What do designers need to consider before specifying products for a new kitchen and bath project? How is COVID-19 going to change the way these spaces are designed to help prevent the spread of infection? Chief content director Robert Nieminen talks to Lorenzo Marquez of the Marqet Group to answer these questions and more. Listen now.
*Thank you to our generous sponsors! Interface & Bradley Corporation
Robert Nieminen: Hi, everyone, and welcome back to the I Hear Design podcast. This is Robert Nieminen, chief content director for interiors+sources. I hope you all are doing well and staying safe. This is a really unprecedented time we’re going through, and I know we’ve all heard that countless times.
But one of the more positive things that’s emerged I’ve noticed as people are working from home is that many of us are taking the additional time we have by not commuting to the office, for example, to catch up on projects, read books, do crafts and just kind of better ourselves in some way. And that was actually part of the reasoning behind our new How to Specify series that we launched this year, before the pandemic actually.
And the thought behind it was to offer both young professionals and seasoned designers who are looking for some more current information on specification across a range of product categories, to learn something new and get up to speed on what’s happening in the world of product manufacturing and specifying to class. is officially in session. And this month we’re focusing on kitchen and bath products. And for today’s podcast I’ve invited Lorenzo Marquez, president and CEO for Marqet Group to be our instructor today. So, Lorenzo, thanks for being here.
And this month, we’re focusing on kitchen and bath products. For today’s podcast, I’ve invited Lorenzo Marquez, president and CEO for Marqet Group to be our instructor today. Lorenzo, thanks for being here.
And that was actually part of the reasoning behind our new How to Specify series that we launched this year, before the pandemic actually. The thought behind it was to offer both young professionals and seasoned designers who are looking for some more current information on specification across a range of product categories, to learn something new and get up to speed on what’s happening in the world of product manufacturing and specifying. So, class is officially in session.
Lorenzo Marquez: Thank you for having me, Robert. It’s a pleasure to spend time with you guys.
Robert: Yeah, great. Well, for our listeners out there who may not be familiar with Marqet Group, can you tell us first a little bit about your firm and your role there?
Lorenzo: Sure. So, Marqet Group is a marketing agency, and we specialize in brand architecture. We are very much involved with the kitchen, bath and design industry, working with a lot of different constructors, builders, designers, showrooms, home centers and helping them reach their consumers.
We specialize in the kitchen and bath industry, and essentially know it from top to bottom. I was privileged enough to be a chairman of the NKBA, the National Kitchen and Bath Association for two years. So, kitchen and bath is our space.
Robert: Awesome. Well, it’s great. You’re the perfect person to speak with about this topic. So, I’m glad you’re here to help us out and talk about the importance of specifying for kitchen and bath products.
From kind of a broader perspective, what would you say is one of the first things that designers should consider before planning a kitchen or a bathroom project? Like should they be focusing on size, project type, end user, the budget or all the above? Like, what’s the combination there?
Lorenzo: Robert, it really is everything. I think at the end of the day, first it’s important for any consumer or any homeowner, to consider utilizing a certified designer when they’re looking at redoing the project.
A lot of us have the mindset of being more DIY and just being able to do it ourselves. What happens with that could be catastrophic, and I experienced that myself a few years ago. And so, I think that the first thing that people should consider is hiring a team of professionals to help them with their projects.
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From a designer standpoint, obviously budget is important and understanding the primary needs of the client. We are in a society today that has up to four different generations living under the same roof. So, you have people that are aging in place and staying at their house, or you have kids that are taking their parents to move back in with them, you have kids coming back from college, and often times you also have grandkids living in the same household.
So, understanding the needs of the family and the household are very important from a practical usage standpoint, but also understanding the budget constraints or the budget they may have to work on the project is also very, very important.
Robert: Absolutely. So, obviously not all kitchen and bathroom projects are created equal. Would you say the functional design considerations are the same for like a high-end luxury project like a hotel, as they are for ones with maybe more limited budgets? Or are there kind of differences between them?
