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.”

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