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Hearth & Home May 2014

Richard Wright
Hearth & Home Magazine

In Praise of Designers

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
— Albert Einstein

We’ve all heard – and perhaps even written – that new, innovative products are the propellant that fuels every industry. That’s certainly true, but perhaps not quite as accurate as it could be.

It’s really the designers of those products that are the driving force, isn’t it? These are the individuals who keep abreast of new materials, relevant trends, competitive products and gaps in their customer’s product lines.  

That’s just a bit of the background work – a gathering of foundational material – before the work of product creation actually begins.

Assuming that the vast majority of product designers have a healthy level of ethics, they want to create something new, something unique, something pleasing to the eye and appealing to the shoppers (that word, by the way, is synonymous with “women”).

Product designers also need an understanding of what has come before, at times, far before. If you’re getting the idea that designing products is a complex, multi-layered, never-ending task, you’re correct.

In this issue of Hearth & Home you’ll find three articles, in particular, that deal directly with design. The first is “The Dynamics of Design,” a look at how contemporary design is growing quite rapidly now among traditional hearth products. The advent of linear gas fireplaces a few years ago was the catalyst for that growth.

Now it’s the task of those working in hearth product design to take the industry beyond linear into the next generation of contemporary design. How they do that will determine, to a great extent, the level of growth over the coming years.

The second article is headlined, “We Won’t Compromise”. It concerns Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet and its strict philosophy of placing innovation, high quality and performance above all else – even above the resulting price point. That’s right, Kalamazoo doesn’t care how high their prices may go, as long as they continue to ensure that the necessary innovation exists to provide value for their customers.

Leading the design charge at Kalamazoo is Russ Faulk, vice president of Product Design & Marketing. “I try to start with a problem-solving approach,” he says, “and look at ways to make things better.”

Solving problems and making things better – that sounds like a simple, and perfectly accurate, definition of the highest level of product design.

Last, not least, is “The Creators”. In it you’ll find snapshots of six designers, some who deal with multiple clients, others who work for just one. We asked them a series of questions about their work and philosophy.

Here’s what furniture designer Carsten Astheimer has to say: “Perfection is attained not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

We’ll Never Reach 2008 Levels Again

We – and we assume you – have heard that statement over and over again through the past five years. It means, in particular, that we’ll never see a housing market with as much strength – and irresponsibility – as we did leading up to the downturn.

Well, the housing market is far from where it was at that point, but already one New England hearth retailer posted the following comment on a survey we sent out.

“I never thought we would match our ’08 numbers, but we are 25 percent over 2008 for (the first quarter). It’s going to be a great year for hearth!”

We would add, and a great year for patio furnishings and barbecue sales.

More Stories in this Issue

Simple & Successful

By Bill Sendelback

Pete Dines found lessons in the recession that he now employs in his business; he’s concentrating less on rapid growth, and more on creating a profitable, stable company.

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The Creators

By Tom Lassiter

New products may propel an industry forward, but it’s the creators of those products that are the real driving force.

» Continue

Beyond Backyards

By Lisa Readie Mayer

Retailers should consider opportunities in the commercial marketplace, for there’s business to be had beyond the residential area.

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Making a Splash!

By Tom Lassiter

In south Florida, entrepreneur Gerald Schvartsman has built a factory to manufacture outdoor furniture (Source Outdoor) – no one told him it couldn’t be done profitably.

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The Tipping Point?

By Lisa Readie Mayer

With manufacturers now numbering over two dozen, and great publicity coming from TV shows, the pellet grill category may be ready for takeoff.

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Still in Style

By Tom Lassiter

There’s something about teak that appeals to generation after generation through the decades.

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2014 March Business Climate

In early April, Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,098 specialty retailers of hearth, barbecue and patio furnishings products, asking them to compare March 2014 sales to March 2013. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 207 useable returns.

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Parting Shot: Campfire Tales

In response to a request from the town of Trondheim, Norway, to suggest an outdoor project for a kindergarten, the architectural firm of Haugen/Zahar created an enclosed space for fire, storytelling and playing.

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