Tech-Forward Approach Brings Success

Tanya Smith-Shiflett, CKBD, has grown a business by leaps and bounds in the three years since its inception by embracing technology in her design process.

authors Autumn McGarr | March 5, 2021

Halethorpe, MD — Although kitchen and bath design is technically a second career for Tanya Smith-Shiflett, CKBD, after her retirement from medical sales, design has been part of her life for many years. “I started designing kitchens 15 years ago with my husband’s construction company, and after retiring from [my first career], I started my own kitchen design company in Baltimore in 2017,” she explains.

In the time since the founding of her company, Unique Kitchens and Baths, Smith-Shiflett’s work has come to encompass “mostly designer homes, celebrity clients and designers and custom kitchens with a very timeless look.” Most recently, she collaborated with celebrity designer Leanne Ford of HGTV’s “Restored by the Fords” on the kitchen of Ford’s California home, as well as her second home in Pennsylvania. Smith-Shiflett’s work has garnered accolades from the National Kitchen & Bath Association in the form of the Home and Design Award in 2019, and she was also named one of KBDN’s 2020 Innovators.

Smith-Shiflett collaborated with designer Alison Giese of Alison Giese Interiors on this kitchen remodel. Smith-Shiflett and Giese reworked the kitchen to include defined ‘zones,’ including a coffee bar.

Tech and design

During her time working with her husband’s company, Smith-Shiflett became proficient in the use of the 2020 design program, as well as Pro Kitchen and Chief Architect. Accordingly, technology has become a major part of her own design company’s process.

“Our design software was created by our in-house IT department by using video game towers to help us create the most [realistic] photos, which help sell our work,” she says. This tech-forward approach has enabled her business to continue to grow and succeed during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Since COVID, we are working remotely and via Zoom, and it has been a game changer. We actually are doing about 50 kitchens per month, and that does not include the interior design side of our business. We have hired five designers since COVID who are working from our main location in Baltimore and designing all over the U.S. Starting in January, we will be hiring five more designers to work remotely.”

Smith-Shiflett and Giese worked together once again on this bath, which features a white oak vanity from their collaborative collection.

Connecting with clients

Even Smith-Shiflett’s getting-to-know-you process for new clients relies heavily on technology, making the work-from-home world one she’s very comfortable inhabiting. “I do a phone consult with each client for about an hour [and then] a zoom call. For some clients, I fly to their home to do an in-person visit, but most of my jobs are done virtually,” she says.

Her background in construction from working with her husband’s construction company has provided her with resources and a unique insight into the design process that have served her well. “Having a husband who is a builder allows me to get help in areas that I may have questions about when it comes to construction,” she notes. This connection to the construction and cabinet-building side of the kitchen and bath design process enables her to create actionable plans around clients’ visions and wishlists. ▪

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