By REMODELING Magazine Staff. Hold their hand ...

I don't like to start any job with choices still to be made. It slows the job down. So I give clients a deadline for selecting products and make them commit to getting it taken care of. At that point, I make a date with them for us to visit a showroom.

Going with clients to the showroom allows me to ensure that the products they select will be appropriate to the design. For instance, last week I went to a stone fabricator facility with clients. They'd picked a gorgeous granite sample from a small box, but when we looked at the larger slab, it was busy and unpleasant and would have detracted from the harmony of the design. I was able to explain my concerns to the granite fabricator. We looked at some more-appropriate samples, and we came back three days later and found a beautiful piece.

... and rein them in

Clients alone in a showroom can be like kids loose in a candy store. Say they fall in love with a 48-inch professional range, and the structural layout of the room is not configured to ventilate that? Then I'm the bad guy. So I go to showrooms ahead of time and preselect appropriate items. That protects the integrity of the design and still gives them choices.

Part of my job is convincing these people that I'm their kitchen, bath, and remodeling guru. I want them to trust, and look forward to, my suggestions. I would say 99% welcome my inclusion and feel much more secure when I work with them. I've never had anyone say, "I don't want you to go." They're more likely to say, "You'll be there with me, won't you?"

Stephanie Witt

Kitchens by Stephanie

Grand Rapids, Mich.

Big50 1996

Let them loose

At my company, we bring up showroom visits at the initial design consultation. Less than half the time, we end up going to showrooms with clients.

Many clients prefer to go to showrooms on their own. They like to shop around. They don't want to feel pressured. Also, some like to do it in the evenings or on weekends, when it's much more difficult for us to accompany them.

We used to spend more time going with clients. But several things have happened over the years. When clients come in, they tend to know more than they used to. It's not like you're starting from scratch. Also, we tend to offer selections from product catalogs, and the quality of the photography has greatly improved.

Another factor is the size of the job. We do multiple rooms, or whole houses, and very often furniture is involved, so we tend to direct the product selection function to the interior designer. Probably 90% of the time our clients have an interior designer who can go with them to showrooms.

Money talks

The more budget-conscious your client is, the more you need to control their selection. We are now serving a more high-end client, and they tend to be more impulsive. They'll see something in a magazine or at a friend's house, and if you hold them to too tight a budget they'll come back and say, "Why didn't you show me this?"

The budget-driven client is less likely to spend money on something impulsive.

Andy Poticha

Design & Construction Concepts

Northbrook, Ill.

Big50 2000