Salisbury, NC — When Sara Lee started her design business in Salisbury, North Carolina, she knew just what to name it – SISU Home Designs. “SISU is personal to me,” says Lee. “It is a word used by my grandmother and mother of Finnish and Norwegian heritage. In one word, it embodies determination, potential, grit, freedom, courage, preparedness, strength, community and heart.” She adds, “In the business of design, there is inherent potential for what is possible.”
This inherent potential of design has, according to Lee, always been part of what drives her. “I always enjoyed setting up rooms and drawing house plans, even as a child,” she says. “Design school was a natural decision, and I specifically fell in love with kitchen and bath design. There is so much technicality, plus creativity. It’s problem-solving, communicating and wonderfully challenging.”
Branding a journey
Like most in the industry, Lee worked her way up from the bottom. “My first opportunity was with a large cabinet manufacturer, and I worked in marketing and sales, drawing plans for nationwide Lowe’s store displays and ‘The New American Home’ projects.” After a subsequent stint with a small dealer in order to gain more sales experience, she moved to Washington, DC to get a feel for the luxury market at a high-end showroom.
“A move to North Carolina in 2013 gave me new opportunities to serve a uniquely southern clientele,” she continues. “I thrived and felt a new confidence for what I could do for people and their spaces.”
When it came time to hang out her own shingle, Lee was careful to take her personal journey in the industry into account, working with an expert to create a cohesive narrative across all her digital channels.
“The branding [for SISU] was created by a lovely woman in London – we had much communication about who I am and what SISU represents,” she says. “The brand experience engages the senses and imagination through a visual narrative that is timeless, elegant and full of intentional detail – a visual identity that speaks with poetry and textural appeal to communicate inherent possibility and expertise.”
She adds, “Consistency is important. The brand carries over into social media and, I believe, sets a standard of credibility.” The Instagram presence of SISU in particular features a balance of crisp, beautifully staged project imagery, personal touches and anecdotes and graphics featuring the company’s sprouting plant-inspired logo.
Like the little sprout featured in SISU’s logo, Lee cultivates her client relationships carefully. “I get to know my clients through many meetings, calls and even texts,” she notes. “I have the privilege of going into people’s homes, and that requires trust, and I honor that. Our welcome packet actually goes over the entire process from beginning consultation to photoshoot day! It gives my clients a nice road map of what will happen over the course of the next few months.”
Looking ahead to the new year, Lee anticipates growth for her business. “Plans for 2022: I would love to hire some help and continue moving toward having a fantastic showroom.”
The post Designer Crafts Thoughtful Brand appeared first on Kitchen & Bath Design News.
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Hicksville, NY — Sometimes, some of the best projects start with a complex story. Such was the case with this recent renovation, which involved a tear down and rebuild of the Northport, NY home sited on the shores of Long Island Sound.
The homeowner and builder (Jato Builders) had visited several firms looking for a collaborative kitchen designer who could help bring to fruition the client’s vision for an elegant residence with a coastal design vibe.
“She’s very particular and she just wasn’t making a connection with anyone,” recalls Ellen Lopez, CMKBD/founder/principal designer, EL Design Studio, in Hicksville, NY. “That’s when I received a phone call from a friend and fellow designer who asked if I would be interested in the project. The homeowner came to my studio and we hit it off immediately.”
Focus on the Waterfront
One of the challenges in finding the right designer was finding someone who could navigate the challenges associated with the relatively large space and the homeowner’s wishes. Specifically, she wanted a kitchen that was unique – i.e., nothing ‘cookie cutter’ – with a functional layout. She also wanted a focus on the waterfront and elegant materials and finishes – including those that would play off of the reflective and shimmery chandelier she had already selected to float above the adjacent eating area.
“The whole design concept actually started with the light fixture,” she says. “We wanted to keep everything elegant to live up to it, yet keep it toned down a bit so it wouldn’t be overpowering.”
The breathtaking vista of the Long Island Sound also played a significant role in the design.
“The view is the focal point,” she relates, adding that the home’s location is very peaceful and serene. “We didn’t want to detract from it.”
To accommodate, a wall of windows and patio doors with transoms and arched mullions stretch the length of the kitchen and into the adjacent dining room. The color palette and material selection also pay homage to the view.
“We wanted to bring the North Shore of Long Island’s color palette into the house, which we achieved with a variety of materials and wood tones,” Lopez explains. The resulting mix of soft, natural tones is accentuated with a perfect balance of accent colors to provide definition and detail.
For example, Cambria Skara Brae quartz countertops and accent walls, which are tucked behind wooden floating shelves, feature dramatic earth-toned veins set against a bone white background that draw the eye around the room and capture the ebb and flow of the water beyond the windows. Its light and dark tones are repeated in the custom EL Design Studio cabinetry, which is accented with Rocky Mountain Hardware and walnut interiors. The former color tone is represented by the perimeter cabinets and the latter is echoed in the island, which is sheathed in a custom finish that reflects the colors and textures of rocks and pebbles outside. To visually minimize its large dimension, Lopez topped the island with a combination of quartz and custom-figured maple. The wood, from Grothouse, is stained dark and rich to add elegance, depth and strength.
