Finding Beauty in the Past

Published: April 3, 2017

When a father and son immigrated to the U.S. from Estonia 14 years ago, they began their business with little more than an idea. What they built was a small stone showroom that grew into a flourishing family company, which finally outgrew its 400-sq.-ft. showroom space just recently. That’s when the owners contacted designer Gary Hartz of Everett, Wa.-based Kitchens for Cooks.

“They sorely needed a showroom that would not have clients needing to brush the stone dust off them,” said Hartz. “The main goal was to show the stone and quartz products where both clients and visitors could view them, and it could also be a meeting place for classes and guest speakers. The facility had to be warm and inviting as well.

A New Home
The building the owners purchased was formerly an underground cable company warehouse in Mukilteo, Wa. The location itself is ideal for garnering client traffic; Mukilteo is not only a picturesque, waterfront town, but it is considered a suburb of busy Seattle.

However, the building itself needed a lot of work. The floors were covered in what appeared to be tar and were etched deeply from acids. The ceiling was 20 feet high, and exposed insulation and poorly done drywall were rampant.

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Even with its shortcomings, the 5,000-sq.-ft. facility did give the showroom significantly more space with which to work. About 2,500 square feet needed to be walled off for the showroom, and the remainder was used for indoor slab viewing. In redesigning this immense space, Hartz only had to take out his pencil.

“I have been in the interior design field for more than 30 years and have used most all the CAD hardware out there at one point or another, but I prefer the pencil to all,” he said. “Most of my clients appreciate the small details and illustrations I add, such as the family dog lying on the floor of the plans complete with dimension lines and a mention in the specifications as to the dog’s weight and food preferences.”

The Old with the New
The entrance to a showroom is arguably the most important part of the space – it sets the tone for the rest of the walkthrough. Hartz took a cue from the nearby sea and installed a 2-ft.-wide by 14-ft.-tall water feature right at the entrance. Clients are then greeted by a reception area backed by a 10-ft.-tall by 16-ft.-wide curved mural of the marble quarry in Carrara, Italy – one of the showroom’s sources.

In front of the giant mural is a reception desk – curved to match the shape of the mural – with a hammered copper face and a stone desktop that aprons down one side to the floor. A tall slab of Dekton stone with a horizontal fireplace and rounds from birch logs lies to one side, and reclaimed beams hang overhead from a black ceiling. This all sets the tone for a Pacific Northwest feel, with a touch of character taken from the facility itself.

“I was always fascinated by the catacombs of France and how easily one could become lost while discovering a new room or a rack of dusty wine bottles,” said Hartz. “So I made a maze of sorts with straight, curved and angled walls each leading to a new perspective and area.”

As clients move further into the showroom, they see an angled wall with samples of featured or inventoried quartz products and an artistic furniture piece. Past a modern bathroom display, there is a working French country kitchen complete with a wine display wall made of reclaimed timbers and salvaged iron.

“Almost every wall or display has some reclaimed product in or on it,” said Hartz.

Even the doorways feature reused materials, such as the ones leading to the indoor slab viewing area. These are made of scrap iron and discarded window glass from a local manufacturer. Another unique door is hidden in a cedar wall made from old fencing and interlaced with old copper pipe. This concealed doorway leads to the offices upstairs.

“It’s perhaps the one feature that amuses all who visit,” said the designer. “That doorway often startled clients when it opens.”

Showing off the Product
While the reclaimed materials add interest and character to the showroom, the products are the true stars. Hartz chose to highlight them by painting the tall ceiling and many of the walls black so products seem to jump out.

“The goal was to illuminate the products only,” he said, adding that the LED lighting, the automatic light switches and the music system are all designed to be secondary to the product display and the overall experience. “Most of the technology is hidden from the client on purpose to make the visit more warm and memorable.”

The LED lighting itself is on a track that has a unique way of blending into the space. When the design team discovered large metal spools left behind from the previous tenant, they decided to cut them in half and weld them to the ceiling – making a support system for the track lighting. This way the products below are lit without the distraction of a hanging light fixture.

“Each and every product is at or near eye level and removable,” said Hartz. “The clients are invited to work their way through the products either by manufacturer or color.”

ProGranite Surfaces displays more than 12 manufacturers as well as more than 50 natural stones and 90 colors in stone and quartz combined. This is a far cry from the racks of sample products crammed into the former showroom.

“I love working with creative people, and the entire staff of this company is all that way – from the electricians to the carpenters,” said Hartz. “All had input into the creation of their facility, which they should. I am proud to say I have grown to think of them as family.”

Source List

Showroom: ProGranite Surfaces, Designer: Gary Hartz, Kitchens for Cooks, Photographer: Alex Shubin

Manufacturers Carried:

Ceasarstone Cosentino Cosmos Quartz Dekton ECO Geos Quartz MSI Quartz Silestone Stile through MSI Teltos Wilsonart Quartz

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