Design Partners Find Symmetry in Business Union

by WOHe

Design Partners Find Symmetry in Business

By Denise D. Vermeulen

TORONTO, CANADAWhen Tim Scott and Erica Westeroth, CKD, initially
crossed paths in 1993, they had markedly dissimilar backgrounds,
and varying approaches to design. They did, however, have one thing
in common: They were both out of work. Both had lost their jobs
because of downsizing, and neither had a solid lead on steady

Scott and Westeroth decided to join hands and the result was the
creation of XTC Design, a firm which, despite having been in
business for less than a decade, has neverthless made a name for
itself industry-wide, with a host of contest winning design
projects that have been prominently featured in magazines, in
newspapers and at the annual K/BIS. 
The design duo’s main focus is on designing kitchens and baths,
although they also do space planning. They design cabinetry, home
offices and entertainment centers, as well. 

Part of the firm’s diversity grew out of necessity. “We started
our business at a bad time economically,” explains Westeroth, “so
we had to make our own jobs. We did drawings and design work for
other companies, for their clients or showrooms.” In fact, during
the first two years of operation, 75% of their business was for
other companies and manufacturers. 

The other 25% of clients, however, were primarily people who
heard about XTC at home shows, as well as some who had been
referred to them by NKBA.

A Good Blend
The duo soon realized that their union was working. However,
neither wanted the partnership to damage their ability to make
decisions quickly and effectively, so Scott and Westeroth agreed
that only one of them would head up any given project.

However, Westeroth does note that their best designs have always
been “a 50-50 effort,” and that this creative partnership continues
to inspire their work, with each of their strengths complementing
the other’s. “He’s symmetrical, balanced and orderly,” she says of
Scott’s approach to design. “I’m asymmetrical and likely to throw
in something off the wall.” The combination seems to work for them,
and Westeroth notes that they enjoy mixing elements “to create
variety and texture.” This is particularly effective in the types
of contemporary designs the duo is so fond of.

Although she claims they are “terrible business people with no
formal business plan,” Westeroth and her partner have clearly
recognized the power of marketing. The proof is in the numbers: XTC
Design has grown by at least 50% for each of the last three

The team has recently purchased a house together and the two are
moving their business from their former apartment to a more
spacious office in their new home. They hope to eventually redesign
their kitchen and bathroom to showcase their work for potential

A Competitive Edge
Westeroth credits long hours and six-day work weeks for the success
XTC is enjoying, as well as the creative synergy between her and
Scott’s talents. But, as with any business, talent and hard work
are only part of the equation; to move to the next level, XTC had
to find a way to get the word out. 

Early on, Scott and Westeroth began entering their work in
various Canadian design competitions. Initially, their designs did
not win, but they realized that by entering the contests and
attending the shows anyway, they would get business leads. And,
seeing other designers’ winning entries also provided creative

In 1997, XTC won first place in both the kitchen and bath
categories in the NKBA Design Competition in Ontario. Their winning
designs were built and displayed at an affiliated home

The wins were key for XTC, as referrals and leads came flowing
in. The team has not missed a beat since, chalking up an impressive
array of contest-winning designs. Their lengthy list of
accomplishments includes several first place awards in regional and
national Sub-Zero Kitchen Design Contests and NKBA

The design firm has also developed important relationships with
various editors of regional and national design magazines,
Westeroth reports. Magazines such as Toronto Life and Canadian
House & Home have often featured the design projects developed
by XTC. 

Westeroth says they have never sent out formal news releases.
“We just keep submitting our finished projects to all the
magazines,” she explains. XTC sends a note and before and after
photos to the editors, who then send out their own photographers if
the project is to be featured.

After eight years in business, XTC is enjoying a strong
word-of-mouth referral base. The company’s philosophy includes a
follow-up phone call to all clients once a project is finished to
ensure customer satisfaction and help to build
The duo also sends a newsletter once or twice annually to all
clients served during the last few years. The newsletter includes
color photos of completed projects, articles about the business and
upcoming magazine and book features about XTC.

The XTC Web site also gives potential customers a strong sense
of what the firm is all about, Westeroth believes. It’s a slick,
stylish site that provides an overview of the company. While the
Web site has not generated much new business yet, Westeroth notes
that the team always refers potential clients to it, as it’s a
powerful tool for allowing customers to get to know them. And, as
an independent design team that operates without a showroom, XTC
can still offer their customers a peek at some of their best
designs through the Web site.

Looking Ahead
XTC completes approximately 12 jobs annually, with the average
client spending about $60,000 (Canadian) per project, Westeroth
reports, noting that most of the firm’s clients are upscale
professionals and most of the jobs are renovation

Although XTC is anticipating a dip in business because of recent
economic stalls that have led some consumers to postpone work, she
is optimistic about the firm’s long-term future.

To that end, she notes that the company may add one or two
designers sometime in the next five years in order to grow the
business. In the meanwhile, she notes that she and her partner are
focused on “getting organized” in their new space, and delighting
in some recent design trends particularly those dealing with the
use of color, which is one of her strengths.
Westeroth says that her Canadian client base seems to be showing a
growing interest in projects that are more colorful, as well as a
more contemporary look with daring colors such as yellows, purples,
lime greens and multi-colored back splashes These are, she says,
“very happy colors,” and well reflective of how she feels about her


LOCATION: Toronto, Canada
PRINCIPALS: Erica Westeroth, CKD, ARIDO; Tim
HOURS OF OPERATION: By appointment only
EMPLOYEES: Two full-time, one part-time
MAJOR PRODUCT LINES: Neff Kitchens, Artcraft,
Luxor, Falcon Kitchens
SPECIALTIES: Upscale kitchens and bathrooms; they
also design cabinetry, entertainment centers and home offices, and
do some space planning.
BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY: “We have a unique ability to
incorporate form and function.”

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