Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Crestview Doors Provides Solutions for Mid-Century and Modern Sensibilities

As anyone who has ever browsed the selection of doors at Home Depot or Lowe’s already knows, your design choices are pretty limited.

You can get traditional or … traditional.

David and Christiane Erwin found themselves in that same position a few years ago when they were remodeling their Mid-Century Modern residence in North Central Austin. They wanted a modern door that would match the rest of their house.

“I told my contractor exactly what I wanted, but he came back and said it didn’t exist,” David said. “I didn’t believe him. I mean, how hard could it be?”

But after many Google searches and visits to local home improvement stores, they realized that if they were going to get the door they wanted, they would have to build it themselves.

And build it they did. And from that idea came Crestview Doors, the company that has quickly become the leading provider of new solid-wood doors inspired by Mid-Century Modern design. Although they have an Austin showroom and workshop, much of their visibility and business is generated through their website (pictured below).

“There are plenty of people out there who are looking to buy a modern door but would get by with something else if they didn’t find us,” David said. “They aren’t going to build it themselves.”

Many of the doors that Crestview offers were inspired by houses in the Erwins’ neighborhood nestled between Lamar Boulevard and MOPAC along Koenig Lane. What's constitutes a Mid-Century or Modern door? Mostly the windows -- multiple geometric and sometimes asymmetric windows are the usual defining characteristic. And although many of the Erwins' customers are on the coasts or in Austin, they have shipped their doors all over the country.

The Erwins didn’t plan on building a business, just a few doors almost as a hobby that would bring in a little extra income to supplement David’s job as a graphic designer.

“I thought I could build a door a month and make a few extra bucks for stereo equipment or guitars,” David said. He planned to post a few messages on Mid-Century and modern design message boards to gauge the level of interest. “I figured we’d do it for a year, do 12 doors, and see how things went.”

When the first 12 doors sold out in six weeks, the Erwins knew they were on to something. The challenge became how to keep up with demand. Although they never intended to build a business, it became clear late last year that David needed to quit his job as a graphic designer and focus full-time on Crestview Doors.

Today, that decision seems to be paying off. With a design studio and showroom a short bike ride from their home, David and Christiane have new equipment that allows them to produce a door a day. Now the Erwins are even looking into new products, such as DIY kits that provide people with windows and templates to customize their own doors. The Erwins are even experimenting with tiki/Space Age room dividers and screens.

Now when David walks through his local big box home improvement store and sees someone grimacing at the selection of doors, he knows that’s a potential customer.

“Most door manufacturers have gotten so caught up in the race for features, like R-value, that they have completely ignored the design aspect of their product,” David said. “What I want to do now is reach the people who, before they saw our designs, didn’t even know they wanted a modern door.”

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sigh! Bill Melendez Checks Out

Bill Melendez, the animator who brought 'Peanuts" to life through animation and who created an animated work of art with "A Charlie Brown Christmas" died this week at age 91.

Because his much-loved 1965 animated tone-poem to childhood and the Christmas season has become a classic, it's hard to appreciate how revolutionary it was. CBS thought Melendez and Charles Schultz were the blockheads for wanting to produce a cartoon without a laugh track, a jazz soundtrack, real child actors voicing the characters and quotes from the New Testament. Melendez and Schultz got their way, and the result was a holiday classic and six Emmy Awards.

Melendez is should be remembered not just for his animation, but also for his voicing work -- when Snoopy speaks, that's Melendez's voice. Perfect.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Austin’s Uptown Modern Sets The Standard

Although Texas has a number of really impressive Mid-Century Modern furniture stores, Austin’s Uptown Modern on Burnet Road has leaped to the top of my list of favorites with its mix of brand-name vintage furniture and decor, kitsch and designer sensibility.

We had a nice talk with the owner, Jean, about the state of the MCM in Texas and my wife and I found out something that we already knew – selling MCM is a tough go in Texas, and it isn’t just because so many people still want to live in a Tuscan villa or still buy into shabby chic. There are plenty of people who want modern furnishings, but they want to pay $200 for a sofa. That makes margins pretty tight.

Although Austin Modern and Room Service are still a couple of my favorite stores, Uptown Modern is a cut above with its Knoll credenzas, Bitossi and Raymor-inspired lamps with silk shades and Danish Modern sofas and chairs. The design sensibility is impeccable and the pricing is quite competitive on most items. Jean also carries an impressive array of MCM outdoor furniture.

My parents living room looked just like this growing up.

The yellow Dux sofa looks wicked cool with the chrome and glass table.

Monster flat screen TVs have given old modern credenzas new life, but old MCM lamps aren't quite as appreciated. Too bad because the quality blows away most of what is available today.

Jean started out collecting jewelry and she has a fantastic collection of jewelry in the front case.

I totally want these!