Design-driven Decision Making.

Building for ease-of-use and peace of mind.

Kathryn Baker

When it comes to making big decisions, what really keeps developers up at night?

It’s not always the “big stuff” (permits, planning, etc.), but the smaller choices like finishes, surfaces, and the kinds of things that seriously add up when approached at scale. We’ve talked with Kathryn Baker, our VP of Design Services about how making a few smart calls upfront on final touches can create a meaningful impact on buyer perception, building quality, and the developer’s bottom line.

The latest kitchen technology.
“Steam ovens are really expensive, but I think once people experience cooking with them they realize they’re amazing. In essence, the steam technology forces moisture into the food so it cooks from the outside in and maintains all nutrients and flavors.

Also speed ovens are making a big entry into the condo arena; this is a wonderful appliance that uses microwave and convection cooking. It is becoming more commonplace to see a convection oven and speed oven as a standard package; this allows for elimination of the microwave. For penthouse product, we recommend the convection and speed oven with a steam oven and/or a modular cooktop that features several cooking modes such as induction, gas, fryolator, wok, steam, teppanyaki. By including these features, you accomplish a home with all possible cooking methods.

I’m a big fan of induction. It’s so incredible. Basically, the whole cooktop… you can put your pot anywhere on the entire surface, it will heat up almost instantly, then you can put your hand down on that same surface moments later and it’s cool. You can boil water in 30 seconds. It’s fantastic. I personally think in the next two to three years, we will see a lot more induction technology as it continues to advance and consumers become educated.”

Countertops: natural or manmade stone?
“I think we’ve had a long and very successful run with things like Caesarstone and quartz; it has always been very well received. It’s durable, it can stand up to anything, but it has run its course and it’s time for something different. This could be several things from natural stone, porcelain, matte acrylic, sintered stone and stainless steel.

Engineered stone will still remain a staple in the high-end market, but it will be one of the new high quality products that boasts an incredible reproduction of natural stone. For luxury, we’re recommending that developers select a natural stone, such as Calacatta marble.. The choice truly depends on the property, as well as the product.”

Finding the right fixture finishes.
“Chrome or brushed nickel are definitely the safe route. I think that’s what people identify with, and feel comfortable with. But I think as far as what’s trending… I would personally choose the oil-rubbed bronze or brass, because it makes a really beautiful statement.”

Flooring: go custom or cost-conscious?
“To pre-select and install the architects recommended product throughout the building or provide buyers with a choice? The purchase price will usually include a standard flooring—which is typically a hardwood in the entry and kitchen and a carpet throughout the living space. With a design center program there are usually two tiers: standard (seller pays for) and upgraded (buyer pays for). The design center provides an opportunity to personalize each buyers space, because not everyone is necessarily into the “trendy” look.

The opportunity of a custom design center is so appealing, I would be surprised if developers aren’t up late at night thinking about this. They’re definitely thinking about the sequencing and the construction schedule, so I think either scenario works for them, but flooring options (or lack thereof) won’t likely impact a purchase decision for the buyer.”

Finishing things off.
“With finish packages, it’s always a question of, “Do we keep everything the same, or do we have a few packages to keep everything interesting?” I think buyers really respond to the opportunity to choose from different packages, but in my experience it has never been a deal breaker. I personally think finish package options are great, because you’re not getting the same residence as everyone else in the building. There’s some variety, and that only adds value.”


“With a design center as a resource, you have more touch points with the buyer, it's a way to keep them engaged in the buying process.”
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