An Incredible story from our Client

An Incredible story from our Client

Hey there. My name is Anna. I live with my husband, David, in Vienna in Northern Virginia. For years and years, we just rented apartments together. We worked hard and saved up to get our own place. He works as a cashier in the local bank, and I’m a corporate administrative assistant. On the side, he does some gardening work, and I teach English online for extra cash. We never had the big bucks but always had enough to pay our way. I would say that we are the epitome of good, honest Americans, determined to make our way in the world without handouts or dishonesty.

The dream we shared, though, was to have our own place. Renting apartments was always fine, but we longed to have our own space. Having control over decorating decisions and whether or not we had a pet always seemed like such an improvement. In any case, we are both thirty years old now. Apartment living is okay for a young couple, but now we are older, we might want kids. With that in mind, we just needed more space. It was better for us to get our own place before we had kids anyway. We didn’t want the pressure of finding somewhere while I was pregnant, nor did we want our children growing up on a building site.

So, we set about looking. It was a long process. So many places priced us out. We weren’t averse to paying to have work done on any property, but it had to come to the right price to begin with. Anyway, after months of disappointment and anxiety, we found the place and our offer was accepted.

It was an old-fashioned single-story house with three bedrooms. The interior decoration was so outdated. I think the previous occupier had been living there since it was built in the 1970s and had never bothered to decorate. For example, the kitchen was a disgrace. The entire thing was covered in lime green tiles. The concrete floor had a thin carpet over it. Anybody who has ever cooked anything in their life knows that no one needs carpet in the kitchen. The cupboard doors were coming off their hinges, and the entire space was illuminated by just one hanging lightbulb.

To make matters worse, the kitchen looked like it had barely been cleaned in its entire existence. Grime appeared to be embedded into the surfaces. Both David and I agreed that the whole thing would have to go. We would rip it out and start again, build our own creation. This was effectively our decision with the whole property. The only thing that we wanted to leave in place was the roof and the walls. Everything else had to be changed and rebuilt to our specification. Sure, this would cost a little bit of money, and our budget was fairly tight, but by the end, we would have the house of our dreams.

The kitchen was the starting point. First of all, because we wanted to live in the house right away. If we started on the bedrooms or living areas, then our lives would be disrupted significantly from the get-go. The kitchen, on the other hand, presented the least amount of inconvenience. Sure, there would be an uncomfortable period of eating takeaway every night, which would be expensive too, but that pain would be worth it. Once it was done, we could move onto the rest of the property.

It seemed like a good plan at the time. It wasn’t. The nightmare that ensued around that kitchen taught me a lesson that I will never forget. I will never forgive those responsible for what happened, including myself. It was a total disaster, and I am now writing this as a warning. Do not make the same mistakes we did. We made blunder after blunder. It ended up costing us thousands beyond what was reasonable. To make matters worse, the emotional cost was so much more than that.

Before I can properly describe what went wrong, I have to tell you what we were trying to get done. We wanted the kitchen to be extended. It was not really big enough for our needs, especially if we were going to raise a family in it. So, we needed to carry out some home additions knocking out a wall and extending the space into the garden a little bit. We needed the kitchen remodeled completely. It was open plan and decorated in the most grotesque way possible. Instead, we wanted a clean, classy look with an island in the center where my family and I could eat and socialize.

Once the kitchen was done, all three bedrooms and the lounge needed to be done. They were decorated with discolored white wallpaper that had turned a sort of yellow over the years. We did not need much done in them other than a redecoration, with the walls getting replastered and painted a new shade of white. A lick of paint would have solved many of the problems in the house, making it seem brighter and less dated. This was something that we identified the moment we moved in and wanted to get started with as soon as the kitchen was done.

The bathroom was the final issue. Perhaps one of the biggest inconveniences of the property is that it only had one bathroom to begin with. The style of the bathroom was the next issue. Although it was a good size, the bathroom’s décor was not dissimilar to the kitchen. Everybody knows that the best color for a bathroom is white. Why the designers decades ago decided that lime green was the best shade, I will never know. Of course, the area has dilapidated over the years, but I cannot imagine that it ever looked any good to begin with. Even being in there at all made me feel nauseous.

