Vendor Interviews: George Harrison from Harrison Home Systems and Laura Dahlhauser from Sonoma Tilemaker

Starting our series of vendor interviews, Sara “Slew” Lewis from Decorative Materials, joins me for our interviews at the Design Center. Together, we will be interviewing different vendor resources that designers should know about. We will strive to invite vendors that will help with product knowledge as well as business resources that could help build your business.

George Harrison from Harrison Home SystemsHarrison Home System shared with us about home automation, and all the different ways they work with designers to simplify different  of home management. We talked at length about how window treatments can be incorporated into the home automation system. HHS works with Lutron to control lighting through the windows with shades. George started his business in Telluride/Aspen, but has his main operation in Golden, CO, just outside of Denver. HHS has worked with many custom home builders, architects, and designers in the mountains, as well as in Denver.

Sonoma TilemakersLaura Dahlhauser with Sonoma Tilemakers joined us to talk a little about tile, how Sonoma Tilemakers creates their unique tile, and shared with us their newest collection, the Euphoria Collection. So new, that it is not even listed on their website (otherwise we would have linked it). Laura shared with us how they have a glazing process that is actually done in Boulder, CO. It is a process done on ceramic tile. Laura together with Sonoma Tilemakers works directly with showrooms that work directly with designers.

If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at www.thechaiseloungepodcast.com.

Working With Harrison Home and Sonoma Tilemakers

George Harrison from Harrison Home

Well thanks for joining us today on the Chaise Lounge, today I’m joined with my new co-host Slew, Sara Lewis from Decorative Materials. Good morning

Great to be here

Thanks for taking me up on the offer to do a show here at the Denver Design Center so excited to do this interview with you slew

Any time

So tell me a little bit you know, you and I got to know each other through ASID we doing events and what not but what is it that you do here at Decorative Materials, what is decorative materials?

We are a tile and stone showroom for tile and stone showroom we sell anything from ceramic tile to floor tile, porcelain, glass anything you need for tile and stones

You guys are kind of resource for the design community here in Denver

Yea we sell the pretty

Yea you do and unfortunately it is a little louder here than in my studio, the sound bounces a little bit, because I noticed that tile isn’t very soft which means it doesn’t absorb sound very well so there’s a little bit of background noise and all that kind of stuff but I think it will create a really nice ambience for our audience

I think so

So every week we’re going to be here in the Denver design Center at your showroom and we’re going to invite folks that are in and around the interior design world to come in and share resources with us, doesn’t that sound fun

Sounds great

So today we got George Harrison with Harrison Home Systems welcome to the Chaise Lounge

Thanks for having me, glad to be here

So George and I have gotten to know each other through different events again you’re a big partner with  ASID as well and why don’t you, tell us what is Harrison Home Systems do, you build homes?

No we are a high-end residential A/V home automation System Company we mostly do A/V systems but what’s really become prominent is the home automation portion of our business which at the end of the day provides our clients the single point of control to control their entire home

Ok, so for an idiot like me, so you use technology so that it’s easy for me to watch television

That’s part of it, that is the primary reason that we exist we have expand our offerings to control any type of system that is controllable that extends to your security system, your HVAC system, your blinds and your Shades, your cameras it goes on from there but the ability to control all of that from an iPhone or laptop is really become a common expectation of our clients and that’s what we do, we work the magic that allows all those different systems to work together seamlessly and make it a single user interface for our clients

You’re making it smart

Making it smart, that’s right,

So I saw post on Facebook the other day I follow the guy from kiss Jean Simmons and he had a really funny post he had a remote control for his television and he had taken tape and covered up every button that he didn’t use and just left the volume up/down, channel up/down and on and off switch basically

I love it

I’m guessing you make a system that is easy to use you don’t have to do that

Exactly, if our systems are not easy to use we have not done our job well and through programming that eliminates all the unnecessary clutter on your remote control and so that’s a great story I may use that actually, because that is the heart of what we do, we want to eliminate the confusion that typically comes with technology and most people are averse to technology because the minute it becomes hard to use they tend not to use it. It’s our job as an integrator to make those remotes effective with few buttons as possible and so that’s kind of our job that extends to not just A/V but everything else in your house is able to be controlled

