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Lori Weitzner x Artistic Tile Collaboration Wows at HD Expo

An example space featuring the Forest pattern in the Whisper colorway. Photography courtesy of Artistic Tile.

 

Collaboration is the name of the game in today’s design industry. Pairing the inspired sensibilities of a big-name designer with a manufacturer whose technical capabilities can realize their vision has resulted in some stunning products over the years. It’s also highlighted the robust abilities of manufacturers to not only fabricate product, but act as talented design partners in the creative process.

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The latest iteration of this trend can be found at HD Expo, where Artistic Tile unveiled two new collections made in collaboration with award-winning textile designer Lori Weitzner. Designed specifically for interior vertical surfaces, the Lori Weitzner x Artistic Tile Collaboration features two organic patterns, River and Forest, that originated at Weitzner’s White Box Sanctuary Studio.

Read more: Kohler’s WasteLAB’s Crackle Line with Ann Sacks Breaks the Mold 

The River pattern in the Night Shadows colorway. This look is rendered in China Black marble. Photography courtesy of Artistic Tile.

 

“When Artistic Tile first proposed this collaboration, I knew our studio could bring something to them that they didn’t currently have in their portfolio,” explains Weitzner. “Organic, textural looks are something that our studio does very well. For Forest and River, we created a lot of preliminary looks through painting, drawing, and paper folding. Then we worked with Artistic Tile to narrow down the selection.”

In exchange for her substantial expertise in creating earthy, tactile patterns with textiles, Artistic Tile opened up a whole new world of materials for Weitzner to discover. “I had no idea there were so many different kinds of stones in world—it was an eye-opening experience for me,” says Weitzner. “Because I didn’t have much knowledge of what was actually possible to create with stone, I could really push the envelope in terms of coming up with patterns. The exceptional design team at Artistic Tile would then say ‘Oh we can’t do that, but maybe we could try this.’ Everyone really benefitted from working and exploring together.”

The Forest pattern in the Whisper colorway. This look is rendered in Bianco Carrara marble. Photography courtesy of Artistic Tile.

 

When it came time to select colorways, Weitzner and Artistic Tile settled on three varieties of marble in black and white tones. “Sometimes people don’t think of whites and blacks as colors but they absolutely are,” says Weitzner. “We selected whites and blacks that create mood and easily serve as backdrops to other colors, but aren’t dead.”

The Whisper palette utilizes Bardiglio Nuvolato and Bianco Carrara marbles. The lightness of these stones creates an ambiance of calm, quiet, and sanctuary. On the opposite end, the Night Shadows palette veers towards a masculine, urban sophistication rendered in China Black marble.

Both River and Forest are available now for specification. 

Watch now: Product Insight: ExCinere by Dzek in Collaboration with Formafantasma

Continue reading Lori Weitzner x Artistic Tile Collaboration Wows at HD Expo

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THE SHOWROOM IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE EXPERIENCE CENTER

APR 4, 2019
FRED NICOLAUS

Pity the executives of luxury appliance brands: In 2019, it’s not enough to have a great product anymore. Beautiful ads, hooky marketing? Everyone has that. And it’s certainly not enough to open a regular showroom—you need an experience center.

Fisher & Paykel

Fisher & PaykelCourtesy of Fisher & Paykel

The term “experience center” comes from the world of consumer retail strategy, and like most neologisms, an exact definition is hard to come by. Broadly speaking, it’s a retail environment where customers are encouraged to have an interaction with the product—which could mean anything from a racetrack-adjacent Porsche showroom to an Aveda shop where customers can get personalized skin-care advice.

While it’s tricky to pin down exactly what counts as an “experience,” experts agree why it’s important: In the wake of the internet’s continued assault on brick-and-mortar retail, presentation counts. “Just telling someone isn’t good enough anymore,” says Amberlee Isabella, a retail designer and strategist at Gensler. “You need to show them. And the most ‘sticky’ experiences are those that connect users to a larger purpose.”

Brands have taken note. In 2017, Kohler opened nine experience centers across the globe where designers and their clients can try out products (even showers, if they wish) and spec them directly from the store. It’s kitchen appliance companies, however, that have made the most of the concept. The opportunity is obvious—would you rather buy a range in a showroom that smells like a showroom and offers free mints, or one that smells like a bistro and serves French toast? The potential goes a long way toward explaining why an experience center has become de rigueur for a luxury brand looking to introduce (or reintroduce) itself to the trade.

Dacor is a case in point. Founded in 1965, the high-end appliance brand has a storied history but fell on hard times after the 2008 recession. In 2016, an acquisition by Samsung brought an infusion of cash and some new technology into the mix. The first step in introducing customers to the company’s new look? A 2019 rollout of three experiential showrooms that the company is calling “kitchen theaters.”

