Beyond Countertops and Kitchen Applications
By Russ Lee
Let's say, for example, you have a customer who wants to update her high-end shower without going through the mess and expense of tearing out its granite or tile wetwalls. She has seen the latest in shower heads, massagers, body-sprays and handshowers and has decided they are just the ticket for her bathroom. Your task is to create that ultimate shower experience while preserving the enclosure's elegant custom look and feel.
Pearl Bath has developed a shower tower that features all of the latest shower gadgets and gizmos mounted on your choice of a marbleized or granite Avonite solid surface panel. Behind the panel is a miniature chase that contains all of the hardware needed to connect the unit to the existing plumbing, all contained in a handsome stainless steel enclosure. Once it's mounted on the wall, the watertight shower tower covers any existing fixtures. Your customer sees only a luxurious solid surface panel with her new hardware mounted on its face.
In addition to coordinating design elements between the countertop and range hood, the folks at Broan-NuTone are excited by the physical properties of solid surface, which offer benefits not realized in current metals and manufacturing processes. "The use of Corian in range hood design and fabrication provides incredible potential," says Range Hood product manager Brian Wellnitz. "It can be cut, carved, routed, sandblasted, inlaid and thermoformed into a variety of attractive and interesting shapes. Similar to the introduction of stainless steel in the past as a range hood material to protect against bacterial growth, Corian can be even more antiseptic due to its solid surface nature."
As an added benefit, Collins indicates that the price point for the new product line is attractive to the average consumer. "This product was never intended to be in the high-end price range," she says. "We are talking about something that would be much more affordable maybe for a $100,000 to $300,000 home."
The idea of presenting solid surface as furniture has also fired the imagination of Transolid, Inc., a North Carolina manufacturer of solid surface vanity products whose sister company also produces wood cabinets and furniture. In its new Transcendence line, Transolid offers a monolithic vanity top complete with an oversized decorative edge, and a well-designed wood frame to place it on. The result is a functional, low- maintenance bathroom fixture that looks more like a fashion accessory than a utilitarian necessity.
"People are getting tired of the same old box and top bathroom vanity," explains Robbie Wiltcher, Transolid's v.p./operations. "Now, clients can create a bathroom vanity that looks like a custom piece of furniture, putting a unique and personal touch on one of the most important rooms in the house." The company currently offers three designs in its Transcendence collection, featuring elements of Shaker, Victorian and classic influences.
Kitchen and bath professionals can also capitalize on the growing trend of people entertaining more at home by suggesting solid surface for the backyard. Wet bars, barbecue work centers and lounge furniture are all functions for which solid surface is ideally suited. Its weatherability, easy maintenance and superior aesthetics appeal particularly well to today's lifestyles, where value and elegance take equal priority. When specifying solid surface for the backyard, however, consult your fabricator for design ideas and product performance standards. Some polyester-based products are not appropriate for outdoor use, due to fading caused by ultra-violet exposure
Russ Lee, a former fabricator himself, is editor of SolidSurface magazine, a bi-monthly sister magazine of Kitchen & Bath Design News that is aimed primarily at solid surface fabricators.