And all that changes so fast how are you able to keep up with it

Well honestly sometimes our clients come to us with technology we haven’t even heard of yet, and that’s a very honest example of just how fast it does change it is our job to keep ahead of it to the best of our ability but most of my job is just letting people know what is possible and how we can make it useful and practical for them and so there’s a lot of that involve in what we do in the day to day business

my guess is that you probably deal with a lot of guys that have big companies and lots of technology at their fingertips on a normal basis so that’s probably why they do some things that are coming down the pipe  before you do

Right, and that can be a double headed sword in that some people come in with the level of expectation from that exact angle, they can do it at work, why can’t they do it at home and that can prove to be challenging with those, but sometimes those are just the best clients because those scenarios give us an opportunity to really demonstrate our capabilities and some people just want the bare minimum they just want to be able to turn the TV and that’s it. others realize just how amazing technology is and how available is, it’s not as exotic as it used to be to have a home automation system and in this day and age it needs to be able to leverage what we know an interview what’s available has to be the heart of what we do it with what I’m passionate about what I really enjoyed

Safety comes into it

And so safety and security on so many levels being able to have a baby cam to check out the kids while you’re in the house or away from home as a common application or teenagers or teenagers more importantly, get that security systems set at nights so that if they try to sneak out after bedtime you know about it right away that’s one example but also if you have a security system and you also lighting control system for instance you can tie those two together and leverage the automation system that if there is a fire or some type of event you can make the outside lights in your house strobe so when the fire department is trying to find you, they can kinda see that something is going on there so that’s just one lifestyle enhancement that you can really, it’s a really common application for us… it goes beyond just home entertainment

Now I want to go, I know we want to talk about how it works with window treatments but I am going to come back to that. You started your business though not in Denver but you live in Denver right?

I do

Tell us a little about where you have done a lot of work over the years

So I grew up part-time in Telluride and when I was back there long history where I lived as a kid’s I spent a couple of years of grade school in Telluride, when I moved back to Telluride in 92 I had friends that worked for their part-time and did this for a living, I worked for a long time and after I realized that I want to do this myself and since I moved away, I still have contacts down there which translated to a lot of friends that live in Aspen so we have been; have a lot of work in Telluride and Aspen and we still continue to do so and so exposure to the high-end residential projects

They are not small houses, no, that’s right

They’re a little bit large.

So for some people there a little bigger than usual, so

You have probably work for some exciting and famous people

Yea, I can’t tell you there names,

No, you would have to kill me

That’s right.

He signed the disclosure

That’s right.

That’s awesome, so what is relevant about that is some of the larger scale projects they tend to have larger budgets and tend to have the capability to do more stuff and so we had some pretty exciting experiences

So what’s a small job for you typically?

Well that’s changed a lot over the years you know we’re 15 years old now and so

You are my teenager

Right so we have, obviously as our company has matured and our project size increased so as our average project size guess what’s typical for us is somewhere in the hundred or $250,000 range

You’re not just putting in a flat-panel somewhere

That’s right

That’s what changed since home automation has become more mainstream there is more opportunity to tie more systems together that then allows us to provide more services in a single project and so that’s why those projects size have increased what most people wouldn’t expect is as far as our service offerings are typically everyone think you are you the cable guy you do A/V but it’s become much more than that so

So that’s a great Seg-way into you were telling me off-line that you guys do window treatments

We do

How does window treatments and television guy. How did they get married?

It a great question and it is a really common question asked why would we buy our window treatments from the AV and what people don’t realize is how prevalent automated shades and automated drapery are,

Mine aren’t automated at my house now I have to pull a cord myself

That’s pretty typical

Or you know what my automation is Hey Tyler, who is my 10 year old will you go close that shade will you

Exactly that’s automation

A 10-year-old needs a job

Yet he does

Totally

Yes that’s a probably different topic for a different day

Anyway back to shades

What have changed a lot lately are our main manufacturers called Neutron. Neutron is a lighting control dimming company that has expanded into the shade market they acquired a product called Savoir which was the quietest shade motor on the market and they knew at the end of the day all things being equal if the products the same one product is louder than the other in a residential scenario like in the master bedroom people are going to tend to gravitate towards those that are less obtrusive and so that was the motivation for them to get involved with shades. The other reason is lighting control has an aspect of energy savings to a tax return your investment because you can dim your lights more often

