North Plainfield, NJ — When it comes to eco-friendly, it often seems like the grass is always greener somewhere else. However at the newly opened Birdsall Bath Design showroom, you don’t have to go anywhere else to find the latest in eco-friendly products and design. And it’s not just the grass that’s greener – it’s the whole building.
Working toward becoming the first LEED-certified bath showroom in the country, Birdsall Bath Design director Patricia Whelan has been building her green dream for several years now, and expects to hear good news about the firm’s certification application any day.
“We are proud to be industry leaders in the environmental movement, and to offer expertise on greening the bath, without sacrificing design and function,” she notes.
But while her firm’s environ-mental efforts are impressive, the showroom is far more than just another pretty green face. Designed by renowned kitchen and bath designer Ellen Cheever, ASID, CMKBD, CAPS, the 6,500-sq.-ft. luxury bath showroom features more than 70 working displays, a state-of-the-art audio visual system, a wide array of products and an event-driven platform that focuses on educating consumers and the design community at large.
According to Whelan, the showroom’s green footprint begins with the building itself, which is part of the USGBC’s LEED for Commercial Interiors-Retail Pilot Project. Additionally, the firm is a member of the USGBC, and at press time, was expecting to be certified within the month, which would make it the first LEED-certified bath showroom in the country, according to Whelan.
Not surprisingly, the showroom is replete with eco-friendly products, which are prominently labeled as such. Major product lines include TOTO, Duravit, Bain Ultra, Hansgrohe, Gessi, Dornbracht, KWC, Samuel Heath, Santec, ThermaSol, Villeroy & Boch, Vanity Flair, Sonia, Waterfall, Lacava, WoodPro, Baci, Elkay, Julien, Stone Forest and Vitraform.
Even the public restroom tells a green story, with a dual-flush toilet, bamboo countertop, programmable radiant heat/towel warmer, recycled glass tile, no-VOC wall covering and metered faucet, Whelan notes.
The lighting scheme – designed by Stephen Lohm, LC, IES, LEED-AP of ILA Lighting – was also planned to maximize energy savings, with incandescent lamps, a curvable Magellan low-voltage rail and carefully selected beam spreads for the lamps in the Gyro fixture, which eliminate the need for additional ambient lighting. The lighting design garnered Con-Tech Lighting’s 2009 Retail Lighting Award.
The showroom was designed so that half of the space has tiled, walk-through vignettes and displays of working faucets, while the other half has product displayed on moveable platforms. “This allows us the flexibility of reconfiguring the displays to set up for events,” Whelan explains.
Working displays, which run the gamut from faucets, jetted tubs and showerheads to a steam shower with chromatherapy, aromatherapy and a sound system connected to an iPod, add visual drama and provide a more interactive and educational experience.
A Bear Creek Glass chandelier features vibrantly colored changing LED lights which Whelan notes are particularly effective at night.
The full-height, plate glass windows feature inviting, stylized vignettes: one modern (featuring Duravit, Hansa, Hansgrohe and a Bear Creek Glass chandelier,) and one traditional (featuring custom furniture in Walnut/Walnut Burl by Vanity Flair, two tubs, one by Victoria & Albert, one by Villeroy & Boch, a handpainted mural and a chandelier by Urban Archaeology).
“Also on view from the front of the store is a custom 10-ft.-tall, glass-tiled display with working showerheads and handheld showers and our logo,” she adds.
Whelan says her philosophy is simple: to offer the finest quality bath and kitchen products by vendors that the firm is proud to partner with.
She adds, “We strive to offer each customer a welcoming, experiential environment; and to provide excellent service, selection and follow through.”
Education is also a key element of Birdsall’s success strategy, and Whelan explains that the showroom was designed specifically with event-driven marketing in mind.
This was evident at the Grand Opening event, where two prominent industry experts were on hand to educate attendees about today’s affluent consumers. The presentation, “Connections: Design and the New Consumer,” featured Cheever and Leslie Hart, executive v.p. at Fry Communications and KBDN columnist, who discussed how to engage the affluent client through design, presentation and installation.
Cheever and Hart also addressed how affluent clients’ values and priorities are changing, what motivates them to undertake a project, product attributes that mean the most to them, the growing importance of green and sustainable products, the role of brands today and more. The presentation was NKBA certified for CEU credit.
Whelan concludes, “We host a regular calendar of designer open houses, NKBA chapter meetings, CEU presentations to architects (AIA approved) and designers (ASID approved), and technical training to installers.”