Upscale Design Leads to Unique Market Niche

Upscale Design Leads to Unique Market Niche

By Daina Darzin

"I started going to the kitchen and bath shows and seeing all of these wonderful things [from companies such as] JADO and Phylrich," she recalls. "I used to travel all over the country to look at lines." 

Eventually, Mitchell's refusal to employ standard "builder" hardware in her upscale designs developed into one of her company's strongest components a specifying showroom.

"We'd get exclusives and bring the upscale lines that designers wanted into the St. Louis marketplace," Mitchell remembers. From this was born the Kitchen & Bath Resource Studio, which truly lives up to its name as a resource to the trade. 

"We have interior designers and architects who refer their customers to us to select their plumbing, and, in a lot of cases, to help them coordinate the design package," she explains. "So, if a designer is coming in with a client saying, 'we want country French,' we start pulling things from the catalogs.

"We try to get a fee for design services or specification services, which is unique," she notes. "We spend so much time with the designer doing these specifications of product, we actually end up writing their specifications [though they don't always sell them the products]. In that situation, you really want to be paid for your time," she explains.
In business as a designer for more than 20 years, Mitchell relies almost exclusively on referrals for that aspect of her business, and currently has an eight-month backlog of work. 

"We have an extremely strong referral base I advertise very, very little," she notes. Though she currently turns down work ("I've got too much business everyone should have this problem," she quips), Mitchell has no plans to expand her operation. "I like the intimacy of having a smaller com-pany," she notes. "I've been up to seven people at one point, [but] I'm a controlling-type person. It's my business and I take responsibility for what everybody does. If I had [to supervise] seven people again, I'd probably have an ulcer," she laughs. 

Design is a group effort, she believes. "My senior graphics person who does the CAD comes to the company with a strong background in construction and installation [as well as] a very good flair for design, so he has his own referral base, too. We bounce ideas off each other for layouts," as well as referring clients to each other. "My showroom manager has a degree in fine arts, so we'll also bounce things off him," Mitchell adds. 

Kitchen & Bath Resource Studio doesn't do any installations, but does have a reliable base of sub-contractors who contract directly with the homeowner, though Mitchell notes, "We'll be there if they have questions." Using unknown contractors "makes us very nervous because we don't know the level of quality [of] their work," she adds. 
In terms of style, "St. Louis is a very traditional market," Mitchell says. "A while back I was known as the powder room queen, but I think we've transitioned away from that I like to think that we're trend setters in the St. Louis marketplace." 

It's an approach that particularly appeals to older baby boomers, she notes. After retirement, "you want to travel, you want your life to be more simplistic, in furnishings and surroundings." 

But, of course, that includes a extremely nice kitchen and bathroom hardware. . .

Kitchen & Bath Resource Studio

PRINCIPAL: Danean Mitchell, president
1,500 sq. ft.
HOURS OF OPERATION: Mon. Fri., 9-5, weekends by appointment
MAJOR PRODUCT LINES: Wood-Mode, Phylrich, Dornbracht, Porcher, JADO, Andre Collection, Valli & Valli, KWC Faucets, Ultra
SPECIALTIES: Upscale "wet room" design encompassing kitchens and baths, bars, laundry rooms, mud rooms, and a specifying showroom for decorative hardware and plumbing 
BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY: "We're into designing 'out of the box.'"