Savvy Showrooms

Kitchen and bath designers spend the bulk of their time creating stunning and functional spaces for others. However, oftentimes the inspiration for those spaces comes from a place a lot closer to home…the showroom, the place where designers can showcase their talents while encouraging their clients to dream.

This month KBDN offers a portfolio of several kitchen and bath showrooms that are designed to inspire.

Terre Haute, IN

Dan Carr Signature Interiors’ showroom strives to capture the concept that kitchens are integral to and inseparable from the home. “They are the heart of the home, with family life coursing through them daily,” says Dan Carr, owner/president. “While we tend to focus on food prep and clean-up, there is a lot of life that happens in a kitchen…kids’ first romances and breakups, friendships mended or lost, successes celebrated and losses grieved. All of that happens in the kitchen.”

Carr strives to help his clients feel this sense when entering his showroom. “With their first impression, the client can visualize stepping into their own home and viewing ‘their’ kitchen for the first time with a ‘wow’ moment that immediately stimulates imaginative excitement and creativity,” he says. “They are inspired to dive into their project.”

Carr provides a finished kitchen and cherry mudroom at the entrance to the 1,800-sq.-ft. showroom. The fully equipped kitchen highlights custom cabinetry and reclaimed hard maple flooring while the mudroom provides seating, and showcases storage for boots and outdoor accessories. “The fully functional kitchen floor plan tastefully displays retail product choices, and the superior quality craftsmanship of our contractors and artisans,” he notes. “It gives our clients a sense of stepping into our home, drawing their eye to no one specific product, but rather to the integrated whole, including home spaces adjoining the kitchen. This is an ‘oh, my goodness’ moment, where they immediately sense what is possible in their home.”

Impressive oak double doors lead to additional kitchen vignettes, and a bathroom display that includes a walk-in shower and whirlpool tub. This area is accented with a coffered, natural oak ceiling and wainscoting that highlight the company’s ability to do custom woodwork. An adjoining ‘smart’ family space offers comfortable seating, and a built-in library showcasing how media and lighting can be controlled via a tablet or smartphone app.

Carr updates displays about every two years, repurposing them to area organizations and businesses such as Habitat for Humanity, architectural firms and related home product stores such as those that sell windows. “When people are looking to remodel or build a new home, there are other places they may visit before looking for a kitchen or bath,” he says. “I include brochures with the displays so we can be top of mind as they compile information for their project.”

Overall, the showroom evokes a sense of place, of home, of comfort within an environment meant to calm. “Customers must not be confronted by an infinite number of choices that could rob them of the creative joy of designing their new kitchen,” he says. “I don’t want clients to feel overwhelmed, like they don’t have the energy or time to make decisions for their new space.”

To create a sense of calm, Carr minimizes the use of kiosks, spinners and manufacturer displays, instead preferring to remount products such as hardware on wall displays created by the company’s artisans. “These give the client a visual sense of how a wide variety of hardware presents in use without overwhelming them with a multitude of scattered kiosks and displays,” he says. “They blend well with the ‘home’ feel of the showroom, unifying displays.”

Westbrook, CT

When people walk through the door of Covenant Kitchens & Baths’ 1,800-sq.-ft. showroom, Gerard Ciccarello, owner/lead designer, CMKBD, wants them to feel like they are at home. “People often comment that our showroom looks different from others,” says Ciccarello. “It isn’t just one display after another.”

To the left is a library with a working gas fireplace, bookshelves, built-ins and a TV that hooks up to the designers’ computers. People can also comfortably peruse magazines and use the provided iPad to view the company’s portfolio.

To the right is one of four full-size kitchens, each with its own distinct style. One offers a retro look with coastal colors and beadboard, designed to relate to the cottages on the Connecticut shoreline. Another is inspired by travels to Quebec, offering a more traditional feel with concrete countertops and painted cabinetry with custom door designs inspired from a hutch he saw while visiting the area.

The newest kitchen display showcases the region’s progression toward more contemporary styles in a space where Danish modern elements and industrial style collide while coexisting in harmony.

“Until recently, kitchen design in New England was usually cottage, farmhouse and Early American, with more traditional trappings of detailed dentil mouldings, raised-panel doors and fluted columns,” he says. “Slowly, contemporary design elements have been working their way into our awareness. New England has long been a tough sell when it comes to embracing change, but we are currently seeing a shift toward the cleaner, simpler lines of contemporary design and wanted to welcome the look to our newest showroom display.”

