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From Vision to Reality

By Scott W. Angus | photos by Gary Porter

Surface & Panel Symposium Sets Stage for mHouse Experience

On day one, they came together to share, to learn and to discuss the possibilities for new and innovative materials in the houses of today and tomorrow.

On day two, they ventured out to see how those materials can be applied in a real-world setting, thanks to an innovative new house that is essentially a residential research project designed to show what’s possible.

The occasion was the back-to-back duo of events Sept. 29 and 30 that started with the Surface & Panel Symposium at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and culminated with the grand opening of the mHouse in Watertown. About 250 fabricators, designers, architects and material suppliers attended.

The mHouse’s architect, John Vetter of Milwaukee, promised that the home would “surprise and delight.” It fulfilled that promise.

“The mHouse was a fabulous project and surely a great learning experience for me and many others,” said Raunak Bhatia, regional sales director of Associate Décor.

The symposium and mHouse grand opening proved to be a valuable combination.

“It was a great idea to get the industry together for the two events in a way that we were able to show each other the capabilities of these materials,” said David Mika, CFO of Southworth Co.

The symposium featured seven speakers throughout the day who shared their expertise about trends and innovations affecting the designs and materials of today’s buildings and those expected to influence the industry in years ahead. Between the presentations, attendees gathered for intimate roundtables to discuss materials, applications and opportunities, and many took advantage of the gathering to network with customers and colleagues.

Chuck Koenig, national sales manager industrial products for PrimeWood Inc., gave a thumbs up to the symposium.

“I thought the topics were presented well, and the venue was excellent,” Koenig said.

The full schedule of sharing, discussing and envisioning was the perfect setup for the hands-on experience of the mHouse the next day.

The mHouse was built by Bedford Falls Communications, which publishes Surface & Panel magazine and its materialicious website. The house redefines what’s possible in modern residential home design, featuring cutting-edge products from the composite panel and decorative surface industries, among others, to show stunning, design-oriented applications never seen before.

The house was built with the support of more than three dozen sponsors ranging from local businesses to international companies. All took advantage of the opportunity to showcase their materials or services in this extraordinary house.

The grand opening featured self-guided tours, during which visitors roamed the mHouse’s three levels to take in the exciting materials, the stunning furnishings and the striking artwork, some of which was created especially for the house.
The event included food, drinks and music at the nearby Watertown Country Club, and it was capped off appropriately with a fireworks display at dusk.

John Aufderhaar, president of Bedford Falls Communications and publisher of Surface & Panel magazine, said the symposium and mHouse were wonderful examples of how his company delivers on its motto of “uniting materials, technology and design.”

“The symposium offered a great learning and networking opportunity for the people who will be setting the trends for years to come in our business, and the mHouse provided a real-world, hands-on experience with some of the most innovative materials on the market today,” Aufderhaar said.



mHouse Offers Material Lessons for Future Designers

By Teri Barr

Taking a field trip can be the best way to open the door to a hands-on learning experience. For some lucky students, one recent tour gave them a unique opportunity to see and feel materials they soon could be working with as designers.

These seniors from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design were chosen by their instructor to make a special visit to the mHouse. This one-of-a-kind home was built to showcase what's possible when material, design and technology are united both inside and outside of a living space. From the floors to ceilings, cabinetry to furniture, alternative products were used, and the discovery turned out to be a pleasant surprise for the students.

“This is just mind-blowing,” Kou Yang said as he ran his hands across the wood-grain textured thermally fused laminate kitchen cabinets featuring Uniboard's Brushed Elm design. “The material is very contemporary and not the typical oak and granite. But there's still a sense of warmth inside the home. It feels harmonious and peaceful.”

“I can absolutely understand the attractiveness and purpose for using laminate as a designer,” Kyle Parnov said.

We were talking about the material while standing in a sunny office alcove just off the main hallway. There is a beautiful compact cabinet of Roseburg walnut hardwood plywood made by Quest Engineering, and next to it sits a desk made of  Fiberesin Stonewood, which is a solid phenolic product that is both water and sun resistant. 

“The solid quality along with the nice texture makes this a really appealing option,” Parnov said. “And knowing it won't fade from the bright sunlight in this area is an important consideration.”

Ofelia Gonzalez took a different approach, starting her walk-through on the lower level. The space features a large TV room, along with a bathroom. But the highlight, according to Gonzalez? A wine room with a cool translucent panel in a classic midcentury modern design by Decotone Surfaces. “It looks like bubble-glass and allows light in from the other room, but you can't see through it. This panel is the perfect design answer for an area short on natural light, while still maintaining a sense of privacy,” Gonzalez said. 

Meantime, from the bottom floor to the top, Vanessa Sunta enjoyed the sun coming through the many large windows of the upstairs bedrooms, while happily investigating a Murphy bed that was part of a multi-shelved wall storage system.

“The specific purpose of this to be multi-purpose,” Sunta said as she checked out the soft-close mechanisms of the closet doors.

It is also hard not to notice two materials that run throughout the house. First, there are the sheets of SIMOWOOD on the exterior.

“This material is so consistent,” Linh Hoang said. The processed panels look and feel like wood, yet are pliable like plastic. Learning it's an alternative to tropical timber is what makes Hoang smile.“I really like the idea of this being an eco-friendly hybrid material made of rice husks,” Hoang said.

He goes on to point out the floor tiles, which look like washed concrete but are actually the luxury vinyl tile Aspecta made by MetroFlor. “The flooring is so sophisticated,” Hoang said. “It's hard to believe this is vinyl!”

A walk through the garage, described as being consistent with the house and just as nice, then the grounds leads to the end of this field trip. And the group members agree with Kou Yang's summary of what they just toured.

“From room to room, the material is consistent in its look. And again, it has such a nice feeling,” Yang said. “It makes me excited to get to work, knowing I have these kinds of beautiful, durable alternatives to consider.”

Students, learning in this hands-on way now, could provide the best in material options as professionals.


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