Very few industry trade shows exude a raw enthusiasm and excitement like the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show. Last month in New Orleans, the lift in the overall residential construction market was quite palpable. So I asked many of the show attendees how they managed through the downturn, and if they are seeing more and better jobs now that home building and remodeling are stronger. The number of kitchen designers and custom builders who challenged the premise of my question—that their businesses must have experienced a decline over the past few years—struck me. Many said they had been good years for business.
There were, of course, those who recited a litany of staff cuts and other measures necessitated by the downturn. But after awhile I began to focus on the common themes among those who said they had good years of late. Here are two.
Thread No. 1: They all seemed to have good mojo. Our columnist Mark Richardson talks about ‘mojo’ quite a bit. And he is right to do so. The winners over the past few years all seem to enjoy their work. They drew energy from the client interaction and the design challenges that are inherent in this business.
Thread No. 2: Those who took the downturn in stride all seemed to lean closer to me and almost apologetically talk about their successes. One of those guys was Mick DeGiulio of DeGiulio Kitchen Design in Chicago. Mick has been in business for 25 years, and it would be hard to find another designer on the planet who has been as successful over the past few years. He recently introduced a new line of kitchen sinks under the Kallista brand for Kohler. Prior to that he had been commissioned to design a new Beaux Arts style of cabinets for Siematic. And he just released a beautiful new kitchen design book called “Kitchen Centric.” In terms of kitchen projects of late, DeGiulio mentioned a number of jobs for well-known clients around the country. Back home in Chicago, his team also completed 90 kitchens in the recently built Ritz Carlton Residence.
I have always admired Mick DeGiulio’s design ideas, his vision, and the way he has pursued that vision consistently. There is a lesson in Mick’s success, beyond his obvious talent. The winners in this business typically stick to their guns. They don’t compromise very often. Custom builders need a bit of this to succeed.