The first stage to your new kitchen or bathroom is stepping through a showroom door. One small step perhaps, but a giant leap towards your dream design.
Entering the door of an immaculate showroom can often feel a little intimidating, even off-putting. You’re likely to spot stackloads of upmarket brochures, a vase of seasonal flowers on a kitchen counter, posh handwash and plentiful folded towels by basins. Yet, despite the formal setting, independent retailers and designers are usually down to earth and welcoming.
Take a wander around the showroom and speak to the retailer, but give yourself space to take it all in. Open the cupboards, run your hand along the surfaces and look at the small details. Pick up samples of worktops or brassware; knock on cupboard doors and carcasses to check their quality. If there are working bathroom displays, play with the showers and taps to see how well the water flows.
Long-established retailer Dave Jarvis, managing director of Albion Bathrooms Kitchens Electricals, says that he likes to give his customers plenty of time to take in what’s in the showroom. But he keeps a close eye on them, so that if they look in any way confused, he’s ready to step in and offer a hand. Designers may ask you if you would like some coffee or if you want to sit down and have a chat. They do that to be friendly and to start building trust. “Personalities sell kitchens as well as a good service and quality prices,” says Stefan Bomok, founder of Cu Cucine.
The designer may take you around the space, and talk you through some technical aspects or demonstrate products. Good designers will try to establish a rapport, rather than go in for a hard sell. Justine Bullock, co-owner of Welsh design company The Tap End says: “We find that the best way to engage with new clients is to really know your stuff, and not to be too pushy.” A project should be a considered purchase and not something you should feel pressured into. If the company is overly persuasive or says they will offer a discount if you put a deposit on today, run! Well, maybe respectfully walk away.
Your first showroom visit
Firstly, you’re going to need the basic measurements and dimensions of your space and have thought about what you want to achieve. Precise numbers will be more important at the site visit, when someone comes to measure up, but initially a rough idea is okay.
“Photos say more than words,” says Martina Landhed, founder and creative director from Oxfordshire-based InStil Design. She recommends to come armed with plenty of images of your current space and to have a specific budget in mind. And bring along a list of must-haves plus a separate wishlist of elements that are not so vital. Prepare lots of questions and ideas and be ready to talk it over and collaborate with the retailer.
Your first showroom visit will focus on you rather than the room. Don’t be surprised if you spend more time talking about how you use your home rather than specific furniture, finishes and colours. Joanna Geddes, design director at Scotland’s JS Geddes, explains her initial client appointments: “We want to find out more about their lifestyle, the comings and goings of their household, family, hobbies and pets.”
Depending on the size of project, you could be working with designers for anything from two to 18 months. So, the relationship needs to work. You must feel comfortable with the designers and have confidence in the projects they are selling, so take your time, have a discerning eye and don’t rush your showroom visits.
What you should bring to an appointment?
Going to your first design consultation in a showroom is an exciting time, so here is a little check list of the things you will need. But always ask in advance if the company requires you to bring anything specific…
Measurements of your space. Most designers will carry out a home visit to measure up properly, but you will need to bring a rough guide of the dimensions.
Bring plans. If you have proper architects’ plans, then take them along. Alternatively, make a sketch of the current layout, with details of any doors and windows.
Take photos. Take photos of the room from different angles to get a total view of the work that needs to be done in the space.
Come with inspiration. A Pinterest board and Instagram pics are always very useful.
Create a list of must-haves. Work out what you really need and then make a separate wishlist of less important items.
Arrive with questions. Ask your showroom designer about everything from timelines to specific products’ specifications; remember, there are no stupid questions.