“In a sense, the combination of materials tricks the eye,” she states, adding that elevating the wood eases the transition between the surfaces and gives the wood an impressive and stately appearance. “I didn’t want just one giant piece of stone. Instead, the mix of materials, and the light versus dark, is more interesting and inviting.”
Lopez incorporated plenty of seating, a prep sink and the Thermador range into the island. Hovering above, the ventilation hood – built collectively by Birchcraft Kitchens and Grothouse – also includes antiqued mirrors that reflect the water.
The Importance of Work Flow
Because Lopez’s client loves to cook, creating a functional layout was critical…and challenging, given the fact that she had an extensive appliance wish list that included two wall ovens and a 36″ range, two dishwashers, a microwave drawer and a built-in coffee machine. Plus, she wanted a walk-in pantry with entry provided from within the kitchen.
“It took three iterations to find the perfect layout that established a good work flow in an aesthetically pleasing space,” she indicates.
With one wall dedicated to the view, and therefore unavailable for wall or tall cabinetry, the designer focused on creating rhythm and flow with a small work triangle consisting of the Kohler Whitehaven Cashmere farmhouse sink and Thermador range and refrigerator. Tucked within is the Miele coffee machine and a Thermador microwave drawer.
A separate Thermador column freezer is a few steps away on the opposite side of the arched entrance into the great room. Turning the corner, Lopez placed two additional ovens. Across from another arched entrance, this time into the formal dining room, she included a television, countertop with additional storage and the entrance into the hidden pantry, which sits behind the wall. To add interest, Lopez accented the door with antiqued mirrors.
“I created the entry to look like a tall cabinet, rather than a door,” she explains. “Plus, the mirror offers a reflection of the water so everyone, including those seated at the nearby banquette with their backs to the window, can see the view.”
Inside the pantry, Lopez included several unexpected details, including glass/wire mesh upper cabinets, open shelves and another Grothouse wood countertop.
The post Creating an Elegant Waterfront Dream appeared first on Kitchen & Bath Design News.
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The DPH manufacturer concentrates on quality product and superior customer service. We are expected to provide both at competitive prices and with as little friction as possible, and I would say, most of us do. However, as we’ve witnessed the ‘Amazoning’ of the marketplace, amplified by a pandemic world, DPH manufacturers are fighting to maintain stability between logical expectations and ‘the Amazon effect.’ While we all appreciate the convenience of an Amazon marketplace, not all products can be treated equally. Unlike some other industries, hardware, plumbing, appliances and lighting often have specific shipping, installation and service needs.
Manufacturers are often viewed simply as marketers and salespeople, but as you may have seen when visiting a factory, manufacturing is a multi-faceted and complex business. Manufacturers in the U.S. and around the world are more tightly bound together through raw materials, labor and freight than may appear from a finished product.
TIES THAT BIND
Raw Materials: These are tied to industries as varied as oil and microchips. Most can be, and are, sourced nationally, but some must be sourced internationally. The flow of these products is regulated by countries, politics and commerce vagaries all around the world. In a normal year, price increases are expected and applied where necessary. In a COVID year, price increases have been compounded by national and worldwide slowdowns in supply, and increases are reflecting the upheaval.
Ben Alliker of HamatUSA explains, “2020 was not kind to many parts of the construction industry, mainly due to increased demand and decreased supply. Appliances and lumber both faced an initial crunch, and appliances remain on short supply and long lead times. For many DPH manufacturers, it was a mixed bag. Kitchen products, unlike a shower valve or new freestanding tub filler, don’t require an extensive remodel project. It’s relatively easy to install a new kitchen sink and faucet into an existing kitchen. Because of a huge number of people staying home across the world, and the relative ease of installation, HamatUSA saw a huge spike in demand over the summer and into the fall for kitchen sinks and faucets – both in the U.S. and in foreign markets.”
Production and Inventory: For manufacturers, this is handled in a wide variety of ways. That is to say some manufacturers work on a made-to-order, just-in-time basis with very little inventory, while others continually produce and maintain large inventories. There are pros and cons to both, but both take deft skills to balance output with demand and costs with profit.
Freight Costs: Costs associated with shipping have skyrocketed. The freight industry has been working throughout the pandemic, putting themselves at risk, but also realizing their undeniable necessity to the buying public. Their charges are reflecting their increased importance. ‘Fuel surcharges’ have become more common. Most DPH manufacturers have decided to keep freight rates as stable as possible, absorb many increases and/or set free freight levels.
