The mHouse inspires
Architect, client sold on laminates after seeing them up close, in use
By Scott W. Angus
When Paul and Janet Tolzmann told the architect on their kitchen remodeling project that they wanted flat-front panels on their cabinets, the architect, Rosemary McMonigal, knew just what to show them.
Unfortunately, nothing in the Minneapolis area featured the types of panels she had mind. So McMonigal sent the Tolzmanns to southern Wisconsin to visit fabricator Quest Engineering and a showcase called the mHouse, where they could see thermally fused laminate and high pressure laminate up close and in use.
McMonigal had visited Quest and the mHouse and had samples of TFL and HPL from Quest President Chris Lefeber in the Minneapolis office of her company, McMonigal Architects. The Tolzmanns found the samples intriguing, but they wanted to see more.
“Our question to her was, ‘Where can we go see this locally? Can we see a bigger sheet? Can we see a kitchen cabinet made out of this?’’’ remembered Paul. “She said, ‘Not really,’ and she told us we should go see Chris and his operation and visit the mHouse.”
That’s what the Tolzmanns did.
By traveling to Wisconsin and visiting Quest and the mHouse, the Tolzmanns and McMonigal helped fulfill the mission of the mHouse, which was built by Bedford Falls Communications to display the many uses of processed-panel goods in today’s modern home. Bedford Falls publishes Surface & Panel. Hundreds of architects, designers, manufacturers, distributors, fabricators and homeowners have visited the house since it opened in September 2015.
Quest was among fabricators that provided cabinets for the mHouse, and Lefeber has been pleased with how the house has helped spread the word about his products.
“The mHouse project coincided with the release of our CABnX single kitchen program to our dealers,” he said. “We were hoping to use the mHouse as a communication tool to promote our new offerings. Reaching interested parties in the A&D world is exactly what we wanted.”
While the panel industry generally does a good deal of marketing to architects, designers and end users, Lefeber believes there is still “a knowledge gap in the actual application of TFL and HPL.”
“People do not understand how it is used for residential cabinetry. The mHouse illustrated the different applications of the panels, and Rosemary contacted us because she was following the story about the mHouse.”
McMonigal first saw the mHouse when it was featured in Surface & Panel. She was inspired by the photos, calling the architecture “modern, cleanly detailed, light filled and beautiful.” Nothing in the Minneapolis area offered such a complete view of composite panels in use, she said.
“The mHouse consolidates many new panel products and applications in one location. For example, I don’t know of a showroom in the Twin Cities that has a variety of full height cabinet panels from thermally fused laminate,” she said.
A visit to Quest was the logical complement to the mHouse tour for the Tolzmanns, McMonigal added.
“For clients that are engaged about new panel processes and products, what better way to see and understand than to visit Quest Engineering or another manufacturer using current technology?”
The Tolzmanns are fanatical gardeners to the point that their yard in Golden Valley outside of Minneapolis has been featured on a regional garden tour. They often come in the house with dirt on their hands, and they want flat-panel cabinets because of how easy they are to clean.
“Our goal in our kitchen area is to have low maintenance,” Paul said. “We track dirt and mud in. We get a cup out of the cupboard, and now we have dirt. Raised panel cabinets don’t work for us. We want something we can wipe off and that is durable.”
Laminates seemed like the perfect solution.
“And we like the look,” Janet said. “We really like the look.”
The Tolzmanns, however, needed an education on modern laminates when the prospect was first raised.
“We had a picture in our minds of the laminates of the 1960s. They wore like iron. Many of them were orange back then,” Paul said.
“They obviously have really changed. The sample that we saw didn’t necessarily mimic wood, but it had a texture and a look that was similar,” he said. “We thought it was really interesting compared to what we had pictured. It warranted the trip to Wisconsin to go look at it.”
Their first stop was at Quest’s state-of-the-art panel processing facility in Richfield. Quest has more than 30 employees and produces cabinets for residential and commercial projects. Their second stop was at the mHouse in Watertown, where they saw Quest’s cabinets in the kitchen, hall, master bedroom and garage.
After the Quest tour and seeing TFL and HPL in the mHouse, Janet proclaimed: “I’m sold.” The Tolzmanns are having Quest make their cabinets out of HPL, which Lefeber said is a good fit given their desire for doors with a contemporary look that are durable and easy to clean.
McMonigal is also enthusiastic about laminates and especially how they are displayed at the mHouse.
“The new laminates are exciting and a great look …” she said. “When I visited the house, there was more to see than I expected from the articles because of the variety of panel types and applications.”
“I appreciate that the mHouse experimented both on the interior and exterior,” McMonigal added. “Architects always run the risk of trying new products and wondering about the performance. Some of those challenges are evident at the mHouse, which is important for architects and clients to know and understand. The extent of furniture quality cabinetry construction at the mHouse is unique.”
As president of Bedford Falls and publisher of Surface & Panel, John Aufderhaar was the man behind the mHouse. One of his primary goals was education, especially among the A&D community.
“And how do you educate architects and designers? One at a time,” Aufderhaar said in a reference to McMonigal’s enlightening experience with the mHouse.
The mHouse remains available for tours and industry-related events. For information, contact Aufderhaar at email@example.com.
“The new laminates are exciting and a great look.When I visited the house, there was more to see than I expected from the articles because of the variety of panel types and applications.”
Rosemary McMonigal, McMonigal Architects