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Wide Planks in the “Windy City”: A Conversation about Carlisle in Chicago
The Mart. If you’ve been to Chicago, this massive 25-story building is hard to miss. If you are in the industry, you know it as the largest commercial building in the United States and the nation’s first and largest design Centre — not to mention that the Art Deco style architecture probably makes your heart skip a beat or two. Spanning two city blocks, the Merchandise Mart is one of the cornerstones of downtown Chicago, and stands proudly on the North side of the riverfront, attracting over 25,000 consumers every day.
The 1st floor hosts LuxeHome, a collection of 35 boutiques and the world’s largest collection of premier boutiques for home building and renovation. It is the ultimate resource for design professionals and discerning consumers in search of luxury kitchen and bath, home furnishings, home building and renovation products. It comes as no surprise that our Carlisle showroom is part of this exclusive collection, and can be found just past the revolving glass doors of the building.
Evan Kennel, Wide Plank Specialist
It was a Friday afternoon when we stopped by the showroom for a friendly chat with Carlisle team member Even Kennel. Evan greeted us with a warm smile and was happy to sit down for some Q&A about what he loves about his day-to-day. He pulled out a chair at a round glass top table in the middle of the showroom, which was filled with beautiful wide plank samples. We declined a hospitable offer of a lager or glass of wine but couldn’t resist sneaking a couple of NH maple syrup hard-candies before getting started.
C: Evan, tell us about yourself; where are you from and how long have you been here at Carlisle?
E: “I grew up in Boulder, went to school in Indiana, and have been in Chicago for 8 years. I originally started out in the beverage industry. I was looking for a change, and fate landed me here almost 3 years ago,” he recollects with a twinkle in his eyes.
C: What do you love most about working at Carlisle?
E: “There is a certain level of magic about being here,” he said, lighting up at the thought. (We suddenly feel very proud, because that’s been our experience too.) “Everyone wants to elevate the company to make it the best it can be,” he continued, “almost as if it’s in their DNA. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.”
C: Tell us about selling here in Chicago.
E: “People come to our showroom from all over the country. From New York to California, and it’s not uncommon for some to make a 200 mile drive to visit us. Being here at the Mart is a phenomenal place for homeowner traffic. It’s easy to wow consumers with a product they’ve never seen before. And it’s not just a product. It’s an investment. Our clients discover that every day floor gripes don’t exist when you invest in quality.”
C: What exactly puts the wow factor in our floors?
E: “Without a doubt it’s our capability to help people create the exact floor that will meet their needs. If what they want can be made, our craftsmen can do it. That’s the Carlisle experience. We provide personalized design expertise throughout the entire process, which is the secret to the success of any project.”
C: That’s a great point! What kind of feedback do you get from clients who are living with their new floors?
E: “They love them. And they let us know. We’ve had people come back after 8-10 years to tell us how much they love their floors and how they plan on working with us on future projects. Once you live on a Carlisle floor, you’ll never want anything else.”
C: We agree!
C: Ok, if you had to pick 3 floors here in the showroom, which are your favorites and why?
E: “Ahhhh, that’s not easy… but if I had to decide, the first would be the random width White Oak with Clear Finish.” He directs us over to the middle of the showroom, covered in an 8’-wide installation. “Each plank showcases 30-40 years of growth and every knot tells a story. The natural finish makes it timeless and versatile, perfect for just about any application.” We see this in a high-end retail space or five-star hotel…
“Next,” he continues, walking over to a gorgeous vertical panel, deep warm brown in color and covered with rough saw marks and what appears to be decades of wear, “I would choose Grandpa’s Floor. This is reclaimed heart pine from factories and mills that are almost a hundred years old. It’s the perfect fit for urban lofts and remodels.” We are in love. This sample speaks a thousand words but we have to move on…
“My third pick would be Optimistic Stone.” He directs us to the opposite side of the showroom to another vertical. It is smooth in texture and has a soft grey tone with a natural mix of light and dark hues. “This floor blends into almost every color scheme. It’s so easy to work with because of its versatility and range of tones, it can work with anything.” We can envision this in a high-rise condo with a view of Lake Michigan…
C: All stunning floors! And great design advice!
C: Evan, one last question: How do you see Carlisle impacting the future of design here in Chicago?
E: “I really see our wide planks becoming a lifelong foundation of architecture and design in the city. We have a strong presence in residential, and most recently retail and commercial spaces, which means our deeply traditional New England floors and quality craftsmanship is here to stay. We don’t have to explain who we are; when people come into the showroom, they know the Carlisle name and reputation, and understand that we make the highest quality wide plank floors in the world.” We love it!
Thanks, Evan! What a perfect way to end our interview; nothing makes us happier than knowing that our hand crafted boards are making history within the great American architecture of Chicago!
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