The studio, though unique in its collaboration between sister brands Daltile and Mohawk Group, is the third to open in the U.S., following a Daltile studio opening in Philadelphia, PA, in May 2014, and Dallas, TX, in September 2012.
"It is important for us to meet the growing needs of designers and architects in key markets across the country," said Lori Kirk-Rolley, vice president of brand marketing at Dal-Tile. "Our hope is to further stimulate the growing design community in San Francisco and along the West Coast with this new space."
The almost 10,000-square-foot studio space, conveniently located in the heart of the San Francisco Design District at 212 Utah St., occupies the historic C. Austin Gomez Building, built in 1916. The storied bones of the building shine through exposed brick walls and wood beams, yet a sleek and modern feel emanates via contemporary design elements throughout the space.
As soon as visitors walk in the door, it is evident that careful planning had been put into the studio's design. "The design center is a tool for designers," explained Patricia Acosta, merchandising manager of Daltile. "We held focus groups and really did our research. We wanted to show our products in ways that might not be thought of."
Many "wow" factors were incorporated into the new studio's design. At the entrance, there is a colorful mosaic mural of a Dahlia -- the official flower of San Francisco. The mural was designed to not only welcome visitors with a vibrant design but to also illustrate the service Daltile offers.
"The design studio was created by designers, for fellow designers, so everything from the layout to the décor welcomes creativity and inspiration," said Glenn Isenmann, associate for Gensler, the global architecture, design, planning and consulting firm that designed the studio. "We really want designers to come sit with their clients and work."
Isenmann explained that a vanity top displayed in the front of the design center has a leather finish. "We want to introduce people to different finishes," he said.
A custom chandelier made of tile -- designed by Dallas artist Tony Collins -- hangs above a central meeting area. "We gave him our products and let him have free reign," said Acosta. "We didn't want to stifle his creativity. It is something fun, funky and adds whimsy to the area."
The design center also features communal worktables and easy accessible product samples. A loose tile library provides customers with full-size samples to help them choose the best, and most stylish, tile for their projects. "We specifically wanted to show different formats to open up people's eyes," said Isenmann.
Additionally, there is a slab section. "Clients can walk through and feel different textures," said Corinthia Runge, manager of gallery and showroom operations for Daltile. "They can get a quick color reference, if they haven't picked their slab yet. The stone yard is nearby, where they can pick their slab."
Digital tools in the studio allow customers to bring their design ideas to life. Two LCD touch screens let customers virtually flip through the digital catalog, view inspiration gallery images and build out designs with a tile and stone visualizer tool. Light panels show how tile will look in different settings in the home, an important factor in choosing the correct tile for a customer's space.
Showcasing products in-use, wall panels provide inspiration for applications and encourage incorporating various collections in each space for unique and multi-dimensional results. An area set aside for new products highlights the latest offerings for easy reference. "The new product area is the result of research," said Runge. "Designers can see the latest products, trends and applications quickly."
Mohawk Group is also represented in the space, featuring a full spectrum of carpet and hard surface products. The company's enduring family of brands -- Karastan, Lees, Bigelow and Durkan -- delivers the perfect flooring solutions for all markets and price points.
"Mohawk Group is dedicated to providing innovative solutions to our customer base," said Michel Vermette, senior vice president of Mohawk Group. "We are excited to share this space with our sister brand, Daltile, who has already seen success with studios like this in other markets. By showcasing our flooring options alongside Daltile's, we offer endless collaborative choices for our customers."
Chris Stulpin, creative director of Mohawk Group explained that there was an initial conversation with Gensler about how to create a space that accommodates both brands. "It is about how you can access our products as quickly and efficiently as possible," he said. "This is supposed to be a working showroom. Our brand has been on a journey, and this is the next logical step."
At the time of Contemporary Stone & Tile Design's visit, a local designer was at the new design center. "A lot of us in San Francisco are in tight spaces," said Shawn McLean, associate director of design at M. Moser Associates. "Our library spaces have been reduced by a third. I bring clients here to look at samples. It is very delightful for us that it is opened. It is one-stop shopping. It is perfect."