“We have to keep in mind that some things can be really trendy but look outdated within a year,” she adds. Showing clients styles that will stand the test of time and make their investments last longer is the best policy, she advises.
Design Center, Not a Showroom
Bill Simone, president of El Segundo, Calif.-based Custom Design & Construction, prefers to call the space where he currently meets with clients a design center, but for many years he didn’t have a full blown, visible showroom.
“We had a quasi-showroom that we would bring clients to,” he says. “It was more of a conference room that had a really nice kitchen display in it, but that was pretty much the extent of it. We used it for all of our client meetings — the initial meetings, the contract meetings, the design review meetings — all those meetings were conducted in that quasi-showroom.
“It was on the second floor of an office building. It had no street visibility. No one knew it was there, and no one would stumble upon it,” Simone continues.
All that changed when Custom Design & Construction had an opportunity to move to El Segundo, where it bought a former manufacturing building, about 14,000 sq. ft., in an industrial neighborhood with some high-profile neighbors, including Raytheon, Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, DirectTV, Time Warner Cable, the Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Lakers, and Mattel.
In addition, Simone says he was seeing more kitchen and bath remodeling jobs — smaller projects than the additions and whole-house remodels he’d been seeing in previous years. The idea of a showroom, or design center as Simone prefers to think of it, became more attractive. “It’s really meant to be more of a design inspiration center as opposed to [a sales setting]. It’s to get the creative juices flowing for the client,” he says.
Having for years had a design space hidden from public view, Simone was pleasantly surprised by the “unintended consequences” of the new design center, one of those consequences being a significant amount of walk-in traffic. El Segundo may be a small town, but it swells by 150,000 people a day from people who work in the major corporations surrounding Custom Design & Construction.
Two days each week, Simone says, he allows upscale catering trucks to park in the firm’s driveway, generating a lot of foot traffic. In addition, Custom Design & Construction is located on a street leading to a major thoroughfare that is home to bricks-and-mortar eateries for those not lunching alfresco at the lunch trucks.
“We thought we would have to rely on our traditional marketing efforts, and [the new design center] would be a destination location,” Simone says. “It turns out, although we still use traditional marketing, that’s just not the case.”
Like Normandy Remodeling, Simone stages events and seminars for homeowners, usually on a monthly basis, tailing off toward the end of the year and the holidays. In addition, he foresees smaller events for executives of the nearby corporations — mini-seminars or lunch-and-learn get-togethers to encourage them to bring their spouses in for a presentation.
Custom Design & Construction makes the facility, which has a full working kitchen, available to some area catering companies to do cooking demonstrations. Neighboring corporations also hold team-building events from time to time. The fee for using the facility is nominal, but it brings additional exposure to the design-build firm, Simone says.
The design center isn’t cluttered with product samples. “You won’t see a tower of quartz countertop samples or door styles hanging on the wall. All that stuff is pushed back into the inner workings of the design stations. As parts and pieces of a project are selected by our designers, they’re brought into the conference room where we meet with the client so patrons are not overwhelmed with decisions — and also so they understand that you can’t walk in and say, ‘I want to buy this faucet.’ That’s not what we’re all about,” Simone explains.
The design center is just under 3,000 sq. ft. and contains a dozen vignettes: five kitchens, four bathrooms, a home office, a home library and a living/family room.