It also depicts a scenario often seen in the area that includes historic buildings and converted factories. The shell of the display space features a brick wall, concrete floor and rough wood beams in the ceiling to make it look like an old building with a contemporary interior. “We want to give people a vision that contemporary doesn’t have to only be in a contemporary home,” he says. “You can have a contemporary kitchen in a vintage structure, similar to what they do in Europe. We wanted to show them what is possible, that there is leeway.”

The new space includes the latest in modern appliances, such as an induction cooktop and steam oven, as well as cabinet accessories, including stainless steel drawer boxes, swing-out corner units and touch-to-open latches.

While displays feature a certain timelessness, Ciccarello does make updates when needed, such as changing out backsplashes, countertops, accessories, etc. “We do ‘rehabs’ when needed,” he says, noting he is currently considering renewing a display with a reclaimed wood island.

Looking toward the future, he plans to add four bath displays within the next year, showcasing a contrast of his/her styling with feminine/romantic versus technology/industrial that will complement the current women’s and men’s rooms that pull double-duty as display space.

“We don’t have that large of a showroom, so nothing is wasted,” he says. “Our hallway has a bar unit with door samples, and our copier cabinet is a hutch unit.”

LaGrange, GA

When Cathy Winslow opened Splash Kitchens and Baths in 2008, she knew she wanted something different. She laid the foundation with typical kitchen and bath vignettes, including about 18 displays in the 2,400-sq.-ft. ‘inspiration’ center. A ‘live’ kitchen showcases fully functional appliances that are frequently used for demonstration events. A 10-ft.-long working bath vanity is complemented by a fully loaded shower as well as an air jet tub with chromatherapy lights.

“Working displays generate conversation,” she says. “People are always surprised when they open the paneled refrigerator that looks like an armoire. And they love the microwave drawer in the island, which is in a great location for people aging in place, or for those with small children.”

Moving beyond the expected, Winslow added retail to her showroom with items such as organic towels, bath/body products, gourmet food items, cookbooks, cutting boards, etc.

“Retail provides a comfort zone for perspective clients who may be checking us out, but who don’t want to come into a typical showroom where they are grabbed as soon as they come in the door,” she says. “They get a chance to browse and get comfortable with us. We have sold a lot of $20 candles that turned into $50,000 to $60,000 baths and kitchens. Sometimes clients will also have us accessorize their space with our retail items once their project is complete.”

Keeping a focus on locally made products is also important. “We try very hard to keep items locally made, or at the very least, made in the South,” she says. “That’s important because it creates a story. For instance, I know the history of the person who makes the pottery. She lives in Columbus, GA. She is a chef/pastry chef by day, but she does pottery because she loves it. Items with a story are more interesting and easier to sell. People also appreciate that you are supporting local artisans.”

Winslow also recently added a nearly 1,000-sq.-ft. selection center to her showroom, allowing her to open up the main showroom for more displays while giving her the ability to offer more samples in the selection center. “The selection center is where designers live and work,” she says. “It houses the designers and all the materials needed to do a kitchen or bath design.”

While the main showroom offers a lot of warmth, Winslow designed the selection center to be cutting edge. “When you walk in, it looks like a very clean, sleek bank of doors and drawers,” she says. “But once you start opening them, it’s an interactive fun house.”

Every sample is housed in a drawer – for instance, cabinet hardware is displayed on jewelry trays so it looks like jewelry – and gray/monochromatic finishes provide for a clean look. Once clients have signed a contract, they are also given their own drawer so they can revisit their selections and share their choices with friends and family.

The selection center’s clean styling also helps keep clients from becoming overwhelmed by too many choices. “It gives them the feel of a clean space,” she says. “But once they start opening drawers, they see the depth of our offerings. They don’t feel cheated, yet they aren’t overwhelmed.”

The selection center also includes a designated space for budget meetings, offering privacy when needed.

Washington, DC; Bethesda, MD; Falls Church, VA

With the grand opening of Case Design/Remodeling’s Washington, DC showroom in September, the design/build company now offers three locations from which to serve clients. The Washington Design Studio is a natural progression from its Bethesda, MD, and Falls Church, VA, locations, making its services more accessible to District residents.

“Our beacon is excellence,” says Bruce Case, president/CEO. “And making our services more convenient for the region’s homeowners is also a top priority. While we have always provided remodeling services to Washington, DC residents, this new District location offers the added value of a physical neighborhood showroom to meet and discuss all remodeling needs.”

