When you arrive at a showroom only to see ‘opening soon’ graphics on the window, you know you’re more than a tad early for the launch. But, having been greeted by managerlames Santos and designer Louise Home, it’s a surprise to hear the showroom is already in business. James comments: “We’ve already got a couple ofdesigns to work on because we’ve had the graphics up on the windows. People have known we’re opening and they’ve been calling up and making enquiries. We’ve already started the drawing stage of a couple of projects. We’ve had so much interest from the local area. To get that kind of interest before you open the doors is really exciting.”
Although not willing to be drawn on the cost of the projects they are already working on, Louise admits: “The price of the projects is certainly towards the high-end. I have one project with eight bathrooms to design in one property. lt’s a Iovely job; they want high-end products and the rooms to look like they’ve been designed.” Associated with interiors.
This is the first CP Hart branded showroom to open in 10 years. So the company has been keen not to compromise on either the design of its store or its location. CP Hart used Experian to identify customer demographics of potential store regions and decided to site the store in Royal Tunbridge Wells. This was also due to its reputation for interiors.
Situated on the high street, the showroom is among a raft of retailers focused on home design, with neighbours including Smallbone, Mark Wilkinson, Clive Christian, Charisma Kitchens and Chalon, to name but a few. According to CP Hart, the area is a magnet for shoppers in Kent, and also attracts architects and interior designers from practices in Tunbridge and surrounding areas, such as Sevenoaks.
James says: “Tunbridge is an area renowned for interiors and home design and, certainly, our customers will be people who appreciate interior design. They will be both consumers and interior design clientele. lt has a village atmosphere but it’s a pretty big town.” And designer Louise agrees adding: “It’s quite a family- orientated area, as there are some good schools here. I think there are a lot of couples living here, where the man works in London and commutes. lt’s quite cosmopolitan and people are aware of what is going on in design trends’
Spanning all trends
The showroom offers a variety of design trends, boasting 33 displays across four floors. These span traditional, contemporary and cutting-edge bathroom settings. James explains: “We have tried to tailor the displays to offer a broad mix. We have classical displays on the ground floor with some modern items. We have modern displays on the first floor and in the basement are really contemporary, cutting- edge bathrooms.” He continues: “We made a decision to have smaller roomsets than the Waterloo store. We have tried to put in as many displays as possible, to give a flavour of all the things we can do.” Louise adds that a lot of people in the local area like to combine classical with contemporary elements in a bathroom: “l call it an eclectic trend.” Completing the showroom is a designer room and presentation area on its top floor james explains the rational of separating this space from the display areas of the lower levels: “We want our customers to feel comfortable and to create an area which reflects our standards. |t’s a place for quiet reflection and contemplation of the wonderful designs away from the hustle and bustle of the showroom. With big complicated designs, it’s important to go through all the details and make sure the customer is happy. lt works as a design space as well, so you can have CAD bathroom designs on a large screen.”
He continues, explaining the concept of the store fit: “This showroom has been designed to reflect the local area. lt’s an old building and there’s a lot of history to it. One of the key objectives with the showroom design was to try and make it fit to the area, not to bring in a corporate entity and plonk it into the centre of town. We wanted to make it feel like it’s been here a while and feel like it belongs. For our launch we will use all the local businesses for our catering, because we want to feel like part of the community.”
Working around history
Certainly the showroom building has been part of the community for some time, as the period property is around 200-years old. But this historical building was also quite dated, creating some design issues before it could even be fitted out. CP Hart had to completely re-wire the building, plus remove and renew the air- conditioning. In addition, all the staircases in the property had to be dismantled and replaced, along with its original floorjoists which measured 16″.
James comments: “We think it must have originally been a bank because we found a massive, old cast iron safe embedded in one of the walls. We couldn’t move it, so it’s still there. It’s almost like a vault. |t’s big enough to get into.
So, I think it must have been a bank or possibly a jeweller. You don’t normally have many safes in bathroom showrooms”.
Although the construction of the showroom created a few unforeseen issues, its fit out was taking a relatively short period of time. And by the time the doors were set to open, james calculated that it was only a four or five week period for the entire fit.
Reach for the sky
Although the showroom was yet to open its doors, expectations of its success were already sky-high. ln fact, CP Hart believes its Tunbridge Wells studio will be the second most successful branch after its flagship showroom in Waterloo, London. James says: “It’s like NASA and counting down ‘til the shuttle takes off. We just want to get on with it.”
Now, CP Hart has officially opened the doors to its new showroom. And it already promises to exceed the initial hopes for the store. At its recent launch party, the Tunbridge Wells store welcomed over 100 people through the doors, including local architects and interior designers. And within three days from opening, CP Hart Tunbridge Wells made its first sale.
James concludes: “We are well on our way to exceeding expectations. We’ve had a very good start and hit the ground running. We are all very positive about our future success.”