Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Do you offer Free Designs ?

Have you wondered about "Free Computer Generated Designs" for a project you are considering?
It is a common question customers ask every designer in all of the contracting venues available to remodel your home. Since there are many answers to that question, let's discuss some. Marketing Strategies, PR,  and Training Models determine how all components of a remodeling project will cost. The Design Phase is very critical. The options are handled differently by various Home Improvement Contracting professionals you may consider awarding your project to.

There are various levels of talented professionals in the remodeling business. Experience has a great impact on whether "Free Designs" are offered.  There are also various business models available. The old comparing " Apples to Apples" saying really applies to home improvement and remodeling.

What are your choices when considering a remodeling project?
Here are your primary options listed in order, most satisfying to least:

1. Design Build Contractors are companies that handle everything start to finish , soup to nuts in
    house. You do not need to call, schedule, track. or deal with anyone besides your sales coordinator
    who literally handles it all for you.
2. Custom Cabinet Craftsman
3. Neighborhood Kitchen and Bath Showrooms partnering you to find outside carpenters,
   electritions and plumbers
4. Home Depot, Lowe's, and other Hardware Retailers
5. Discount Neighborhood or Online Cabinet Retailers - Sell Cabinets w/o Installation. These tend to
    be the do it yourself approach.

Number one represents the top quality of design, installation, and services. Number four is typically the option offering free design. Why? This is true primarily, because their designers are trained with a hands on learn, as you go approach. New designers may never have a class or senior designer that mentors them. If that is the case, they are typically told to get familiar with the software by repetition and practice.  Number five is the choice that can result in very unsatisfactory results.

Since we are focusing today on "Free Designs," Again, the unique " hands on training" model of number 4 above is why, free kitchen or bath designs have historically been available at these big box home improvement stores for decades.  They have been the driving force behind the public expecting free design and a print out of said design.

In some locations in recent years, this may have changed. Free designs may not be as readily available due to a shift in protocol and specialization of departments and personnel. Home Depot and Lowe's may have changed their design services model in some locales nationally.  If a particular location has greater sales volume in the Kitchen Bath department, the design phase may happen outside the actual store. You may meet a Sales Specialist who helps you select the cabinet line, wood species, and door style. After your space is measured by one of their staff, the measurements and selection details may be handed over to the off site Design Team. There may or may not be a charge for these services depending again on location and volume. It is important you know the following if you find yourself in this situation:
Your contact in the store is a middleman. Opportunity for error and misinformation is multiplied in this scenario.

Remodeling showrooms are found across the United States. You will find clusters of specialty privately owned Kitchen and Bath Showrooms out West. They tend to be most available in wealthy communities. Affluent cities and suburbs across the country have a similar business model.  In the middle class towns, big box home improvement stores may be the only option a homeowner has when they want to remodel. This is particularly true out West where "Planned Communities" filled with newer track homes reign. Yes, of course, there is also the option of hiring a contractor or custom cabinet maker too.  You quickly discover a considerable range of pricing between the custom specialty showroom and the warehouse approach.

Here in New England remodeling is BIG business. Many of our communities were founded in the 1700 to 1900's. Historical and mid century homes are plentiful! They are part of the charm of living in our beautiful towns. The charm loses it's luster however, if the kitchen or bath in a home one buys are not functional. Updating kitchens or baths becomes a necessity. This fact created more competition than elsewhere in America. One town may have three to six privately owned Kitchen Bath retailer, each with their own style of the five types I listed above.

The facts above are the answer to our "free or not free" question. I learned Kitchen Design  like most newbies. I was working in one of the two top home improvement retailer's stores in America. When I began working there I was in the Home Decor Department. As often happens in these big retailers, trained people frequently quit or transfer to another location. This leaves vacancies in various departments. These stores are not typically known for great employee retention. Thus the management team often recruits a replacement employee internally. They do so by moving someone from a department they are experienced and trained into the vacancy in the department that recently lost an experienced trained employee.

This unique approach to training provided in Big Box Retailers created "free designs". It is "Training by Fire". It is basically a sink or swim concept. The person new to the Kitchen and Bath Department are forced to learn on their own primarily. Repetition due to demand becomes the training model. Offering free designs allows the newbie to practice and learn hands on through trial and error. Management know that many people that want a free design are not always serious about remodeling. They tend to be just beginning in the planning stages. This is perfect for a new employee in the department. There is no pressure really and they will learn the software and product details playing designer while working.

Beware! The design phase is critical to your satisfaction and outcome. Kitchen and Bath Design  requires a special skill set. The person needs to have a rare combination of right and left brain interaction. A very small percentage of the population possess this combo. I think the statistics are less than 10% are creatively right brained combined with the math skills needed to create a design
that fits perfectly into the available space. Being an art form, Kitchen Bath Design requires a marriage of accuracy and creativity. It generally takes at least months if not years to develop the expertise to balance the two. When a "Designer" has reached this level of experience and expertise they usually are employed by a level of retailer that charges for design services. I hope I helped you understand better why most Kitchen Bath professional charge a design fee.

Here at Apple Wood we set up a complimentary appointment with you in our showroom to talk about your vision and goals. If you choose to proceed, we meet you the second time in your home to measure and see the room. At that point, if you wish to proceed a Design Fee is taken. Our Designers are first class, spend hours working on your kitchen or bath design. It is not refundable, if you decide against contracting with us. However, when you decide to move forward, it is utilized as a deposit amount deducted towards the final cost of your project. Our Design fee is very competitive and reasonable, It is very low, a few hundred dollars. Some Design Build companies charge thousands. .

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