The new showroom provides 3,300 sq. ft. of space, with about three-quarters of that dedicated to showroom and samples, and the remaining one-quarter serving as office space. Two design/meeting rooms are also available to show clients designs in 2-D and 3-D on large-format monitors up to 70″.

“Our DC showroom is centrally and conveniently located, giving our clients the ability to make 95% of their selections in one place,” says David Waguespack, CKBR, UDCP, director of project development.

Three full-size kitchen vignettes showcase traditional, transitional and contemporary styles, one with condo-sized appliances and the other two featuring transitional and traditional styles.

The showroom also includes three bathroom vignettes, including a full-size 5’x8′ ‘condo’ or hall bathroom and two freestanding tubs. The staff kitchen and guest bathroom also showcase additional cabinet features, with the bathroom offering a working shower to see showerheads (changeable) in action. “The shower display will help educate clients on the various ways to lay out valves and showerheads,” says Waguespack. “Each cabinet display shows many different interior accessories and cabinet construction options.”

While the Washington showroom is brand new, it has been designed with the future in mind. “Displays are designed and installed as permanent fixtures, just like a residential remodel,” says Waguespack. “If changes are necessary, a full remodel of that vignette will most likely be necessary. But if just the fixtures become dated, cosmetic changes can be easy and quick to accomplish.”

Lindenhurst and Smithtown, NY

With about 65 kitchen and bath displays, including vignettes and vanities, showcased throughout two locations, there is no shortage of ideas presented to customers at the Lakeville Kitchen & Bath showrooms. A 6,500-sq.-ft. showroom in Lindenhurst, NY – which is also the headquarters and warehouse – serves clients on the south shore of Long Island, while customers on the north shore can visit the nearly 4,000-sq.-ft. showroom in Smithtown, NY.

“While the two showrooms have a very similar feel – with the footprints designed by the same person – we have different clientele on each end of the island, thus the two locations,” says Richard Sirlin, president.

Displays in both locations offer a complete showing of product, representing five different cabinet manufacturers. “We have a lot of showroom space with a lot of merchandise and options from manufacturers,” he says. “The displays are a big investment for us, and we take a lot of time and care in the selection process so when someone comes in, points to a display and says that’s exactly what they want, that’s a home run!”

Each showroom is also designed with comfort in mind, as well as creating the ‘wow’ factor. “The showrooms are impressive,” he believes. “When you walk in, there is a definite ‘wow’ factor. But we interact with clients in a very relaxed fashion.”

As such, customers can unwind and decompress in a lounge area, while sipping a cup of coffee or water. “We try to make it as comfortable and homey as possible while they are making such important decisions,” he says.

To keep customers from becoming overwhelmed, designers focus on listening. “We want to better understand what they are looking for, taking into consideration budget requirements to help steer them into the right product selections,” he notes.

Designers also utilize technology in a way that keeps customers from being overwhelmed. “We do have flat-screen TVs that we can stream through,” he says. “But incorporating too much technology has its pros and cons, with a negative being that it can slow down the design process, so we keep technology in the design process to outside the showroom. Once we start introducing technology, clients want to see more choices, making it almost impossible to get them comfortable with decisions and moving forward in the design process.”

Nine U.S. locations

Pirch’s newest showroom location was recently opened in New York City’s famed SoHo district. However, the company also has a presence throughout the U.S., with eight additional showrooms, including four on the West Coast in San Diego, Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Orange County, CA.

The average Pirch guest visit exceeds two hours, and rightfully so given the expanse of displays to peruse, which include brands such as Sub-Zero, Wolf, Miele, La Cornue, Thermador, Samsung, Bertazzoni, Gessi, Rohl, Kalamazoo Outdoor, Lynx Grills, Viking and more. In fact, the blue Bertazzoni range is exclusive to Pirch.

Many of the displays are also ‘live.’ “We activate the product so people can try before they buy,” says Jeffery Sears, CEO.

The store design and development team, led by Arturo Vazquez, never stops creating, designing the ‘bones’ for longevity. “But they are constantly changing the uniqueness of the displays, adapting to design changes as well as product advancement,” says Sears.

Several key elements are included to make the showroom experience interesting, interactive and engaging, regardless of its location.

“It starts from the minute you arrive,” he remarks. “Our Bliss Café and baristas welcome guests with open arms, offering a beautiful handcrafted beverage. We explain how the store works and the customer can be toured, have an appointment or simply wander, enjoying the activation of all of the appliances, plumbing and outdoor products. Our chefs are available to teach and demonstrate, and the entire staff is there to offer ‘what is possible.’ Their job is to be attentive, but not assertive.”

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