In his work with a large national home builder and as an MIT faculty member, John Crowley was focusing on making traditional home building processes more efficient. The idea for letting homeowners design a bath remodel online and then get all the materials mailed to them in a package, to be installed by a local contractor of their choice, came from this background.
When Crowley renovated a few of his own houses, he was struck by the complexity of the bathroom remodeling process. Homeowners must purchase products from several suppliers and vendors, products that eventually must all work together. “It’s like buying a car at the auto parts store,” he says.
Crowley’s goal for Bath Simple, in Berkeley, Calif., is to streamline the process to make it both more enjoyable for homeowners and more profitable for contractors. The company’s virtual design tool “curates” all the available options into manageable groupings in three styles and three price points (standard, premium, luxury).
Packages range in price from $3,500 to $35,000, and Crowley says that the Bath Simple homeowner client “is someone who is looking for a good-quality, well-designed bathroom but who doesn’t want to spend six months figuring it out.”
Bath Simple’s contractor client is looking for a way to make small projects profitable. The contractor works with the homeowner using Bath Simple, and “the faster they can get the homeowner to a decision point,” Crowley says, “the faster the project will succeed. [Then]everything shows up, from the drywall in, ready for install. It makes the scheduling process very predictable for [the contractor]. That’s a huge win.”
The company’s custom software leads clients through the process of choosing the grouping of materials that works best for them. It asks questions about style, budget, and the floor plan. A menu then offers a group of products that fits their particular style.
The company’s designers worked with manufacturers, including Benjamin Moore, Dal-Tile, and Armstrong, to create 108 pre-designed “scenes.” Crowley refers to these scenes as “a bathroom with training wheels.” Homeowners can, if they choose, take the training wheels off and select from the company’s entire range of products. “You design to your heart’s content — manipulate as much or as little of the components as you wish,” Crowley says.
Though a homeowner can provide Bath Simple with the floor plan and elevation measurements, the company recommends that a contractor or designer obtain the required measurements and verify the selections and quantities. To aid homeowners, Bath Simple envisions building a network of certified designers who can work with approved or certified installers. It currently has a group in the Seattle and San Francisco areas, and is setting up designers and contractors in Boston and in Long Island, N.Y.
Approved installers need to have:
- A contractor license (if their state requires it)
- General liability insurance
- Workers’ compensation insurance
- Agree to use Bath Simple’s best practices guidelines for sales and installation
- Agree to receive phone support from Bath Simple
Certified installers must attend training programs, prepare and maintain standardized local pricing, and assign a dedicated account manager to Bath Simple business in a designated territory. Certified contractors receive qualified leads from Bath Simple as well as training and technical support to learn how to install products as efficiently and profitably as possible.
The company hopes to provide certified installers with estimated labor hours to complete specific parts of the job. The prices listed on the Bath Simple website are consumer pricing. The company offers a range of discounts to contractors.
For more information, e-mail John Crowley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877.437.5927.
—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.
This is a longer version of an article that appeared in the July 2011 issue of REMODELING.