Design Firm Enlightens Clients Through Its Offerings

Design Firm Enlightens Clients Through Its Offerings

By John Filippelli

Acting as a conduit in the design process, Derrick uses his diverse background which encompasses design, manufacturing, woodworking and marketing  to educate his clients and provide the kind of service necessary to make the remodeling process as painless as possible.

"I see [the remodeling process] as a stressful one, so we try to alleviate some of that stress. We provide comfort and reassurance, as well as a certain knowledge that we understand the quality levels and follow-through that clients expect," he says.

Derrick, who was raised around woodworking and remodeling, established a custom cabinet manufacturing company some 15 years before starting The Kitchen Design Studio. "When I found cabinet manufacturing and kitchen and bath design, it brought together seemingly unrelated aspects of my career development and allowed for a creative outlet and comfortable, natural direction for me."

He adds, "The fact that we have a direct relationship to our manufacturing operation really makes
us unique."

Indeed, Derrick is also owner and president of K.D. and Steele Cabinetry, The Kitchen Design Studio's manufacturing arm based in nearby Blanchester, OH.

However, Derrick doesn't see this as a product business. "I see this as a service business," he stresses. "As a part of that service, you select and specify product for the customer. And, while there are a lot of differences in the products, without the service portion of it, I don't think a kitchen and bath dealership has a leg to stand on."

That is not to say that product isn't important to Derrick. "Whether we are selling a full-custom application or semi-custom, we look for products that represent quality, so we can maintain that in the company," he stresses.

While Derrick's firm is located in a geographic area that is conservative and tends toward traditional design, he has been fortunate to have the opportunity to work on a host of eclectic designs, he notes, including a 35,000-sq.-ft. home with 12 bathrooms, a live kitchen display and an ultra high-end kitchen expansion.

So what is his secret?

"I can't say strongly enough how important it is to listen to clients with all of your senses. Look and see what they like in their house now, what they don't like and find out what they like in other work, such as in magazines. Listen to how they want their lifestyles to change."

Showroom assets
Citing his involvement with the Bath and Kitchen Buying Group as a main influence in his decision to open a showroom, Derrick celebrated his showroom's one-year anniversary in September of 2002.

Serving a dual purpose, The Kitchen Design Studio showroom offers Derrick an opportunity to market his custom products, while also enhancing his ability to meet with clients in an environment conducive to making the sale.

Finding the right showroom, however, took time. "I went and looked at a lot of showrooms for a couple of years prior to opening ours. I noticed that the showrooms I liked were not filled with little six- or eight-foot vignettes, but were full-kitchen displays," he explains.

With this realization, Derrick chose to install two live kitchen displays, one of which acts as the staff's break kitchen. "All of our kitchens, including our live and our semi-custom Medallion kitchen, are full-size kitchens," he points out.

The live kitchen display also features a walnut armoire with an integrated 700 series Sub-Zero refrigeration unit just another way Derrick and his staff show off their custom capabilities, he notes.

Giving the showroom a "wow" factor, the live kitchen is rich in color and a variety of finishes, he continues. "It's been great working out of this type of space since I've had the opportunity to put some of our custom cabinetry on the showroom floor and present it the way in which I truly want," he says.

Derrick also notes that the showroom's master bath is live as well, featuring a shower system from Ondine and a heated floor.

The company carries products from Sub-Zero, Wolf, Faber, Independent, Franke and KitchenAid, as well as PyroLave, a glazed lava stone manufacturer.

"We'll do metals, stone, wood and all countertop materials. We also offer some plumbing fixtures," he explains.

Direct marketing
According to Derrick, the most successful promotion tactic is "old-fashioned direct marketing." But, the company also promotes itself through a variety of other avenues, including advertising and submitting project materials to design-oriented magazines. Special events are also held at the showroom, including luncheons for architects and interior designers, use-and-care events and cooking demonstrations.

"We want to do more of that and more educational pieces, as well and, thankfully, we now have a facility that can handle it."
In the end, it is this opportunity to enlighten his clients that Derrick relishes most.

However, Derrick still believes that everything he does from education to selling to design still has to begin with service.
"It's so important to care that the clients get what they're looking forand more. In fact, you should care about it as if it was your own home and family that's making the change. That's the type of service that we look to foster here."

The Kitchen Design Studio

Location: 10816 Millington Court, Cincinnati, OH
Principals: Kimball Derrick, CKD, president, The Kitchen Design Studio and K.D. and Steele Cabinetry
One: 3,500 square feet
Hours of Operation:
Mon. - Fri., 9 - 5; Evenings and Saturdays by appointment.
Number of Employees: Showroom, nine; Manufacturing plant, 21
Major Product Lines:
K.D. and Steele cabinetry (custom); Bentwood Kitchens (custom); Medallion Cabinetry, Inc.; Hillcraft Ltd.; UltraCraft Cabinetry; Showplace Wood Products; Sub-Zero Freezer Co.; Wolf Appliance Co.; ASKO; Fisher & Paykel; KitchenAid; Scotsman; Franke Consumer Products, Inc.; Whitehaus Collection; KWC Faucets; Rohl LLC.
Pigmented, lightweight concrete countertops from Geocrete by Cheng Design and PyroLave, enameled lava stone from France
Design Software:
20-20 Technologies, CabinetWare, AutoCAD