Designing the Perfect Partnership
Mansion in May is a particularly unprecedented project, even before factoring in the impossibly grand donations it makes to support the local Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey.
Since its inception in 1974, the fundraising event has been in 17 mansions over the past 43 years, all hosted by a volunteer organization called The Women's Association for Morristown Medical Center.
However, just a few years ago, the designer showhouse was simply that – an opportunity to showcase. Designers submitted their ideas to a board, and the Association assembled winning expert designers to appropriate every square inch of a 30-plus-room estate, utilizing all the most forward-looking techniques possible.
The sum of all these factors makes Rick Trover's presence unexpected.
As a traditional A/V integrator with a lifetime of experience, Trover finds himself wedged in the designer world because of the immense opportunities it brings to his New Jersey home base, Interchange Technologies.
“Some 20 years ago, I wound up doing business with designers and finding that they steer the boat when it comes to a client that they had already signed on,” said Trover. “The client trusts the designer with the with the task of picking and choosing the audio integrator to come into their space. Once you have a relationship with a designer that is solid and you’re not going to step on their design concept, then you find yourself in many jobs that are very quickly closed and very easily sold.”
What Came First: Designer or Integrator?
The world of sophisticated home integrations has always orbited around modern design concepts. Lately, the newest design trends have influenced many elements such as lighting, speakers, or TVs to be sleeker, conversational, and define a room.
Trover’s project features a handful of these latest components to emphasize just how close the design and integration worlds are.
In his “Game On” mansion room, a Control4 rack backbone all the smart living features, including the home theater and TV control, lighting, bar top lifts, shading, as well as voice command security features. The built-out wall features herringbone wallpaper and centerpieces a Sony 85-inch 4K TV, flanked by KEF in-wall speakers to the left, right, and center. Behind the original bar, is a large Séura mirror TV complemented by two Sony 32-inch TVs on either side.
The pièce de résistance is two motorized lifts in the bar top that raise and lower on command, revealing a beer tap and a single-malt tap with crystal glassware.
With a “right up the middle credit” between himself and his decade-long business partner, Jane Petrill, Trover believes in the importance of keeping a 50/50 credit – even if he doesn’t consider himself a designer. He notes the professional relationship a designer establishes with clients is built on trust, preference, and experience – elements that catapult an integrator’s reputation.
“The thing that I think I’m drawn to, as far as me being a hybrid, is I’m more of a businessman that understands the importance of where I get my business from,” Trover said. “One of the best ways I found to get introduced into the client base demographic I want to be in – people that have the expendable income and the budget that they would want to be able to design a home – is through designers."
“Designers are experts at what they do,” Trover added. “Once I get in there, [the client has] already decided that they like me because the designer likes me.”
On the other end of the gamut, Petrill has seen the influence technology has made in the design world. From small tweaks in speaker design to vast improvements in home automation, design aspects have become more and more popular with homeowners, making Trover an invaluable asset.
“Technology has come so far. You can integrate your window treatments or the lighting and all those things are important to my end of the job, and that's where Interchange Technologies comes into play,” Petrill said. “I don’t have all the access to these amazing technology companies, but Rick does. So we can work together and again, satisfy everybody’s needs in the household. So you might still get a beautiful window treatment, but now it's electronic.”
Shifting an Industry Paradigm
What Trover remarkably excels at is maintaining an integration company that operates like a showroom located at a manufacturing event – meaning he runs something like a traditional booth, but his version lasts 30 days and looks a little different than a table with a couple of undraped chairs trying to move wares.
When approaching manufacturers to help him cover the enormous expenses from renting a mansion room for an entire month, he explains that some get it and some simply don’t.
“I did shows with manufacturing, and I know what the expenses are for manufacturers that are used to bringing the salesmen, the reps, the dealers,” Trover said. “But, adding that up against designing a whole usable space, and sending it to the public in a completed form, it’s also a huge expense to be able to undertake.”
The difference is that the show becomes “much more involved and satisfying to the vendor, to the dealer, to the manufacturer.” Trover's approach is one that not only introduces him as an authority within the design community, but also creates a level of education that can help designers, and their partners, seal future deals.
“A designer’s end game is to make the client happier, meaning you get more referrals,” Trover said. “You get clients from the designer, you get clients from referrals, you get clients from the clients. All of the sudden, the whole idea is that the job you’re working on isn’t always the job you’re working on; it’s the job you are working for."
“That’s always been my philosophy.”