Al’s Column: Tips on designing a better tile showroom

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April 10/17, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 22

By Emily Holle


From big box stores and expo centers to small town boutiques, I’ve spent the last 15 years planning and designing showrooms across the country. Along the way, I’ve curated tips for designing thriving showrooms, fine-tuning a handful of best practices in my role as director of trend and design for MS International.

A thoughtfully designed showroom does more than increase sales. At its best, it sets the stage for problem solving, supports the decision-making process and shines a light on the things your customers value most. Creating inspirational touch points where all of these factors come into play takes a bit of planning. If you missed my recent talk at Coverings, here are the top five tips to creating a successful showroom.

Evaluate your marketplace strategy. A design won’t resonate if it doesn’t reveal who you are as a brand. As you plan your dream showroom, keep your answers to these questions in mind.

  • What is your strength in the marketplace?
  • What brings people through your door? (Are you best known for low prices or high design?)
  • What separates you from the competition?
  • Are you nimble enough to keep up with market trends?

Conceptualize showroom layout, employ visual merchandising. Study your floor plan to determine how your customers will flow through your showroom. Beginning with an inviting entryway, block out shopping grids—considering zones for soft and hard surfaces, stock items, a design service desk, meeting rooms, etc. In addition to positioning high-margin products for best impact, a strategic layout will allow you to analyze sales by product display and zone.

A well-ordered selection—one that has been carefully curated and decluttered—helps guide customers through the shopping experience with ease. Whether you present your products by color or material, create a plan for organizing products in each grid.

Utilize impact lighting. The best showrooms strike a balance between functional and decorative lighting. To achieve what you need from a practical standpoint while setting an inspirational tone with decorative lighting, I recommend working with a lighting expert. Together you can discuss a variety of considerations such as illuminating products, accessing the natural light throughout the day, creating drama around trending collections, perfecting bulb color combinations, etc.

Create a color story. Never underestimate the power of color in showroom design. Remember, color creates ambiance; it influences how customers feel in a space. It can enhance or play down material. Ask yourself the following questions: Will brand colors play a role in your palette? Have you identified where color can make the most impact in your floor plan? These are the type of questions that bring clarity to your color story.

I prefer working with a neutral palette. Products remain the hero, and lighter shades create the illusion of more space. It also leaves room for using color creatively – whether it’s painting a dramatic shade on an accent wall or choosing a saturated hue on a furniture grouping.

Sell the dream. As the face of your brand, your showroom plays a critical role in shaping your customer’s idea of what’s possible in her own space. Between lifestyle vignettes, mood boards, room scene photography and head-turning product displays, there are dozens of ways to create an immersive and inspirational experience for your customers. I have found modular spaces that are minimally disruptive to flow make the best vignettes. I often use them to help share a product story, introduce a design idea and to add real-life context to headline-making trends.


Emily Holle is director of trend and design for MS International. An expert tile designer and astute trend spotter, she possesses experience in design, color and trends forecasting, brand development, visual merchandising and product development.





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