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June 21, 2011 / Robert Ross

from both sides now


The Buckhead Theater

Last week I had the unique opportunity to experience marketing from two opposite sides. On Wednesday, a local coalition of building supply vendors grouped together to present Curtain Call – a full day of continuing education seminars tailored for architects and interior designers. Located in a recently renovated performance venue, The Buckhead Theater (1931), it was a terrific day of learning and networking.  Of course no day like this would be complete without lunch, a micro vendor corral and the requisite cocktail party.

Perhaps the best thing about the the event was the scale. Its intimacy allowed in depth conversation with the vendor reps without feeling rushed to get to the next booth. Surprisingly the vendor corral was not solely restricted to the seminar presenters, but featured several additional product lines  that had grabbed my attention in other media.  Some of my favorite take aways were Nobilus Hardware, Treefrog wood veneer and Paperstone Products.

Nobilis Hardware

Nobilis Hardware has a great basic line of what the industry terms “estate hardware” with a wide range of finishes. What really caught my attention was the customization opportunities. Using their base designs as a springboard, you are able to work directly with their tech department to develop a hardware design. They will provide 3D pdf’s that can be rotated and modified as a starting point. Once a design is fairly solidified, they will then provide a wax cast that replicates the custom piece. You can actually get a good feel for the piece prior to any expenditure.

Treefrog wood veneer is worth a look at. A division of Chemetal, the metal laminate company, they offer their product prefinished and mounted as laminate, or unfinished, mounted on paper. Offering a range of stunning colors, both versions are available in 4’x8′ sheets. They also have a range of woven woods as well.  Looking for a unique wood for contemporary cabinetry without the environmental cost? This is a great option.

PaperStone Counter

PaperStone Countertops are made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper and resins, PaperStone is a completely sustainable solid surface material for countertops, furniture and more. I first ran across this product about 4 years ago when I was researching counters for a residential client. The client expressed major reservations about delamination and the conversation quickly rotated back to more traditional options. This was the first opportunity I’ve had since then to actually touch and handle the product. I was very pleasantly surprised at the warmth of the material. It wasn’t cold and hard like granite, or plastic like Corian. It actually felt more like a wood than anything else. Unlike stone, it doesn’t require sealing. It is a living surface that takes on a great patina over time. The material is so durable, it is also marketed as Rainstone for exterior cladding panels.

The Sto Bucket

On Friday, I experienced the flip side of the coin. Through a long time friend, I was invited to participate in a discussion with the marketing team at the  Sto Corporation US headquarters office. They are in the process of developing product based content  for Autodesk’s Revit design software and wanted to speak with a designer who used the program to determine how and what might be most useful. They especially wanted to try to determine when and more importantly, how a design professional makes product selections for their projects.

Because there are as many approaches to design as their are designers,  I went in to the meeting with a nagging suspicion that I wouldn’t be able to adequately assist them.  Not the case! The 3 hour conversation was remarkably facilitated by their consultant and ranged from my decision to embrace Revit over their competitors, to initial approach to a project through the product selection process. It was very much a back and forth discussion centered around the design process. It also touched on LEED commissioning and other sustainability issues. Needless to say, the morning flew by very quickly.  When the morning was over, I regretfully had to dash off to another appointment. As I was driving away I felt a fresh appreciation for the fact that most of us have internalized this process to such a degree that we don’t consciously realize how much we know!

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