The Marriage of Design & Profit

by WOHe

Here’s a few questions for design professionals to
ask themselves the next time they sit down to design a kitchen:

During the design process, do you think about the kitchen’s
aesthetic qualities, or about uncovering ways to build extra profit
into the project?

Do you think about the kitchen’s functionality, or about trying
to avoid common design mistakes that result in’ margin

Do you think about providing a creative lifestyle solution for
your client, or about creating a “signature” design that could mark
you and your company as something really special?

The answer to each of these questions should, ideally, be

It should be: “In each case, I think about both.”

That’s certainly the view of Ellen Cheever, CMKBD, ASID, who
says that kitchen design, at its cutting-edge best, should always
be a true right-brain, left-brain exercise.

A genuine marriage between creativity and sound business

A well-conceived blend of design talent and profit-enhancing

A finished product whose true art and craft lies not solely in
its beauty and function, but in its price point and profit

Cheever, widely considered the nation’s premier kitchen design
authority, leads the innovative “Designing For Profit” conference
series, a unique, all-day educational program being presented in
Boston this month by Kitchen & Bath Design News and the

In her eye-opening presentation, aimed at both beginner and
advanced design pros, Cheever astutely observes that too many
kitchens she sees are seemingly designed for design’s sake

In other words, wonderful looks, great utility, fabulous product
application, strict adherence to the client’s needs.

Just not enough in the way of profit.

It’s almost as if many kitchen space planners feel that the
concepts of exceptional design and extraordinary profitability are
somehow almost mutually exclusive that designers can have one or
the other more often than they can have both.

The reasons for this, Cheever suggests, are legion:

  • Designers who don’t understand, or simply forget, how to use
    specific design techniques like accessories, architectural
    elements, custom or signature details as tools to boost revenue and
  • Designers who aren’t in touch with the major reasons for margin
    slippage mistakes in ordering cabinetry and molding,
    over-detailing, missing the fit of intersecting elements, failing
    to properly account for change-order items.
  • Designers who fail to establish budgets early, or who fail to
    discuss money early and often with clients.
  • n Designers who wander through projects without a firm grasp of
    their company’s margin goals.

Essential to the process of designing for profit, Cheever points
out, are two related notions.

One is that of “price elasticity” that is, how consumer demand
can impact how much designers can charge for a kitchen that’s as
much the fulfillment of a client’s dream as it is a working

The second is the notion of “value engineering” that is, how
designers can conceive of optional kitchen plans, from simple to
complex, that permit clients to prioritize the various components
of the design . . . and then to be offered a wide range of
“investment opportunities” at different prices.

Cheever offers far more than this in her comprehensive program,
also scheduled for Atlanta in September.

The gist of it is this: Great design and maximum profit should
never be at odds with one another. Instead, they should go
hand-in-hand for every kitchen that’s designed, and should be
top-of-mind for every design professional working in today’s

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