Not long ago, the only way to gain entrée into the rarefied world of custom kitchen or bath design was to visit a showroom accompanied by your designer or architect. Fortunately, for those of us with strong opinions about what goes into our homes, showroom doors formerly marked To the Trade Only are opening to clients with or without a professional in tow.
Among these establishments is Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, an ideal destination for those with little time to traipse around town from showroom to showroom. The Mart relocated all of its premium building products and materials suppliers from the 13th floor to the first floor and created LuxeHome. This select cache of primarily kitchen and bath wares, showcased in a unique retail environment comprised of individual boutiques, is open to the public as well as industry pros. “At 90,000 square feet,” says Katherine M. Flaherty, vice president of building products and special projects for Merchandise Mart Properties, “LuxeHome is the world’s largest collection of luxury boutiques for home building and renovation under one roof.”
Indeed, with more than 25 elite brands housed in its own newly renovated spaces (including Christopher Peacock Cabinetry, Clive Christian, Hastings Tile & IL Bagno Collection, Paris Ceramics, Poggenpohl, Varenna by Poliform, Snaidero, and Waterworks) and at least 18 others (among them Bisazza, Blanco, and Lefroy Brooks) showcased in its Design Resource Center, LuxeHome offers the ultimate browsing experience for all things kitchen and bath.
“It’s not just cabinetry, plumbing, and tile,” says Flaherty. “We have companies such as Birger/Juell for custom millwork and wood flooring, Designer Doors for garage doors, Woodharbor for interior doors, and Marvin Windows and Doors.” LuxeHome is open Monday through Saturday, and a concierge is available for assistance.
Meanwhile, in Manhattan, a mini-hub of design is developing on the East Side just north of Union Square. Joining the ranks of ABC Carpet & Home, Ann Sacks, Hastings, Poggenpohl, and Walker Zanger is the Manhattan Center for Kitchen & Bath.
The MCKB is a two-floor, one-stop shop of top-notch kitchen and bath products and materials presented in a relaxed, carefully edited milieu of organized displays. “If a showroom is too big, it can be confusing for the buyer,” explains co-owner Mayer Preger. “So it was very important for us to include all the elements without being overwhelming. This way we could guide our clients, not bombard them.”
To accomplish this, the 13 kitchen displays feature custom cabinetry with functioning equipment from Viking, Sub-Zero/Wolf, Thermador, Miele, and Gaggenau. At the rear of the deep loftlike room is an array of sinks, faucets, and appliances, plus a row of wall-mounted LCD TVs. The lower level is dedicated to the bath, complete with a working whirlpool and air tubs by Jacuzzi and a marble wall lined with plumbed and working shower systems. An extensive selection of tile and stone from Artistic Tile lines the floor and walls.
“There has been a demand by the truly upscale consumer and designer to have one place that fulfills all their shopping needs for home building and renovation,” says Flaherty. LuxeHome and the MCKB are the shape of showrooms to come.
Manhattan Center for Kitchen & Bath