Recently, I had the pleasure of experiencing the new LuxeHome
showroom, located in The Merchandise Mart in Chicago. I say I
“experienced” the showroom, because it is unlike any other of its
kind in the nation, and, dare I say, the world.
Technically, LuxeHome is not one showroom, but a collection of
about 25 smaller showrooms or boutiques, aimed at attracting an
affluent clientele seeking a luxurious shopping experience. Its
customer profile encompasses educated, professional consumers with
a healthy disposable income. A vast variety of upscale kitchen,
bath and building products is offered at LuxeHome, including
cabinetry, countertops, flooring, kitchen systems, hardware,
appliances, bath accessories, doors, marble, stone, granite and
Being a kitchen and bath showroom designer for more than 20
years, I was struck by the grand scale of this ambitious project.
Not only is this a mammoth undertaking, but its very existence
makes a bold statement about the importance of our industry.
LuxeHome positions luxury kitchens, baths and personal spaces
within the home as a selection option for discretionary income,
similar to cars, boats or vacation homes.
The Master Plan
My curiosity about LuxeHome
inspired a conversation with Katherine Flaherty, v.p./building
products and special projects for Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.
A 17-year veteran in the kitchen and bath real estate field,
Flaherty is responsible for leasing space in some of America’s
largest kitchen and bath retail outlets, including the Washington
Design Center in Washington, DC, the A&D Building in Manhattan
and Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. She was instrumental in getting the
LuxeHome project off the ground.
Flaherty noted that, from concept to completion, her team of
architects, designers, builders and other specialists worked for 14
months. Flaherty hand-selected each of the companies and brands
that were invited to be a part of LuxeHome. To achieve just the
right mixture and placement of individual showrooms, the team
concocted at least 40 different floor plans.
“It’s like putting a puzzle together,” she says. “We wanted to
make the shopping experience as attractive, luxurious and relaxing
as possible. We also wanted to encourage consumers to dream, plan,
create and buy the products to achieve the visual end result they
As a result, retailers gain clientele from a pool of ready,
qualified buyers, while customers get the convenience and attention
they want from a one-stop, boutique-shopping destination. In
Flaherty’s words, “Instead of driving around to separate shops, you
can accomplish in one day what it would take you three months of
Saturdays to do otherwise.” Saving time is very important to
customers rushing around in today’s busy world. And being well
served by knowledgeable, dedicated sales professionals is equally
important. These two essential factors combine to create a “total
Once Flaherty and her team decided on a master plan, they took
on the task of building the framework. Deciding to keep the
historic integrity of the building intact, the team selected
high-quality materials, such as marble baseboards, to promote flow
and continuity within the high-style design. Banners, signage and
huge lifestyle images were added with consistency to help shoppers
find their way. Finally, to soften the space and to contribute to a
pleasurable shopping atmosphere, trees, planters and comfortable
benches were situated along major traffic paths and in the large
From there, individual retailers were in charge of design and
construction for their own showrooms.
“What stimulated a lot of the design for LuxeHome is keeping
with the spirit of our country, and that is we thrive on
competition,” Flaherty says. “Each designer knew their showroom
design would be a statement of who they are as a designer, and
everyone wanted to create the best showroom.”
The grand opening in September 2003 marked the beginning of
LuxeHome’s foray into luxury kitchen and bath marketing. Like
showrooms on the outside, retailers in the LuxeHome complex must
regularly update displays and merchandise. Each showroom is
required to completely re-merchandise at least every five years,
although new products are being brought in all the time. Window
displays must be redesigned at least once each year. Finally, each
boutique, as well as The Merchandise Mart, contributes to a special
fund to pay for LuxeHome’s group advertising and special
As a result, Flaherty says sales at stores with LuxeHome
locations are up between 50 percent and 400 percent over their
other locations. In addition, LuxeHome has helped to stimulate a
desire for high-end kitchen and bath products. She notes,
“Twenty-five percent of LuxeHome sales are from out-of-state
Creating this midwestern destination zone for the kitchen and
bath category is driving interest and conversation about our
industry and products. Even showrooms that don’t offer high-end
products can learn from and capitalize on LuxeHome’s success. The
lesson is to work within your market and do whatever you can to
create the buzz that makes your showroom a destination for your
Below are some showroom tips
1. Focus on the total shopping experience. Don’t just sell to your
clients; take care of them.
2. Create a gorgeous showroom, outfitted with fully appointed
displays to maximize the experience.
3. Outdo your competitors. Be the one with the newest and
4. Plan at least 2,000 square feet of showroom space.
5. Create a “look” by choosing one great, well-known brand with an
extensive product offering.
6. Hire top sales professionals, and be sure they are well
7. Plan carefully and allocate sufficient money to achieve the
total shopping experience. Remember, your showroom is an investment
in the future of your business.