Given my description of the house, you might be wondering why we even bought it at all. That is understandable, as I can see that I have been less than complimentary about the state of the property. The simple answer is that it was within our budget. If we could have purchased somewhere cheap that was also our dream home, then, of course, we would have. The plan was to get this place for a low price and then have a relatively low-cost renovation, meaning we had our perfect house for less than we could have paid. Of course, we were willing to spend some money, but we intended to be as frugal as possible.

The first issue we ran into was getting a contractor to do the work. I can now see that choosing the right contractor is potentially the most important part of any project. At the time, we did not choose the right contractor. We chose the one that was cheapest and available at the earliest opportunity. We should have spent time doing research, looking at a variety of contractors across the surrounding areas like McLean, Great Falls, Reston and Arlington. Instead, we just chose the cheapest one from Vienna. I won’t name them out of courtesy, but we made a huge mistake. We ignored their bad reviews because of their low pricing and willingness to do the job straight away. We were just so desperate to get the job done immediately (yesterday would have been preferable) and for a low cost. In the end, it cost us more time and money than it would have done if we’d have just done our research properly.

The company turned up two hours late on the first day of the job. Both David and I had taken a day off work to oversee the first day and welcome the workmen. Already, we had lost two precious hours of time on the project, as well as two hours that we could have been at work. To their credit, the workmen did start work as soon as they got there, beginning to process of demolishing the wall to extend the kitchen’s area. Although, by the end of the day, they had caused unwanted damage to the roof, which we intended to keep largely intact. Already, after just a few hours, the additional costs had started to rack up.

The extension took what felt like forever, almost the entire amount of time we had budgeted for the whole project. Every day, it felt like we were running into a new issue. It did not matter what was happening, there was always something to make it worse. The builders we had chosen charged a cheap rate but charged by the day. Every day, they were late. Sometimes, they would not work at all if the weather was not perfect. I cannot describe to you how many coffee breaks were had. It is not healthy to have that much coffee, surely. Then, occasionally, they would tell me that some material or tool they needed was not available or had increased in price for some obscure reason. All of this meant extra time and extra money being added to the job.

Both David and I felt humiliated by the time the first stage of the project was completed. We had burned through almost our entire budget on what was supposed to be just a small part of the project. So angry were we that we decided to complain to the contractor’s management. In fairness, they were understanding and helpful, although I now realize that this is because they were accustomed to dealing with complaints on a regular basis. All of their customers were disgruntled and for the same reasons as we were.

The management offered us a discounted rate for the rest of the kitchen, as well as their personal assurance that the levels of professionalism would increase and that they would use only the finest and highest quality materials on our job. I cannot believe how stupid we were. We believed them. We swallowed the sales pitch, the lie: hook, line, and sinker.

The kitchen design they gave us for the remodeling was good. Well, it looked good in the pictures, which had undoubtedly been edited beyond recognition. Maybe they were made on a computer in the first place. I cannot tell. Suffice to say, the final version did not look like what we were promised.

As I have said, we wanted a clean, white kitchen, with an island in the center. More than anything, we wanted to reduce clutter and have a place that was practical for kitchen tasks but also comfortable enough to spend time in every day. We received neither of these things.

The issues around timeliness did not resolve themselves, despite the resolution from contractor management. They still turned up late. They still did not turn up in bad weather (even though the job was now primarily inside). They still had issues with tools and materials. Their problems obtaining the correct apparatus for the job led to us accepting cream furnishings for the kitchen instead of white. We now have cream tiles and cupboards, with a white sink. The cream tiles remind me of the original faded white wallpaper in the bedrooms and lounge. The very aesthetic we were trying to avoid is the one we had installed.

I still cannot believe this, but one of the cabinets actually fell off before the kitchen was fully remodeled and installed. This is a particularly impressive example of shoddy workmanship, considering we had not even used the kitchen cabinets yet. Surely these people cannot have been professional kitchen cabinet installers. Any person with any experience could have surely fitted a cabinet without it falling off before the conclusion of the project! I still cannot get my head around it.

At the end of the kitchen remodeling, it looked nothing like the model we had been shown. It was a different color. None of the finishing was done properly. Bits of grouting between the tiles had been spread over the lines and had not been cleaned up at all. The light fittings were done how we asked but occasionally flickered when we turned them on. The sink was a different color from the cabinets and tiles. David put a spirit level on the counter of the island and realize it was not even straight. If you filled a glass of water to the brim, it would spill. We were devastated. We had gone so far over budget that we may as well have used one of the more expensive professionals. Our quick job had become protracted, and we had barely started, there was still the rest of the house to do.

