Construction Job Openings Surge to Record High

WASHINGTON, DC — The labor market continues to tighten for the housing industry, according to newly released government figures and analysis by the National Association of Home Builders.

The Washington, DC-based NAHB announced this week that the count of open construction jobs rose to 410,000 unfilled positions in October, the highest measure in the 20+-year history of date from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The housing market remains underbuilt and requires additional labor, lots lumber and building materials to add inventory, the NAHB said.

Looking ahead, the construction job openings rate is likely to see “increased upward pressure as both the residential and nonresidential construction sectors trend higher, the trade association observed.

“Attracting skilled labor will remain a key objective for construction firms in the coming quarters and will become more challenging as the labor market strengthens and the unemployment rate declines,” the NAHB added.

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Cabinetry for the ‘Win’

Creating highly functional and aesthetically pleasing spaces is contingent on much more than design alone. Designers know that finding just the right products for their clients is equally as critical and helps set the stage for ultimate success.

Often, they discover some of those products – like the perfect cabinetry, countertop, appliance or fixture that makes a kitchen or bathroom go from ho-hum to spectacular – within the pages of Kitchen & Bath Design News or on

At the end of each year, KBDN compiles a list of the Top 20 products that designers found most interesting, as identified through reader feedback.

This year’s list shines a spotlight on cabinetry and the significant role it plays in a kitchen or bathroom space. As evidence, the top four spots are either cabinets or related accessories. An additional seven spots within the Top 20 are represented by countertops, hardware and cabinetry configuration and organization.

While cabinetry dominates this year’s list, there are plenty of other products designers inquired about throughout the year. To find out what other products made the 2021 Most-Asked-About Product list, peruse the following pages and visit

1. Slim Shaker

Over the years, kitchen and bath design has seen a change from traditionally decorative door styles to a simple shaker look that has now become the standard in home fashion, relates Lisa Myers, head of the Showplace Cabinetry Product Development team.

The Showplace Cabinetry Shaker door styles have been popular for many years, and the showcased slimmer version gives a modern spin to the shaker family with its timeless look and feel.

“The Showplace Duet Slim Shaker option is very appealing, with its simple clean lines and ability to adapt to any design style within a home,” says Myers. “When paired with one of the many paint options we have available, the Duet Slim Shaker door looks stunning, displaying a distinct character within the simplicity of the door’s slim design.”

The simple Duet Slim Shaker style is available in the overlay, inset and frameless Showplace Cabinetry lines, delivering a modern feel to any living space.

2. Clutter-free Surfaces

The ever-growing number of personal tech and small appliances, countertop cords and device clutter are at an all-time high, indicates Paul Hostelley, director of business development for Docking Drawer. As a result, incorporating features such as the Style Drawer Appliance Garage and Docking Drawer outlets inside kitchen cabinet drawers have become mainstream features that are essential to creating organized, functional and clutter-free surfaces.

Small kitchen appliances can be safely powered and accessed via the Style Drawer Appliance Garage while remaining plugged in. The outlet cutout is already prepared on the back of the pullout for easy installation of the Style Drawer Blade or Blade Duo powering outlet.

“Striking the perfect balance between aesthetics and functionality, powered appliance garage pullouts offer the ability to keep blenders, toasters, coffee makers and other small appliances connected and ready while otherwise stowed neatly out of sight,” says Hostelley.

As well, Docking Drawer in-drawer outlets are simple to install into new or existing cabinets. While commonly found throughout the home in bathrooms, nightstands and countless other residential and commercial spaces, they can be “especially practical in the kitchen, which is often the primary gathering area and where countertop space is of the utmost value,” says Sarah Robertson, founder/principal of Studio Dearborn and Docking Drawer brand ambassador.

3. Integrated Paper Towel Holder

Now, more than ever, cleanliness is of utmost importance, says Angela O’Neill, director of marketing for Wellborn Cabinet.

In response, the company offers its You Draw It paper towel holder. Integrated into the bottom of upper wall cabinetry, paper towels are kept off the countertop and protected against countertop spills. Plus, they are kept out of sight by placing them within the cabinetry.

“This design maximizes the utility of the cabinetry by maintaining the protection for your paper goods against countertop spills, and it doesn’t remove storage capacity,” she explains. “Typically, homeowners choose to position this particular feature near the sink or microwave to ensure convenience. Because the towels are enclosed inside the cabinet, they are kept away from bacteria and other contaminants for a safer and cleaner environment.”

Crafted from products made in America, both the paper towel holder and cabinet provide durability for long-term usage. This and other cabinet accessories from Wellborn Cabinet are available in a multitude of materials and finishes.

4. Purposeful Cabinets

As people spend more time inside, they are gravitating toward cabinets designed with purpose, style and overall function in mind, notes Stephanie Pierce, director of design and trends at MasterBrand Cabinets.