Especially at big windows there all you know south facing

That’s right precisely so that is how that transition started from the electronics base company to venture into sheets so with the automated Windows came well what do we need to offer fabrics as well to go those motors and so

Thus comes in the design element

That’s right and trying this past year off came out with a whole new product offering called the Kelis line of fabrics which is a hundred and 50+ you shade materials that we can tie into what would be typically used for just solar shades and so there’s a serious design element to it, there is there is a solution there for every taste and so that’s a big impact on our business; the second reason is relevant is because there’s an automated aspect of the shades you want the guidance and start shades to be responsible for the product and so we can offer not just the automation but also the fabric its one less layer of collaboration you have to deal with so that’s been appealing to a lot persons

It’s one vendor versus two that the contractor has to deal with

Exactly however in those scenarios where there is an interior designer on project not only do we have a vast array of fabrics offer we can also put third-party fabrics on motors and draperies so we really do collaborate

So would you go down to Crabit

Absolutely

And they do fabrics

They do

So you could go down to Crabit and throw them on

Just throw fabrics

Oh my God you know you just opened the doors to just about anything

Correct and that’s what so compelling about what we do is we can very easily collaborate with interior designers

Can I take a drop cloth and put it on one of those

You could, because there is a process involved we will submit a few yards of the fabric in the testing process but there’s not a lot of fabric that we run into that are not compatible and then when you talk about drapery tracks that where Crabit would be a perfect example of us notarizing someone else’s fabric as well so we become very much a partner or a strategic partner with interior designers in the window treatment aspect of our business are our particular business is a very shade and drapery focused AV company we tend to focus on the high-end residential projects and so we proactively reach out and try to collaborate with interior designers because it helps them as well’s

You want those partners

That’s right

Partners are good they are everything in our world as far as we are concerned

So I’m guessing that now you got all these different things that are controlled by your systems then instead of having 20 different remote controls I can just have one

Precisely

Can that be my iPhone?

Yes, there’s an app for that Android

That’s right and so the automation system that we sell is compatible with both it’s predominantly been Apple based automation system but they are also releasing their Android app actually I think next week here in Denver at our international trade show which happens to be happening in Denver this year

What is the date of that?

That is September 11, 12th and 13th at the Denver Convention Center

So by the time people are listening to this that might be over

Yes

There is always next year September 2015 just call George

What is that website again?

George tell us how should they contact you

So the long version is Harrisonhomesystems.com or www.HHSUSA.com from there you can find my contact information we’re located in Golden, we are a small but effective showroom where we have all the systems including shades on display for people to see all the fabric samplings are there for interior designers to commend and review which is a common thing for us to have interior designers come in and collaborate

Do you have an office open in Aspen or

No we don’t

We do a lot of business up there we have a partner company in Telluride; we do a lot of work also a big shades designer now. He is electrical firm actually has a really nice shading demo in his office in Telluride so we can send people there as well

Okay, fantastic thanks for joining us today

Thanks so much for having us

I had no idea you did so much and I have known you for quite a while now

See now I got to get the word out

That right

Well that’s what we are doing

That’s right

I love what you guys are up to. It’s a great idea it’s wonderful

Thanks for joining us in the Chaise Lounge and stick around We are going to have for lunch later so it going to be a good afternoon

Thanks again for having me

Welcome

Thank You!

The Tile Diva of Sonoma Tilemakers

And today we are being joined by a tile say Diva

Exactly

Tile Diva

Laura, I will have you pronounce your last name

It’s Dollhouser.

Okay I am going to mess it up

Yeah

Everyone does it’s okay

And you’re with Sonoma Tile Makers

That is correct I am the regional account manager for the western area basically it cover west of the rocky mountain

Okay so were talking tile today and decorative materials

Is that a coincidence?

No

Well you know what perfect timing for Laura to be in town today

So we are going to come back to that I think but I want to know what so what’s tile makers do,

At Tile makers we are the largest handcrafted ceramic manufacture in the United States we have over 400 dealers and decorative materials is one of them.  They are the exclusive dealer in Colorado for our collection and today we are introducing a new line called

No we are not going to get there yet

We are going to hold out

That’s a tease

That’s right there’s even a new product there’s a collection and we are going to hold that out

Okay

So you guys are you flew in from California

Yes I live in Northern California

Is it just beautiful there?

