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Adapting in a Changing Business Climate

Under normal circumstances, part of our job is to prepare plans for our clients to prime them for changes to their homes and lifestyles. Unfortunately, the pandemic crumbled remodeling hopes for many homeowners, and it had a serious effect on us as designers. First, we went from comfortably busy to zero in about two months. Then we were stagnant for almost a year. That dormancy was followed by a mind-boggling recovery, one that Eliot Sefrin, editor emeritus of KBDN, referred to as a “tectonic market shift.”

I survived the 2007-2009 recession and decided not to give in to the same negative feelings that plagued me until 2010. Instead, I used the pandemic downtime to work on my business, taking classes that had been on my bucket list for five years or more. At the same time, I read over 75 marketing books and white papers. It was not as gratifying as working with clients, but it was a major accomplishment.

Building, maintaining and marketing a unique brand reputation is challenging. There are excellent books and many courses to help us, but your choices need to be carefully considered. I learned the hard way during the recession and ended up wasting time and money on courses that didn’t work. During the pandemic, I avoided repeating the same mistakes.

Two exciting possibilities arose from free webinars recommended by acquaintances. Each marketing coach offered a new direction that sounded promising. One program is $3,500 and requires a commitment of at least six months. The other course costs over $10,000 and involves a year of classes. It’s easy to say “yes” to the compelling reasons the coaches present until we stop to think about our ROI. Curiosity helped me gain clarity to say “No” to the programs. Finally, I said “yes” to another customizable opportunity with great ROI possibilities.


Everyone is now adjusting to a new normal: higher remodeling investments and lower availability of labor and products. Homeowners are anxious to proceed with pandemic-delayed remodeling projects. Our 15-month business famine has become an overflowing feast.

In fact, home remodeling queries on Google went from 38% in March 2020 to 93% in March 2021. The annual Houzz survey verifies that home renovation spending increased 15% in the past year.

But will the trend continue or collapse?

Many variables will affect remodeling in the future, and all we can do as designers is perform our best every day, and stay on top of news reports about the economy, the pandemic and other fluid trends. Being prepared for change helps us cope with it. We can choose our course and correct it before a crisis happens by adapting to change.

The Harvard Business Review offered six tips about adapting to change: 1. Find humor in the situation; 2. Resist talking about your feelings; 3. Don’t stress out about stressing out; 4. Focus on your values instead of your fears; 5. Accept the past (and present) but fight for the future, and 6. Don’t expect stability.


Competition is as fierce as ever in the design market, with more people entering our profession yearly. For example, 4,199 U.S. students graduated with interior design degrees in 2019. At that time, there were 77,900 interior designers in the nation. The average age of designers is 41 years. We’re all competing to build and maintain our brand reputation, make a living and grow our company (or the company that employs us).

I believe we do better when we compete against ourselves rather than competing against other people. Additionally, we do better when we don’t compare ourselves to others. But, admittedly, this is hard to do in today’s competitive world.

When I was attending design school, every assignment was necessary. I gave each one 115% of my effort, although I believed that others would receive a better grade. I wasn’t competing with them for a grade but rather comparing myself to them.

Before graduation, the faculty and students voted for one student to win the “Student Designer of the Year” award. I was shocked to win because, in my mind, everyone was more qualified than me. The woman who presented the award gave me fantastic advice: “Send press releases to the media.” That established my brand and my reputation, and it attracted clients and referral clients for years.

I continue to give at least 115% to everything I do. Clients’ goals become my goals. I’ve been fortunate to win design awards with this attitude. And while I don’t like to compare myself to other designers, it’s unavoidable. Marketing tools such as SEMRush, UberSuggest, BuzzFeed and Google Analytics provide helpful feedback by comparing me to competitors. It’s uncomfortable but necessary to gather and use this information that mainly relies on keywords we use. But, it’s just as important to not make it the focus of your work. We are each unique, and that should be celebrated!


Prospective clients find us using specific keywords or phrases in Google, Bing or Yahoo. Search engines recommend us because we’ve used the same keywords or phrases in our websites, blogs and social media posts. Learning to use the right keywords is an art and a science. It challenges us to comply with specific secretive algorithms. Even Search Engine Optimization experts admit little knowledge about the data. Climbing to #1 of organic searches involves an investment of time and effort.

SEO is a broad subject that I’m still studying, a motivation to revise and write blogs with competitive terms. If your company can afford an SEO specialist, their fee will be $75-$150 per hour, which could add up to $1,500 a month (or more). You can also get monthly SEO services from companies like Fiverr for $14-$345 a month.

How do you know that you’re getting what you want?

Honestly, SEO isn’t a quick process and success isn’t guaranteed. Changes we make now may not show up in search engine results for four to six weeks or longer. To compete effectively, we have to know what keywords our competitors are using to help their ranking in the search engines. Finally, we have to compare ourselves to others who have: A well-known brand, an active website, an up-to-date blog and an active social media presence with good SEO use.

Competing with and comparing ourselves to others in our profession may be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary to adapt if we want to succeed. One of my favorite quotes rings true: “Success requires the ability to adapt. Only by being open to change will you have a true opportunity to get the most from your talent.” [Nolan Ryan] ▪

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, CAPS, NCIDQ is the principal of D.P. Design in Oregon City, OR and has over 35 years of experience as a kitchen and bath designer. She is the author of the award-winning book, THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling, and has been the recipient of numerous design awards. Named a 2019 KBDN Innovator, Plesset has taught Western design to students of the Machida Academy in Japan and has a podcast, “Today’s Home.”