For example, Pierce says, “The company’s Omega Cabinetry contemporary collection not only looks beautiful, but it also accommodates the need for more storage, multi-purpose functionality and better organization for easy living. Embodying clean lines and subtle design, Omega contemporary cabinetry harmoniously elevates any space and can be modified for any lifestyle.”

With nearly 80 cabinet door styles to choose from and numerous wood type, finish, laminate and color options, the Omega collection of contemporary products truly provides a perfect fit for every taste, according to the company.

The company recently added three stunning door styles – Jax, Kali and Kadey – to the line, with streamlined profiles and a minimal aesthetic. Modern meets minimalistic in the Jax door style, where slab and shaker styling merge beautifully in a sleek slim-line shaker profile. The Kali and Kadey epitomize a classic but modern feel with shallow center panels.

5. Shaker-style Hood

The move toward simplistic, shaker-style painted cabinets has also led to increased interest in Castlewood’s Shiplap-style Range hoods, states Pete Larson, national sales manager for Castlewood.

“Homeowners are wanting a design element that will add some unique characteristic to make their kitchen stand out,” he explains. “The Shiplap style provides designers with the opportunity to add spice to the plain, shaker-style kitchen.”

Castlewood by AMS offers Shiplap range hoods in Chimney and Box configurations, which are designed to accommodate the Ascension line of kitchen ventilation products. They can be built from select molded hardwoods or rustic weathered planks, with each offering its own distinguishing quality.

Currently, the Chimney-style Shiplap range hood is the most popular, Larson adds, noting that this style needs extra space between wall cabinets to really stand out. In remodeling applications where there is not enough space between the wall cabinets, a Box-style Shiplap range hood is more suitable, he notes.

“The box-style Shiplap range hood can fit tightly between adjacent cabinets and still offer the individual client a distinctive and appealing design option,” he says. “We see this trend continuing and we intend on broadening our offering with other components that will complement this style.”

6. Shower Organizer

Staying organized is critical for all rooms of the home, including the bathroom. Keuco accommodates the need for storage in the shower/bath area by offerings its Shower Shelf. Made from sturdy, eco-friendly aluminum material with a black or white powder-coated finish, the Shower Shelf helps maintain a tidy, organized shower by holding shampoo, conditioner, body washes and other items.

Removable for easy cleaning, the shelf is available in a closed-front design to hide items or a semi-open front to see what is behind. It offers customizable widths in ½” increments. It can be hung in either glued or screwed wall brackets.

7. Retro Appliances

According to Hillary Frei, president of Big Chill, a popular trend in interior design currently is mixing styles and pulling in elements of different decades.

“It creates a unique, personalized look,” she states. “I think that’s what makes our Retro line and the Original Fridge so popular. People want a seamless blend of old and new, and that’s exactly what this product line is designed to do.”

The company added Turquoise its line of finishes for the iconic Retro Fridge. It pays tribute to the 1950s, when the hue was widely used in Mid-Century kitchens and in fashion.

“In terms of the color, the pandemic has pushed us to incorporate more vibrant colors into our personal styles, and the Turquoise color is the perfect soft blue/green to add that pop,” she continues. “It’s reminiscent of the 1950’s Robin Egg Blue we all recognize as iconic for the decade, and with retro styles coming back in all departments, it’s a great addition to the modern all-white kitchens.”

Turquoise joins the other colors in the line – White, Black, Cherry Red, Beach Blue, Orange, Jadite Green, Buttercup Yellow and Pink Lemonade. More than 200 custom colors are also available.

8. Look-alike Sintered Stone

The range of surface options from LOTTE Chemical Corporation includes its Locelain sintered stone collection.

Available in an extensive range of nine bold to subtle colors – including those that resemble natural stone and concrete as well as a solid selection – the ultra-compact durable surfaces come in multiple sizes, including large-format sheets in polished, satin and matte finishes.

Resistant to UV rays, extreme temperatures, scratches and stains, the line performs in interior and exterior applications, including as wall cladding, flooring and countertops in kitchen and bathroom projects or any high-traffic areas that require additional durability and functionality.

9. Interior Design Software

Interior design software is an essential part of today’s design process, relates Santiago

Morales, 2020 Design Live product manager.

“Clients are becoming more and more involved with their remodeling projects, and they expect 3D visualizations and digital floor plans to help them better understand what their future space will look like,” says Morales. “An interior design software is also beneficial to the user’s bottom line because it helps improve accuracy, minimize errors and convey realistic estimates, all contributing to a happy customer.”

2020 Design Live is a kitchen and bathroom design software with built-in manufacturer catalogs, 3D rendering capabilities, an extensive library of decorative items, infinite customization options, advanced lighting functionality and so much more.

The latest software has features such as real-time collaboration between designers and clients, artistic effect options for renderings, and a multi-point feature that showcases different perspectives in a 360° panorama. 2020 Design Live is meant to simplify and streamline the design process so that users can focus on the creative, innovative and functional aspects of a project.

