On Long Island, in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, we have a plethora of kitchen and bath showrooms. I mean, they are everywhere, aren't they? Whether small kitchen and bath showrooms, large, housed within "big box" stores, high end, budget oriented, medium end, new, old, family or corporate run, I think we do not have a shortage of choices on the Island!
Being as densely populated as Long Island is, it is also not unusual for one to NOT venture out beyond a small geographic area, again, because there is so much choice.
So, what, then, is the best approach?
There is not really a "best" approach, per se, there are several approaches. Here are some tips:
1. Look online as an important part of your research. Seek out, and read, websites of kitchen design firms in your immediate area and beyond. If you just stay within your town, you will most certainly be missing very good people just outside or a little beyond. Many designers travel. I have projects in Hampton Bays, New Rochelle and even the Berkshires at this moment! Visit nkba.org for a start, but beware, you will find, oh, probably more than 100 showrooms to visit!
Looking online will give you insight into services provided, areas served, market served (high end/middle end/budget) and overall philosophy. You will also see images, which you may want to verify as being the showroom's own work, or whether those images are borrowed from catalogs, serving as general inspiration only.
2. Plan part of a day's visit to several showrooms. If you'd like to have an in depth conversation of any sort, it's best to make an appointment in advance. Without an appointment, you may stop in at the right time to a conversation with a designer, but don't count on it. Some designers are by appointment only. And, some designers, such as myself, have limited showrooms, off the beaten path, but have a wealth of information to share in other areas, and that's ok too. A potential kitchen designer should not be judged on the size of his/her showroom! With so many kitchen design firms, we have a wide variety of ways in which designers work. There is something for everyone. I think Long Island is lucky that way. Reserve judgment, or you may miss something special.
3. Once inside the showroom, make your time work for you! Make notes, if no one is there along with you, of questions which arise. Rather than making assumptions about the quality of cabinetry you see, ask for a spec sheet of the cabinet construction, which all design firms have for their products. Ask questions and compare one line to another to learn about and see differences in quality and construction. Evaluate the showroom displays, which reflects the creativity of the showroom and take a look at the installation of the displays as well. Take a look at door styles and finishes, but at this point it is important not to focus too much on finding the perfect finish. You want to focus MORE on the design firm first, product second. Beware of fabulous showroom distractions!
4. As touched on just above, you will want to begin to relate to the employees in the showroom. Are they helpful? Are you a distraction to their work? Are they genuinely interested in your project? You'll know the answer to these questions, and will learn more, the more you speak with the showroom's employees. Your "gut feeling" definitely is a factor in how you evaluate a showroom.
5. Know in advance what is important to you, what you are looking for in the showroom in terms of the products, processes, and the people. Have a list of questions to bring with you, so that you can later make comparisons. Be open to new information and advice. Do not be shy about writing down answers, this is a large investment you are making. In a following article, I will outline a variety of important questions to ask.
For now, the kitchen showroom visits are to first serve as educational tools. You will know where, why, and with whom you feel comfortable, and you will also be armed with valuable information. Happy hunting!
Susan Serra, CKD
Susan Serra Associates, Inc.