New England Showroom Proves to Be a True Family Affair

STAMFORD, CT— One could say that the TileAmerica! Design Center, located here, is a family affair. Opened in May 2004, it serves as a design resource for an “extended family” of kitchen and bath designers and other trade professional, including “architects, remodelers, builders and tile contractors, as well as homeowners,” notes Brian Knies, president and owner of TileAmerica!

“Stamford is located in one of the highest per capita income areas in the country,” Knies reports.

“For that reason, we needed to build a showroom that would cater to the high end, [both for the trade, including upscale design professionals, remodelers and builders, and consumers],” he continues. “Yet we also wanted a showroom that was not intimidating to the average consumer.”

As a result, says Knies, the 9,000-sq.-ft. showroom displays tile and stone “installed and accessorized in realistic settings to help customers visualize the possibilities.”

Indeed, there are more than 20 fully accessorized vignettes (of which five are complete rooms) and more than 100 creatively tiled floors, plus an 8'-high, Italian glass mosaic mural.

“When designing this showroom, we kept in mind the constraints of today’s time-starved consumers. We really wanted to give them all of the amenities we possibly could to make their shopping experiences worthwhile,” comments Knies. “By putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes, we treat everyone as if they were family members.”

That’s why the showroom prides itself on personal service. It has a staff of six design professionals on the showroom floor that meet one-on-one with clients in a specially designed private consultation room.

This centralized customer service area allows each design consultant to have his or her own individual space, yet takes advantage of a single centralized body of information and access to office equipment.

In addition, satellite workstations around the showroom ensure consultants are never far from an area to lay out some tiles or building plans and work on a design.

“The showroom is equipped with 10 PCs. Each one has Internet access and runs Image Builder, our tile-imaging program,” notes Knies. “It allows customers to put our products into a variety of realistic room settings and render them in different patterns and combinations. It even allows you to change the color of the grout.”

Customer Oasis
Overall, the showroom features a design that adheres to the philosophy of “always making you feel at home in our showroom… We consider it our job to entertain and cater to our clients,” shares Knies.

For example, such touches as a 150-sq.-ft. children’s play area, equipped with a TV and PlayStation, makes the experience more family-friendly, he remarks.

“A leather-clad library with a working fireplace, plasma TV and surround-sound system is another area for clients to relax – especially husbands,” he smiles.

Visitors can rest at the Tuscan outdoor patio, which features café tables and six types of fresh-brewed coffee. There’s also a custom-designed wine bar that offers luxe refreshment.

The showroom’s design – which won the 2004 Home Builder’s Association (HOBI) Award for Best New Showroom over 5,000 Sq. Ft. in Connecticut – is the brainchild of store planner Nancy Ottino of The Idea Co. Ottino designed it with the help of Knies and TileAmerica!’s Renee Duffield, director of sales and marketing; Ryan Abruzzo, product coordinator; Holly Winslow, designer representative; and Lana Camera, design consultant.

The showroom further illustrates the collaboration among many associated trade partners, indicates Knies. “Cabinetry and custom furniture, plumbing fixtures, lighting, appliances, electronics, fireplaces, wall finishing and painting were all donated in full, or in part, in return for recognition and exposure to our clientele,” he notes.

Going global
TileAmerica! further accommodates its upscale trade and consumer customers by securing a wide range of tile from around the world, including Spain, Italy, Brazil, Turkey, Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico and the Orient.

It does so through its parent company, Ludlow, MA-based East Coast Tile Imports, Inc., which was started by the Marcus family to fill a local void for designers and installers in 1956.

The showroom is part of East Coast Tile’s larger family of 26 tile showrooms in and around New England that, depending on the region, are known under the names of The Boston Tile Co., Classic Ceramic Tile, Ceramic Tile Outlet and Best Tile.

Specifically, according to Knies, the Stamford showroom carries Rex and Grazia ceramic, Caesar porcelain and Cottoveneto stone tile from Italy; Azuvi ceramic tile from Spain; and TerraMar stone tile from Turkey. In addition, it offers Ken Mason Tile, Antiquity Tile, Bisazza and Boyce & Bean.

“This showroom displays ceramic tile, natural stone and related products. Glass, metal and leather tile are also offered,” Knies elaborates. “In addition, the showroom shows many fabricated marble and granite countertops from our sister company, Surfaces in Stone.”

A modular and adjustable bookcase system to display tile and stone was designed specifically for this showroom, according to Knies.

“Placing multiple pieces of an item on bookcase shelves throughout the showroom allows a customer to touch and feel the products. It also makes it easy to combine products and design installations using multiple pieces,” he points out.

“The adjustable shelves accommodate any size tile. The insertion of a slant board makes for a quick and easy creative concept display. The insertion of a library shelf allows you to fit multiple items into 45° slots while still being able to view each product,” he describes. “The 38"-wide shelves can each hold more than 150 lbs. Heavy plywood construction provides strength, laminate surfaces provide durability, and cherry wood accents give the cabinets a high-end look,” Knies further elaborates.

He adds: “Taking home samples is easy, and by allowing clients to do so, it eliminates the need for a separate sample area.”

True Enlightenment
Knies believes it’s important to educate clients about tile so they can make informed choices. And the Web site of TileAmerica!’s parent company, East Coast Tile, helps facilitate client education, he notes.

The site provides tips on installation, how to pick out the right type of tile for specific projects, how to hire an installer and how to care for different types of tile after installation. There’s also a sq. ft. calculator and an online catalog.

Additionally, a visualization feature on the site allows users to see different types of tile in different applications and view a range of design ideas.

In the showroom itself there’s a fully equipped working kitchen featuring Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances that’s used for cooking demonstrations and event hosting.

The large open lobby area also serves as a place to hold educational seminars, and cooking and baking demonstrations, and host trade events and meetings.

“We’ve already had NKBA and ASID events at the showroom,” Knies concludes. “We’ve even held our own ‘mini home show’ here.”