10. Sliding Barn Shower Doors

Barn doors have become a popular trend in interior design and, building upon that popularity, Coastal Shower Doors offers its Eclipse Series sleek, modern and adaptable shower door.

The Eclipse marries the function and style of the barn door with smooth gliding rollers, tempered glass and a seamless header, creating a contemporary piece that makes a statement in the bathroom.

The doors are available in a black finish, customizable glass styles, textures and hardware, anodized aluminum frames and stainless steel handles, brackets and fasteners.

11. Distinctive Bath Fittings

In keeping with homeowners’ desire to mix and match modern elements with traditional design, Delta Faucet Co. offers the Kayra Bath Collection. Its transitional style adds distinctive design to any bathroom. To further elevate a space, it offers functional features like a pull-down spray wand for easy cleaning, multi-setting H2Okinetic Technology and In2ition Two-in-One Shower options.

The Kayra Bath Collection is offered in Chrome, Brilliance Stainless and Matte Black finishes.

12. Heated Freestanding Tub

Aquatica’s True Ofuro Tranquility Heated Japanese freestanding bathtub is fashioned from the firm’s AquateX solid surface material, which makes it durable, eco-friendly and easily cleanable, notes the company. Its Tranquility heating system is fitted with a recirculation system to eliminate the hassle of adding hot water while maintaining a constant 104° F temperature.

Now available in black, the soaking tub allows for full body immersion and includes an integrated seat and backrest to ensure comfort and relaxation, notes the firm.

13. Push-to-Open Cabinet System

Hettich’s Push-to-Open Silent makes cabinetry effortlessly handleless by opening drawers mechanically in response to a light press on the front panel. On shutting, they close in a gently cushioned movement.

The system recognizes drawers closed by hand and does not reopen them accidentally. And, if there’s a lack of momentum on closing, a drawer energy storage system prevents the drawer from opening again and reduces the force needed to close it next time.

14. Corner Drawers

Drawers are a great way to store and organize items. To maximize corner storage, WalzCraft offers its Inside Corner Drawer Boxes, which are designed to create easily accessible storage space in lieu of lazy susan cabinets. The addition of full-extension drawer glides allows access to stored items and eliminates kneeling to get to those hard-to-reach places.

The drawer boxes are made to order and are available with half-blind dovetail construction in solid wood and Baltic birch plywood.

15. Natural Minerals Porcelain Surfacing

Corian Design showcases its new Corian Endura line, a porcelain made from 100% natural minerals that is resistant to extreme heat, UV light, abrasions, scratches and stains, according to the firm.

Endura is non-porous and Greenguard Gold Certified. It is available in four product families, including tones in monochromatic, marble, metal and cement, that match up with a wide selection of kitchen styles. As a complement, it is also offered in two finishes – Satin and Mineral.

16. Quartzite Surfacing

Antolini Luigi has added to its wide range of natural stones with Fusion Wow Quartzite, available in three styles: Fusion Wow Dark, Fusion Wow Light and Fusion Wow Multicolor. Fusion Wow | Original ‘Light’ quartzite is unique for its colors and striking veining, with shades of green that spread like gentle waves. The surfacing can be customized with any finish the company offers.

17. Custom Color Appliances

Elmira Stove Works offers custom color capabilities to its Antique line. The company’s antique appliances are now available in more than 1,200 custom colors, significantly expanding design options.

Inspired by 1850s-style appliances, Elmira’s Antique line includes a series of ranges, refrigerators, wall ovens, microwaves and dishwashers/dishwasher panels. Each appliance is custom crafted according to desired color, trim style and cooking features (for ranges) to suit personal preference and cooking style.

Elmira’s antique appliances can be ordered in approximately 200 colors from the RAL color code book and 1,040 hues from the Axalta SpectraMaster Solids Color Atlas. In addition, the company can color match to many colors.

18. Hands-free Cabinet Pull

For a more hygienic approach to operating lower cabinet doors and drawers, Doug Mockett & Co. offers the foot pull, which operates cabinet doors and drawers by using the front of a shoe.

Delivering hands-free touchless operation, users can safely access storage areas without the fear of spreading or contracting germs. The lip on the front edge is softened with a subtle bend to prevent scratching on dress shoes – just slip the front of the shoe underneath and pull forward.

The foot pulls are available in Matte Black, Matte White, Metallic Silver and Satin Stainless Steel.

19. Shower Wall Panel System

Wilsonart has introduced Wilsonart Home, a curation of the company’s most sought-after collections with surfaces that are versatile enough to be used anywhere – on countertops, cabinets, walls and more. The Wetwall Water-Proof Wall Panel System includes 15 waterproof, lightweight panels that work well for wet area applications, such as showers. The patented waterproof solution eliminates the need for grout or demolitions, since it can be installed directly over gypsum board, green board, fiberboard and existing tile.

20. Smart Cube Storage

Häfele delivers modular display storage with its Smartcube Open Storage System. Smartcube can be as small as one shelf unit on a wall, or multiplied exponentially to fit any project, and can even be paired with casework, islands and other furniture. Projects can be customized by cutting horizontal runs to their preferred length and using shelving to match. Smartcube is offered in black and stainless steel look finishes.

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Daltile Celebrates Austin Showroom Opening

Dallas, TX Daltile recently held the official grand opening event for its newest showroom, located in the South Lamar area of Austin, TX.  The brand’s newest 4,000+-sq.-ft. showroom delivers easy access to the hottest tile products for Austin’s interior designers and architects, notes the firm.

“The design scene in Austin is really electric right now, with a lot of new build residential and commercial construction happening as well as a constant stream of remodels,” said Katy Ebbert, manager of Daltile’s new Austin showroom and licensed interior designer with 20+ years’ experience in commercial and residential interior design. “Austin itself is so exciting and that energy flows right into our city’s design scene. Austin is a melting pot of people and artistic ideas. There is a constant exchange with everyone bringing fun, unique ideas to the table when it comes to design.”

“The Austin design vibe is definitely unique,” said Brian Smith, senior marketing manager, Dal-Tile Corporation. “It’s kind of a funky, hippy, organic vibe. We nod to Austin’s personality with special features designed into our Austin studio location. As you enter our studio, you are greeted by a big tie-dyed tile wall, complete with the phrase, ‘Keep Design Weird’ in neon lights above the mosaic. Part of our studio is dedicated to outdoor design, where we prominently feature a favorite phrase of a well-known Austinite, ‘Alright, Alright, Alright.’ We have also transformed the front brick wall of our building outside into an impressive mural, designed and hand-painted by professional artist Daas. Daas took his original inspiration for the mural from Texas wildflowers and expressed this idea in a modern take that includes geometric tile shapes and perfectly reflects Austin’s unique flavor.”

“We have designed our new Austin showroom to focus on our high-end products and showcase these tiles in a unique way,” said Paij Thorn-Brooks, v.p. of marketing, Dal-Tile Corporation. “In addition to an easy-to-peruse showroom filled with product samples, our Austin studio features a generous number of vignettes throughout the showroom as well as story boards, flat lays, and generous slices of product. Accessing take-with product samples is very easy for the interior designers, architects and homeowners who are visiting our studio.”

“Daltile has also designed this studio to be an extension of our customers’ business,” advised Thorn-Brooks. “We encourage our local designer and architect customers to bring their own clients into our showroom. Not only do we put all of the hottest tile looks right at the professionals’ fingertips, making it easy to help their clients select just the right tile, but the stylish atmosphere of our studio, complete with work tables and conference rooms, provides such an inspirational ambience for a meeting. Although this particular studio focuses on showcasing Daltile’s high-end products, our entire product line is accessible to choose from during a visit to the Austin studio.”


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DPHA Names 2021 Award Winners

AUSTIN, TX — The Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association has named its 2021 DPHA Professional of the Year Award Winners, the Bethesda, MD-based trade association announced.

The winners, who were cited at the DPHA’s recent 20th Anniversary Conference and Product Showcase in Austin, include:

Customer Service Department of the Year: Waterstone Faucets, Murrieta, CA.Manufacturing Professional of the Year: Bruce Reidel, Mountain Plumbing, Irving, TX.Representative Agency of the Year: Excel Marketing, Boise City, ID.Representative Professional of the Year: Kory Nelson, Premier Decorative Group, San Ramon, CA.Showroom Professional of the Year: Joshua Moss, Advance Plumbing Company, Detroit, MI.Showroom of the Year: Ultra Design Center, Denver, CO.

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Shining Stars

The recipients of the Chrysalis Awards for Remodeling Excellence for 2021 were recently named, including 24 winning projects in the Kitchen and Bath categories.

The awards, which were launched in 1994, honor designs in 28 categories of residential and commercial remodeling. Winners are selected for each of four geographical regions of the U.S. The regional winners are then judged to select a national winner for each category.

The competition is open to any professional remodeler or designer, and all of the projects considered for the 2021 awards were completed after January 1, 2018. The winning projects were determined based on overall design, creative use of space and materials, and the degree to which the project enhanced the original kitchen or bath.

Kitchens Over $150,000

Studio Stratton

This traditional kitchen was newly built to accommodate the needs of a young growing family. The large windows created some challenges with regard to upper cabinets. The designer chose to solve this issue with a unique glass-fronted built-in cabinet in a different gray color with Cremone bolts to highlight the homeowner’s collection of decorative plates and serving pieces.

