EVERYTHING PLUS THE KITCHEN SINK

by CONNIE DUFNER / photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

FOR HOME FASHIONISTAS, walking into the new residential design showroom at Gateway Supply Co. in North Charleston is like walking into a jewelry store. Gleaming faucets you can try for yourself, statement soaking tubs, shiny showerheads, touchless and voice-activated displays, smart mirrors and more—the showroom offers a tempting array of kitchen and bath products that help take the guesswork out of any home project.

“We help customers make selections for any bath or kitchen project and often work with homeowners, interior designers and builders,” says Sally Liipfert, manager of showroom business development. “We are open to the public and enjoy helping customers with projects of all sizes.” 

The bath and kitchen showroom, which opened in mid-September, is the newest innovation for the company that was founded in 1964. The company has 16 locations in South Carolina and is run by second- and third-generation family members. The Charleston showroom displays products from more than 40 manufacturers and is a Kohler premier showroom.

Liipfert says the showroom focuses on the experiential side of outfitting a home through multiple working displays. “We have a working shower station with 16 different operating showerheads, including a steam shower and body sprays. You can turn them on one at a time to visualize how each style will operate.”

In another area, a 5-foot-long trough sink features six different kitchen faucets. Kitchen faucets and showers respond to Alexa and other touchless tools. “Voice and touchless technology have become more abundant in plumbing fixtures, especially during the COVID era, and we believe it’s important for customers to experience these functions before buying them,” Liipfert says.

By the nature of its heritage serving the plumbing, HVAC and mechanical industries, Gateway Supply Co. knows the back end of the business, the unseen systems that serve these workhorse rooms in our homes. The new showroom complements the company’s expertise by bringing design trends to the forefront.

“Matte black and gold finishes are very popular these days,” Liipfert says. Another design trend she’s seeing is the farmhouse sink being adapted for bathroom and kitchen use. The basin allows plenty of room for piling dishes and ample space for frequent handwashing. Decorative, standalone vanities are also popular, and customers are moving away from standard painted cabinets. “Sink tops with exposed console legs are a big trend, too,” she says. Freestanding tubs are taking center stage in the bath: Imagine a dreamy soak in a curvy shape or modern linear box. The new showroom allows for different shapes and sizes to be displayed. And don’t forget the dog! The showroom features an operating canine pampering station with a raised shower floor, a hook to hold a leash and hand-held sprayers. “It’s a crowd-pleaser,” Liipfert says. 

Even though the company designed the showroom with retail customers in mind by offering plenty of products to try out, the process of choosing can still be daunting. Liipfert says the company has increased the sales staff to keep up with the retail traffic. She also suggests that customers come to the showroom prepared in order to ensure a productive visit that brings them closer to their home décor dreams. 

Naturally, the size of the project determines a starting point. “Many homeowners don’t realize that if you simply want to replace an existing tub or shower trim and are not going into the wall to change out the valve, then you have to use the same manufacturer that is already there,” she says. “If it’s a larger project, there are many more options. We ask customers questions about the way the space will be used and about their daily routines so we can better steer them to selections that are visually appealing but also make sense.”

Don’t be afraid to bring inspiration photos or bookmark favorite home design websites. She also suggests taking measurements, bringing floor plans and pictures to share with the Gateway Supply Co. staff so that they can make informed recommendations. A tall faucet, for example, won’t work if the sink depth is shallow. Nor will a freestanding tub without plenty of door clearance.

“The more information we have, the more we can use our knowledge and experience to find the best options for any customer,” she says. *

Freelance writer and editor Connie Dufner is a proud Texan transplant living in Washington, D.C. She is a former editor for Modern Luxury Dallas and The Dallas Morning News who has been covering interiors journalism since 2001.