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Fabricator Profile: Galaxy Stone Works Focuses on Customer Satisfaction

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Fabricator Profile: Galaxy Stone Works Focuses on Customer Satisfaction

Posted on 09 November 2016 by CRadmin2

full-kitchen1-1030x687Galaxy Stone Works Inc., formerly Galaxy Granite and Stoneworks, is one of the leading countertop fabricators in the Pacific Northwest. Amir Khazeni and his family purchased the business in 2008 after spending 25 years in the technology industry. At first, Khazeni, only wanted to use the business for part-time work during his retirement, but he soon became enamored with all of the aspects of countertop fabrication and stepped up as president of the company.

The primary focus of Galaxy Stone Works, located in Hubbard, Ore. just south of Portland, is customer service. In order to please the widest range of customers, the company works with a wide range of materials, including granite, quartz, marble, solid surface and concrete. In addition, Galaxy is a distributor and fabricator of Italian-made Curava recycled glass countertops.

Galaxy Granite keeps the customer in mind through every step of the countertop process, including selection, measurements, fabrication and installation, and high levels of service are maintained by tracking each interaction company representatives have with customers.

From the very beginning a customer profile is established, and it is updated regularly. Customers continue to be engaged even after the final installation with surveys that can be evaluated to improve performance. A couple of months after installation, customers are contacted again to ensure they are satisfied with their purchase.

Employees of Galaxy Stone Works are empowered to provide the highest levels of service to customers within the functions of their jobs through the close involvement and commitment of management, and processes are continually improved by making use of efficient and sound business practices.

Read more of this Fabricator Profile here: Galaxy Stone Works Inc.

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Troubles Continue for Caesarstone

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Troubles Continue for Caesarstone

Posted on 07 November 2016 by CRadmin2

Caesarstone stock plummeted by as much as 20.8 percent on November 2, 2016, following the release of the company’s third-quarter earnings report. While overall revenue for the Israel-based quartz manufacturer rose to record levels, the company was held back by poor performance in the U.S. market and fell short of expectations by market analysts.

Overall Growth Falls Short of Expectations

The financial results for the third quarter of 2016, ending September 30, showed that overall revenue increased by 5.5 percent to $144.3 million, which is a new company record. Performance was strongest in the Australian and Canadian markets with growth of 21.8 percent and 13.0 percent, respectively.

Israel and the Rest of the World also showed increases at 6.4 percent and 14.8 percent, respectively, but the U.S. market declined by 5.4 percent while Europe sales fell by 1.2 percent.

While net income in the third quarter increased by 12.8 percent to $22.3 million, or $0.70 per share, these figures did not meet the expectation of analysts, which was set at $152.8 million in sales, or $0.77 per share.

In addition, Caesarstone executives are now predicting full-year revenue in the range of $524 million to $534 million, which falls short of the $553 million expected by market analysts.

Other highlights of the third-quarter report include the following:

  • Business in the U.S. has remained flat for the past nine months.
  • Gross margin rose by 1 percent, from 40 percent of sales last year to 41 percent.
  • Operating expenses increased.
  • Overall profitability grew from 18 percent to 20 percent.

New Investors Stuck With Losses

Even though Caesarstone acquired several new U.S. investors, the trades could not stop the losses experienced by the company on November 2. Migdal Insurance & Financial Holdings Ltd. reportedly purchased 550,000 shares valued at more than $19.1 million while Rice Hall James & Associates LLC purchased more than $9.1 million in shares and Tocqueville Asset Management L.P. X acquired more than $6.9 million in shares.

On November 1, the day before the third-quarter financials were released, Caesarstone stock closed at $34.85, and the next day it opened on the NASDAQ at only $27.60. After the release of the third-quarter earnings report, the stock fell by 20.8 percent but made a slight comeback to end the day at $29.60.

As of closing on Friday, November 4, Caesarstone stood at $27.80.

