• Real Materials, Real Difference, Real Growth:


    Successfully Growing A Non-Wood Product Line Within A Wood Shop

    By Christian Smedberg


    Necessity is the mother of invention, and in the competitive markets of woodworking and design, it is necessary not only to keep up with the latest trends but to stay ahead of them, forming them if need be. As the pendulum of design perpetually sways from traditional to contemporary and back again, it continues to reveal new ideas, schemes, and reinventions. Recently, the pendulum has uncovered a trend of infusing a mixture of materials into a single space. It is not uncommon to integrate six or seven different materials into a kitchen or bath design. Stainless steel appliances are replacing paneled appliances, accent counter tops in concrete or glass are supplementing granite, and metal range hoods are finding their prominent place in design, not to mention various materials for hardware, plumbing fixtures, sinks, lighting fixtures, flooring, etc.

    Being a supplier of wood products since 1979, the idea of mixing materials was and still is an opportunity and a challenge. We have learned over the years how to adapt to current design trends, but in the past we could achieve that with wood. The first challenge was one of design and innovation, how to incorporate a mixture of materials in a single component such as an island leg or corbel. After interacting with numerous customers, combing through numerous custom designs, and spending days creating sketches, the Fusion product line came into being. At the same time, we started developing corbel designs which could be manufactured from metal.

    Christian Smedberg, Dir of Marketing at OsborneUnlike others in our industry we find it essential to actually use different materials such as metal instead of finishing our standard wood products to achieve the look of metal. We believe that a reason for the mixture of material is not just visual but tangible as well. We also found that there are shapes which can be created out of stone and metal which cannot be achieved with wood.

    After developing our designs and realizing the material should be true to what is seen, our real challenges started in trying to find reliable sources for dye casting, machining, plating, etc. We quickly found that other industries, such as metal fabrication, had just as much industry-specific vocabulary as woodworking, and, coupled with a completely different manufacturing process; the learning curve was quite steep. Some designs were tabled immediately due to strength issues, manufacturing process challenges, or because the piece just did not achieve the look we wanted when in its finished material.

    Marketing began with releasing a few metal corbel designs in various materials and styles. These were released on the website and soon incorporated into the catalog and advertising campaigns. As awareness grew, we continued to release new materials for existing product, such as brushed aluminum, bronze, antique cast iron, even a composite called iron rust. The metal corbel line set a stage for what came next: the patented Fusion Line. While the Fusion legs were not the first non-wood products released, they were the quintessential product of our initial idea: a single component mixing materials. The legs were immediately received well within design communities and started gaining traction with manufacturers within six months.

    The process of releasing this product line was different than any other line because it started with an idea that did not fit into our model at first. It started with quickly realizing a design idea that we knew would gain more and more traction as time progressed. We believe in this time of stagnate growth and stale ideas, companies that continue to innovate will stay effective and influential.

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