By Amy Geiszler-Jones - Photography by Madison Ham
Think of it as a building with his and hers storefronts. Three years ago Matt and Nancy Withers converted a former boat dealership building near Central and Greenwich to house their respective businesses. Nancy Withers, who has worked as an interior designer for more than 25 years with clients all over the country, used that opportunity to start her own design firm, Kitchens Wow. Signs Now, the business Matt Withers has run since 1991, occupies the other portion of the building. The businesses share warehouse space in the back.
“It’s been a really good move,” said Nancy Withers.
The specialty of her full-service design and remodeling company – the design of kitchens and bathrooms – reflects the areas of the home that are getting the most attention by homeowners nowadays. While Withers’ company can help homeowners design an entire home, kitchens and bathrooms comprise much of the firm’s work, and the resulting designs often will elicit a “wow” and other complimentary remarks. The firm works with several trade crews to handle a design or remodel from start to finish.
Kitchens and bathrooms have moved beyond being just utilitarian rooms and are often key selling points of a home. Modern kitchens have become gathering places for families and friends to visit and experience some fun as they cook together, while master bathrooms are becoming spa-like retreats for homeowners. Amenities such a TV or a fireplace are now showing up in master bathrooms, said Withers.
Her firm is always careful to understand the lifestyles of its customers.
“One of my mainstays is that I don’t live in those homes, my clients do,” said Withers, who earned an interior design degree from Fort Hays University. “I focus on their needs, not my design preferences.”
Instead, she uses her expertise to help clients understand various design features. With the use of design software, she can even create virtual design models that clients view on a wall-mounted monitor in the design studio’s conference room.
As part of the design process, she will do an on-site visit that helps her understand a client’s lifestyle and needs. She’ll pay attention to colors, styles and who utilizes the space – even taking into consideration pets. On one job, for example, a client needed to have a space for a cat’s litter box in the bathroom but didn’t want it to be openly exposed. The solution was to hide the litter box in the vanity and provide an access door for the cat.
“It’s intimate work to design people’s private spaces and ask about their lifestyles,” said Withers.
In the Kitchens Wow showroom, visitors can see for themselves some of the latest trends in the various kitchen and bath vignettes displayed – pullouts and storage compartments that make efficient use of cabinets in the kitchen and glass-walled walk-in showers that help open up the feel of a bathroom. The samples of cabinets, tiles and specialty stones illustrate the variety of higher-end choices available through Kitchens Wow.
Other popular looks, said Withers, are island cabinetry in a different color, lots of neutral tones of whites, grays and white on white, and the transitional style, which is a combination of modern and traditional elements.
But not everyone wants to be a trendsetter, Withers said, and that’s OK. “We focus on what people love and want.”
Listening to customers and networking are key elements to a business, said Withers, a native of northwest Kansas. Her experience as Miss Kansas USA 1989 helped her hone her public relations skills and ability to engage with people, she said.
Kitchens Wow is a member of the National Bath and Kitchen Association and the Better Business Bureau and can be found in the professional directory of houzz, an online design resource for homeowners.