Trends: The Carriage House Craze

© 2001 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Spring 2001
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Pages 22-23

Cover Story

Trends: The Carriage House Craze

By Tom Wadsworth

If only one manufacturer introduced a distinctive new door, you’d probably ignore it. If a second manufacturer joined in, you might turn your head. But when several manufacturers jump on the bandwagon within a 12-month period, it’s time to take a closer look at the phenomenon.

The phenomenon is the “carriage house door,” and it qualifies more as an old door than a new one. It’s a sectional wood door that looks like a swing-type door on a carriage house from the Teddy Roosevelt administration. And, like Roosevelt, this door wants to be the center of attention.

Some Background

These doors clearly aren’t for everybody. The lower-priced stock models can cost well over $1,000, and the high-priced custom doors can soar over $10,000 each. The price might repel some buyers, but the appeal is undeniable.

Several regional manufacturers, such as Northwest Door and Holmes Door in Washington and Designer Doors in Wisconsin, have been offering these doors for several years. But, in the last year alone, other manufacturers began marketing their own carriage house doors, including Amarr, Wayne-Dalton, North Central, and Ankmar. Then, at the International Builders’ Show in Atlanta in February 2001, Clopay introduced two lines of carriage house doors in custom and semi-custom models.

“Where’s the Charm?”

Two years ago, Joyce Rosencrans, a home and garden columnist for Scripps Howard, wrote a column about these doors, reflecting on their architectural charm. “Weren't carriage houses attractive?” she wrote. “Their architectural designs often echoed those of the houses to which they belonged. They were built so well, in fact, that many people today are pleased to call a remodeled carriage house their home.”

In that column, she offered a negative comment about today’s garages and today’s garage doors. “The modern, attached ‘automobile house,’ on the other hand, isn't so pleasing aesthetically,” she added. “The least expensive garage doors are metal and often have plastic-looking windows. Where's the charm?”

Rosencrans may have touched a nerve. The look of the standard raised-panel steel garage doors hasn’t substantially changed for 20 years. Maybe that’s why the carriage house look is commanding attention.

What is this door? Why is it so appealing? Who’s buying it? Does it represent a niche garage door market or is it the next garage door movement? Is it a fad, or is it the future?

For answers to these questions, we talked to some of the marketing gurus from several companies that are now selling these doors:

· Paul Bellig, Project Manager, North Central Door
· Amy Jamieson, Director of Marketing Communications, Clopay
· Teresa Lowry, Marketing Manager, Amarr Garage Doors
· David Osso, Marketing Manager, Wayne-Dalton
· David Webb, President, Ankmar Door

What’s the appeal of the carriage house door?

Bellig/North Central: I believe many people are not satisfied with what the steel door market has to offer, and they like to be able to express their own unique architectural style throughout their home design.

Lowry/Amarr: People in the custom home market are looking for a design that represents a simpler time, a rustic Americana, and a more individualized look for their lifestyle. The carriage house door represents all of that, a time when life was simpler.

What prompted your company’s decision to offer carriage house doors?

Webb/Ankmar: What drove us to the decision was a number of builders began asking for a different and more customized look.

Jamieson/Clopay: Our dealer base told us that they had homeowners and builders who were looking for garage doors with unique panel designs.

Osso/Wayne-Dalton: With our wood door production capabilities, Wayne-Dalton has always supplied these types of doors on a per-sketch basis. As demand grew, we simply decided to formalize our offering to make it easier for all of our dealers to participate in this market.

How would you describe the likely buyer of a carriage house door?

Lowry/Amarr: For us, it would definitely be a homeowner or a custom builder who is building upscale, high-end, custom homes. That’s how we have our doors positioned. Amarr is selling a lifestyle, not just a garage door.

Osso/Wayne-Dalton: It’s someone very concerned with the looks of their home and who realizes the impact a garage door can make. The person is more than likely in an income bracket where cost is not as much of a factor.

Webb/Ankmar: Our current product is primarily for upscale homes, but we are bringing out a new line that will meet the needs of the mid-range builder.

Do these doors have any unique installation or maintenance requirements?

Jamieson/Clopay: All of our hardware is commercial grade, and we strongly encourage professional installation. This is not for the do-it-yourselfer. Like any wood door or exterior wood product, the door must be properly maintained annually.

Bellig/North Central: These doors require more maintenance than steel doors and even more than the raised panel cedar and redwood doors. Carriage house doors must be protected from the elements; high quality stains, sealer, and varnishes are a must, and re-treatment is necessary every two to three years.

What distinguishes your carriage house doors from the others on the market?

Webb/Ankmar: We offer a protective coating on several of our doors; it’s a thermal film that we apply directly to the door itself.

Jamieson/Clopay: The quality of our wood and the craftsmanship set us apart. The details of both the custom and semi-custom doors are much more distinct than those of the competition.

Lowry/Amarr: The Amarr door is built on a sturdy steel frame, and the exterior is Western Red Cedar, and the interior is insulated and then covered with luan paneling. It combines the strength of a steel frame with the rustic beauty of wood.

How do you think this product will be selling in the next couple of years?

Osso/Wayne-Dalton: We expect their popularity to grow as more become aware of the possibilities. This is a niche market that only appeals to certain types of builders and homeowners.

Lowry/Amarr: As with any new product, it’s hard to say. Right now, we’re getting a tremendous amount of interest and solid sales. We think the prognosis would be very good.

Jamieson/Clopay: So far, the interest has been overwhelming. We’re anticipating a good surge of sales this spring. Our semi-custom line is in the reach of most people, but because of the price points, I think these doors will be a niche product.

Bellig/North Central: Sales are currently on the rise, and we see this product continuing to grow in the next year.

Webb/Ankmar: Judging from the responses we’re getting from our limited advertising, the reaction has been phenomenal. We’ve made a significant investment in this product; we think it’s going to be around for a long time. We have a second-generation door coming; we’ll be showing this new product at the IDA show in Atlantic City.