I'm amazed by how often I am asked about color. It happens almost on a daily basis. As soon as a new acquaintance realizes that part of my training includes interior design, I can almost guarantee that his or her first question will be about color.
Oddly enough, many of the retail showrooms I visit feature white as the predominant color choice. I find that somewhat puzzling. These proprietors opt for the white (safe) hues even though the consumer is begging for COLOR! What they must not realize is that careful and tasteful application of color in the showroom can help them to sell.
The consumers I encounter are looking for solutions to their decorating problems. One facet of that solution involves space planning and design. But the area where they feel the least secure lies in the application of color.
I suspect the same is true on the other end of the buying/selling equation, as many salespeople - whether they hail from the floor covering industry or some other business - probably feel the same way. No one feels comfortable with selling and buying color, therefore a lot of color isn't bought or sold. Many manufacturer-compiled statistics bear this out.
When consumers begin thinking about a project, whether it's new construction or remodeling, they often start by clipping from magazines various photos of room scenes or products that they like. Because magazine editors and product manufacturers usually choose dramatic photography, those clippings are typically very colorful.
While it's true the consumer has chosen the product based on its features and benefits, they've also made a subliminal choice about the colors in the photos. In fact, through the shopping experience, the consumer is seeking the same thing: Colorful settings to experience what color would look like in real life.
If you read my January column, you'll recall that I discussed the recipe for good showroom design. Just to review, the six elements of that recipe are drama, color, lighting, sound, architecture, and display. I discussed how drama, or showmanship, has longstanding appeal with consumers. Primed by media hype, we gravitate toward glamour and drama.
Therefore, can you see how color goes hand-in-hand with drama? By selecting dramatic color for our showrooms, we enhance the hype and intrigue.
Now, I'm not advocating that you fill your showroom with an overabundance of color. A discriminating approach to the selection and use of color is what is called for here. As you can see in the accompanying photo of the white kitchen, the subtle use of colored lighting draws one into the setting. Why? Because it's different.
Will you be selling blue and green lights with every floor covering job you close? Probably not. But I guarantee you that more people will be intrigued by your display. A good many of them will tell all their friends that your showroom is on the cutting edge of design!
Choosing color accents in your displays is another effective way to capture the interest of the customer. If you're concerned about using bold color in expensive elements, you can accomplish the same effect inexpensively with a gallon of paint. Everything should be changeable in your displays. Look again at the photo of the white kitchen with the colored lighting. Take away the colored lights and you have a very simple kitchen - all neutrals. But the addition of colored lights adds drama and closes the sale.
This particular room setting could take on a different look every six months without much expense. You could very effectively rework it for at least two years before you would need to gut and remodel. Isn't that better than leaving it looking the same for two years and giving the consumer the idea that your showroom, and your business, is dull and not very cutting edge?
There are more of the six elements in this photo. One is the use of architecture. Notice the use of the arch over the shelf area in the white kitchen. It could have been left straight, but the arch makes it more interesting and creates a focal point. Even without the green lighting, you know that the designer wanted to draw attention to the display area of shelving. Another architectural element is the lattice window grill. The lattice serves to introduce drama, provide some privacy to the large window opening and add something more interesting to look at whether you're passing through the room or eating at the table.
In the accompanying photo of the black kitchen, the skylight, the island beneath it and the suspended shelf over the island are the key architectural elements in the room. The color black always makes an intense color statement, but the addition of strong architectural elements has even more impact. The room contains innovative selling elements in the combination of wood and tile flooring, and the unusual treatment of wood used at the foot, or toe-kick, of the island. These are the kinds of details that exude showmanship and send an unmistakable message to the customer that your showroom is on the cutting edge of fashion!
One last item of note is the way the accessories are displayed on the table, shelves and counter of the white kitchen. It's not your usual table setting. It's a little more dramatic and looks as though the owner is preparing for a party. The shelves look as though they're holding artwork, rather than a typical display of kitchen items.
The black kitchen has the usual assortment of kitchen accessories, but they look anything but ordinary. That's the dream. You're taking your customers into their dreams and out of their ho-hum daily existence. Remember, it's the sizzle that sells!
In upcoming months, I'll explore the elements of drama, color, lighting, sound, architecture and display in greater detail. Look carefully at these kitchen displays, because they contain all the elements of the recipe for good design.