Lots of LBM showrooms are like a Norman Rockwell illustration: pretty to look at and fairly informative, but not exactly deep. Jackson Lumber, in contrast, has taken the art of showroom design to a subtler level.

Jackson Kitchen Designs has lots of touches that aren't noticeable at first but provide powerful tools to close a sale. For instance, the edges on one of the countertops is cut many different ways, so a customer can easily compare and pick a style.

Elsewhere, a cabinetry display looks all of a piece, but when you begin to examine the various components you can spot differences in paneling, doors, beadboard, and mouldings. The legs on the kitchen island also differ, again making it easy to see and select. And then there are the door samples. Most dealers plaster the samples along a wall or scatter them about. Jackson mounts its cabinet doors on tall panels set on rollers that can be pulled out to show all the varieties at a glance and then be rolled neatly back behind a wall. Likewise, all the samples are stored in drawers, helping Jackson avoid the distracting clutter that's the bane of many showrooms.

Even the logo requires a double take. Designed by the daughter of kitchen designer Maeve Cullen, what appear to be interlocking ovals and squares also can be seen as a set of windows bordered by Jackson's initial "J."

You can find all this behind a modest glass storefront at Butcher Boy Plaza in North Andover, Mass., roughly 3 miles and several economic classes uphill from Jackson's headquarters in the north Boston suburb of Lawrence, Mass. Opened in 2008, Jackson officials sought from the start to build an efficient, effective space. "It is not enough to have beautiful kitchens for customers to envy," Pat Marcotte, Jackson's marketing director, wrote in the dealer's Excellence Award entry. "Customers need a showroom that is laid out to help them to see their full array of options and, with the guidance and support of highly trained and knowledgeable designers, arrive at a decision that meets their design sensibility and their budget."

> Jackson put 13 kitchen displays, one of them fully functioning, in just 3,000 square feet of space, along with a conference room, storage cabinets, and offices for the staff, several of whom are certified kitchen and bath designers. A laminated wood path–dubbed the "yellow brick road" by staff–helps guide customers. Jackson invested roughly $500,000 in the project.