Navigating kitchen and bath design: Insights from NKBA Ontario’s IDS Seminar

DDA Canada International Centre

By Darilyn Coles

The National Kitchen and Bath Association’s Ontario Chapter recently presented to a full house at IDS with a captivating exploration of the kitchen and bath design business, offering designers a roadmap to new revenue streams. The IDS CEU session, featuring an outstanding panel of kitchen and bath experts, unfolded as a comprehensive discussion to help designers understand the nuances of the trade to mastering essential skills.

Starting with the role of a designer in a kitchen or bath project is a distinctive one, Marla Nazzicone, president of Marla Nazzicone Design Inc., shared her insights. "Kitchen and bath design is unique because these areas involve very specific considerations," she says. This distinction sets the field apart from general interior design, requiring a blend of aesthetic prowess and technical expertise.

Jane Lockhart, principal of Jane Lockhart Design, emphasized the critical nature of understanding kitchen and bath design. These areas of the home have unique factors to consider (such as plumbing, lighting and appliances) and these are common areas of the home in which design or renovation projects take place.

But why should designers invest time and energy in becoming proficient in kitchen and bath design? The panelists unanimously agreed on the opportune nature of this specialization. Benjamin Ouellette, principal of BJOID Interior Design, pointed out the extra revenue potential for designers willing to invest in becoming specialists in this field and encouraged taking courses.

Nazzicone underscores the importance of technical knowledge and surrounding oneself with a strong team, including plumbers, electricians and product experts. The significance of process and project management to thrive in projects requiring coordination and technical know-how was also stressed.

Lockhart emphasizes, “Collaboration with the full project team, from contractor to builder to designer, is essential to generating success when it comes to kitchen and bath design.”

As for advice for designers venturing into kitchen and bath design, Ouellette stresses training and certification options, from professional credentials to more intensive certification programs. Moderator Leanne Wood, president at Flying Camel PR, shared specific’s on NKBA’s technical certification and badge programs.

For those who may not opt for formal training, Ouellette advises leaning into trades and collaborating with suppliers. "Ask too many questions," he says. "There is a wealth of knowledge around you when doing a project like this – faking it until you make it may not be the best approach."

In terms of understanding client needs, Nazzicone shares her process for determining the best kitchen design that aligns with clients' lifestyles. When clients have big aspirations but limited budgets, the panelists collectively stress the importance of transparent communication to align clients' expectations with the reality of their budget constraints. Ask leading questions, such as “Are you open to suggestions?”

When it comes to networking and industry connections, the panelists emphasize the significance of building relationships within the industry. Networking can open doors to opportunities, collaborations and staying informed about the latest trends and innovations.

The panelists also share their biggest challenges on kitchen and bath projects, favorite design trends and how they stay updated on industry innovations. Favourite design trends included: from Ouellette, is all about metallic cabinetry; Nazzicone talked about concealed plugs and switches; and from Lockhart, flexible materials are an increasing design trend that can be beneficial in kitchen and bath design because they work well with biomorphic shapes and curves, which can often be found in these rooms.

For more information about kitchen and bath design and trends, visit

Darilyn Coles is NKBA Ontario Chapter President and Director at the Toronto International Design Centre

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