Some may say that bigger isn't always better, but when tile distributor TileAmerica decided to open a sixth showroom, in Stamford, Conn., one of the highest per-capita income areas in the nation, it attempted to accomplish both—providing enough space to attract high-end clientele without overwhelming its mid-range customers. In May 2004 its showroom wish list came to life with a 9,000-square-foot facility that presents its range of clients with a multitude of product options in creative, accessible displays while maintaining a personal touch.
When designing the showroom, which primarily serves interior designers, kitchen dealers, and high-end builders, TileAmerica avoided an intimidating, warehouse style that would overwhelm the pros' homeowner clients. Instead, designers maximized the space by sectioning it into a variety of real-life vignettes and room settings that flow from one to the next and showcase the company's endless lines of tile, which include Fontane Romane glazed porcelain, Vitrium hand-painted glass, and Isla Tuscany ceramic tiles. The distributor collaborated with trade partners to create homelike settings that would bring the tiles to life, including a fully loaded kitchen, a luxurious master bathroom, and a leather-clad library (deemed the “husband's relaxation area” with working fireplace and plasma television). “You just can't put tile into a [display],” says president and owner Brian Knies, “you need accessories.” Brass plaques recognize the area suppliers and contractors that contributed and installed the plumbing fixtures, wall finishing, lighting, cabinetry, appliances, paint, and other products.
In addition to the vignettes, the showroom highlights its more than 75 manufacturers and 400 product lines through modular and adjustable bookcase systems. Unlike a traditional sample board, the bookcase system allows for easier access to individual tiles and makes it easier for employees to keep each display up-to-date with lot numbers and available colors. The 38-inch-wide bookshelves hold more than 150 pounds of tiles and can be adjusted for the range of tile sizes. The shelving allows customers to interact with displays, create mix-and-match combinations, and take samples home. “We say, let them carry it around, get a feel for it,” says Knies. “Let them see how it might look in their home, and they'll come back.”
Beyond product displays, the showroom's essence lies in its ability to reach customers on a personal level while offering an array of extras and services. The showroom comes alive with a range of events throughout the year, including educational seminars, home show–like events hosted in the lobby, and cooking demonstrations in the kitchen. Design and drawing services are available for builders, and satellite work stations provide design consultants and sales reps with plenty of space for brainstorming and meeting with clients. A 150-square-foot children's play area, divided into girl's and boy's areas, is located in the center of the showroom, offering time-starved parents the chance to roam the entire facility unencumbered without straying too far from their children. If that's not inviting enough, visitors can select from six types of fresh coffee to help ease the strain that accompanies any construction or renovation project.
“Its all about the customer experience,” says Knies. “People get excited when they walk into a showroom and see the endless possibilities that eventually end up in their home, and that is just really special.”