We could not carry on with this contractor. Even though we had come so far with them, we could not do any more. We decided to change contractor and cut our losses. This time, we did our research and looked for an experienced professional with a degree of integrity and skill. We looked at reviews and pricing. Eventually, we decided to go with Explore Kitchens, who are based not too far away, in McLean, VA. They were able to come out to us straight away to price up the job. The project was priced honestly. The quote was more expensive than the previous company, but we were more confident that it would not be exceeded and that we could depend on them to keep to their promises. Similarly, the job was predicted to take a little bit longer, but this was okay. A longer deadline that is actually met is better than a short one that is missed.

We chose them to undertake the bathroom remodeling work and the home remodeling tasks. They did an excellent job, with everything being done as promised and within budget. They used high-quality materials that I am confident will be durable and not need repairing for a long time to come. It is a shame that they were not around to do the original home additions and kitchen remodeling because they would have done such a better job.

Although the kitchen is not what we wanted, Explore Kitchens have done an amazing job with the rest of the place. They were truly professional and greatly exceeded our expectations. In all likelihood, when we have saved up a little more, we will go back to them to realize our kitchen dream and get it back to how it should be. It is a shame that we have to get Explore Kitchens to remodel somebody else’s work, but we will feel better once it has been done.

I think we were naïve in our hope that we could get a perfect job for such a low cost. We looked at other projects that had been expensive although well crafted and thought we could get the same result for a low price. We thought that we could outsmart the system, that everybody else was stupid for following the status quo. We thought that the more expensive and reputable companies were conmen, keen to make extra money off unsuspecting and gullible customers. As it turned out, we were the gullible ones. My face still turns red with embarrassment just thinking about it now.

I cannot overstate how much we recommend Explore Kitchens for anyone in Northern Virginia. Please, learn from our experience. If you try to go cheap, you will end up paying twice. If you want it done yesterday, you should be prepared to wait a year. If you’re in McLean, Vienna, Great Falls, Reston, Arlington or Virginia, you should use them. Whether you’re after kitchen remodelers, kitchen design, kitchen cabinet installers, or just tile and flooring, they are certainly the company for you. I am happy to write this recommendation for them so that other people do not make the same mistakes that David and I did.

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New CA Law Requires Use of ‘Lead-Free’ Plumbing Fixtures

New CA Law Requires Use of ‘Lead-Free’ Plumbing Fixtures

ONTARIO, CA — A new plumbing code signed into law in California will mandate strict new limits on the manufacturing and sale of plumbing fixtures that leach lead, a toxin that has been tied for decades to drinking water, state officials announced.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week signed into law AB 100, legislation that establishes new lead leaching standards for the state, according to the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), an organization that coordinates the development and adaptation of plumbing, mechanical, swimming pool and solar energy codes in the U.S. and abroad.

The new law, effective Jan. 1, 2023, prohibits the manufacturing and sale in California of any plumbing fixture, fitting or faucet that does not meet NSF/ANSI/CAN 61-2020, the IAPMO said. The law also requires that product packaging and labeling of any device that’s intended to convey or dispense water for human consumption must indicate compliance with the “lead-free” standard.

“AB 100 will help reduce the risk of lead exposure in the built environment through certified, ‘lead-free’ endpoint devices,” said Robyn Fischer, director of government relations for the Ontario, CA-based IAPMO. “This new law will complement the larger-scale efforts underway to help protect Californian’s water infrastructure and underscores the state’s commitment to uphold public health and safety.”

“We’re grateful that California’s new law promotes the industry standard for lead reduction, so that drinking water fixtures and faucets are accurately labeled,” added Tom Palkon, IAPMO’s executive v.p.

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Continued Growth Forecast for U.S. Building Products

Continued Growth Forecast for U.S. Building Products

INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. building products market will continue building on its “exponential growth” of the past two years, gaining an additional 2.9% from 2023 through 2025, with the professional sector increasing by 4.6%, according to a newly released forecast by the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI).

