road-signs-whatshot-whatsnot(Are you losing money by not offering the right cabinets, counters and flooring choices?)

It’s not enough to just create a beautiful design studio, with compelling site lines and gorgeous vignettes which stimulate homebuyer desire.  What you see in photos is just a part of what makes a design studio successful.  Four critical components are required to reach the ultimate universal goals of increasing per-home revenue, creating a world-class customer experience and streamlining internal operations. These four are:

  • (PRODUCT) Selling the right products, the right amount, at the right price
  • (PLACE) in a state-of-the-art design studio which will facilitate decision-making, stimulate desire, aide in product comprehension, and build product value
  • (PERSONNEL) by well-trained professional, knowledgeable design consultants who are skillful  salespeople, design experts, and confident rapport-builders
  • (PROCESS)  through a customer-centric process implemented via clearly-defined strategic procedures, using proper tools and documents.

Let’s start today with exploring PRODUCT and we’ll address the other elements in future articles.

Trends move quicker than ever before.  And that shift means that whatever you were selling a few years ago is NOT going to sell today.  Adding a few new products here and there over the last few years is not enough.  Most builders are in need a major overhaul of their product offerings.

Are you still offering numerous shades of beige 12” or 13” tile in a mottled kind of pattern? If so, it’s no wonder you tell me “tile doesn’t sell in this market”.  Correction: boring, outdated tile that’s not presented well, THAT doesn’t sell in your market.  Tile is selling everywhere. Yes, it is selling more in Florida and Arizona and the West Coast, but believe me, it is selling in the Midwest and the Midatlantic also. Last time I checked, homebuyers in Madison Wisconsin and Charlottesville Virginia had access to a bazillion HGTV shows such as Property Brothers, Love It or List It, and House Hunters.  People accessing Houzz and Pinterest don’t only live in NYC, Naples , L.A. or San Francisco. People  in every nook and cranny small-town in this country can access great design. And they do.

While our industry was struggling to stay alive, there was a major shift toward a clean, modern aesthetic in everything from home fashion to the design of your toaster to the logo of your favorite retailer to the contour of your laptop or camera to the interior of the new stylish restaurant in town.

If you’re a production or semi-custom builder in a non-urban setting, here’s what you need to be offering in 4 key product categories to maximize design studio revenue in 2014.  I’m going to be blunt, and make some general statements which I hope will help you even if what I describe does not reflect your current situation.

For photos of some products below, and others, see my IBS Recap photo album on facebook:!/media/set/?set=a.525423184240459.1073741829.256180491164731&type=1

Let’s start with tile:


For the average homebuilder, tile is the finish product subcategory which has changed the most over the last few years.

What you might be offering:  A large variety of beige-ish tiles in various swirly, mottled-looking patterns in square 12” or 13” sizes (I’m in design studios on a regular basis and this is what I see)

What you should be offering:  a good selection of more modern, updated configurations and colors and patterns: greys, whites, solids in cleaner styles as well as more modern patterns. Large format tile, 18s, 19s, 21s and larger if your homes and market can handle it.  Linear tile in all sizes from 6×24 to 12×24 and beyond. The wood-look tile is trending. So is a mix of industrial and refined.


What you might be offering: a few oak products in old-fashioned 2 ¼ and other slightly larger plank widths, in many finishes, and a few maples in the same sizes, and some handscraped choices you added two years ago.

What you should be offering:  more handscraped, heirloom and other finishes and species which ooze character (yes these are still trending despite the next few trends I’ll mention), oak and maple (and other species) in wider planks, random planks, and richer finishes. Exotic woods are no longer just for the high end. Also: Go Grey!!! The grey or dusk tones have been very popular and the blond woods are going to be trending up this year… in cleaner more modern looks but also in the character/distressed/aged finishes. Consider pecan and other high-interest floors. Hang on to those dark espresso finishes which aren’t done yet.

What else you should be offering: Laminate floors today look phenomenal and are a very affordable-alternative to hardwood.  They are selling well and look incredible on the design studio floors and in your model homes.


What you might be offering: Chances are your cabinet offerings have been updated more recently than some of your other products.  The opportunity in cabinets is not only in finishes, door styles and wood species, but in configuration.

What you should be offering:  Add some flat clean line cabinet styles, and some of the simpler shaker/craftsman-inspired doors. White and grey cabinets are hot as well as painted cabinets in shades of yellow, blues, and dusty reds (just a few select colors in one or two cabinet styles should be enough). I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think some of the darker richer stains in OAK are coming back.

But, the newest opportunities in cabinets are going to be in configuration. While you might not be ready to add open shelves, top-hinged linear cabinets, or stainless/metal cabinets or shelves, you should be offering a stacked configuration which will ultimately replace the old “staggered” look which reigned supreme for years. That clean linear stacked look is hot, although staggered will still sell in 2014. Yes, at some point, you’re going to have to consider horizontal linear cabinets.


What you might be offering: Too many choices of outdated and inexpensive granite.  I know that Uba Tuba was your best seller for years. Nothing lasts forever. And if you’re offering quartz but it’s not selling, it’s unlikely that it’s simply because it’s priced near or at, or even above, the highest level of granite,  although that’s what I’m always told is the reason.  It’s probably because your quartz offerings are ugly.  (Did I get your attention there?) If all of your quartz samples look like unnatural factory-produced mutli-colored chunks of color OR if you were offering the same choices 2-3 years ago OR if you are using a no-name cheap quartz, then I’m pretty sure that’s why you are not selling quartz. Lastly, if you are offering cultured marble countertops, especially if you offer more than three colors, I have one word for you: “DON’T” or how about “STOP”? Put down the cultured marble, step away from those small 3” x 5” plastic-feeling samples and read on….

What you should be offering:  For your granite offerings, add some better-looking, higher-priced granite with more movement, maybe some exotic granites, and your buyers will find the money.  REALLY. If you display it properly and price it reasonably. (Of course, make sure availability and durability meet your standards)  Explore more white granites and richer color blends.  But the word in countertops is QUARTZ.  Offer both trends: solids or almost-solids for your more modern looks in whites and greys as well as warmer colors.  AND the granite-look, heavy movement high-end quartz as well. We’re seeing metallic and shimmery effects in the newer quartz products that are just GORGEOUS and upscale. An awesome new bathroom counter alternative for production builders is PIEDRAFINA, an affordable, earth-friendly, recycled marble product, currently available in 15 BEAUTIFUL colors, suitable for bath vanities (plus tub surrounds and shower walls).  If you can replace your plastic-feeling cultured marble with Piedrafina, it would raise the perceived value of your base price. If not, offer it as a cost-effective alternative to granite/quartz in the bathroom.  But…be very careful to set proper expectations about what can stain or etch this product, which is made of MARBLE and has some of those same performance limitations. Lastly, waterfall counters haven’t hit too many production builders…yet.

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Do you want a more in-depth product analysis?  If so Click Here to learn more.  Please don’t wait, as our start time on new products cand be a few weeks to a few months-so let’s get started chatting today. Email us or call today: 732-761-8134




Let’s hear YOUR feedback: what is or isn’t selling in your world. Please comment via our facebook album or on this blog entry below.