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Market to Post Gains in 2021, But Pace of Growth Seen Cooling

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ — The kitchen and bath industry is expected to post strong growth in 2021, although the pace of that growth is apparently cooling, according to the latest Market Forecast Report issued by the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

According to the second, and final, update to the NKBA’s 2021 Market Forecast Report, the industry is expected to register “healthy, double-digit gains over 2020,” although the latest forecast has been “pared back a bit” compared to the previous (July) forecast – due largely to ongoing supply-chain disruptions, labor shortages and higher material costs, the NKBA reported.

The NKBA’s final 2021 Market Outlook, released early this month, projects full-year revenues of $167 billion, a 19% increase over the $141 billion posted in 2020. The new forecast, however, represents a modest downtown from the July Market Outlook, which pegged year-end 2021 revenue totals at $171 billion.

“This year has been like none other for our industry, as strong growth across virtually every sector has led to record revenues,” said Bill Darcy, CEO of the Hackettstown, NJ-based NKBA.

However, “some homeowners, faced with price increases related to supply chain shortages, are deferring projects until they have enough saved to get exactly what they want, or in the hope that costs will come down,” Darcy added.

The NKBA’s latest forecast projects a nearly 10% year-over-year growth in the kitchen and bath remodeling sector, and a 26% growth in new construction. Premium projects are expected to be up by more than 22% – although down from the 28+% forecast in July – while low-end projects will grow under 11%, “suggesting a cooling of the DIY trend,” the NKBA said.

“These findings are very encouraging and indicate that not only will we close out this year on a solid note, but the growth should be sustained into 2022,” Darcy observed.


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Coverings 2022 Opens Registration, Call for Award Submissions

ARLINGTON, VA –Coverings (coverings.com), the preeminent event for the ceramic tile and natural stone industry in North America, has opened event registration and awards submissions for its 2022 event, scheduled to take place April 5-8, 2022, at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV. Coverings is accepting submissions for the 2022 Coverings Installation and Design (CID) Awards and nominations for the 2022 Rock Star Awards online through Dec. 17, 2021.

Tile and stone professionals interested in attending Coverings 2022 can register by visiting coverings.com. Key advantages to registering online and in advance include preliminary notices of popular programs, special promotions, product sneak peeks and other opportunities only available with early registration.

“Las Vegas embodies the exciting work-meets-play attitude everyone is ready for, and we are excited to give Coverings’ attendees the best of both worlds in business and leisure,” said Jennifer Hoff, president of Taffy Event Strategies, the management company for Coverings. “Coverings 2022 exhibitors and attendees will be able to learn, explore, network and build business at the foremost tile and natural stone event during the day, and experience some of the best dining and entertainment the world has to offer at night.”

Attendees of Coverings 2022 will be able to experience the latest tile and stone trends, mix and mingle with industry peers and cultivate the knowledge and connections that will help advance their businesses and sales. Coverings’ show management is currently planning for a creative and strategic lineup of product displays, a global exhibit hall, networking events and robust educational opportunities, including CEUs through sessions, demonstrations, live interviews and much more.

Coverings Installation and Design (CID) Awards

The CID Awards bestow recognition for outstanding design and installation in residential and commercial tile and stone projects. Architects, designers, builders, contractors, distributors, retailers, installers and other industry professionals may submit their projects through the CID project submittal portal by or before the Dec. 17, 2021, 11:59 p.m. EST deadline.

Projects submitted for review by the deadline will be evaluated and awarded based upon eight categorical designations: Residential Tile Installation, Residential Tile Design, Residential Stone Installation, Residential Stone Design, Commercial Tile Installation, Commercial Tile Design, Commercial Stone Installation and Commercial Stone Design. Project entries are free of charge, and multiple entries are encouraged.

Winners will be selected in spring 2022 after an independent panel of judges assesses each project on the levels of creativity, craftsmanship and use of materials. International projects may be submitted, and all projects must have been completed between January 2020 and December 2021 for review eligibility. Winning projects will be recognized onsite at Coverings 2022 as well as in various publications and on Coverings’ website and social media channels.

Coverings Rock Star Awards

The Coverings 2022 Rock Star Awards will recognize emerging leaders in tile and stone from 2021. Nominations may be submitted by or before the Dec. 17, 2021, 11:59 p.m. EST deadline by using Coverings’ Rock Star nomination form.

Coverings Rock Star nominees must be 35 years of age or younger and employed as one of the following professions: architect, designer, distributor, retailer, contractor/installer, fabricator, specifier, manufacturer and/or trade association personnel. Nominees will be judged by a committee of industry leaders who evaluate experience levels; professional certifications or affiliations; previous awards or accolades; prior speaking engagements at industry events; quantity of published works; impact in the tile and stone industry, and traits that set them apart as emerging leaders in the industry.

Winners of the Coverings 2022 Rock Star Awards will be honored onsite at Coverings 2022; included in a Coverings press release distributed to dozens of top magazines and publications, and highlighted in a year-long professional feature on the Coverings’ website and via Coverings’ social media channels and blog.


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Cabinet, Vanity Sales Continue 2021 Climb, KCMA Reports

RESTON, VA — Major domestic kitchen cabinet/vanity manufacturers continued to report significant sales gains through the first nine months of 2021, according to the latest in a series of monthly surveys conducted by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association.

The KCMA’s latest “Trend of Business Survey” reflected a year-to-date sales increase of 15.8% through September, compared to the same nine-month period in 2020. Custom cabinet sales through the first nine months were reported up 21.3% over the same period last year, while semi-custom sales rose 13.1% and sales of stock cabinets gained 16.6%, the Reston, VA-based KCMA said.

September sales, led by custom cabinet gains of 27.2%, were up 7.9% compared to the same month the prior year, the trade association added.

“Year-to-date sales remain strong across the board, said the KCMA, whose members’ combined sales represent approximately 75% of the U.S. kitchen cabinet and bath vanity market, according to the association.

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