The Indianapolis-based HIRI predicted that the total U.S. building products market will increase by 13% in 2021 over the previous year, with the professional sector growing by 18.2%. The total building products market is forecast to grow an additional 2.3% in 2022, with the professional sector growing by 7.1%, HIRI added.

“The home improvement industry had explosive growth during the coronavirus pandemic, due primarily to DIY projects, but that may now be driven by pros,” said HIRI Research Director Matthew Craig, adding that growth in the DIY sector is expected to decline as an overall share of home improvement product sales in 2022, since “many homeowners completed planned projects throughout this year and the last.”

However, growth “will continue further in the professional products market as COVID-19 restrictions ease and projects put on hold resume, HIRI said.

“The strong home improvement outlook provided by pandemic behavior has been given new life by improved employment gains, increased access to vaccinations and additional stimulus measures,” said HIRI. “A continuing strong economy suggests that spending (in the professional sector) will improve, as households feel more comfortable with contractors in their home.”

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LX Hausys America Unveils New Brand Identities

LX Hausys America Unveils New Brand Identities

CHICAGO – LX Hausys America Inc. unveiled new brand identities for its  HIMACS Solid Surface and Viatera Quartz Surface brands, and a new brand identity for its resilient floorcovering line of products, HFLOR, at NeoCon last week. The new brand identities reflect the company’s name change this summer from LG Hausys America to LX Hausys America.

The new name is a result of the company’s position within the recently established LX Holdings Corp. The holding company is a globally diversified organization recently spun off from LG Group, the South Korean multinational conglomerate best known for its advanced consumer electronics.

Concurrent with the name change, the company introduced a new logo. It pays homage to the company’s roots, looks to the future and embodies the organization’s management philosophy: “Link to a sustainable future.” Of significance, the “X” within the LX Hausys logo is intersected with an ascending diagonal line, which is a visual representation of the company accelerating into the future, notes the firm.

An ascending diagonal line is now found within each brand logo. This subtle design treatment creates a unified look between the company and its three brands, the company continues. It also ensures the company’s mission for creating a more sustainable future is consistently visually represented across its portfolio of brands.


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How In-Stock Cabinets Can Transform Your Home!

How In-Stock Cabinets Can Transform Your Home!

Over the years, the term in-stock cabinets has become a little synonymous with the kitchen. Having become a staple of the room over the last few decades, many homeowners simply believe them to be suitable for that one room.

However, that is not the case, and utilizing them in other rooms can help to you transform your home. As technology and materials advance, in-stock cabinets are able to offer you with some truly beautiful designs and styles that can help you to elevate any interior.

Still not sure? We thought we would take a closer look at how they can enhance some of the most popular rooms in your home…

In-stock Cabinets for Bathrooms

Your bathroom is one of the most-used rooms in the home, and storage is an incredibly important feature. Installing in-stock cabinets in your bathroom can provide you with a wide range of benefits, including:

Allowing you to enjoy a unique design that combines storage with countertop space. This will let you display things such as cosmetics or various décor options.In-stock cabinets for the bathroom can also help you to make better use of your existing space. If you find your bathroom has unused nooks, then adding a cabinet can help you to add the perfect finishing touch.Adding an in-stock cabinet can also help you get rid of the traditional pedestal sink storage, reducing the clutter in your bathroom.

In-stock Cabinets for Laundry Rooms

The laundry room is another very important space within the home. However, for many homeowners, this room remains a functional, if slightly uninspiring, area. In-stock cabinets can help you to transform your laundry room in multiple ways:

By providing greater storage and organisation for your essential supplies. They can also help to keep supplies out of sight from children or pets.They can also add additional countertop space to fold or iron your clothes.In-stock cabinets can also help to provide seating space for your family, which can be useful if you are putting on shoes or getting ready to head outside.

In-stock Cabinets for Wine and Coffee Bars

Looking to create a truly unique wine or coffee bar in your home? In-stock cabinets are a fantastic way to transform any space:

Help you to create a dedicated bar space to entertain friends and familyProvide you with additional storage and organisation to keep ice buckets, glasses, and anything else you need.Boost the visual appeal of any room by creating a tidy and stylish bar area that is both eye-catching and functional. They can also be tailored to meet any interior design, ensuring you have the perfect matching cabinets.