Lorenzo: Well, I think there’s differences between them for sure. Obviously, residential projects are very much different than commercial projects or hospitality projects. I think hospitality projects allow the designer to get a little bit more creative and push more their own unique taste and their own design elements forward. Whereas a consumer household would be more designed along the lines of the people that live in the space or the people that actually will live in the house.
And so, certainly hospitality design has more opportunity and flexibility when it comes to design if the budget is there. But from a consumer standpoint, the needs of the homeowner are obviously more... taking into consideration when it comes to selecting materials and also designing the overall space.
Robert: Yeah, it’s a very logical distinction there to make. So, that’s good. When we talk about plumbing, I mean, it’s obviously not a very glamorous topic, but it’s essential as well, I’m sure, but what do designers need to think about in terms of what’s behind the wall before they get started?
Lorenzo: But no, certainly the valves, the way the piping is done, the way the water lines are running, all those things are very important. You have to make sure that you have really good architectural drawings and plans of where everything is going.
You also have to consider having the ability to review and also to understand the fixtures that will go in front of the walls, because oftentimes, you projects get delayed and if you select a valve, and the plumbing fixtures discontinue in the future, then you’ve created an issue behind the walls.
And so, by all means, it’s essentially important to consider all those things and really understand everything that goes as part of the project.
You mentioned plumbing isn’t all that glamorous, and I somewhat agree, but I also somewhat disagree with you on that just because hard finishes and soft finishes essentially design and create an environment. But plumbing creates the experience when it comes to kitchen and when it comes to bath.
Think of doing a very luxurious, beautiful, marble bathroom and where you spend a lot of money and in getting this bathroom together. But if your plumbing fixtures and your plumbing is not supported to complement the environment, the experience will not be pleasant.
I oftentimes think of companies like Kohler that designs beautiful, functional products, they really focus on elevating the experience for the user. So, they’ve really gone through and they’ve done beautiful aesthetics when it comes to the product. But the performance is really focused on deriving that experience. And that’s where you see a lot of companies, like I mentioned Kohler, where they’re developing technology that complements that experience, as well as the overall aesthetics of the product.
Robert: Yeah, that’s a really key distinction. I’m glad you pointed that out, because I hadn’t considered that, actually. But you’re right. I mean, as far as even design trends are going, it’s become more and more about the user experience, right?
Robert: Well, once you know we get past the sort of pipes and fittings, what do you see as being some key components of fixtures that are common to products on the market today? Like what are some things that designers can expect to see with some of the new products on the market?
Lorenzo: I hate to call it in layman’s terms, but gold faucets, or I guess they call it bronze, is coming back hard and steady. There’s a lot more functionality when it comes to faucets. There’s a lot of technology that’s also integrated within shower components, within obviously toilets and the wash basins or different elements within the bathroom space.
Want to learn more from Lorenzo?
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As it pertains to the kitchen, you’re seeing a lot of touchless faucets. I think that now, especially around the pandemic, people will be more sensitive to obviously contact and cleanliness in their households.
They’re also going to be focused not only in technology that you and I perceive, as turn out the lights, but more so the component of how a product is made, the antimicrobial, antibacterial resistant that a product has, the live day-to-day functionality of how a product allows you to potentially turn it on with through Alexa or through Siri or whatever artificial intelligence devices you may have at home, but also how it responds to motion and how it responds to your overall needs.
I think that technology up until this point in some ways, has been classified much more as an added luxury item, not necessarily a need. And I think that realizing everything that’s going on with bacteria and with this pandemic, we’re all going to be more sensitive as it pertains to the products that we put in our household and the exposure that we’re putting our families under by selecting a material that may not be antimicrobial, or may not be conducive of providing a healthier environment for your household.
Robert: Yeah, absolutely. I totally agree that some of those features may have been considered a nice-to-have that are going to be a must-have going forward.
You touched on the antimicrobial properties. Are there a lot of products out there right now that maybe you have those and what materials are those made out of? Like would it be like copper or silver? Or are you aware of some other products like that, that designers can look into?