LABOR AND SERVICE
Returns and Restocks: There is no easy fix for returns and restocks, which have become a flash point. We know, stuff happens. We all want to make these transactions as painless as possible. However, returns in our segment are not as easy as logging on and printing off a return label or simply scanning a QR code. Returns and restocks are expensive for everyone and cannot be ‘solved’ by simply raising prices to try and speed up the process. The customer changed their mind? It happens. But a faucet, toilet, steam unit, drain or tub cannot simply be Rambo-taped back into its packaging and dropped off. Return transport, reception and inspection, repair (if necessary), repacking (if possible) and return to inventory are only a few of the things that need to happen to a return. But, let’s be honest. We all know that a consumer wants a new product, so reselling product is difficult and frowned upon. What can be done with returned goods in our industry? How many ways are there to reduce, reuse, recycle? Manufacturers are often caught in a difficult position to satisfy consumers even when issues are not manufacturing related.
“Absorbing the costs associated with returns would most likely come with a price increase,” says Barbara Kratus of Infinity Drain. “Ultimately, it’s the consumer who will pay for it in the end, whether it’s Prime delivery or no-questions-asked returns – just as they do now on Amazon or any other online retailer where it’s baked into the price.”
Harris Wattles of Amba Products adds, “Re-stock fees are put into place for a variety of reasons, and a price increase simply to help offset a reduction/elimination of restock fees is not the answer to the problem. Increasing our prices for this reason will only make it harder to compete with other brands, especially the low-cost companies that you frequently see on Amazon, further eroding a company’s image while likely pricing our products out of the market.”
Labor Costs: In manufacturing, these are more competitive than ever. Recruiting, hiring and retaining the best people at every position is not exclusively difficult to showrooms or agencies. Most jobs in DPH manufacturing are not on assembly lines, but rather require trade training or artistic skill.
“Production facilities (during COVID) had less time/resources available for new product production. As responsible suppliers, we had to initiate protocols to keep production teams safe and healthy,” Alliker explains. “That universally meant less people in the factory at one time, and different production schedules, and thus decreased production capacity. We have seen COVID-related delays to the supply chain for new components as they also deal with COVID realities.”
Service: This is the other main component to successful manufacturing. We all remember bad service when we encounter it, and good service doesn’t always get recognized but is expected at all levels. Good service can be a simple smiling voice or a clear instruction about how to turn something on and off. Good service to a consumer can be slowly walking through how to operate a control, or good service can become bad service by not changing out that same control, that is working properly, because the user doesn’t like how the control operates. There is a fine line between the customer always being right and easy, on-site solutions.
Labor Costs: These are now jungle competitive in the field. Skilled tradespeople have never been as busy as they are now. Product support for warranty issues or installation inspections is a critical component in the overall experience of a product offering. Your warranty can be 100 years, but if you can’t get a professional to a job site, it’s not worth much. And we are all dependent upon how professional and experienced the tradesperson working with us can be during the initial installation or follow up servicing.
“I think products that incorporate tech could inspire young people to enter the trades,” says Kratus. “There are incredible innovations in building materials! We have to tout that at all levels of the building process.”
Patrick Weidl of ThermaSol adds, “ThermaSol, like many of us, is reliant on two trades – plumbers and electricians – to install the products. Have their expectations changed? Yes, absolutely. To meet those expectations, we introduced virtual trainings as it relates to product knowledge, installation and general 101s.”
The web runs the world. It would be an understatement to say that the web has gotten us through a lot this past year and we have all learned new angles to using it. It has become indispensable to our everyday lives. You can order a car, a boat, a diamond necklace, your groceries, birdfeed, a towel bar or a potty, all from the phone in your hand.
But as we all know, the web is a catch-22 for everyone selling product, any product, around the world. Amazon and similar companies ruled the web pre-COVID but now all companies have improved their online presence either as a seller or simply as a store window showing off their skills and products. Today, if your store front isn’t well represented on the web, your brick and mortar isn’t going to get the attention it deserves. We’ve all become accustomed to checking out a product or business on the web before we head out to see it. A web search can be simply to see what kind of COVID protocols are in place or to actually see if the product you want is on display or to read reviews of that product or business.
Web views and reviews are, without a doubt, a crucial component to the future of business. We’ve seen how reviews shape the perception of a product or company and how reviewers, paid and unpaid, can affect mom and pop start-ups, large corporations and government agencies, to name a few. The world watches and reads what everyone has to say about a product whether what is being said is true or valuable. They can literally make or break a business. So, we ask, should we raise our prices to be more ‘Amazon-like’?
It’s been a challenging time for all, but the future of construction and renovation is bright, and we are hopeful.
Kimberly Frechette is the national sales manager at Americh Corporation. She has worked in manufacturing, distribution and sales in the bathroom segment for 30 years. Frechette has been involved with DPHA for 18 years and is a returning Board member.
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Kitchen Inspiration by Kitchen Solvers of Raleigh
Project Location: Apex, NC
Remodel type: New Cabinetry
Type of door style: Simple Shaker
Remodel style: Contemporary
Door Material: Maple/MDF
Countertop color: Alaska White
Backsplash: Blue/Gray Glass Backsplash
For more information about this project, please visit Kitchen Solvers of Raleigh’s Blog.
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