Like so many things in life, the definition of what is upscale is a moving target. A product or amenity that is thought to be upscale or a luxury today will probably be taken for granted — as an assumed part of life — in the future.

How can we differentiate an upscale product or project without becoming gimmicky? Also, how can one achieve the goal of building a highly differentiated upscale building, or in effect, the owner, architect and designer's vision of the perfect upscale building? While there are many answers to these questions, the major elements of aesthetic appeal are givens in today's upscale projects. One answer is to allow architects, designers and owners to become personally connected to the finished product to a degree beyond the norm.

One such custom design process is available with Symmons Industries' Signature Design Studio, an interactive process that allows contractors to deliver a totally customized bathroom fixture set that is designed strictly from the imagination of the owner, his architect and/or designer.

Symmons maintains state-of-the-art design, engineering, prototyping, complex manufacturing, finishing, plating, assembly and testing facilities all on-site. The service provides clients with one-of-a-kind bathroom fitting designs borne from collaboration between the client, architect, interior designer and Symmons. One of the early uses of the Signature Design Studio service was in the renovation of the Ritz-Carlton Chicago. The renovation included 322 guest bathrooms. The existing fittings were Symmons products dating to 1973, which because of their durability needed only to be rebuilt.

The decision was made to update the exterior controls, escutcheons and cover plates consistent with present-day designs and the aesthetic feel of the new décor. The Signature Design Studio team and the Ritz-Carlton people developed a striking, unique set of designs that the Symmons craftsmen then brought to life in short order. The result is an elegant look that mirrors the finishes, textures and design of the overall renovation. It is uniquely Ritz Carlton, certainly one-of-a-kind and was completed well within some very aggressive timing targets.

Michael Markovsky is a freelance writer.

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