Lorenzo: Yes, I mean, it all depends on the material. Obviously, when you’re looking at surfaces, porcelain, quartz, some natural stones when are properly sealed, they will be antimicrobial, antibacterial, there is no porosity and when bacteria doesn’t spread on the surface, it essentially dies off immediately.
So, nothing is - and I’m not a doctor, by the way, but I’ve obviously done research when it comes to products and specifications. So, anything that is not conducive of bacteria spreading is important. That is the reason why, putting it bluntly, all toilets are made out of porcelain because they are not conducive of bacteria spreading on toilets.
Obviously, copper, steel, all those materials are also nonporous and are not conducive to reproduce bacteria. But I think that going back to technology in itself, it’s not so much on the products, R&D side of things. It’s more so on the actual daily use of a product.
Having a faucet that detects your motion and turns on the water automatically without you having to touch the handle or the lever. Having an artificial intelligence device that allows you to turn on your oven, and also turn on your water and be able to work with you in the kitchen, so you’re not touching raw chicken, grabbing the oven handle, trying to turn it on, trying to wash dishes at the same time.
All those things are going to become more and more important and conducive of the way we live and also become opportunities for designers to really promote a universal healthy kitchen and bath design environment for their customers.
Robert: Yeah, that’s the way that interiors are going to help keep occupants safe, and so that’s a good point.
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Lorenzo: Well, and you also have to consider the fact that when designers are designing environments, the first thing that is selected is color. With color, then you start essentially bringing in components or materials or finishes based on budget.
I think that color is going to still continue to be the No. 1 designing elements. But I think that cleanliness is going to take over budgetary constraints. I would say that people would rather do one thing in their kitchen or their bathroom versus everything, if they can at least ensure that the areas where they’re having more human touch, human contact, are going to be a safer environment for their families.
Robert: Are there any other considerations that you think about as far as Kitchen and Bath overall that designers need to be paying attention to these days or moving forward?
Lorenzo: Yes, absolutely. Designers should, again, look into the household, look into the growing number of different generational gaps that live within each household. They should look into the functionality of the products they are selecting. They should also pay attention to products that are available in a DIY setting where it may not be as conducive for them to use those materials because consumers can potentially go get those products directly and try to do it themselves.
I think that designers much more they’re looking into the design elements of projects right now, designers should really be focusing on the value and the benefits of their specification knowledge as well as their overall drawing knowledge and how they can drive value to consumers, particularly focusing on knowledge behind products, materials, how they’re made, how they are functional, how they can change and better people’s lifestyles. I think that’s a huge value and a huge benefit that designers should focus on versus just the overall aesthetics, which aesthetics will always be important. But bringing that expertise forward is much more valid at this point, then it’s just showing pretty pictures.
Robert: Yeah, that’s true. Absolutely. Yeah, it’s really good insight and good practical information there. Well, thank you for sharing your perspective with our listeners, Lorenzo. Appreciate you being here.
Lorenzo: Thank you, Robert. Thanks for having me. I look forward to speaking again soon.
Robert: Yeah. Great. All right. Well, that’s it for today. For our listeners out there, stay tuned for more podcasts from our How to Specify series.
Our next month, we’ll be talking about furniture specification and what you need to know to make the most informed choices for your next project.
I also want to close out by sending out a big thanks to our sponsors, Interface for making this whole series possible, as well as Bradley Corp. for bringing us today’s podcast. So, thanks again for tuning in, and be well, everyone.
About our guest:
Lorenzo Marquez is the president of Marqet Group, a full-service marketing agency specializing in the design and construction industry.
In his role, he supports manufacturers, distributors, fabricators and trade partners in developing campaigns to increase market share through strategic marketing strategies inclusive of branding, public relations, advertising, merchandising, social media, web and digital strategies.
He is also an executive member of The Rockheads Group, a private surface fabrication network that represents independent stone fabrication businesses across North America. His previous experience includes building international brands and helping companies develop and execute their marketing strategies.
He is a two-time Chairman of the Board of NKBA member and a current Board of Director Member.
Follow Lorenzo on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn