EVERY PARTNERSHIP IS ALL about mutual benefit—a little “I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” And it's no different between home builders and suppliers. So when Timberlake Cabinet Co. offered to help Beazer Homes conceptualize its divisional design studio in Orlando, it was a no-brainer. At no cost to the builder, the deal had the potential to increase Timberlake's product sales, thus boosting both companies' bottom lines.

Although Beazer's new design studio is sprawling at just shy of 2,000 square feet, the home builder focused on maximizing every square foot to encourage sales and upgrades. And given that cabinets normally make up 15 percent to 20 percent of a design studio's space, it made sense to let Timberlake's retail experience steer the floor layout.

“In that space, we wanted to show all the bells and whistles we could,” says Nancy VanBenschoten, Beazer's design studio manager.

And that's exactly what the two companies did. The design center boasts three kitchen vignettes, a bathroom mockup, a fireplace display with built-in shelving units, a children's area, three sales appointment stations, and a private manager's office—all featuring Timberlake products.

CLOSE COLLABORATION: Raul Rio (center), brought together Beazer's Nancy VanBenschoten (right) and Timberlake's Pam Simpson through display designs that encourage cabinet sales and upgrades. PHOTO: BEAZER HOMES/TIMBERLAKE CABINET CO. Timberlake's regional sales manager, Pam Simpson, says that contributing to the design process comes at a considerable cost—to outfit a whole design center can run anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000—but it's worth it.

“It's a very large investment on our part, but if people see it, they buy it. That's why we have to load [the design studio] up,” she explains.

FROM THE GROUND UP The collaboration began in the design studio's infancy. Beazer's operations team, which included various people from the division president to VanBenschoten, put together a wishlist of everything it wanted to cram into the available space. From there, a third-party design firm completed an initial space plan. The plan then rocketed back and forth between the Beazer operations team, the space planner, another firm tasked to build and install the fittings, and Timberlake's field design representative, Raul Rio, as adjustments became necessary.

Such an open dialogue permitted Rio to look at the design and make suggestions. He helped renegotiate new dimensions for allocated showroom space that was too small to strategically display some products Beazer wanted to sell. For example, Rio says that he saw that the plan lacked appropriate ceiling height. Without more vertical space, he would have had to forgo installing staggered cabinets or various molding options, which help pack extra sizzle into the studio.

“It turned out to be a very good working situation,” Rio says, “because [Beazer] allowed us some input and flexibility in changing the plan.”

All in all, Rio says he spent a “pretty good chunk of time”—three to four months from start to finish—coming up with the best design that would use space efficiently, display products effectively, and create an inviting environment in which home buyers would peruse the options. He says planning, space flow, and execution of design were of key importance to him, given his dual background in interior design and retail. “We want to be able to convey the story or shopping experience to the customer,” Rio says, “And the way we do that is to set up the design in a logical way that guides the customer through the shopping experience.”