There was a time when the process of working with a client through the selection and accurate installation of appliances was a bit of a thankless task. As designers, we were the main source of information on the features and benefits, pros and cons of any appliance, and the main conduit for communication between the manufacturer and the installer, the cabinet maker, and the end-user. Often, the return on effort invested was minimal; it certainly was not “fun.”
Thanks to our premier appliance manufacturers and their expanded design options, as well as their changes in the way appliances are brought to market, this experience has improved dramatically. One huge piece of this is the beautiful appliance showrooms available to us today to enhance the experience for our clients and ourselves.
Recently, I spent time in a unique showroom that is making big news in New York City: Pirch SoHo comprises 32,000 square feet and 30 live kitchens and baths with premier appliances, fixtures and fittings displayed and demonstrated throughout. The focus of this showroom is not simply on product, but on lifestyle and how the kitchen and bath spaces we create contribute to answering that question, “How do I want to live?” for our clients.
As I moved through the space, I was first reminded of the emotional impact of such exquisite applications of the products and concepts we work with, and as I spoke with the team, my focus shifted to the concrete benefits not just to my clients, but to me as a designer. What follows is for some a review and for others a new opportunity to appreciate the benefits offered to the design community.
FEATURES & BENEFITS
To begin, in this world of impersonal and sometimes unrealistic Internet and television research and shopping, the showroom brings it all to life. It’s better than HOUZZ, Pinterest or Instagram, and more interactive than HGTV. While the only products that are actually for sale are appliances, plumbing fixtures and fittings, the spaces are complete, offering a tangible benefit as a physical library of design styles, products and concepts – very inspiring.
This is particularly true when the appliance or fitting involves new technology and innovation, in my case the “Knock2Open” dishwasher that I had read about and could now test.
A question I frequently ask clients in the information-gathering phase is not, “what do you want your kitchen to do, based on what you know?” but, “what would you like your kitchen to do if there were no limits?” This is a place where clients and designers can be just so inspired.
This might change the order of steps in the design process as it provides a place where clients can see the items they have been considering. And more, they can be introduced to items they may or may not have imagined. For example, based on a newly discovered and coveted rotisserie, the kitchen design might turn in a new direction. Although I’m told the average visit to Pirch is two hours or more, this can actually save time by concentrating so many concepts and products in one place.
As in other appliance showrooms, the team includes a professional chef, and this one is present full time, available to personalize the interaction for me and my clients, providing an opportunity to actually test-run a given product. As for bath fittings and fixtures, again there are live spaces where rain showerheads can be compared or a steam shower can be experienced. Not only can a designer and client see the products they have been discussing, they can actually work with and compare them.
While we may enjoy the growing importance of the kitchen, we in Manhattan truly know what “design for small space” means, and this showroom includes several areas focused on just that, with beautiful examples of smaller appliances that meet both functional and space needs.
Also of interest is the technology suite: an area where kitchen, bath and home technology can be explored and experienced, including the incredible control our phones can offer us. Another significant aspect of this space is the dream room, of which there are several. These conference rooms are available and can be set up to include whatever the client and designer need to review – color boards, samples, drawings, etc. Refreshments while working with a client might come from the espresso bar or from the chef, with or without involvement from the client. The physical space even includes a small private area for clients who may have traveled a long distance and so, need to refresh.
About now, a sane designer could be asking, “at what price?” While this is a place designed to emphasize service and experience over cost, Pirch does have a lowest price guarantee.
And in the midst of this dreaming, how do we reign in our clients and get business done? As has typically been the practice in appliance showrooms, a designer may choose to experience the tour with the client or arrangements can be made in advance for a client to be taken through the space with a team member who has been familiarized with the job. Because so many issues can come from a lack of preparation or familiarity with the products to be installed and the conditions of the space, Pirch maintains its own installation crew, and attaches a three-year total warranty on anything they install.
The trend toward a “bigger than life” experience followed by incredible service in bringing appliances to market can only be good for the design profession. There is nothing commonplace about any of the beautiful appliance showrooms available to us today, and having just experienced Pirch, I can guarantee that it is no ordinary showroom (http://www.northparkcenter.com/posts/pirch-taps-iris-apfel-nate-berkus-and-more-for-new-campaign).
There is growing opportunity to share responsibility for appliances, fixtures and fittings in a more comprehensive way and now, I’m looking forward to testing it out.