Winchester kitchen retailer The Myers Touch has developed a unique four-stage approach to design that helps draw clients in. Tim Wallace gets the full story from owner Keith Myers.
You’ll be familiar with that tired old cliché about the kitchen being the heart of the home. And it’s probably not long since someone reminded you that the bathroom is a sanctuary. But one designer who tries to dig under all that trite marketing spiel and offer clients genuine inspiration is Keith Myers of SieMatic showroom The Myers Touch in Winchester.
“We flip it round and call the kitchen the home of the heart,” he explains. “We’re not doing kitchens, we’re changing people’s lives. We’re like a breath of fresh air to clients because a lot of retailers are just selling boxes.”
In a town crowded with rival showrooms like Bulthaup, Tom Howley, Hobson’s Choice and Searle & Taylor, creating a niche for yourself can’t be easy. But Myers has carefully honed his approach and built a design process around four stages – product, lifestyle, community and transcendence.
Pretentious? Maybe, but when people are prepared to fork out thousands just for an initial consultation his ideas seem to be paying off. “A recent client gave me £25,000 because he liked my philosophy,” he says. “He ended up spending £250,000 with us.”
The first two levels of his approach – product and lifestyle – are common, but that’s where most designers stop, he suggests: “The next stage is community, which explores how open you are and how much you want to bring people into the space. And also things like biophilia, organic planting and rustic materials. I’m trying to naturally draw people to that space for connection and relationship. You’re no longer selling a kitchen. It has to be natural; the family is drawn in and conversations and connections happen.”
Level four, meanwhile, is transcendence, which refers simply to the feeling that the design has. Myers likens this to a couple seeking out the right restaurant – one that “feeds their soul and where they can truly relax”.
“You create a bedrock and something is triggered in them that makes them feel at home. It’s a designer’s job to open up the mind,” he says.
Myers clearly takes his design approach very seriously. But his big concern is growing competition from architects and interior designers. There are at least 400 architects in the Winchester area and he fears they are not only “more professionally qualified” but have better design software and business management packages.
“A lot of technological tools aren’t at the standard that they need to be to compete at the level of design that we’re beginning to see,” he says. “We’ve got to redraw all our projects on AutoCad to get the accuracy we need.”
He’s also wary of architects that enter industry awards: “These guys are giving us a run for our money and we have to up our game,” he says. “You can make a lot more money as an interior designer marking up a kitchen than you can in the fee it costs to design it. So why would you want to give it to a kitchen company to do?”
Business is “up and down”, but Myers is currently working on a £350,000 project that has meant two hours a week on Zoom for the last 18 months. But he admits the rising cost of materials and continued product delays have scuppered some projects.
“You can lose a 35% margin very quickly,” he says. “We got a £120,000 kitchen ordered last August and we’re still waiting for the wine fridge. It will come after February. The same project has no worktops because we put an order and they’ve not even manufactured the batch yet. We’ve put temporary worktops in that have cost us £700. There’s only so much you can pass on to the client if you want to stay competitive.”