Caesarstone Warned About Non-Compliance

On October 27, just days before the recent plummet of Caesarstone stock, the company was issued a warning stating that it was not in compliance with NASDAQ’s independent director requirement, which was precipitated by the resignation of Moshe Ronen from the board.

Caesarstone was told that this requirement must be met by October 18, 2017, or its next annual shareholder meeting, whichever comes first. The next annual meeting is scheduled for April 17. A special meeting has been announced for December 6 to elect new nominees for the board of directors, and once these nominees are approved, it is believed that the NASDAQ requirement will be satisfied.

Move Along, Nothing to See Here

The company attempted to dissuade criticism by highlighting overall growth in the third quarter of 5.5 percent to $144.3 million, a new record for Caesarstone, and the acting chair deflected poor earnings by highlighting steps aimed at accelerating growth in the U.S. market.

“The company achieved record performance, and many of our regions continue to demonstrate substantial strength,” said Yonathan Melamed, acting chair of Caesarstone. “We are investing in expanding our marketing and sales capability in [the U.S.] and are making other strategic and operational changes that we believe will improve the business and generate growth.”

Yair Averbuch, CFO of Caesarstone expanded on Melamed’s statement concerning the investments that have been made to expand the company’s capabilities in the U.S. “Over the past several months, we have appointed new executive management, head people and improved processes to our sales team…and we are implementing a revised and more focused go-to-market strategy,” said Averbuch. “While there is some time required before these actions impact revenue, we believe we are taking the right steps to enhance growth.”

Looking Ahead for Investors

Market analysts now predict that Caesarstone’s full-year sales will halt at $529 million, down from the $557 million that was expected last quarter, and the adjusted profit margin will most likely be 24 percent rather than 25 percent.

Analysts have downgraded Caesarstone stock to “hold,” and investors have been warned to prepare for lower net profits as spending for marketing and sales support in the U.S. increases. The results of these investments are anyone’s guess as earlier investments were unable to spur growth in the third quarter. Growth in the U.S. is seen as crucial to the long-term profitability of Caesarstone.

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NKBA Introduces Changes to Certification Programs

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NKBA Introduces Changes to Certification Programs

Posted on 26 October 2016 by CRadmin2

Earlier in the year, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) announced that major changes had been introduced to its design certification programs. The changes were made to simplify the once-complex certification process and to raise the bar on professionalism within the kitchen & bath industries.

Certified Kitchen and Bath Designers

The changes to the NKBA certification program came about as a response to several member surveys and independent member requests for increased accessibility for candidates. The association quickly moved to research the possibilities by establishing the Certification Task Force, which was chaired by Denise Dick, owner of Signature Kitchens by Design and member of the NKBA national board of directors.

The changes to the certification process were finalized in January of this year and went into effect on July 1. One of the biggest changes is an entirely new certification than encompasses both the kitchen and bath industries: Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer (CKBD). The CKBD is earned by the successful completion of a single, consolidated exam.

The separate Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD) and Certified Bath Designer (CBD) exams have been discontinued as of April 13, 2016. However, individuals who already hold CKD and CBD credentials will only have to take the portion of the exam dedicated to the certification not currently held. For instance, CKDs will only have to take the bath portion of the CKBD exam while CBDs will only have to take the kitchen portion.

Candidates may apply for CKBD certification throughout the year at more than 300 authorized testing centers in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, the drafting portion of the exam can be taken online at home or in the office within 72 hours rather than in six hours as previously required. Test results will also be made available to candidates immediately after completion.

“The NKBA recognizes the importance of maintaining professional development and design certifications, and we want to strengthen these standards and, at the same time, allow students and non-certified members better access to these training resources,” said Bill Darcy, CEO of the NKBA.

CEU Requirements

Another change is that NKBA members who earn their CKBD will now be required to complete 20 continuing education unit-hours (CEUs) in each two-year cycle to keep the certification rather than the 12 CEUs required in the past. The first of the new two-year cycles runs from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2018.

