The Father of the Carriage-House Door Movement

© 2004 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Summer 2004
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Page 58

The Father of the Carriage-House Door Movement
An Interview with Kent Forsland
President, Designer Doors

Is it legitimate to call you "The Father of the Carriage-House Door Movement"?

I believe so. To my knowledge, we are the company that built and installed the first modern carriage-house garage doors. That was around 1987.

Do you remember that first door?

Yes, I do. When we discovered this design as an alternative to the standard raised-panel door, it struck like a bolt of lightning. I remember being aware that something big is happening here.

Tell me about that "lightning moment."

There were really two moments. The first one happened when we were working with a transplanted California builder who wanted to have a carriage-looking door that rolled up in sections. While in California, he had built similar doors in a tip-up style. He did not want exposed rails on the door as seen on a typical sectional panel door. That was the very first time I realized this design could be a distinct niche market.

Shortly after that, I visited a property in Minneapolis where they had an original carriage house. The homeowner wanted something other than the normal raised-panel door, and they asked us to create a door with that "old world" charm.

So, I built a door that matched the design of the carriage house, and they were blown away. It was just what they wanted.

You must be flattered by the industry's carriage-house movement.

This "movement" has expanded residential architecture options beyond the "same old, same old." For that I'm very pleased.

How did you get started manufacturing doors?

In the 1980s, I was a door dealer in Minneapolis. When we replaced wood doors, I noticed that some of the newer wood doors were falling apart in our hands before we could get them on the truck to haul them away. Yet, most of the 40-50-year-old wood doors still held together nicely.

So, we pulled apart some of these doors to see why they lasted such a long time. It was 1986 when we started building high-quality wood doors. We went back to using Douglas fir for the framework, hand craftsmanship, and built in all the quality we could imagine.

What were some of the key milestones for Designer Doors?

We started using the Designer Doors name in 1987. Around 1988, one of our doors made the cover of the Marvin Windows catalog, and that really brought us to the forefront.

In 1994, I devoted full-time focus on Designer Doors, and I eventually sold my Minneapolis dealership. In 1996, we moved production to a new facility in River Falls, Wisconsin, about 10 miles from Minnesota. We had fewer than 10 employees at that time.

In 1997, we expanded our effort to sell Designer Doors nationwide, selling direct to the customer. Sales grew rapidly after that.

How would you quantify your company's growth over the last 10 years?

We grew by triple digits every year for the first several years after 1994. In the late 90s, we grew by double digits.

In 2001, we noticed a drawing back after 9/11. A lot of our sales go to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, and that event had a big impact emotionally on that part of the country.

But since 2001, we've been seeing nice growth every year. We don't see the interest fading.

Is the trend toward steel carriage-house doors a good or bad trend for wood carriage-house doors and your company?

That's a great question. I really don't know if it'll help us, but I don't think it will hurt us. I definitely believe that it's a good development for architecture and homes in America because it gives people more design options.