Q. Ben Warwick
A. Chad Haas
1. Chad, please explain a little about you, Vault and your aspirations to change the perception of the humble garage?
When I could finally upgrade to a home with a larger garage, my dream was having a manspace that was furnished just as nice as the rest of my home. I really lucked out finding a home with two garages: there is an attached in the front and a detached workshop in the back.
Although the front garage is the day-in/day-out entrance, I tackled the workshop first, envisioning a space where I could hang out and have fun with friends, tinker around on my cars and hobbies or just a place where I could relax, listen to music; maybe enjoy an occasional cigar all the while admiring many of the antique signs and gas pumps I’ve acquired over the years.
I had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted the space to look like, but I didn’t have a clue where to begin. To gain inspiration, I visiting countless garages and design showrooms and immersed myself in research, buying books and scouring the internet for products that had the great design and fine craftsmanship that would meet my stringent requirements for quality. My guiding principle from the very beginning was to build something that I could be proud and I simply did not want to compromise on any aspect of the project and desired to get it right the first time.
My search didn’t yield much success so I eventually hired a professional designer, but unfortunately, these efforts also proved fruitless. I longed for heavy-duty cabinetry and was attracted to the look and performance of stainless-steel, which is superior to everything else, but it was disappointed that there weren’t any manufacturers building this kind of commercial-style equipment for the home. Storage cabinets, like melamine, are such a commodity that most manufacturers were taking costs out of their products and sacrificing quality as a result. The end results were products that were disappointing in their quality.
Unable to find what I was looking for, I bit-the-bullet and set out to design and build what ultimately became our Professional Series line of cabinets (Vault’s flagship line), and thus my reason for founding my company. I could have never guessed that renovating my garage would lead to my quitting my secure job and starting up a new company but the journey has been worth all of the struggles and challenges in trying to create a new industry where one doesn’t exist.
Many people might think that I created Vault to target customers who were a lot like me: died-in-the-wool “gearheads” who already spent a lot of time tinkering in the garage. Truth be know, my motivation actually came from my awareness that the garage was an important room, one of the most important amenities in a home; so much so that new home buyers will not buy a home unless the garage can accommodate their needs.
Yet, despite this, the garage has largely been an after-thought. While virtually every other room has evolved over the years, one of the largest and most utilized rooms has been ignored and abused. For most people, it’s become the most embarrassing, disorganized part of their homes; but, it is also happens to be the largest room, and the most visible to neighbors and passerby’s which is why it’s a conflict for most homeowners.
You don’t need to be a “gearhead” to realize that the garage is one of the homes most valued rooms.
2. The concept of using the garage as more than a storage room or utility room has become noticeably more prominent in recent years. So much so that franchises are making their way to the UK and Europe. How does Vault stand out from the ever-increasing numbers of franchises and large outfits dedicated to renovating the home garage?
We have a unique strategy that gives us a competitive advantage, but from a customer facing standpoint the obvious difference is in the quality of all Vault products. The ideals of quality products and outstanding customer service are the foundation for our business and Vault is now known for our unparalleled craftsmanship and construction because we do not compromise on quality. Everything we do is meticulously engineered, regardless of whether the part is seen or not. Our products are not just beautiful; our clients expect our products to last a lifetime and we design and build them that way because that’s what our customers want.
Our passion for quality materials and commitment to quality has helped us enjoy a strong reputation with architects, designers, and homebuilders everywhere as the ‘best in the world’. And I think it’s been these characteristics that have placed Vault at the forefront of our industry, earning praise for the design of our products and their unmatched performance.
Although we enjoy a strong reputation and sort of a ‘cult-like’ following with the car-loving community, most of our sales come from buyers who simply appreciate a high quality, beautifully-designed product that is built without compromise, for their homes. These customers aren’t “gearheads”, but rather the kind of client that appreciates the art of good design and the unmatched quality and performance of what we do.
We’ve actually built several custom kitchens, sink vanities, store fixtures and office furniture for customers and they choose us for the very reasons I just described. I’d like to think that’s a testament to how we are perceived by our customers because I certainly couldn’t imagine a woman wanting a Sears Craftsman or SnapOn toolbox in her luxury kitchen can you?
