2's Company

San Francisco designers are getting a two-for-one deal at the new Daltile and Mohawk Group design studio.

by Erika Templeton

After successfully opening two design studios in Dallas and Philadelphia, Daltile is now launching a third iteration in the heart of San Francisco’s design district—this time alongside sister brand Mohawk Group.

“We both have such great equity in our brands that I think people are intrigued by it,” said Chris Stulpin, creative director at Mohawk Group. “They’re making the connection that Mohawk Inc. has two of these very, very strong brands. It’s a celebration of our differences as well.”

The 10,000 square foot space was created by designers for designers, with a clear focus on making the product selection process a more efficient and pleasurable experience.

“Up until now, a traditional Daltile showroom focused more on the residential community,” said Patricia Acosta, merchandising manager for Daltile. “This is a little bit different in that, since we are focusing more on the design community, the space itself is more inspirational and a museum-like setting.”

Daltile conducted extensive focus groups with professional designers to get to the heart of their needs. Meanwhile, the design team from Gensler (who have been doing Daltile’s showrooms for 16 years) were a built-in focus group themselves.

“We really wanted to take a step back and think about it as, ‘In my design studio, how would I work?’” explained Design Director Christopher Goggin. “We made a large central library work area, just like we have in our own studio. It serves as a giant light box, so we can change the color temperature lighting in that space and look at the products and materials in as close as possible of an actual environment as it will be installed in.”

Much of the studio feels like a sophisticated design firm, with communal worktables as well as a private conference room that can be reserved for client meetings. The central area of the showroom also features a welcoming kitchen and entertaining space, where Daltile and Mohawk host lunch-and-learns and other industry events.

“We definitely want to be seen as an extension—the concept of your office away from your office,” said Acosta. “You can bring your clients here; there’s plenty of space to work if you want to; there is opportunity to hold events. We want to be a resource in the San Francisco design community on multiple levels.”

“Manufacturers have to find ways to be more meaningful beyond, ‘I hear you have a new project,’” Stulpin added. “That’s what I think a major part of the Daltile/Mohawk showroom is. At the end of the day, we’re seeking that new relationship. It’s our investment in customer sustainability and our profession’s sustainability.”

But the team also learned a lot about the importance of working on the fly. A loose tile library provides customers with full-size samples without the need for a sales rep, for times when designers need to run in, grab what they need, and run out. Likewise, a special front display for new products allows designers to stay up to speed on their options without having to hunt around the entire showroom.

“They gave us that direction, and we were appreciative,” Acosta noted of the focus group results. “We said, ‘OK, we can collect all of our new products and put it somewhere you’ll know to look every time you come in.’”

Of course, tile installations abound in the studio, but for the Gensler team it was less about showing everything in the catalog, and more about showcasing the most important elements in a clean, uncluttered environment—and hopefully, educating the design community about Daltile’s lesser-known offerings.

“In the past I think people may have gone to Daltile more for commodity projects, so we wanted to put things that were fresh and new and exciting in the front space: the mosaics, the glass, the unusual formats and colors,” said Goggin. “It’s not just the designer names that have these products and materials. Daltile has it too.”