Very nice yes I love it. I rather live in Hawaii but I like it for now

yeah I talked to a guy from Hawaii a couple weeks ago it will would be nice, did you guys just have a earthquake

We had an earthquake in Napa which is about an hour away from the factory and about an hour away from where from where I live,

Was there a number associated with this one?

6.2 Or 6.3

Sounds strong

That big

So our Napa showroom isn’t doing too well

Down for the count

Down for the count for now

 

Well it will probably when those things happen those that mean more business for you guys though

We will see unfortunately, we will have to order a lot of new boards and I’m not sure if it’s covered under the insurance

Oh I meant for homeowners like

Fix up their homes

Oh it is actually it’s a good idea

So if you experienced an earthquake maybe you need to come take a look at some sample tile,

Its amazing tile, I have been to there factory before

Oh do you make it in California

Yes, the factory is in Windsor and Sonoma County and we have started as a small little building and basically now we have taken over the whole block

How old is this company

20, 21 years old

Okay you guys has been around the block a while

Been around for a while yes

And you guys do a lot with the interior design world I am assuming

Well we not directly but we dealt we have 400 dealers throughout the United States and Canada and so we believe interior diners and architects are in good hands of our dealer. We deal with them on a continual basis we love coming to designer function like today this function

And so with that said you came out to showcase a new collection

Yes our new euphoria collection

I am touching it it’s beautiful

and we had white tile white three basics white Carrera white, white, white and I’m hoping we went from white to gray and I think it is sometime for some color now our new euphoria learning 18 beautiful colors 5 feel shapes

So does this shape have a name?

The arabesque shape

Ok

And the colors, called Spanish eyes

It looks, iridescent to me

It is metallic polish

Like raco

It is a raco finish

You guys are using all these names I am not familiar with but it’s okay

so raco who is a unique finish which is done in Boulder Colorado is just a 30 minutes north of you so we take our porcelain Fieldhouse from the factory we ship it to our Boulder and that is where it is glaze, where this process is done

So someone gets this wherever it is in the world it come through Denver

it’s coming from Boulder it passes through the Colorado state lines

Yes and then drag and then ships directly from Boulder to our dealers or drop ships to their customer options to their customers

Ok awesome

So different sizes or what is this kind of the standard size

You have five field shapes and they’re all more rectangular shapes 2×4, 3 x9, 2×8 because that really what’s popular right now and then we have five shapes which are the arabesque shape which everyone loves that shape we have a we call it a Pinochet and it is more of a teardrop shape and have Jeannie Bono and have the elongated X so there’s just a lot of cool little fun shapes which you see is in the ceramics and stones for this collection

And my personal favorite is the flask

The flask, yes day we have very cool shapes so you have to come to decorative material to see them

I will put a couple links in the show notes so people there often do buy somewhere else at least take a look at it but definitely come by and of course buy from decorative materials

That’s right

So what else are you come into Denver to chat about

Yesterday did you guys do some training

well we did a full training for staff is well aware of the trim pieces available all the time and lead-time and the price point and then we always do a little refresher on current products that will be coming out and we have a lot of new changes in ceramic relaunch montage, we have a new shape in our behara which has four new colors so we always have new exciting addition to the line they got an hear full today

I’m always curious how many SKUs are involved always ask how many SKUs would typically be in this euphoria collection line

That is a great question i am going to say it’s on 60 we go by SKUs sort of but it’s really not part of it so much more about being artistic and put pieces together a lot of tile doesn’t even have a SKU number it might be more custom, you know maybe maybe 40 or more 60 is a lot

You guys have thousands in here hundreds of thousands

That’s right

It’s crazy

Then you multiply it by 18 colors so you really jump up there you have the trim and the different colors

