Upscale is a marvelous term, packed with meaning and insight for today's lifestyles. Upscale means better quality and finer goods at a higher cost that reflects the enhanced features and benefits of the product and of the entire interior. Upscale indicates products are not cheaply made. Rather, they are constructed of better materials with a higher level of craftsmanship and with a guarantee of serviceability. Upscale indicates a longer life span.
Inherent in upscale is good design -- both time tested and pleasing. Upscale interiors are beautiful. Each element, from window treatments to pillows on the sofa, wall coverings, moldings and area rugs, are selected for their visual appeal and careful, often eclectic coordination. Yet this liveliness is an interesting combination of simplicity and classic good taste. The result? Upscale interiors that feel good to be in because of the pleasing blend of aesthetics and quality. This combination, then -- higher quality with augmented features and benefits, and beautiful design -- are the hallmarks of an upscale interior.
Who are the customers of upscale products? In honesty, not everyone. There are always going to be customers who are on a budget or perceive that all they can afford is lower-end merchandise. These customers do more price shopping, and they are often frustrating to us as professionals who recognize that higher quality products would have served them better over the long run.
Why Consumers Want Upscale
Consumers of upscale products are an increasing market segment. They are people, like many of us, who desire, need or demand better goods for a variety of reasons:
Many are tired of shoddy merchandise or items that break, especially when they lack a guarantee. They want products that work right and continue to perform. They don't want to worry about breakage or replacement so they are free to place their attentions and energies on other, more important things such as people and events in their lives.
Some (the vigilante consumers) even have become cranky in their insistence that things work right and that quality for their money be assured. Others are delighted to learn that such merchandise even exists!
Ours is a contemporary society that is changing so rapidly and is full of so much insecurity and uncertainty that we look for quality merchandise that means longer life spans. Combined with good design, the ownership of upscale merchandise creates a measure of satisfaction and security for a greater length of time.
Luxury and prestige are valid reasons for purchasing better quality goods. The you-deserve-this benefit is a major sales tool. Nearly everyone wants to hear this reassurance -- both those who have worked hard to earn the money to pay for the item, and those who reap the benefits of having it provided for them.
Luxury means universal design: things that are easy to use, convenient, user friendly, requiring little or no thought, worry or awkwardness for operation. Luxury goods should eliminate frustration.
Luxury and prestige do not necessarily mean people have become vain or materialistic, only desirous to enjoy a higher standard of living and to be assured that it is within their reach. Freedom from concern about the quality and use of products can take a person away from materialism.
However, some vanity can be a factor in a purchase. To be the first one to own a new or upscale product in the neighborhood, among their friends, peers or relatives, can spur many people to buy. The nicest, most advantageous product can make people feel just a little more important. Is this unethical or wrong? Not unless they make other people feel less important through their purchases.
If you sense snobbery, you can encourage the customer to set the standard of excellence among his or her associates by encouraging others to enjoy the same or similar products. In this way, everyone might benefit from the newest design and innovation, and it can create a win-win situation. The customer wins by being first to own the upscale product. Referrals win because they also will come to enjoy and appreciate the upscale benefits. We as professionals win because of increased customer satisfaction!
Upscale also spells safety and a sense of mastery over one's environment. To have window treatments that provide both day and nighttime privacy, even accomplished via remote control, takes away some of the fear of burglary or assault.
It is a good feeling to be in charge, to know that you can guarantee privacy at the touch of a button or by hand through smoothly operating mechanisms. More people want more control over their environments and their lives. Giving them options through upscale mechanisms will fill this need.
Gadgetry and technology is expected and integrated in today's lifestyle. Upscale products have the latest and best that engineers have developed. Smoother operation of mechanical parts, remote control and more features fit so neatly into so many other products in our interiors. With a remote control on the coffee table for the television, the VCR and the stereo, it is only logical there should be a remote control for the window treatments. Offer this benefit with enthusiasm. Again, a win-win situation: a happy customer, a more successful professional.
A New Way of Life
Casual has a new meaning for today's interior fashions. It used to mean interiors that were planned for active, messy or less formal activities. While that still may be true, now it also is true that casual is a way of living, and it is done with graciousness.
A casual interior can mean less dusting, polishing and upkeep because there are surfaces and materials that do not attract or show dust marks. Casual interiors can be more sparsely furnished so fewer items require care. Casual interiors often are eclectic, a pleasant mix of furnishing styles in which each item is beautiful, interesting or unique. Casual furnishings are simpler in form and style, although accent, antique or conversation pieces can bring vitality and life to a bland casual interior.
Yet casual can be classy as well. Handsome, beautiful, upscale casual interiors mean easy living in a refined and beautiful setting. Window treatments are functional, pragmatic and often without the embellishments that would require upkeep effort.
Upscale casual means great interiors without great demands on time and effort. A nice way to live, surrounded by pleasing aesthetics in a low upkeep environment.
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She is a practicing interior designer and has authored several books including Window Treatments and Understanding Fabrics. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.