“By requiring more rigorous CEU program requirements, the NKBA will be regarded as the gold standard in continuing industry education and will greatly increase the value of our members’ achievements,” Darcy stated.

Associate Certification Expanded

Students who attend any of the 40 college programs accredited by the NKBA will now be able to take an exam for Associate Kitchen & Bath Designer (AKBD) certification after completing 85 percent of their coursework. However, non-students will still be subject to the existing pre-requisites of two years’ experience and 30 education-hours to sit for the AKBD exam.

Complete CKBD and AKBD candidate requirements can be found on the NKBA website.

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The Total Worker Health Approach

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The Total Worker Health Approach

Posted on 24 October 2016 by CRadmin2

ship-brandIt is widely known that the West Coast states (California, Oregon and Washington) have some of the strictest rules regarding the health and safety of workers, but these states also provide an assortment of publications and tools that are useful for any business anywhere in the nation. The latest of these tools is the Safety & Health Improvement Program (SHIP), which was developed in Oregon under the Total Worker Health (TWH) initiative established by the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH).

About Total Worker Health

For decades, NIOSH has been attempting to deal with the 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries that occur in the U.S. each year, costing more than $1 billion per week in workers’ compensation claims. In 2011, NIOSH launched the TWH Program in an effort to advance the health and well-being of workers in the United States, which benefits not only workers but also employers in a variety of ways, including increased productivity.

As part of the TWH Program, NIOSH established six Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health across the country. These centers, located in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois, Iowa, Colorado and Oregon, have been conducting research and publishing new materials for employers for the past five years, and this work has culminated in the development of the Toolkit Kiosk by the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center.

Benefits of SHIP

The latest addition to the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center’s Toolkit Kiosk is SHIP, and its primary goal is “to promote employee health, safety, work-life balance and team effectiveness.” When used properly, the program can reduce stress and work-life conflicts experienced by employees, improve company health and safety practices and increase job performance and team effectiveness.

Research shows that when employees have conflicts between their work and personal lives, they experience higher levels of work stress, burnout, health problems and turnover. These conflicts also decrease job satisfaction, commitment to the company and performance.

SHIP has been extensively tested in labs, workshops and the real world. The program was first validated in the construction industry, and it has been adapted to for use in several others. It made available through online manuals, printable materials and software downloads, and it was designed to implemented without external support.

Work-Life Support

SHIP tackles the problem of work-life conflicts by getting owners, managers and supervisors involved in the safety and health of employees. First, supervisors must recognize that the demands of the job can affect personal and family responsibilities, but showing genuine concern about the conflicts, being knowledgeable about TWH programs, resources and policies and sharing techniques for managing responsibilities can help to reduce the impact on the business.

In order for the program to work, supervisors must demonstrate a commitment to safety – which includes all of the following points:

  • Understand and communicate the company’s safety expectations
  • Train employees on safe practices and how to recognize risks
  • Ask for suggestions and encourage creativity in coming up with solutions
  • Ensure duties are safe and demonstrate concern for employees
  • Reinforce safety procedures and practices
  • Take action against unsafe behavior and conditions

Supervisors are helped through this process with the four components of SHIP:

  1. Supervisor computer-based training
  2. Supervisor behavior tracking
  3. Team Effectiveness Process (TEP)
  4. Regular check-ins and follow-up

For further information about SHIP and the TWH approach, check out the Safety & Health Improvement Program website, download the SHIP Start Guide or go through the SHIP Leadership Briefing Slides for Power Point.

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Fabricator Profile: KAT Fabricators Stays Organized

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Fabricator Profile: KAT Fabricators Stays Organized

Posted on 14 October 2016 by CRadmin2

product-main-granite-largeKAT Fabricators is known as “your source for custom countertops” in the Dallas, Tex., area, and the company prides itself in keeping highly organized at all times. In fact, because the company does such a high volume of sales with big-box stores, such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, staying organized is a crucial element in maintaining customer relationships and honoring schedules.

