Family Studio Offers New Profit Niche for
By John Filippelli
CHICAGO As most designers know, monitoring the ever-changing pulse
of client preferences can be a difficult task. But, many times,
with changing consumer desires come new design applications that
not only address real needs, but also provide a wealth of new
opportunities for kitchen and bath designers to add profit
opportunities by designing “outside the box.”
Enter the family studio, a new design concept from Benton
Harbor, MI-based Whirlpool Corp., which features a one-room set of
modules set up as a built-in laundry room. Set up to provide
multiple fabric-care and storage options, it also provides a great
opportunity for kitchen and bath designers to create a customized
room that serves multiple purposes while incorporating extra
cabinetry, countertops, sinks, appliances, etc.
Available exclusively through Whirlpool Corp.’s contract
channel, the family studio was developed by focus groups set to
solve new problems as well as address consumer feedback, according
to Mara Villanueva, designer/brand manager family studio for
“It centers around the general dissatisfaction about laundry
chores and the space in which people do laundry,” Villanueva says.
But, she quickly adds, “You can do other things in here as well,”
referring to the opportunity for designers to install the family
studio next to the kitchen, in the basement or set up as a home
In fact, the space allows designers “to work in a room that you
probably don’t spend a lot of time in,” Villanueva explains.
She adds, “[And], if you are a builder, this is a great revenue
opportunity,” noting that much more cabinetry can be placed in the
space where previously only a couple of cabinets would be found
over the washer and dryer.
“From a designer outlook, it’s the chance to develop space as it
relates to family activities,” she adds. Even better, it allows
kitchen and bath designers to create unique, sleek, built-in
designs with ample storage something they already have expertise
“The newer versions [of the family studio] are one big room, and
if the doors [of the modules] are closed, you would never know the
washer and dryer are even there,” she says, adding that designers
might prefer to integrate French doors or leave the space open for
a variety of looks.
Helping to create these looks are family studio appliances, such
as the ImPress ironing station, SinkSpa Jetted Sink, Personal Valet
Clothes Care System, Duet Fabric Care System washer/dryer and
DryAire Drying Cabinet, she notes.
“The drying cabinet is convenient because, during cold weather,
if the kids come in from playing in the snow, clients can warm up
the wet clothes while the kids eat lunch and the clothes are ready
when they are,” she comments.
While these conveniences are strong selling points, the key,
Villanueva says, is that each family studio appliance can be
enclosed in cabinetry featuring large countertop work spaces and
hidden storage areas. This creates a variety of application
possibilities and a new potential profit niche for kitchen and bath
She notes that, in addition to making the task of doing laundry
easier, the space itself helps eliminate clutter for the entire
home, especially from “show areas,” such as living rooms, by
allocating projects to organized spaces.
She adds, “People spend a lot of money on their kitchen and may
have a beautiful granite island. [So] they don’t want to see the
[kids’] science project sitting there for weeks. The idea is to
create a work/play rec room that allows families to get chores
And, for the technologically savvy client, the family studio
provides enough space for a computer or television so that the
client can access the Internet while the children are
Speaking ergonomically, Villanueva states that an extra freezer,
oven, ice maker or trash compactor can also be integrated into the
space for clients who entertain frequently. And, for those who
don’t entertain, the family studio can be a new option to place an
extra freezer rather than keeping it in the garage.
“It certainly feeds itself into an adjacent-to or
open-to-the-kitchen concept,” she says.
The concept of the family studio was spawned from the idea of
cocooning or the practice of “home as haven,” according to
Villanueva. “We are definitely seeing that ‘return to home,’ and
this clearly meets that need,” she explains.
“People are buying games, puzzles, doing crafts and gardening,
and if they don’t have a work room, this will make it easier,” she
But, while people seem to be spending more time at home, how
they spend their time can produce unexpected benefits from the
family studio, Villanueva points out.
“Most people are used to seeing the mud room/laundry room
between the garage and the kitchen, but if a client likes to
garden, for instance, the family studio can double as a potting
station to give access to the outdoors.”
Or, she points out, it can be used as an exercise room or even
as an au pair’s bedroom where the au pair can iron while watching
For Villanueva, how the family studio is used is determined by
one, very simple thing: “It clearly depends on the lifestyle [but]
your imagination is the only limit.”
Summing up the family studio, she says, “Consumers can tell the
builder, ‘I want this module with storage options, but give me more
counter space.’ It gives the flexibility [to make the space]
whatever the clients and the designers want.”