Jul 6th 2010 Issue
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Selecting Finishes

Charles Cain - Jul 6th 2010

Flooring, counters and furniture

Selecting the counter tops

Prototype store design

Special thanks to my wife Lisa and her excellent eye for design

Now that I'm less than two months from the target opening of the first Adagio Retail store, it's time to make some final decisions on finishes. This is one of the more enjoyable - if somewhat intimidating - parts of the process. It's fun to play designer, and it's hard to picture what the finished store will look like sitting in front of a bunch of little samples. Here's what I've selected and why.

Flooring: Amtico
Amtico is a brand of vinyl flooring that I am incredibly impressed by. Don't think laminate, folks, this stuff is better than hardwood. Hardwood floors are expensive and difficult to maintain. They are sensitive to water (remember, this is a tea shop) and EXTREMELY sensitive to the salt that gets tracked in over the course of a Chicago winter. Amtico is less expensive, far more durable, and nearly indistinguishable from hardwood - except for the fact that it still looks new after five years. :)

Unlike most laminates which are three layer (rubber backing, printed layer and vinyl layer), Amtico uses five layers (rubber, color, printed, and two layers of vinyl). Separating the color from the pattern gives the finished product added visual depth. The two layers of vinyl mean that scratches which would show black on a traditional laminate floor show nothing on an Amtico floor. This stuff is rated for car dealerships. I'll end up paying about $3 per square foot, not including adhesive or labor.

Furniture: Maple Melamine
All of our counters and merchandising modules will be made from an artificial wood laminate that looks like blond maple. The look is warm and natural. The very light grain of the blond maple keeps the focus on the product and not the furniture.

Countertops: Acrylic Solid Surface (LG and Wilsonart)
Acrylic countertops hit the mainstream with Dupont's Corian. Today there are quite a few companies manufacturing these materials. Acrylic solid surfaces are durable, easy to clean, highly stain resistant, and (if you spend enough) beautiful. I've selected brown granite style finishes to bring some "natural" materials into the store design.

For the center sales counters I'll use the lighter granite. We'll be blending and cupping teas on these counters, and I want the leaf to "pop". I was going to use an off-white color until my brilliant wife pointed out that all of our ceramic cupping sets would look horrible on white... granite it is. Another advantage of acrylic vs. real granite counters is that we'll be able to build a lip around the outside of the counter to keep any stray leaves or liquid from spilling onto the floor. We'll also put a couple waste holes into the counter so that we can quickly sweep or wash away excess debris.

For the tea bar and accessory counter I'll use the darker granite to better hide any spills or stains. I tested this material against stains by heaping a variety of different tea leaves on a piece of acrylic and watering them every day for a month. At the end of the month I wiped off the leaves and liquid and was impressed to find no stains. Even so, I'll be more comfortable with a darker color on the tea bar to better hide any spills.

Walls and Ceilings
The first store has a brick wall down one side of the space. We'll put the same maple laminate that we use on our furniture on the opposing wall. The remaining walls will be a warm shade of off-white. We may choose to bring in a few splashes of Adagio color once everything is in place, but it's hard to be sure at this stage.

The ceiling will be one of the more interesting design elements in the first store. We're starting with a 12 foot high tin ceiling, but the tin isn't in great shape and doesn't fit the Adagio aesthetic. We'll be installing floating (hanging) gypsum board clouds in which we'll install our can lighting. The look is far cleaner than track lighting and it will draw the eye down a bit from the ceiling. We'll also play some with shape and elevation changes to highlight the various areas of the store. I'll write more on the ceiling and lighting design in a future article.

This is probably the third set of finishes that I've selected. That said, since I'm now 57 days from my target open date of September 1st it's time to call it done and move on!

Adagio Teas