Signature Kitchen Suite

Signature Kitchen SuiteCourtesy Signature Kitchen Suite

Dacor’s New York location (Chicago and Los Angeles are forthcoming) is, in many regards, a standard showroom, with rows of gleaming ranges, refrigerators and wine cellars on the sixth floor of the Architects & Designers Building. However, the brand has added a high-tech functioning kitchen into the mix, where it will host a variety of classes. Company president Randy Warner says the new space is part of an attempt to cater the brand’s product to modern entertainers: “From partnering with sommeliers to floral styling sessions and lessons on how to plate and plan courses, we feel this approach will set us apart from our competitors.”

Fisher & Paykel, a premium appliance brand based in New Zealand, is already on its second experience center in North America. In 2016, the company opened an experiential showroom in New York, also in the A&D Building; last year, it attached a new 6,500-square-foot location to its U.S. headquarters in Costa Mesa, California. The center has all of the expected amenities—artfully designed vignettes, a demonstration kitchen, classes and events—but has taken pains to add touches of its brand DNA wherever possible. Customers are offered Kawakawa tea (a New Zealand specialty) as soon as they walk in.

Signature Kitchen Suite, backed by South Korean electronics giant LG, is hoping to up the ante by creating an experience that extends beyond the showroom walls. Its new 23,000-square-foot center is located in Napa, the heart of Northern California’s wine country. The idea is that, instead of squeezing in an appointment in the middle of a stressful after- noon at a design center, trade professionals will experience the brand as part of a leisurely day of wine tasting, good food and balmy West Coast weather.

But the location, 50 miles from the nearest major airport, is a little off the beaten path. Company general manager Zach Elkin notes the challenge, saying that it took “about six months of dialogue” with higher-ups at LGto greenlight the Napa location. However, given the story that he’s trying to tell—the brand targets its products at a tech-native, food- and wine-savvy, affluent consumer demographic it calls “Technicurean”—Napa was too good an opportunity to resist. “Nowhere else on earth do you have the convergence of technology, food and wine,” he says. “Anything else would have been settling.”

The fact that a major company would prioritize an immersive experience over easy access demonstrates how crucial the experiential side of the equation has become, and how far the experience arms race has progressed.

All that experience doesn’t come cheap. Most companies don’t share exact figures for the cost of their experiential locations, but they’re unquestionably more expensive than a run-of-the-mill showroom. Is it worth it? It depends on how you think of the expense.

“They’re looking at it as a marketing and advertising cost more than a profit center unto itself,” says retail expert Warren Shoulberg. “I don’t think these guys expect these stores to make any money—or if they do, they’re in for a rude awakening.”

There’s history there. Pirch, a multi-line home appliance and plumbing showroom, opened doors in 2009 and quickly earned rapturous applause from industry pros and media alike for its “Try before you buy” experience-on-steroids approach. Customers could take a shower on-site; Pirch chefs were constantly cooking on the in-store ranges. Ten locations were opened nationwide, awards were won, and investors came running. But by 2017, Pirch began to unravel, eventually closing all but its four California locations. The model, though innovative, wasn’t profitable at scale. The exact cause of Pirch’s contraction is complicated—Shoulberg attributes it to a combination of high real estate costs and a clunky product mix—but the takeaway was simple: Experiential retail is a powerful tool, not a silver bullet.

Executives from luxury kitchen brands have taken the hint, and most aren’t thinking of their experience centers as cash cows. Fisher & Paykel won’t even sell directly out of their Costa Mesa location. “It’s a brand pillar within the selling experience,” says Pierre Martin, the company’s vice president of marketing. “But depending on the audience, it could be the tool that makes the sale come through.”

Elkin is of a similar mindset—the Napa center is not a traditional, foot traffic–driven “Hey, honey, let’s go buy a stove” location. Instead, it’s a way to provide a total brand immersion to his company’s most valuable customers: the trade. “I look at the design community as multipliers,” he explains. “Individual homeowners may only do one kitchen in their entire life, but designers may do a dozen each year. We spent a lot of time understanding and investigating their pain points.”

The brands’ courting of trade organizations—the National Kitchen + Bath Association holds events at Fisher & Paykel’s center, and the American Society of Interior Designers is set to have its annual board meeting at Signature Kitchen Suite’s Napa location—drives home the point that even though consumers are savvier than ever, designers still have enormous sway over appliance purchases.

Is this the crest of the wave, or just the beginning? (What’s next, brands inviting customers to spend the night and be served goat cheese omelets by their CFOs?) Only time will tell. But if the trend line is any indication, experience centers are here to stay. Dacor still has two more to build, and Fisher & Paykel is hoping to add another in North America. Sit back and enjoy the experience.