In-stock Cabinets for Home Offices

As more people work remotely, in-stock cabinets are quickly becoming a must-have accessory for any home office. These unique solutions can help you to:

Enjoy a clear workstation, allowing you to quickly create the perfect home office solution to store everything you need.They can also help you to improve your organization and reduce any clutter by giving you a secure place to store them.In-stock cabinets can also create a more inviting space to work from, making it more enjoyable to work from (while also looking far better on your next Zoom call!)

In-stock Cabinets for Dining Rooms

No matter whether you are eating with your family or entertaining friends, your dining room is often the heart of any home. Adding in-stock cabinets can help you to:

Enjoy an ample serving space, allowing you to serve guests directly at the table or creating a delicious buffet spread for those more relaxed occasions.Not only do they help you to bring more dishes through to the dining room, but in-stock cabinets can also free up space on the dining table, helping to make it feel less cluttered.In-stock cabinets can also help you to transform the aesthetics of your dining room, allowing you to create a modern and stylish interior that your guests will love.

In-stock Cabinets for Bedrooms

Whether you are looking to store accessories and cosmetics, or you just need more space in your bedroom, in-stock cabinets can help you to transform your bedroom in multiple ways, including:

Acting as a makeup station. The flat surface is the perfect spot to add a mirror and lighting, allowing you to stop trying to apply your makeup standing in front of the bathroom mirror.For students, an in-stock cabinet can also double as a fantastic desk for remote learning, allowing them to complete homework and lessons in a private space.In-stock cabinets for bedrooms can also help to reduce clutter by providing ample storage space for a huge array of items.

In-stock Cabinets for Playrooms

Children’s playrooms can often be a messy space, so adding an in-stock cabinet can transform your interior in multiple ways:

They are a great way to neatly store and organize all of your child’s favorite toys. Allowing you to keep them out of sight while remaining easily accessible.In-stock cabinets can also double up as a fantastic desk space that your child can use for their drawings and colorings in.They are also a very stylish solution that can help to either enhance the existing décor or add a splash of additional color and texture.

In-stock Cabinets for Entertainment Rooms

Do you regularly host fun nights for your friends and family? If so, in-stock cabinets for entertainment rooms can provide an array of benefits, including:

Increasing the amount of usable storage space. No matter whether it is storing your favorite DVDs or records or keeping some of your favorite drinks out of sight, this storage space can be invaluable.With all that storage space, you can remove the messy and unsightly clutter, helping to create a cleaner and less distracting room for your guests.In-stock cabinets for entertainment rooms are also a great way to transform the interior of any room, allowing you to create the perfect décor for your home.


Looking for in-stock cabinets?

If you are looking to transform your home with some beautiful and stylish in-stock cabinets, then Explore Kitchens is here to help you. We provide our customers with the very best cabinet solutions, operating across Northern Virginia.

So no matter which room you are looking to transform in your home, our experienced team is here to help you create the perfect interior. Want to find out more? Get in touch today!

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RSI Acquires Beck/Allen Cabinetry

RSI Acquires Beck/Allen Cabinetry

ST. LOUIS, MO – RSI Kitchen & Bath President and CEO Megan Bittle has announced the expansion of the RSI portfolio of offerings with the acquisition of Beck/Allen Cabinetry in advance of company President Mike Beck’s planned retirement.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead Beck/Allen through times of tremendous growth, as well as challenging economic downturns that tested our team,” said Beck. “To have had a role in taking Beck/Allen from meager start-up to becoming the sought-after player in the cabinet space that it is has been both gratifying and humbling. A succession plan was extremely important as we looked to the future, and we’re confident that the company and our employees will be in trusted and forward-thinking hands with Megan at the helm.”

Founded in the year 2000 by Mike Beck and Lee Allen, Beck/Allen began as a wholesale cabinet company catering solely to home builders and remodelers in the St. Louis area. Over two decades, the company evolved in both product lines and capabilities, earning the respect and business of leading trade professionals including designers and architects.

“I believe that to exist in our industry 20 years from now, you must be thinking of strategic alliances, and Beck/Allen represents a complementary segment of the kitchen and bath industry in St. Louis,” says Bittle. “There is so much growth potential in the St. Louis market that acquiring a local business with strong ties to the community and not having to look outside of this market was incredibly intriguing. Our cultures and customer bases meld so well that I saw an opportunity to grow RSI over the next 10 years.”