Because KAT Fabricators does the majority of its business on the wholesale level, there is no need to maintain a showroom, and attention can be given to production and customer service. Stepping into the modest office, the company is all business. The customer-service department operates just behind the front door, and a few of the desks include state-of-the-art computer systems with dual monitors, which help to schedule up to 10 jobs each day with a high degree of accuracy.

Walking straight back through the office leads to the stone shop, which was originally dedicated to solid surface fabrication but now accommodates granite and engineered stone. Offering a wider variety of materials allows KAT Fabricators to act as a one-stop shop for dealers and builders with an assortment of jobs.

On the other side of the stone shop, is an open yard for warehousing slabs and remnants, and the solid surface shop is just past this. As of 2010, KAT Fabricators was using a CNC machine for sink holes while an advanced straight-line edger does most of the heavy work.

KAT Fabricators constantly and consistently works on improving efficiency and providing service and quality that surpasses that of the competition. This allows them to set competitive pricing without having to rely on low prices to gain new business.

Read more of this Fabricator Profile here: Tour of KAT Fabricators in Dallas

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Fabricator Profile: Aspen Design Focuses on Wholesale

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Fabricator Profile: Aspen Design Focuses on Wholesale

Posted on 27 September 2016 by cradmin

aspen-remnant-yard-300x110Aspen Design and Fabrication (ADF) in Denver, Colo., was opened by Dan Dugard and John Ragsdale in 2002, but they experimented with several different business models before the business really took off. In the 1980s and 1990s, Dugard was an employee of Makita Tools, but one day, a customer of his offered to sell him his countertop fabrication business. Although the deal fell through, it ultimately led to meeting Ragsdale at a scaffolding company where they both worked.

A few years after meeting, Dugard and Ragsdale decided to become business partners and opened a fabrication shop specializing in solid surface and laminate. In the beginning, they worked the shop themselves, and their only customers were walk-ins who needed new countertops for their kitchen remodels.

Soon, ADF landed a commercial job that was too big for Dugard and Ragsdale to handle themselves. They quickly scrambled to scale up the business to handle the work, and after hiring new employees, the company continued to grow and expanded into natural stone and quartz.

Aspen Design and Fabrication used the leverage they received from their million-dollar commercial job to jump directly into the wholesale market, and the majority of jobs come from builders and dealers. Today, the business has added glass and concrete to its offerings and is fully automated with laser templating, a CNC waterjet and CNC edgers.

Read more of this Fabricator Profile here: Tour of Aspen Design and Fabrication

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U.S. Tile Use up, Says Spanish Tile Producers, Cersaie App Released

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U.S. Tile Use up, Says Spanish Tile Producers, Cersaie App Released

Posted on 22 September 2016 by cradmin

According to information released from the Tile of Spain group, tile sales are on the rise for Spanish producers. The organization, which is the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturer’s Association (ASCER) representing 125 manufacturers made the following information available:

“During the first six months of 2016, Spanish Tile producers have exported 1,349 million Euros to 183 countries. Sales have grown by 6.8 percent in comparison with the same period in 2015,” stated the release. “The United States is the fastest growing market this year, whereas sales in the Russian Federation and the Middle East North Africa region have ceased to grow or, in some countries, decreased. The growth of the sales to the United States in the last years has been remarkable. From January to June (2016), the sales grew by 36.6 percent. The United States is the second most important market for the Spanish Ceramic Tile producers (6.9 percent of total sales) behind Europe.”