This article originally appeared in Spring 2019 issue of Business of Home, Issue 11. Subscribe for more.
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Continue reading THE SHOWROOM IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE EXPERIENCE CENTER

15 Standout Products to See at ICFF 2018

Brand-new lighting, wall covering, and furnishings not to be missed at ICFF 2018. Register today using promo code “idmag” to receive complimentary fair badges for industry professionals.

Diego by Harry and Claudia Washington for Bernhardt Design.
Aster by Nemo Tile.
Metropolis Wall Sconce by Juniper Design.
Canopy by Tempaper.
Constellation by Sonneman.
Alape by Dornbracht.
Fraction Collection by Gentner Design.
Hood Chandelier by Brendan Ravenhill Studio.
Miramar by Zavotti.
Pris Crystalline by PELLE.
Dutchmaster Floral by Kohler.
Blemont Floor Lamp by Pablo Designs.
Sakonnet Chair by O&G Studio.
Von Collection by Ercol.
Oxford Table Lamp by Original BTC.

Continue reading 15 Standout Products to See at ICFF 2018

Jaw-dropping bathrooms: Lather, rinse and repeat in style

There’s clean, and then there’s luxuriously clean.

The kind of squeaky clean you get inside a shower the size of a small room with jets pulsing from all sides and marbled veneers softly lit with a complexion-friendly glow.

 

Continue reading Jaw-dropping bathrooms: Lather, rinse and repeat in style

8 Highlights From KBIS 2018

January 10, 2018

At the annual Kitchen & Bath Industry Show taking place through January 11th in Orlando, Florida, the Maximalism trend (with a very capital M) meets clean-lined Modernism. From affordable terrazzo-look porcelain tiles to high-octane hues on professional ranges, we can’t help but be bowled away by the eye-popping designs on display.

 

Kallista

Spare and architectural, look out for the Grid 3D-printed faucet from the Kohler-affiliated brand when it launches in summer 2018. “Intrigued by the fundamentals of the De Stijl movement and how it embraced the de-massing of a design has always sparked my imagination,” explains Kallista’s Design Studio manager Bill McKeone.

Grid by Kallista.

Bertazzoni

The Italian manufacturer engineers a new Professional series of ranges in 30”, 36” and 48” widths with clean lines and a stylish yet functional temperature gauge inspired by chronograph watch dials. Automobile-grade finishes come in vibrant orange, red, and yellow as well as classic black and white.

Professional series by Bertazzoni.

Ann Sacks

LA-based designer Kelly Wearstler returns with her fourth collection for the American-based tile company, a long-standing provider of now-trending encaustic tile. Dubbed Gem, the collection includes Elope, a swirling pattern combining two colorways; Swell, an organic yet graphic pattern of curved lines; and Evoke, a marbled pattern adorned with hand-applied squiggles.

Evoke by Kelly Wearstler for Ann Sacks.

Compac

A sculptural form in engineered quartz reads high-contrast in colorways Unique Marquina and Unique Calacatta. The piece was conceived as a modernist hammam, or Turkish bath, by Valencia-based GG Architects

Hammam by Compac.

Dekton by Cosentino

Designer Daniel Germani‘s DeKauri credenza reimagines the bathroom sink by tucking it away inside an elegant credenza made in collaboration with Italian furniture maker Riva 1920. The Dekton washbasinplays off 40,000-year-old Kauri wood from New Zealand. Thin-profile brass lighting by New York-based Juniper Design outfits the interior. “DeKauri is a modern-day heirloom,” says the designer. 

DeKauri credenza by Dekton by Cosentino.

Sicis

Marble, with an edge. Sicis turns up the volume on stone standbys with Electric Marble, its fuschia, turquoise, gold, or silver veining applied to their thin-profile Vetrite material.

Electric Marble by Sicis.

Artistic Tile

Get the coveted look of terrazzo without the high price tag and endless maintenance with the maker’s durable Pavimento porcelain tile in a pleasingly large 32” square format. 

Pavimento by Artistic Tile.

Fantini

The Italian maker introduces three new finishes—street-smart Gun Metal, rosy Matte Copper, and soft British Gold, the later based on the historic hue of the mined material found in England.

Gun Metal, Matte Copper, and British Gold finishes by Fantini.

Continue reading 8 Highlights From KBIS 2018

Kohler Experience Center Opens in NYC

Hundreds of designers descended upon Kohler Co., which closed out NYCxDesign with the unveiling of its inaugural Kohler Experience Center on May 23. Such luminary guests as Interior Design editor in chief Cindy Allen and Hall of Fame members Carl D’Aquino and Vicente Wolf joined Kohler president and CEO David Kohler to toast the new retail concept. The 10,000-square-foot space, located in the heart of Manhattan on West 22nd Street, welcomed a packed house of industry leaders for a night of product-testing, dancing, and all-around design fun.

Continue reading Kohler Experience Center Opens in NYC

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