National/Regional Award: Studio Stratton, San Diego, CARegional Award: MA Peterson Designbuild, Edina, MNRegional Award: Platt Builders, Groton, MARegional Award: dB Atlanta, Alpharetta, GA

Kitchens $75,000-$150,000

Daniel Contelmo Architects

To update the dated aesthetic of the original kitchen, coffered ceilings were added to help scale down the existing tall ceilings, and the color palette was lightened to keep the kitchen bright. The upper cabinets were made larger and the detailing of the moldings was simplified to provide a cleaner look. The chevron pattern of the tiling is simple but adds texture and definition to the space.

National/Regional Award: Daniel Contelmo Architects, Poughkeepsie, NY with Tiffany Eastman Interiors, LLC, Fairfield, CTRegional Award: TreHus

Architects, Golden Valley, MNRegional Award: S&W Kitchens, Longwood, FLRegional Award: Slater Interiors, Bothell, WA

Kitchens Under $75,000

Studio Stratton

The homeowners of this contemporary kitchen wanted a high-end appearance on a tight budget, so the designer created a luxurious look using a two-tone cabinetry selection. The kitchen was also opened up to adjoining spaces for a more modern and sophisticated approach. Numerous elements were used throughout the kitchen to create a sleek, contemporary feel.

National/Regional Award: Studio Stratton, San Diego, CARegional Award: Knutson Residential Design, St. Paul, MNRegional Award: RS Mannino Architects + Builders, Rutherford, NJRegional Award: Carriage House Custom Homes & Interiors, Franklin, TN

Baths Over $75,000

Innovative Construction

Functionally, the homeowners wanted a lot of storage. The project included recessed medicine cabinets and scads of cabinetry on the his-and-hers vanity. A countertop cabinet was also included in the space. Drawers were created beneath the cabinets and some of the cabinets contained specialty pull-outs, including one for trash and one for the scale.

National/Regional Award: Innovative Construction, Peachtree Corners, GARegional Award: Marvista Design + Build, Pittsburgh, PARegional Award: Marrokal Design & Remodeling, San Diego, CA

Baths $50,000-$75,000

S&W Kitchens

In the original bathroom, the client wanted a larger shower area, removal of the tub and more storage space. A rich wood vanity provides plenty of storage via doors and drawers, along with a tall linen cabinet. A white countertop with classic pale gray veining provides a dramatic contrast with the cabinets and an elegant look. The large shower features classic neutral tones against a dramatic tile floor and dark-toned fittings and hardware throughout.

National/Regional Award: S&W Kitchens, Longwood, FLRegional Award: Advance Design Studio, Gilberts, ILRegional Award: Carnemark design+build, Bethesda, MDRegional Award: Studio Stratton, San Diego, CA

Baths Under $50,000

C&R Remodeling

This farmhouse was typical of a bygone era when the main floor bathroom served the entire house. To improve convenience and family harmony, a second-story bath was added that includes a single vanity in an olive green shade, along with an abundance of white subway tile given a fresh upgrade with gray grout. A wet room includes a rainshower, hand-held shower and soaking tub under skylights.

National/Regional Award: C&R Remodeling, Salem, ORRegional Award: Jaque Bethke Design, Scottsdale, AZRegional Award: OA Design Build, Minneapolis, MNRegional Award: Great Northern Builders, South Berwick, MERegional Award: TEW Design Studio, Raleigh, NC

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Designer Crafts Thoughtful Brand

Salisbury, NC — When Sara Lee started her design business in Salisbury, North Carolina, she knew just what to name it – SISU Home Designs. “SISU is personal to me,” says Lee. “It is a word used by my grandmother and mother of Finnish and Norwegian heritage. In one word, it embodies determination, potential, grit, freedom, courage, preparedness, strength, community and heart.” She adds, “In the business of design, there is inherent potential for what is possible.”

This inherent potential of design has, according to Lee, always been part of what drives her. “I always enjoyed setting up rooms and drawing house plans, even as a child,” she says. “Design school was a natural decision, and I specifically fell in love with kitchen and bath design. There is so much technicality, plus creativity. It’s problem-solving, communicating and wonderfully challenging.”

Branding a journey

Like most in the industry, Lee worked her way up from the bottom. “My first opportunity was with a large cabinet manufacturer, and I worked in marketing and sales, drawing plans for nationwide Lowe’s store displays and ‘The New American Home’ projects.” After a subsequent stint with a small dealer in order to gain more sales experience, she moved to Washington, DC to get a feel for the luxury market at a high-end showroom.

“A move to North Carolina in 2013 gave me new opportunities to serve a uniquely southern clientele,” she continues. “I thrived and felt a new confidence for what I could do for people and their spaces.”

When it came time to hang out her own shingle, Lee was careful to take her personal journey in the industry into account, working with an expert to create a cohesive narrative across all her digital channels.

“The branding [for SISU] was created by a lovely woman in London – we had much communication about who I am and what SISU represents,” she says. “The brand experience engages the senses and imagination through a visual narrative that is timeless, elegant and full of intentional detail – a visual identity that speaks with poetry and textural appeal to communicate inherent possibility and expertise.”

