Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed the question to dealers and designers in the kitchen and bath industry: “Do you ever accept long-distance projects? If so, what challenges does working long distance create?
I definitely do long-distance projects. We’re in central Massachusetts, and I’ve done jobs in the Cape, which is about 2 to 2.5 hours away, and even one in the Carolinas. Typically those jobs have been for clients who have done a local project with me, or maybe are a friend of a client.
The challenge in these jobs is scheduling and timing, especially if we’re not installing the job ourselves. It takes coordination with other tradesmen, so we have to plan a little differently. We have to consider travel times, and if we’re installing it, there will be overnight stays. It’s also important to make sure the client understands there will be some additional cost because they are long distance.
It’s nice to have jobs in the town where I live. I can easily check out the jobsite and meet with clients. But doing jobs in another state makes me feel good that they’ve considered us, especially being so far away. And, it is a sale.
Dino Similia, owner
West Boylston, MA
We do accept long distance projects, some of which have been from as many as three states away.
They represent a challenge because clients can’t come to our showroom as much as they’d like. I do have to get them here one time, but from there I usually take things to them. I’ll have more time involved in travel and planning, which means I have to make sure I’m very organized, which is something you want to do even if a job is local, but it’s very important when it’s not. I need to know exactly what I’m presenting since the time I have with long-distance clients is so valuable. I can’t pick up and go visit them again the next day.
It’s also about understanding what it requires to do a job long distance. But with today’s technology, I don’t think it’s undoable. There’s e-mail and I use Skype. Being able to see someone’s reaction to your design says a lot.
We also have our own crews for installation that we put up overnight. Again, we have to make sure we’re organized and have every part of the job down to a ‘T’. When they’re traveling hours and hours away, they can’t run back for something they forgot.
With the market the way it’s been – and we sell a high-end product – we’re having to do more and more long-distance jobs.
Jacquie Luper-Watts, designer
Designing Kitchens & Baths
Rural Hall, NC
I’ve done long-distance projects a couple of times previously, and am currently working on two long-distance projects where the house is local but the owners live a distance away.
In 2010, a couple came up from Laguna Beach. They fell in love with Portland and purchased a home here. They interviewed us, hired us, then went back to California. Over the next three and a half months, we basically did a full-house remodel, tearing down walls and relocating the kitchen. At the end of the process, she sent me a book entitled Virtually Perfect Collaboration. Since then, we’ve done a couple more projects together.
With the review she wrote on our Web site, a gentleman in Florida found me. For a Christmas present for his wife, he surprised her with a kitchen remodel, and we’re just wrapping up that project. We’ve never met, but we share photos online on Picasa so they can log in and see the progress. Basically we work together with a lot of photos and technology, and a shared schedule on Google Calendar so they can see what’s planned, when.
One thing that is more difficult is samples. Clients have had to go to local showrooms to see samples, or we’ve put together kits and mailed materials that would matter tactically – like limestone, slate and countertop materials – so they could actually touch them. Paint colors were a bit of a leap of faith because photography and computer screens change the way the paint actually looks.
It also takes more communication. I think we actually communicate three times as often with a distance client, considering all the updates and e-mails. But overall, doing long-distance projects is fun.
Kathie Maughan Francis, principle/designer
Maughan Design and Remodel
Most of our business is within about a 30-mile radius, but we have done a few long-distance jobs over the years. We’re on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin and there are a lot of cabins in the northern areas.
There are a few challenges. For one, we can’t always take the time to drive to the site to measure the space, so we have to depend on the homeowner’s dimensions. Another challenge is getting products to the jobsite, especially if it’s on a country road or northern lake.
Plus, we don’t always do the installation. We’ve had a couple of situations where installers have been willing to stay overnight, but we never know if the contractors on the other end have worked with our cabinetry before.
We don’t necessarily turn down these jobs, but we evaluate each situation. For example, we have a current client who we sold a kitchen and bath to a couple of years ago. Now they want to do a kitchen in their cabin in northwest Wisconsin. We certainly wouldn’t turn it down because we’ve already done a job for them. They’ll get us the dimensions and hire a plumber and fabricator. We’ll coordinate everything and help answer questions, but it is more of a challenge. We do have to have a bit more faith because we’re not quite sure who we’ll be dealing with on the other end.
Most projects have been a success. We’ve been doing this long enough that we know what questions to ask. Communication is really the key, whether it’s a local job or one that’s two hours away. But we have to communicate more when those jobs are a long ways away. You just have to work a little harder to make sure it goes smoothly.
Jim Brandon, owner
Kitchens of Stillwater/Kitchens of Woodbury
St. Paul area, MN