I am amazed how poor many designers are

Diane Berry, owner of Manchester-based Diane Berry Kitchens, responds to Rob Mascari’s claim that designers should charge for their services over products. She claims that retailers lack design training and that designers need to raise their game to stay ahead

I would like to make a few comments on Rob Mascari’s article.

Where do you start on this one, as it touches on so very much? I can’t believe that studios are still suffering from internet pricing for appliances. Surely we have enough expertise to win over clients to buy from us, having spent hours and hours with them showing them how they work?

I don’t think I had a single client last year buy off the net, and although I do discount them to make sure I keep control, the manufacturers have worked hard to keep the margins protected a little bit for the people who invest in studios, vans and warehousing.

Now to the retailer or design practice debate… I guess I am both, but having managed to observe a lot of kitchen retailers over the years, it never ceases to amaze me how poor so many of them are at designing. So until all designers are properly trained to actually design, and not just give the client what they think they want, or just put kitchens in a room without stopping to see if that kitchen suits the client, then we will all carry on suffering the consequences.

I still have studios tell people to come to me for my work and they will copy it for less! They must feel so proud of their abilities and what fools they are, as they keep sending me lovely clients that I win over to buy from me.

How many kitchens do we look at in magazines or on the net that make me feel proud to be in the business? I spend more time looking with my mouth hanging open in shock, or crying with laughter at the crazy designs I see, than looking on with pride. We all have clients that insist on things we don’t think will work or look great, but we all should be able to get the basics right and rooms safe.

In these magazines, I see homeowners in their kitchen, standing there with great pride of what has been created, only to note that the microwave or steam oven is actually higher than their faces or worktop heights that make the client look like they would be on their tiptoes to use.

Being able to do a pretty kitchen doesn’t mean it works. So who will stand up and say let’s all get better at what we do? I have 35 years’ experience and believe it has been 35 years of learning new things all the time.

So, we all need to get better at what we do and flood the internet with our work, help to educate clients that better is available and they will come and find us. Yes, build your business on quality installations, photograph them and get blogging, it’s free. Then, lo and behold, the clients will come. Offer them great service and yes, those among us that can do spatial design as well as kitchen design will get to charge for our work. But don’t be crazy and think it can be across the industry. You have to be good to charge, otherwise you will come undone very quickly.

We are in an amazing trade that really does reward us with great, profitable businesses, if we do a good job. The kitchen companies out there doing poor work will not survive, as all clients are savvy and research on the net. They are even wise to checking accounts. So the big players will continue to pick up the lower market, but people really want and need service, as they are lost trying to do detailed projects on their own.

Years ago, I thought I had seen the end of small kitchen businesses, but the big places just can’t offer that relaxed friendly service.

My clients trust me and my team and will continue to pay a little more for the peace of mind and knowing we are always here for them. The big companies will always be there, doing what they do, but we aren’t a threat to them. They watch us and learn, so we need to keep raising our game and smile as they run around trying to catch us.

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