She adds, “Consistency is important. The brand carries over into social media and, I believe, sets a standard of credibility.” The Instagram presence of SISU in particular features a balance of crisp, beautifully staged project imagery, personal touches and anecdotes and graphics featuring the company’s sprouting plant-inspired logo.

New growth

Like the little sprout featured in SISU’s logo, Lee cultivates her client relationships carefully. “I get to know my clients through many meetings, calls and even texts,” she notes. “I have the privilege of going into people’s homes, and that requires trust, and I honor that. Our welcome packet actually goes over the entire process from beginning consultation to photoshoot day! It gives my clients a nice road map of what will happen over the course of the next few months.”

Looking ahead to the new year, Lee anticipates growth for her business. “Plans for 2022: I would love to hire some help and continue moving toward having a fantastic showroom.”

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Adapting in a Changing Business Climate

Under normal circumstances, part of our job is to prepare plans for our clients to prime them for changes to their homes and lifestyles. Unfortunately, the pandemic crumbled remodeling hopes for many homeowners, and it had a serious effect on us as designers. First, we went from comfortably busy to zero in about two months. Then we were stagnant for almost a year. That dormancy was followed by a mind-boggling recovery, one that Eliot Sefrin, editor emeritus of KBDN, referred to as a “tectonic market shift.”

I survived the 2007-2009 recession and decided not to give in to the same negative feelings that plagued me until 2010. Instead, I used the pandemic downtime to work on my business, taking classes that had been on my bucket list for five years or more. At the same time, I read over 75 marketing books and white papers. It was not as gratifying as working with clients, but it was a major accomplishment.

Building, maintaining and marketing a unique brand reputation is challenging. There are excellent books and many courses to help us, but your choices need to be carefully considered. I learned the hard way during the recession and ended up wasting time and money on courses that didn’t work. During the pandemic, I avoided repeating the same mistakes.

Two exciting possibilities arose from free webinars recommended by acquaintances. Each marketing coach offered a new direction that sounded promising. One program is $3,500 and requires a commitment of at least six months. The other course costs over $10,000 and involves a year of classes. It’s easy to say “yes” to the compelling reasons the coaches present until we stop to think about our ROI. Curiosity helped me gain clarity to say “No” to the programs. Finally, I said “yes” to another customizable opportunity with great ROI possibilities.


Everyone is now adjusting to a new normal: higher remodeling investments and lower availability of labor and products. Homeowners are anxious to proceed with pandemic-delayed remodeling projects. Our 15-month business famine has become an overflowing feast.

In fact, home remodeling queries on Google went from 38% in March 2020 to 93% in March 2021. The annual Houzz survey verifies that home renovation spending increased 15% in the past year.

But will the trend continue or collapse?

Many variables will affect remodeling in the future, and all we can do as designers is perform our best every day, and stay on top of news reports about the economy, the pandemic and other fluid trends. Being prepared for change helps us cope with it. We can choose our course and correct it before a crisis happens by adapting to change.

The Harvard Business Review offered six tips about adapting to change: 1. Find humor in the situation; 2. Resist talking about your feelings; 3. Don’t stress out about stressing out; 4. Focus on your values instead of your fears; 5. Accept the past (and present) but fight for the future, and 6. Don’t expect stability.


Competition is as fierce as ever in the design market, with more people entering our profession yearly. For example, 4,199 U.S. students graduated with interior design degrees in 2019. At that time, there were 77,900 interior designers in the nation. The average age of designers is 41 years. We’re all competing to build and maintain our brand reputation, make a living and grow our company (or the company that employs us).

I believe we do better when we compete against ourselves rather than competing against other people. Additionally, we do better when we don’t compare ourselves to others. But, admittedly, this is hard to do in today’s competitive world.

When I was attending design school, every assignment was necessary. I gave each one 115% of my effort, although I believed that others would receive a better grade. I wasn’t competing with them for a grade but rather comparing myself to them.

Before graduation, the faculty and students voted for one student to win the “Student Designer of the Year” award. I was shocked to win because, in my mind, everyone was more qualified than me. The woman who presented the award gave me fantastic advice: “Send press releases to the media.” That established my brand and my reputation, and it attracted clients and referral clients for years.

I continue to give at least 115% to everything I do. Clients’ goals become my goals. I’ve been fortunate to win design awards with this attitude. And while I don’t like to compare myself to other designers, it’s unavoidable. Marketing tools such as SEMRush, UberSuggest, BuzzFeed and Google Analytics provide helpful feedback by comparing me to competitors. It’s uncomfortable but necessary to gather and use this information that mainly relies on keywords we use. But, it’s just as important to not make it the focus of your work. We are each unique, and that should be celebrated!