Moving forward, Beck/Allen Cabinetry will be referred to as a “division of RSI Kitchen & Bath”.

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Wetstyle Opens New Showroom

Wetstyle Opens New Showroom

Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Canada – WETSTYLE, a Canadian manufacturer of premium-quality bath fixtures and furnishings for the North American market, has opened its newly constructed showroom to architects, designers and the general public for the first time.

Beginning May 1, 2021, customers are welcome to view WETSTYLE’s product line at its new corporate showroom, with social distancing practices in place. The 11,600-sq.-ft. showroom, located in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, on Montreal’s South Shore, will be open by appointment only during showroom hours, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

“We are very proud to welcome customers to this facility, which was designed to showcase our values as a brand,” says Mark Wolinsky, president of WETSTYLE. “We look forward to showing local specifiers and customers what we do.”

The showroom exhibits 19 bathtub models, nine furniture collections and more than 30 sink models to choose from, many featuring WETSTYLE’s proprietary WETMAR BiO material, recognized by GOOD DESIGN for Green Innovation as the industry’s first recipe for soy and mineral stone used in the fabrication of composite bath fixtures. Among the WETSTYLE products on display are the Stelle Vanity collection, Mood bathtub and Feel shower bases, all recipients of GOOD DESIGN awards.

Designed by Atelier Moderno, and recipient of the Grands Prix du Design 2020 award, the showroom is filled with distinct and intimate spaces, each highlighting an individual product. The contemporary space features non-obtrusive walls that isolate each product zone in vignette-like fashion, invoking sentiments of environments reflective of the products in use. Atmospheric lighting sets the mood of each product zone via strips and spotlights, reflecting off of a porcelain floor with marble-esque qualities that embrace the sophistication of the company’s high-end, handcrafted, made-to-order products.

“The showroom is the face of our beautiful finished products, and we have succeeded in creating a space that captures the essence of that beauty,” adds Wolinsky. “It’s also a vehicle for exhibiting the tremendous level of detail, craftmanship and passion invested in the making of our award-winning products.”

Ensuring a safe environment

With the health and safety of its clients and employees as a top priority, the WETSTYLE showroom strictly adheres to all government guidelines in respect to COVID-19 protocols. As of May 1, the facility will welcome customers up to a maximum of five people per designated appointment time.

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Fantini Calls for Awards Entries

Fantini Calls for Awards Entries

New York – The Fantini Design Awards, an annual competition presented by Fantini USA, has opened its competition with a call for entries through October 29, 2021. The competition, celebrating its fourth year, celebrates the best of North American design inspired by water. Fantini invites all architects, designers and developers to submit their eligible projects for consideration.

Seven projects will be selected as winners by a panel of judges, and one representative per winning project will receive a four-day, all-expenses paid trip this fall to Casa Fantini/Lake Time resort, designed by Piero Lissoni at Fantini’s headquarters in Pella, Italy.

Qualifying Projects should:

Be either a Completed or a Future project

Be completed after January 1, 2019 and no later than October 29, 2021Be located in the U.S. or CanadaBe documented with high-resolution, professional photography (Completed Projects) OR a sketch, rendering and/or floor plan (Future Projects)

Completed Project Requirements

Fit in one of the categories: Residential or CommercialIf Residential, the Project must have at least:

One master bathroom with five or more Fantini fixtures (including faucets), OR

two or more bathrooms with at least three Fantini fixtures (including one or more faucets) in eachIf Commercial, Fantini branded products must have been used in the Project.

Future Project Requirements

Project must be under construction, meaning that the construction works have begun on-site in the U.S. or Canada but are not yet completed.Must fall into one of the following two categories:

Residential, provided it will install Fantini fixtures in two or more bathrooms; OR Commercial, provided that Fantini branded products will be used in the Project.

Project entries will be judged by Kendra Jackson, deputy editor, AZURE magazine; Olivia Hosken, Style and Interiors writer for Town & Country, and Alessandro Munge, founder and design director for Studio Munge.

All submissions must be received by October 29th, 2021 at 11:59 pm EST.