3. There’s no doubt Vault has positioned its self towards the higher professional end of furnishings, along with bringing the true intention of the garage back to life. However in a time of recession are you concerned you may have missed a trick by not aiming towards the lower–end multi function market, in relation to homeowners no longer renovating to sell but rather to live in? Or is this a misinterpretation of Vault?
As an emerging market there have been many companies that are rushing products and services to market to fill the need for people demanding solutions, and the overall quality has become diluted as a result.
Vault has chosen to serve the segment of the market that values quality, which tends to be high-end households in the top income bracket. It’s an area we are pleased to focus on because these customers continue to invest heavily in their homes. There is no clear brand leader in this market, especially at the upper end, so we believe this represents an opportunity.
My decision to serve this market is a commitment not to compromise the elements of our brand for short-term gain. Vault has become known as a very high-end brand nationally and has set the standard for design, quality and craftsmanship in the garage and I don’t ever envision that changing.
4. The images on the Vault website showcase a stunning blend of 60s nostalgia and modern cotemporary design, does Vault offer a template range of designs, bespoke service or indeed both?
I wouldn’t say that Vault represents a certain style or look that has elements from a specific time-period. Styles come and go, and I would hope that our designs are viewed as “timeless” because that’s ultimately what we’re striving for.
Each project we work on is unique because each home and owner has different needs and tastes. Part of our challenge is that the general public can’t imagine what a beautiful garage really looks like so our role is guiding them to realizing their dream without imparting our design philosophy upon them. The best results come from simply listening to clients and offering them choices that make their lives —and homes— more organized, fun, and simplified, whether their needs are in the garage or elsewhere.
5. What are your plans for the future of Vault and what would you like to have achieved within 10 years?
People value their garages as an important home amenity for storage. At Vault we are taking the garage a step farther to personalize this space, just as is done elsewhere throughout the home. In ten years time I hope that Vault is universally recognized as having influenced an entire new generation of home improvement conscious clients who agree with our vision that the garage is more than a utilitarian space and deserves to be furnished just as is done in every other room. Whether customers choose Vault or not, I hope we can inspire a new way of thinking about the garage and consequently America’s relationship with it.
6. The garage has often been an after-thought for most homeowners. Why is the garage suddenly important?
There is clearly a reason why the garage is gaining in popularity and it has everything to do with curb appeal. The first impression people most people have of a home is the garage because it’s often the largest and visible feature in the front façade of most homes. And it’s not up on the roof or hidden from sight; it’s at eye level, where everyone immediately sees, and can account for 30% of a home’s visual impact.
People are increasingly realizing that the garage is the one room that is seen on a regular basis and the impression a messy disorganized garage says about them. The rest of their home may be neat and clean, but the garage can be a source of embarrassment, since it is the only room regularly visible.
So it follows that an increasing number of homeowners are now looking for ways to ‘spruce up’ their garages to make this space more usable and appealing.
We believe the garage has enormous potential as a new category in home design. New innovations have been developed for every room in the home and we hope that people want better spaces and more interesting products for the garage, which we think has been neglected for far too long.
7. In what ways is the garage evolving from the days of old?
The biggest evolution is that the garage is more prominently featured in home construction. In older homes, the garage was typically detached from the home. But with the rise of suburbs, it became attached to homes as a matter of convenience and now serves as the main entrance for most home owners. Whether people realize it or not the garage has become America’s front door.
Garages are also getting bigger. In terms of size, it is the fastest-growing element in new home design, so we are seeing some garages that are almost the size of small homes.
The garage has also come a long way inside: most were constructed with the studs and insulation exposed, but today finishing a garage wall with drywall and paint is commonplace because homeowners want them to look more appealing visually.
And we are also seeing floor treatments on garage floors evolve. Just a short few years ago floor coatings and tiled garage floors were non-existent. Today it’s become commonplace as homeowners simply want a better solution than coming home to dirty, oil-stained garage floors.
Read part two of this Q&A here