Prospective clients find us using specific keywords or phrases in Google, Bing or Yahoo. Search engines recommend us because we’ve used the same keywords or phrases in our websites, blogs and social media posts. Learning to use the right keywords is an art and a science. It challenges us to comply with specific secretive algorithms. Even Search Engine Optimization experts admit little knowledge about the data. Climbing to #1 of organic searches involves an investment of time and effort.

SEO is a broad subject that I’m still studying, a motivation to revise and write blogs with competitive terms. If your company can afford an SEO specialist, their fee will be $75-$150 per hour, which could add up to $1,500 a month (or more). You can also get monthly SEO services from companies like Fiverr for $14-$345 a month.

How do you know that you’re getting what you want?

Honestly, SEO isn’t a quick process and success isn’t guaranteed. Changes we make now may not show up in search engine results for four to six weeks or longer. To compete effectively, we have to know what keywords our competitors are using to help their ranking in the search engines. Finally, we have to compare ourselves to others who have: A well-known brand, an active website, an up-to-date blog and an active social media presence with good SEO use.

Competing with and comparing ourselves to others in our profession may be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary to adapt if we want to succeed. One of my favorite quotes rings true: “Success requires the ability to adapt. Only by being open to change will you have a true opportunity to get the most from your talent.” [Nolan Ryan]

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, CAPS, NCIDQ is the principal of D.P. Design in Oregon City, OR and has over 35 years of experience as a kitchen and bath designer. She is the author of the award-winning book, THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling, and has been the recipient of numerous design awards. Named a 2019 KBDN Innovator, Plesset has taught Western design to students of the Machida Academy in Japan and has a podcast, “Today’s Home.”

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What Story Are Your Financials Telling?

I have always had a burning desire to know how my business measured up to industry peers. Were we above average, middle of the pack or a bottom feeder?

Years ago, while moderating a workshop at KBIS, the workshop presenter invited me to join an industry-specific peer group that he was facilitating. Sensing this is where I could gain some perspective about my business, I accepted the invitation.

My first meeting had me sitting around a boardroom table with owners of eight other kitchen and bath businesses from different geographical areas. The format was simple: sharing information, issues and challenges, and poring over each other’s financial statements.

I arrived at this meeting confident, perhaps even a bit cocky; I knew my numbers. The feeling didn’t last. My peers were starting to ask rapid-fire questions about the financials. I found myself struggling to provide satisfactory answers. Embarrassment and insecurity quickly replaced confidence.

That experience taught me several things. Primarily, I need to spend more time with the financials to understand the relationship between the numbers and the information revealed, and that most kitchen and bath dealers/owners don’t fully understand the importance of their financial statements. The latter is because most have grown up on the design and selling side of the business.

As a business owner, it’s critical to comprehend and own the financial side of the business; otherwise, you may never realize the company’s full income and profit potential. While accountants and bookkeepers play an essential role, it’s the role of owners to learn the meaning of these financial statements and determine what should be done to improve company performance.

So, a little primary education in this arena will set the stage for understanding the crucial values derived from knowing what your financial statements are saying about the state of your business.

The Difference in Financial Statements

Financial statements are divided into three categories: Income Statement (also known as a Profit and Loss Statement), Balance Sheet and a Cash Flow Statement.

An Income Statement measures your company’s financial performance in the current year. It’s measured by how much revenue (sales) has been recorded versus how many expenses have been incurred to generate that revenue level; the difference – revenue minus expenses – is called Net Profit.

A Balance Sheet measures your company’s cumulative performance since the inception of the business. It’s measured by how many assets you have acquired over these years minus the liabilities incurred in the process; the difference (Assets – Liabilities) is called Net Worth. The net worth is derived from several components: initial capital, retained earnings and the current year’s net profit, which is the common link between the Income Statement and the Balance Sheet in any given year.

Cash Flow Statements provide a summary of how cash enters and leaves the company. It measures how well a business manages its cash. Cash is king. Cash is the lifeblood of any business, and how well it’s being managed needs to be documented.

Cash and Accrual Accounting

There is a significant difference between cash and accrual accounting, and not knowing the difference and its impact on a business can lead to severe consequences. The main difference between the two types of accounting is when revenue and expenses are recognized and recorded.

Cash Accounting records revenue when cash is received. A 50% down payment on a newly signed kitchen would show up as revenue on the income statement. With no expenses to record yet, the financials could reveal a sizable net profit. The pitfall for this kind of accounting is that it might overstate the health of the business. Under this scenario, the company could be cash-rich, lulling the owner into a false illusion that the business is profitable when in reality, the business may be losing money.

Accrual Accounting recognizes and records revenue when it is earned. Revenue recognized upon delivery of a product or service aligns with the associated expenses and services provided.

The accrual method provides a more accurate picture of the business’s overall health by including all revenue when earned and all expenses when incurred. This more accurate financial data places an owner in a better position to make sound business decisions and limits the risk of overpaying taxes.

