26 May 2010

How to sell kitchen cabinetry: my slide back into advertising

I have a couple of sidelines, one of which is doing project work for an ad agency. Over the last year or two, I've been taking on some different things to see where I want my career progression to head next. Part of that is writing for this ad agency. Well as luck would have it, the agency happens to be the agency of record for the design studio where I ply my trade. I'd been unhappy with some of the copy that ended up in ads and on the website and as someone who's a pretty good writer and who has a vested interest in how a kitchen studio presents itself, having me write the new website was a logical choice.

In January, I was in a brainstorming session with the ad folks and we were figuring out how to position the studio in the new website. Kitchen design's a curious thing in a lot of ways. Kitchen designers make their money from selling cabinetry but selling cabinetry isn't what I wanted to emphasize. Any monkey can sell cabinetry, and many of them do. It takes a real designer to build on that and to make rooms that capture the fundamental essence of a particular client.

I refer to my essence capturing as story telling. I work with my clients to have their homes tell their stories. Good design follows a narrative. Always.

I've been at this for long enough that I know that kitchen design as a business presents itself to the world by showing completed kitchens. These completed kitchens are terrific for portfolios, they tell a potential client what a given studio is capable of. However, these completed kitchen designs don't allow a client to project himself or herself into the image. Often times, these completed kitchen images are a barrier. Most people lack the vision thing. And when I show someone one of these photographs, I spend a lot of time guiding the person in front of me. "Imagine your home with something like this but not really like this." It makes for unnecessary confusion a lot of times.

Usually, I assemble a presentation board of finishes when I'm rolling out an idea rather showing a lot of completed projects.

So when it came to how to show the skills of a kitchen design studio on its website, I wanted to take my presentation board idea and make it a more fleshed out marketing position.

The result is something I call design stories.

We played around with this idea for a couple of months and then three weeks ago we booked a photographer and a studio and I directed the shoot. Actually, it was a collaborative effort but my resume claims sole credit for it. Resumes exist to toot my horn, right? And just for the record, none of this would have been possible without the great Amy Allen of Allen Harris Design or incredibly talented and patient photographer Chris Stickney.

Anyhow, we spent the day in the studio and assembled five still lifes (I was calling them Still Life with Cabinet Door) and shot all five of them in a single day.

The first one is called Sustainability and my body copy follows.

Every room tells a story, and every room has a different story to tell. At Kuttler Kitchens, we consider it to be our top priority to help you select the finishes that tell your story.

To help you get started; here are five, very different color and finish palettes. Each one tells its own story and we call them Tranquility, Classic, Sustainability, Grounded and Energetic. Using these as a starting point, how can we help you tell your story?

Renewable cork floors by US Floors, rich fabrics and Du Verre hardware inspired by a pomegranate can tell a story of sustainability. A modern door in sustainably-harvested Wenge or Zebrawood can bring a touch of the exotic to your home while honoring your commitment to a cleaner, greener planet. Sustainable kitchens tell the quiet story of organic, earth-friendly comfort and balance.
When I started this blog, about the last thing in the world I would have predicted as an end point would have been a slide back into advertising copy writing. Directing was a bonus. I'm insanely proud of this project and it's been a real blast to excel in an arena so far removed from what I do usually.


  1. Congratulations, Paul! I'd love to see the rest.

  2. Same here! Would love to see the other design boards.

  3. The only stuff I design is my own, and I’m comfortable enough at it that I would never enlist the services of an interior designer. I do like the idea of doing work on commission for others, but I’ve done close to nothing in that regard. But if I were to do so, what I would want to do, to the extent that it is possible for me to do so, is to take the ideas in my client’s head and somehow turn them into the vision he would have created, had he my talent for design. I say that, though, because it sounds like you actually work that way. Obviously, as an experienced designer, some of your knowledge will trump the ideas of a client. Such-and-such a material ought not to be used for such-and-such a purpose; a kitchen laid out in such-and-such a manner is going to make for a lot of congestion—that sort of thing.

    But I think lots and lots of designers tend to design for themselves, and whenever I have walked into a home that was professionally designed, I can tell at once. To me, a lot of these places have no soul. They were designed by people who don’t live there. But the people who live in these homes may well have a passion for something—oh, I don’t know, something exotic, something off the wall, maybe just, as it is with me, a passion for a home library. I believe a good designer listens to his clients and enables their passions. And based on that, I would have to say that you are an EXCELLENT designer

  4. Well done Paul! And kudos to those who realized having someone in the industry writing copy was a good idea. A company I used to work for had a "marketing professional" with no design experience write the copy for all our marketing pieces, and boy was I embarrassed when quartz was referred to as granite and appliances were mislabeled! All they had to do was ask for input from a designer...

    Here's to those of us working to differentiate ourselves from all the "monkeys" out there!

  5. "Any monkey can sell cabinetry, and many of them do. It takes a real designer to build on that and to make rooms that capture the fundamental essence of a particular client."

    That was the very first thing I learned, in my foray into kitchen design. It's not about boxes, it's about people.

    I can't wait to pop over to Kuttler and see the new copy!

  6. A real designer has to be involved if a great cabinet is to be built.

  7. Thanks gang, I was feeling a little exposed this morning when this went live.

  8. Cyra, DuQuella Tile26 May, 2010 17:41

    Great post - great copy. Man of many hats! You make it look easy......and it's not!

  9. Love it! You are drawn into every single one of those photos (I peeked at the website.) It does make you feel like you are at a launching point - open to possibilities. Such a great concept and executed beautifully. Wonderful job! - Kathy


Talk to me!