There is difficulty also in this collection because it’s metallic would this be used everywhere or would this typically be a wall tile or

this line what I love so much about the Orient is that it is a porcelain tile and therefore it can be used in showers can be used on exterior walls interior walls it has more of the slick surface

can I ask a quick question i am going to ask the stupid questions because I think there’s no stupid question

right

So why is it you just mentioned because its porcelain can be tell me why

porcelain has a lower absorption rate for water therefore can be used in more higher traffic areas as well as it can take the weather from the exterior surface that makes it more durable versus a ceramic tile and so we because of its durability in California we can use this in a pool however in Colorado or Alaska I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it in most areas where it doesn’t get easy cold it can go in and out for hotels that have spas or pools

And it looks a little thicker to me than some tile is that not true

The 3/8 inch thick which is the same thickness as stone and our ceramic so it’s actually a great size especially if you will add water and mixing it with other products which will be done with euphoria.

will be able to do water jetting

Water jet what’s that it sound like a fancy big fancy machine

Water jet which does custom-designed patterns where you can creates

there’s no end in sight like seriously now you we had in 80 or hundred SKUs is a lot like this is like unlimited

that’s the beauty of it you can customize many of our products can do you, you don’t to have the same look as mrs.jones house  you don’t want your house looking like other neighbors you can take all of our products and mix them

Kinda like showing up at a party with the same dress I hate when that happens

Yea you don’t want that to happen

That’s is the great thing about euphoria as well as all of our collection is the blending what we are known for is our custom blending

so this seems to be very on trend you have lots of other collections that are feel very different cause when I hear, when you first start talking about cinema tile it gave me the impression of Barry Southwest

Interesting

But that’s just me I don’t I don’t know I am a paint guy so I don’t know them on the outsider coming into this thing so that’s why I get to ask the stupid questions

Your question is do we have other line

Is it a very broad range of tiles?  So I know when I walk through there you got your very contemporary tile right here nest to us, over there and I know you call that sculpted tile or stone , carved stone,

We have all

Oh you do

we have ceramic lines that are more modern have some ceramic lines that are little bit more old world looking and some that our tumbled stone looking as well as liners and decorative for the ceramic tiles we’re looking more like a 6×12 or less we are not doing the big 12×24 porcelain more of the handcrafted and then we have couple of glass lines we have our tantrum crackle glass which we’re very well known for

Gorgeous that sounds nice

It’s beautiful

You have to show me that when we finish up

absolutely and that comes in numerous shapes and size  that part of our most supreme we have a hard glass which is done really well aero descent and silk  and that comes in five different shapes and 16 different colors so its endless we have the Tuscany summer reserve or earthy reserve forever and ever

How do you keep track of all that?

Lots of concentration when I was little you know that game

Yea I am like the guy that has ADD

And we rely on Laura to keep us up to speed on all the new things

When a designer comes in and they are like slew I just need something and different and they describe the project and you go you should have euphoria collection

that’s right well of course and we have a new colors that came out today and you know we are having a lunch where the designers are coming in but we can, the boards are beautiful you can really get an idea all with different range of color so it’s really an incredible line I was thrilled to see it finally we have been ready for it cause it’s been a new launch

Awesome

There have been six designers in Harrison’s since we lay the boards on the counter and every designer has already put it in one of their projects

Oh you’re kidding

No

So do you think that’s because your here or that’s because they saw it

Hey they saw it

Well she is not paying them

No like handing out cash,

She doesn’t even have to

I am not even saying anything they are just on the counter and people come in and see it say I love this, it’s gorgeous, it’s the new tile,

Come in and see it in fact every Thursday if folks are listening to this they can come in and get free lunch

They say there is no free lunch

But free lunches starts at 12:30 until it’s done you know if you miss, you better come early

we better finish this up we don’t want to miss it and so folks come in and stop in; we can interview them and hear about what resources they like for their design; well thanks for joining us Laura

Thank you

As this been ok

It’s been great I am going to be here every Thursday

You’re famous now

Anytime you come back make sure you come back on a Thursday

I will, well I am always here on a Thursday

We can talk about the next line that you guys are releasing

There are some things coming down the pipe I can’t say anything

We have montage

Absolutely, thanks for joining us in the Chaise Lounge. See you next Thursday, come join us

About the Author
Host of The Chaise Lounge and The Business Brush Podcast, owner of Walls by Design, and Creative Director for iMayMedia LLC.

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