For additional information, visit


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Earning Trust in a Skeptical World

Earning Trust in a Skeptical World

The figures are shocking. Less than 25% of Americans trust the federal government to do the right thing, according to a recent Pew survey. And it’s not just Uncle Sam. Approximately a quarter of the U.S. population does not have a religious affiliation. One-third of Americans don’t trust the media to tell the truth, reaching a historic high, according to Gallup. 

Can you blame people for being skeptical, weary and trust adverse? There have been monumental failures of leadership, deceptive practices, the use of “alternative facts” and outright deceit from brands, the government, public figures and media outlets that at one time offered a definitive perspective on the day’s news. Unfortunately, Walter Cronkite is not around any longer. 

Becoming a Trusted Resource

How does a kitchen and bath showroom, in the midst of ongoing pandemic concerns, booming business volume and never-before-seen supply chain challenges, earn and maintain the trust of a skeptical customer base and market?

In her new book Trustworthy: How the Smartest Brands Beat Cynicism and Bridge the Trust Gap, Margot Bloomstein provides a process for becoming a trusted resource for a showroom’s client base. That road map has three parts: voice, volume and vulnerability.

Voice refers to the consistent and familiar way in which a brand engages with its market both verbally and visually. A brand’s voice elevates a showroom or design-build organization’s most important qualities and characteristics. 

Volume refers to the amount of information that a brand produces and determining how much content is enough. If you review kitchen and bath showroom websites, most will feature a portrait or project gallery with lots of kitchen images. Where this use of imagery falls short is that there typically are only images without explanation of anything. It’s volume for volume’s sake, and too often it’s mind-numbing. Do you really believe that posting pictures of 50 different kitchens shouts to your customer base, “trust us”? 

Showroom customers want and need affirmation. They want to feel confident in their knowledge and ability to make the right decisions for their project. They need for showrooms to make them smarter. Showrooms can earn trust by teaching their customers to trust themselves by providing information and resources that make decision making and working with a showroom easier.

At TraVek (Scottsdale, AZ), teaching customers to trust themselves begins and ends with strong communication and education. The showroom establishes trust with its market by offering monthly remodeling seminars in the showroom, sharing dinner with a crowd on average of 20 to 25 homeowners and explaining what’s involved in the renovation process, information that they need to know, expectations, timelines, how to interview and evaluate contractors and price points to consider.

TraVek’s Susan Raisanen explains that trust building begins with an initial meeting with a client at their home with all decision makers required to attend. Timelines are explained and agreed to, which is especially important in today’s environment when many showrooms may not be able to supply product or start projects for four to six months from the time a contract is signed. TraVek continues to communicate with every client that is waiting weekly with a phone call, email or text depending on how the customer prefers to receive messages. “Even if the message is nothing has changed, reaching out and having a weekly touch point says to the customer ‘you have not been forgotten, we still care about you,’ and that helps to reinforce the trust factor with our showroom,” Raisanen said.

At Murphy Bros. Design, Build, Remodel (Blaine, MN), the new supply chain paradigm has changed the sales approach. John Murphy explains, “We are completely transparent with customers, especially at initial meetings. Realistic timelines are presented, goals are established and market conditions are shared. We’ve even modified our proposals to highlight in the project scope the potential for delays at the start, in the middle and even before a project can be completed. We found that if we set expectations at the front end of projects, clients understand and they realize that other industries are experiencing similar challenges.”

Murphy Bros. also encourages its clients to select a plan B for each product type in case there are unexpected production delays and steers clients away from products that it knows can’t meet deadlines. The company also created a small woodshop in the back of its facility and retained a full-time woodworker to build custom cabinets if product is needed immediately that cannot be obtained through traditional channels.

Vulnerability refers to the uncertainty that comes from exposing your business to risk and criticism in the hope of improving, finding support or connecting with those who share similar values. Bloomstein claims that vulnerability is a corporate strength. It trades the safety of sure bets and certainty, such as three-week lead times, for choices that open the organization to risk, such as we can’t tell you definitively when your cabinets will arrive, that results in potentially greater rewards because you are being honest and setting realistic expectations.

Vulnerability is how a business makes its values visible, how it owns mistakes, how it deals with the unexpected and how values are expressed and why.

