Even if Innovative Home Storage Solutions didn’t display a black cutout of the word “simplify” in its showroom, its approach to custom-designed, furnituregrade organization systems would be just as obvious. Flawless 3DL door and drawer fronts in rich wood grains meet clean white profiles on earth-toned walls. Behind each facade is a lifetime-warranted cabinet showcasing how glue-and-dowel construction melds form and function in sturdy perfection. And behind each project is a company whose depth of experience inspires seemingly effortless transformation to home spaces that work.
In 1985, owner Chris Radseck began building high-end closet systems and later expanded to offer cabinets for kitchens, entertainment centers, wet bars, laundry rooms, garages, mudrooms and pantries. For all of those 25 years, Innovative has made its home in Hamilton County, Indiana’s fastest-growing county and among the nation’s top 20. Its population increase of 47 percent between 2000 and 2008 dwarfed the state’s own by tenfold, according to the U.S. Census data. That boom forced a spike in home construction and renovation, and, coupled with a movement toward upgrading instead of uprooting, a greater demand for high-quality home storage.
That’s good news for Innovative, as residential jobs from within about 20 miles comprise almost all of its sales. At a time when many locally owned and operated businesses are making concessions to stay afloat, Innovative continues to operate full-steamahead. New in 2007, its 33,000 square foot facility houses a 3,700 square foot showroom, the largest of its kind in Indiana. “The new showroom is huge for us,” says Paul Duwel, sales manager for the last ten years. “It was a big investment on our part to put that much square footage into a showroom, but we bring 95 percent of our clients through it. The more we can show about what we are proposing, the better chance we have of selling the job – and we guarantee ourselves the client will be happy when we’re finished.
A prospective client’s path to practical storage begins when one of Innovative’s six designers visits a home to assess what about the space isn’t working. For instance, the after-school rush is a common frustration among parents. “The kids come charging in day after day with backpacks and layers of clothing, but there is no place to hang it all,” Duwel says. “Organizationally, that’s a parent’s worst nightmare.”
No matter what the project, a cure for the common clutter is all about asking the right questions to understand the complicated relationships between people and their stuff, explains Laura Leist, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers. “Up front people typically are not looking at their space from a perspective of its functionality – how they’re going to use it, what is the proper quantity of things and how much of that they need to have easy access to,” Leist says. “A professional can determine what is going to work best for the way an individual functions or thinks.”
For example, Duwel says developing a plan for the mudroom dilemma starts with asking questions about the kids’ ages, their arrival times and which doors they most often use. This information gives the designer a clear picture of what storage configuration can actually solve the problem. “We don’t ask them to pick from a catalog of six cabinets because it’s our job to figure out what will work,” he says. “We build to fit their needs, to fit their space and to fit their budget as best we can.”
From there, the designer invites the client to the showroom to view a customized drawing created with Microvellum software. “Oftentimes when they walk through the doors, they think they’re just after a home office, but when they see our showroom, they realize they want the bar in the basement, or the lockers in the garage or to change the closets to be much more efficient,” Duwel says. “We have 10 projects for one house. It’s contagious. Once they get organized in one place, they see the power of it.”
“We don’t ask them to pick from a catalog of six cabinets because it’s our job to figure out what will work. We build to fit their needs, to fit their space and to fit their budget as best we can." - Paul Duwel, sales manager
Guests get a hands-on encounter in each fully functional simulated space. Alcoves with walk-in closet installations beg exploration. Entertainment center ensembles, some angular and stately in style and others more organic in shape, seamlessly marry display shelving, mantels and closed-storage spaces. Innovative pairs the advantage of customized designs with ten colors of 3DL door and drawer fronts, which Northern Contours manufactures, and a diverse selection of Hafele hardware. The home storage company locally sources solid surface and HPL (supplied by Wilsonart and Formica) from Rabb & Howe, a family-owned manufacturer and installer for 50 years located near downtown Indianapolis. “We show them everything we can to help them imagine what we are proposing,” Duwel says.
A single door thinly separates the showroom from a space as well puttogether as the product it creates. Duwel says he’s quick to offer a tour of the shop to any customer who’s interested in seeing where the magic happens. The shop’s six workers use an Optimat KDF 530 edgebander, a Weeke BHC 350 Optimat return conveyor, a Holzma HPP 350 Optimat saw and a Gannomat Index 280 Trend with a Beckhoff C3640 Panel PC to make carcasses from Flakeboard and Roseburg melaminesurfaced particleboard. “We simplify our entire process by doing as much as we can in-house,” he says.
Optimizer software tells the shop how to best cut the materials for work pieces while creating the least amount of scrap waste. “A brilliant person could spend all day trying to figure that out and wouldn’t come up with what the computer does,” Duwel says. “The technology is amazing.”
Efficient use of materials is no trade secret, but the company’s real competitive advantage lies in its glue-and-dowel carcass construction. “It’s the same cabinet whether it has a very plain front or no front up to our highest-end door and trim,” Duwel says. “There’s not a low-end or inexpensive model. They are all the same quality, and as long as you own it, we stand behind it.” Aside from the method’s time-tested durability, Duwel says the neatness of no-screw, no-staple construction can be a selling point. He says adding the Gannomat in 2007 has improved efficiency in production and consistency of quality.
OPPORTUNITIES TO DESIGN
The popularity of bold wall colors and the pervasiveness of white trim and casings make Northern Contours’ white RTF finish Innovative’s top seller with about 66 percent of overall sales. Leading in the style category is none other than the old standby, traditional, which makes up 90 percent of Innovative’s designs. This is Indiana after all, where a burgeoning population doesn’t always equate with progressive design preferences. Conversely, Duwel’s office is contemporary with frameless cabinets in Northern Contours’ Amata Walnut RTF and sleek brushed-nickel hardware.
Innovative shows every style, including even some modern glossy fronts in primary colors, but most clients stick with what they know, what is comfortable and what is likely to have a broad appeal when selling a home.
A design trend Innovative’s clientele has embraced, however, is expanding the home office beyond a 3-foot-long countertop with upper cabinets and a file drawer. Outfitted with up to four knee stations and three walls of work surface and storage space, family offices account for more of Innovative’s projects than any other area of the home. Because most households have multiple computers and at least as many users, Duwel says it’s common to give up the family room or even the dining room for a functional, organized place where everyone can gather after dinner to do work, finish homework, check e-mail or play video games.
Technology is driving design in another area of home organization, too. The constant barrage of ads pushes bigger and better TVs, to say nothing of AV components and their related media, so it’s no wonder demand for built-in entertainment centers is also aggressive. “Today, the old 36-inch TVs are in master bedrooms, and new 46- and 52-inch models are in the family room or basement or both,” Duwel says. “All that stuff has to have a place or it looks like a bachelor pad.”
Innovative has a lead time of about three weeks from order placement until installation day. And in an industry where reputation is everything, Duwel says one-day installation is important for customer satisfaction. “I’ve made it a practice to call my clients a day after installation to follow up,” Duwel says. “Many beat me to the punch and call the day of to say, ‘Money well spent!”
Custom-designed organization is a luxury some pass up in favor of necessities like a roof or furnace. Nevertheless, its undeniable lifestyle impact keeps clients coming to the showroom, where Duwel knows they’re likely to fall hard for the allure of simplified spaces. And that gives Innovative something to hang its hat on.
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