: "In each case, I think about both."

That's certainly the view of Ellen Cheever, CMKBD, ASID, who says that kitchen design, at its cutting-edge best, should always be a true right-brain, left-brain exercise.

A genuine marriage between creativity and sound business practices.

A well-conceived blend of design talent and profit-enhancing techniques.

A finished product whose true art and craft lies not solely in its beauty and function, but in its price point and profit margin.

Cheever, widely considered the nation's premier kitchen design authority, leads the innovative "Designing For Profit" conference series, a unique, all-day educational program being presented in Boston this month by Kitchen & Bath Design News and the NKBA.

In her eye-opening presentation, aimed at both beginner and advanced design pros, Cheever astutely observes that too many kitchens she sees are seemingly designed for design's sake alone.

In other words, wonderful looks, great utility, fabulous product application, strict adherence to the client's needs.

Just not enough in the way of profit.

It's almost as if many kitchen space planners feel that the concepts of exceptional design and extraordinary profitability are somehow almost mutually exclusive that designers can have one or the other more often than they can have both.

The reasons for this, Cheever suggests, are legion:

  • Designers who don't understand, or simply forget, how to use specific design techniques like accessories, architectural elements, custom or signature details as tools to boost revenue and profit.
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  • Designers who aren't in touch with the major reasons for margin slippage mistakes in ordering cabinetry and molding, over-detailing, missing the fit of intersecting elements, failing to properly account for change-order items.
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  • Designers who fail to establish budgets early, or who fail to discuss money early and often with clients.
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  • n Designers who wander through projects without a firm grasp of their company's margin goals.

Essential to the process of designing for profit, Cheever points out, are two related notions.

One is that of "price elasticity" that is, how consumer demand can impact how much designers can charge for a kitchen that's as much the fulfillment of a client's dream as it is a working environment.

The second is the notion of "value engineering" that is, how designers can conceive of optional kitchen plans, from simple to complex, that permit clients to prioritize the various components of the design . . . and then to be offered a wide range of "investment opportunities" at different prices.

Cheever offers far more than this in her comprehensive program, also scheduled for Atlanta in September.

The gist of it is this: Great design and maximum profit should never be at odds with one another. Instead, they should go hand-in-hand for every kitchen that's designed, and should be top-of-mind for every design professional working in today's market.

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