Richard Campbell (Bath, Kitchen & Tile Center with three showrooms in Delaware and one in Maryland) did not receive a positive reception from his builder clientele when he informed them of product delays and unidentifiable delivery dates. “Almost all of our major builder clients told us they were walking away, only to find that other destinations had the same problems that we were experiencing. We understand what our builders’ priorities are and started crafting solutions to meet them, such as ordering cabinets before a house is framed and working with the builder to adjust the framing to accommodate cabinet dimensions.”

Bath, Kitchen and Tile has crafted stronger partnerships with its builder clientele by working together to develop supply chain solutions. “You build trust by recognizing and explaining to clients that we are in this together. Let’s develop solutions and provide options that work, when others in the industry are resigning themselves to the belief that there is nothing they can do,” Campbell stated.

Tom Caruso (Caruso Cabinets, Avon, OH) shifted his business model to take advantage of the surge in new home construction. He, too, is ordering cabinets before a home is framed and ordering truckloads of product weekly. This has provided Caruso the flexibility to pivot when necessary and supply product based on the progress of a project, client needs and highest priorities. 

Bellmont Hardware showrooms in the San Francisco Bay area have personalized communication with customers by moving to appointment only. “This enables our sales team to provide undivided attention that results in more credibility and trust with customers,” related company general manager who also happens to be named Rich Campbell.

Bath Kitchen & Tile, TraVek, Caruso Cabinets, Murphy Bros., Bellmont and others all are advising their customers not to start demolition until all product has been delivered. Most customers have resigned themselves to the longer timelines and to be patient. Bath Kitchen & Tile has been promoting a financing option to its clients that has been well received because payment does not begin until products are delivered. The company also is developing an automated communication system that updates clients on the status of their project every two to three weeks with varying messages that keep enthusiasm high, telling customers how important they are and encouraging outreach to the showroom if there are questions. The message is that Bath Kitchen & Tile wants to hear from its clients and talk to them during the wait period.

You can’t have too many touchpoints in this environment, claims Brendon Murphy (Charleston Cabinetry & Countertops, LLC). At initial client meetings, he explains the 10 stages of a project from the initial design consultation to customer sign off at the end. “Reviewing each stage of the product sends the message that we want our customers to understand what is involved and demonstrates that our approach is well organized and thoughtful, which helps to build trust,” Murphy said.

Many showrooms have found that there is a silver lining to the supply chain’s dark cloud. Tom Caruso explained, “Because of lead times, our attention to detail has never been stronger. We check and double check every order to eliminate mistakes because if there is a problem, it may take four months or longer to resolve.”

Brendon Murphy sends the message to his clients that he needs their help to get them what they want. At initial meetings, he asks clients how much they want to invest in their property and explains that, at the end of the day, his goal is to add more value to their home than the amount of their investment.

Kitchen and bath showrooms can build trust with consumers by effectively managing customer expectations, by using their voice in the right volume, making it easy to do business with them at every stage in the customer journey and to allow themselves to be vulnerable by explaining how they are addressing challenges and responding to problems with transparency and honesty. And the entire industry can benefit from the sage advice of Mark Twain, who said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Tom Cohn serves as the exec. v.p. of the Bath & Kitchen Business Group and president of Cohn Communications, Inc., a full-service strategic marketing and public relations agency headquartered in Bethesda, MD.

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Ferguson Donation Aimed at Children’s Mental Health

Ferguson Donation Aimed at Children’s Mental Health

NEWPORT NEWS, VA — Ferguson LLC, the Newport News, VA-based distributor of plumbing and related building products, has donated $2.5 million to a local pediatric hospital whose efforts will be aimed largely at children’s mental health, the company announced.

Ferguson’s donation, proffered to the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters’ Lighting the Way campaign, will assist in the construction of a 14-story, $224 million mental-health hospital and outpatient center for children. The facility is scheduled to open in 2022, with 60 private patient rooms and space for programs that address gaps in mental health care in the region, Ferguson officials said.

“One in five children in the U.S. has a diagnosable, treatable mental-health condition, and yet the majority go without either diagnosis or treatment,” said Kevin Murphy, Ferguson CEO. “The need is only trending up, as we are just starting to see the impacts of the pandemic on the social and emotional health of children.

“The children’s mental health crisis has deep and lasting impacts in every facet of our community,” Murphy said. “Ferguson is extremely proud to be part of this endeavor.”

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