Getting Social at KBIS


The Modenus X Design Milk Social Lounge provided a place for new media pros to cool their heels, connect, and learn at KBIS 2017

For the first time, KBIS (the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show) featured a space where influencers, bloggers, and social media professionals could recharge and connect. First of all, you might ask, what does that have to do with gardens? Answer: KBIS does feature lots of fascinating new products for outdoor living and entertaining. I just had to be there.

The Modenus X Design Milk Social Lounge is the brainchild of Jaime Derringer of Design Milk and Veronika Miller of Modenus CEO. Design Milk is a consumer-facing blog with a huge following, while Modenus is a directory site aimed at providing information to designers. The two founders have known each other for years and were looking for an opportunity to collaborate.

I spoke with co-creator Veronika Miller to learn how the Social Lounge came to be, and what goals motivated its development.

“New media is so important to the health of the show, and we wanted to create a space to put bloggers and influencers in a good frame of mind for covering stories. We didn’t want to just make it a lounge with some sponsor logos on the wall. They can get a cup of of coffee, get a snack, and charge their phones, which is always crucial and never available around the show,” said Miller. “We also planned some programming that’s conversation-based. Considering all the brands, designers, and bloggers in the room, there’s an overarching topic structure.”

The conversations included panel discussions as well as expert-led discussions, such as Ten Things Not to do When Pitching an Editor and Amp Up Your Visibility Factor: How to Be Your Own Best PR Person.

Karen Figilis of KFWB Design Marketing attended Easy Does It: The European Kitchen, sponsored by Liebherr. “What I really loved about it was you got to hear all the different perspectives on style, technology, and innovation. In the U.S., we tend to err on the safe side, while in Europe they are a little more on the forefront of what luxury consumers want. I think in the audience we benefitted from this exposure.”


Figilis noted that one of the panelists, Joseph Steigmiller, emphasized the rise of compact design for urban environments. “People who live in cities are often short on space, and in Europe, they have always had that issue. So the panelists, most of them European, talked about translating the best of European small-space product design–especially for kitchens-to urban living in the states.”

The programming leaned toward the practical. As Miller explained, “My entire business model is taking social media visibility, big reach, and global connections, and bringing it it back home. Making it tangible, making it real.”

For example, a panel discussion on How to Prepare and Style for Portfolios and Airbnb Listings got into the nitty gritty details of staging. Panelist Bobby Berk, who has shared his expertise on camera with HGTV, Bravo, NBC, and CBS audiences, was also the Social Lounge’s designer.

“I got texts from Jaime and Veronika asking me to design the lounge, and they gave me free reign to come up with ideas. They explained what they were trying to accomplish, so I wanted to the design to establish an intimate space that would foster connections,” said Berk.

Berk sourced from vendors at the show as well as outside vendors. The laminates are from Wilson Art; the floor tiles are from FLOR; the wall flats are from Inhabit Living; the chairs are from Bend; and the sofa from Gus. Berk, a designer The overall feeling is very livable and relaxing, but with designerly polish. And the good news for those who didn’t make it to the Social Lounge in January: while it was first created for KBIS, it’s made to travel to other locations throughout 2017.

If you’re a designer and you haven’t been to KBIS or the adjacent Builder’s Show before, you will want to check it out next January. It was in Orlando this year and will be back in Orlando (my hometown) again next year. Hope to see you there!

Sarah Ristorcelli

Sarah Ristorcelli is a writer and editor with 20 years of experience in publishing and communications. As Director of Business Development at Orlando Content Marketing, she has focused her attention on digital communications and marketing development for landscape designers and garden-related products.

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