Managing by Percentages

Managing a business by reviewing and looking at strictly numbers can be challenging. It can be easy to overlook a change in revenue or an increase in expenses when focused primarily on the numbers – or, worse, not knowing what the numbers mean. It also makes it difficult to compare one financial statement to another or understand the changes occurring over time.

A more straightforward method to manage is inserting a column into a financial statement where any line item amount is expressed as a percentage of the overall net revenue. Total revenue is listed as 100%, and cost of goods, gross profit and all other line items are expressed as a percent of the total revenue. This method makes it easier to analyze the performance of a business over time and compare it with peers or industry benchmarks.

Benefits of Knowing Your Financials

Your financials tell a story about your business, what is occurring at the moment, and a telling tale about your organization’s history. It’s important to be adept in reading, interpreting and using your financial statements as a guide to making wise business decisions.

There are many benefits to being financially savvy. First, you can protect yourself from possible embezzlement. Placing all your trust in a bookkeeper without having financial know-how creates exposure that is often hard to overcome.

Second, you can better measure your financial performance against others in a group, identifying weaknesses where your business can improve. Third, you can ask better questions of professionals so you can secure better advice. Fourth, you can set more intelligent and realistic goals. Fifth, you can furnish more confident leadership, attracting and retaining quality personnel. And sixth, knowing the financials like you know the designing of kitchens can make you a lot more profit!

Commit to gain a deeper financial understanding of your business. Invest in yourself to learn the financials, and the story conveyed. Financial knowledge comes with reward – realizing the full profit potential of the business and leveraging it appropriately.

Dan Luck owns Bella Domicile in Madison, WI. He has been an SEN Member since 2002 and has led the SEN Leadership Team since 2018. Visit sendesigngroup/education for more information. Dan welcomes

questions and comments at [email protected].

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NKBA Extends Free KBIS Registration for Members

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ —The National Kitchen & Bath Association has announced the extension of free show-floor registration for association members planning to attend the 2022 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show.

The extension, through Oct. 15, will provide NKBA members with complimentary access to the exhibit hall for the annual trade show and educational conference, scheduled for Feb. 8-10, 2022, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, the Hackettstown, NJ-based NKBA said.

KBIS, which is owned by the NKBA and produced by Emerald Expositions is the largest North American trade expo and networking opportunity for kitchen and bath industry professionals. The show is conducted in conjunction with the International Builders’ Show (IBS) as part of “Design & Construction Week.” The two shows are expected to feature more than 800,000 net sq. ft. of exhibit space and showcase more than 1,000 design and construction brands.

Registration information can be obtained by visiting the NKBA’s website at


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Technology Use Up Sharply At Kitchen/Bath Firms, Survey Finds

CHICAGO, IL — The use of cutting-edge technology for project design, client relations, management and marketing has become far more prevalent throughout the kitchen/bath design community since the onset of COVID-19 and its impact on showroom protocols, client access and other business operations.

Tied to this overarching trend, kitchen and bath design professionals are apparently utilizing – and spending more on – an ever-broadening array of technological tools, as companies attempt to upgrade websites, conduct online meetings, enhance digital presentations, offer virtual showroom tours, provide internet purchasing options and implement virtual and/or augmented reality. At the same time, dealers and designers report they’re facing a handful of challenges in implementing the seemingly unending flood of high-tech tools becoming available.

Those are among the key findings of a nationwide survey conducted on behalf of Kitchen & Bath Design News by its exclusive research partner, the Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI). The online survey involved a representative sampling of kitchen/bath dealers and designers, including those at firms that maintain a showroom as well as those who operate independently.

According to the survey’s findings, eight in ten dealers and designers polled currently use both a smart phone and a company website as the primary technology tools for their businesses. Design software, laptops, social media and Cloud-based storage are utilized by more than half the survey respondents. Other commonly used technology tools include business/design apps, online advertising, business management/ordering software and contact/email management software.

The KBDN survey also revealed that recipients’ top three technology-related activities revolve around conducting online meetings with clients and/or subcontractors, enhancing online communication to present designs or proposals, and using virtual and/or augmented reality to demonstrate design possibilities to clients. Moreover, a vast majority (between 59%-73%) of those surveyed say they are doing more of those things compared to pre-COVID – particularly when it comes to handling project drawings or designs – while a significant number say they anticipate adding those, along with other, technological capabilities in the future.

On average, surveyed designers and dealers report that they currently spend about 8% of their annual expense budget on various forms of technology, with 38% reporting that they are now spending more than they were prior to the global pandemic, and 56% saying they’re spending about the same. In contrast, only about 6% say they’re spending either “somewhat” or “much” less than prior to COVID-19.

When it comes to utilizing technology tools to market their business, surveyed designers and dealers said they primarily utilize their company’s website (82%), along with social media posts (53%). More than half of the surveyed design pros say they are now using LinkedIn ads, text/mobile ads and blogs/forums more than they were a year ago, though all of those tools are used relatively infrequently.


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