Designers Team Up to Create Spaces

by Ashley Lapin Olian

Teamwork between designer and client, as well as designer and work crew, is a key component of completing a remodeled or new kitchen. However, designers collaborating on individual projects is less common. Yet, at Kitchen and Bath, Etc., a Chagrin Falls, OH-based firm, that is exactly how each project is carried out.

“All of the members of the design staff are adept problem solvers, and we all have our own personal styles,” remarks Lonny Levenson, one of three designers at the company. But, it is the collaboration between the three designers – Levenson, Emeil Soryal and Jeff Bennett – that sets the firm apart, he stresses.

“Our customers don’t just get a Lonny, Emeil or Jeff design. They get a well thought-out kitchen or bath design,” Levenson continues. “Our group brainstorming sessions allow us to provide solutions that a single designer might not dream up on his own.”

In fact, one of Levenson’s favorite projects is one that he created in collaboration with Soryal. The kitchen design called for the removal of a load-bearing wall to expand the space, but hiding the eyesore support beams was a challenge. At one of their weekly meetings, Soryal suggested a coffered ceiling in a grid configuration to conceal the beams. This idea not only solved the problem, but also created the pièce de résistance of the entire project, Levenson notes.

“Just using another person’s background and work history to come up with some different ideas [helps],” adds Levenson.

SHIFT IN BUSINESS
The business has grown immensely since it opened 16 years ago. When Soryal opened the firm, he had a staff of three. That has since grown to a staff of 22, including an in-house installation team.

Business really heated up when the firm changed locations four years ago. Originally located in a strip mall “on the wrong corner of a busy intersection,” Soryal decided to convert a standalone building located catty-corner from his business into the showroom he had always desired.

While rehabbing the building, a second floor was added, allowing the company to display its logo where it could be viewed more easily. Additionally, the company took advantage of the new location’s proximity to a popular grocery store. “We wrapped that side of the building in glass so you cannot walk back to your car from the store without looking into K&B and dreaming of a new kitchen or bath!” Levenson expounds. “We get a lot of walk-in customers now who had no idea we were across the street all of those years. Now they can’t miss us!”

COMMUNITY TIES

Forging connections with the local community is also important to the team at Kitchen & Bath, Etc., since the majority of the company’s projects are within 15 miles of the showroom.

In keeping with this idea, Levenson teaches a free class in conjunction with Snow Brothers, a local appliance store. While Kitchen & Bath, Etc. does carry Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances, “not every job is a Wolf and Sub-Zero kind of project,” which is why Levenson will bring clients to Snow Brothers to look at other lines. After a period of taking clients to Snow Brothers, Levenson realized that the majority of them had no idea how much appliances actually cost prior to starting the design process. For that reason, he decided to take on educating the community so that consumers could better budget for kitchen and bath projects.

“Instead of teaching a design-specific class, we talk about budgeting and return on investments and how much people typically spend,” says Levenson. He even includes an Excel spreadsheet to break down costs and help attendees create a budget.

He adds: “One of the tenets is the 15 percent rule – 15 percent of the value of a home is what people typically spend on a kitchen remodel. We then break it down: of that 15 percent, 30 percent is cabinets, 12 percent is appliances and so forth.”

Levenson has been teaching the class for four years. Additionally, this spring, he will be teaching an introductory 2020 design class at Virginia Marti College of Art and Design.

“It was an honor to be asked to create the curriculum, and I can’t wait to share a little of my knowledge with the next wave of designers,” he remarks.

FINAL TOUCHES
Upon completion of a project, clients express appreciation in different ways. In the case of Levenson, he has been invited over for dinner multiple times.

One client actually invited Levenson and his family over for dinner where they helped cook the meal in the new kitchen.

“We mashed potatoes and cut carrots and made the casserole – it was a lot of fun. We weren’t just standing around, we were working. We even put the kids to work. It was a good time,” he states. “I don’t usually get [to have] my family see my designs, so that was a treat.”

What drives Levenson as a designer is the love of seeing the finished product. “I kind of equate it to my life with my wife: happy wife, happy life. Those are good words to live by. Happy customers make me happy, so I aim to please,” he comments. “Construction can be so stressful and emotional when you are
in someone’s house. If they’re having fun and enjoying the process, then I’m doing my job well.”


AT A GLANCE

Kitchen and Bath, Etc.

Location: Chagrin Falls, OH

Principal: Emeil Soryal

Areas Served: Northeast Ohio, Cleveland area

Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

No. of Employees: 22

Major Product Lines Carried: StarMark, UltraCraft, Cambria, Caesarstone, Moen, Kohler, Delta Faucet, Sub-Zero and Wolf

Design Software: 2020, ProKitchen

Business Philosophy:  “From ideas to products to service, we will happily provide clients with guidance throughout the entire design and construction process.”


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