Leveraging the Luxury Experience

by Eliot Sefrin

Tricia Zach knows a thing or two about the luxury market.

What she’s certain of, beyond a doubt, is that true luxury isn’t simply about the large sums of money that clients are spending. It’s also about more than simply a unique and harmonious blend of elegance and beauty, precise execution and flawless function. 

Equally certain, in Zach’s view, is that luxury clients share several key traits. To most, a luxury kitchen is an “earned indulgence” that they’re entitled to after years of hard work. Most have a specific vision of what they want, demand their voices be heard, and expect their designer to deliver a project that will more than delight them. They’re also cognizant that their new or remodeled kitchen will likely involve a lengthy and complex undertaking, yet they’re unwilling to make compromises because they believe that the result will be nothing less than the realization of a dream – and worth every penny they’ve spent.

True luxury is about more than simply the money clients are spending. It’s about creating an ‘elevated living experience’ that’s nothing less than the realization of a long-held dream

Above all else, Zach observes, luxury clients crave an “elevated living experience” that’s a precise reflection of their personality and lifestyle, and yields a unique and compelling kitchen that’s at once timeless, trendy and personal.

Zach, head of research for the NKBA, shared those insights at a recent Cambria-sponsored webcast during which an array of leading design pros shared exclusive, qualitative research and personal observations into the factors that elevate a kitchen to a true luxury space.

Those insights should carry special weight as 2022 kicks off with both bullish forecasts and a reprise of the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show as a live event after last year’s COVID-related postponement (see Forecast 2022 and KBIS coverage, Pages 46 & 72).

Indeed, while projections for low- and mid-range projects remain strong, it’s the high end of the market that’s expected to shine again this year, as an almost-perfect storm of record demand, savings growth and home appreciation continues to spur homeowner spending.

But while ripe with potential, the luxury market presents unique – sometimes vexing – challenges, and there are critical insights that design pros should keep in mind when serving this discerning niche.

To compete in the luxury market, Zach and other experts say, designers need to know the client so well that they deliver not simply the kitchen the client is requesting, but also what the client didn’t know enough to ask for. In other words, it’s critical not only to become a trusted advisor to clients but to be unafraid to stretch out of your or the client’s comfort zone by taking a chance on products, materials and design techniques that will make a project truly authentic, original and personalized.

It’s equally important, experts advise, to invest in technology, as well as in professional development; to follow the work of designers who inspire you; to develop relationships with skilled tradespeople and artisans; to partner with upscale designer resources, and to outsource your gaps – in other words, to hire professionals to manage your social media, help develop a brand strategy or increase your media visibility.

Little things you do at the end of a project can also make a major difference, Zach says. Archive an outstanding project by producing a book you can include in your portfolio and utilize as a sales tool. Schedule an open house, not only for clients but also for the professionals who worked on the project. Photograph every project, even if you can’t afford a professional, and use the visuals for a portfolio, as well as for Instagram and Pinterest pages.

Lastly, never forget to ask for referrals, since word of mouth is critical in the luxury niche, and if a client loved your work chances are they’ll recommend you to acquaintances and friends.

The high-end niche is as rich as ever with promise in 2022. But kitchen designers need to understand what makes the luxury client tick if they’re to tap the market’s enormous potential.

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