This information reaffirms what fabricators around the United States have been saying – business is booming. And while most research, such as that conducted by Freedonia or Catalina show tile usage as a countertop surface slowing down in America, plenty is still being used in backsplash applications, as well as bathrooms and flooring.

tos-appIn related news, Tile of Spain launched the Cersaie ’16 App in advance of this month’s show that runs Sept. 26 through Sept. 30 in Bologna, Italy. Once again, the group of Spanish ceramic companies is the largest foreign delegation at the show. The free Cersaie ’16 App, which is available for iOS and Android devices, allows access to all Spanish ceramic tile companies at the event. Participants can search through exhibitors, filter by sector and add their favorite companies to a “must visit” list, which can be shared with colleagues via email.

The Tile of Spain Cersaie ’16 App can be downloaded by clicking here, or at the Google Play or App Store.

We’d love to hear your take on the tile market in the United States or elsewhere. Post a response or email us at info@countertopresource.com.

You may also be interested in this article on countertop and kitchen trends in 2016.

 

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Fabricator Profile: Southern Stone Surfaces Looks Forward to Growth

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Fabricator Profile: Southern Stone Surfaces Looks Forward to Growth

Posted on 12 July 2016 by CRadmin2

kitchen-travertine-countersSouthern Stone Surfaces, located in Nashville, Tenn., was founded in 2006, and today, it is one of the largest countertop fabricators in the region. The company’s specializes in granite, marble and quartz surfacing, and its primary customers are builders and cabinetmakers. However, some retail business is also done directly for homeowners.

In 2013, Southern Stone Surfaces had a banner year thanks to a healthy local construction market in the area, and it outgrew its old processes. At one time, Tom Grimm, the director of operations, and his team were using spreadsheets to calculate surface area, and as business grew, they began to lose track of critical information. In addition, the spreadsheets could in no way integrate with the rest of the company’s systems.

Southern Stone Surfaces met its growth by adopting advanced technology and increasing inventory, which allowed the company to reduce turnaround times dramatically. Among the equipment available in the shop are a digital Laser Templator from Laser Products Industries and a Fusion Saw Jet from Park Industries. Southern Stone Surfaces has also made a commitment to “invest in green, environment friendly tools and processes” and has streamlined its customer service experience with an efficient software system.

Read more of this Fabricator Profile here: Southern Stone Surfaces

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IWF Atlanta: Events for the Countertop Industry

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IWF Atlanta: Events for the Countertop Industry

Posted on 08 July 2016 by CRadmin2

IWFLogoThe 2016 International Woodworking Fair (IWF) is scheduled to run August 24 through August 27 at the Georgia Congress Center in Atlanta, and several educational opportunities have been made available for those in the countertop industry.

The IWF 2016 Education Conference covers a wide range of topics in six all-day symposiums, and this year, one of these six is specifically for those who are interested in the latest offerings from the countertop industry.

Exploring Countertop Options

The IWF Atlanta Symposium Exploring Countertop Options is scheduled the day before the actual Fair begins from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 23. The all-day event is presented by the International Surface Fabricators Association (ISFA) and has been designed to provide valuable information for established countertop professionals and anyone who wants to explore today’s countertop products and the decorative surfacing industry.

Speakers at this event are as follows:

  • Keith Haight – Former executive director of ISFA and current industry consultant
  • Kevin Cole – Communications director of ISFA
  • Dave Paxton – Owner of Paxton Countertops & Showers
  • Russ Berry – President of A.S.S.T. Beyond Surface Level Solutions
  • Mike Langenderfer – Executive director of ISFA and owner of The Countertop Shop

Topics at the symposium include the following:

  • Cutting Edge Materials: New Applications
  • Solid Surface Casework: Why It Makes Sense
  • Time to Lean, Time to Clean: Getting the Shop in Order
  • Countertop Trends, Margins, Pricing and Consumer Preferences: A Forecast of What’s to Come
  • Putting It All Together: Panel Discussion

This year, anyone who purchases a pass to any all-day symposium at IWF will receive free registration and admission to the show floor plus a continental breakfast and lunch.

Leapfrog From Laminate to High End Concrete

A large part of IWF Atlanta is the 2016 Education Conference, which is designed to help companies improve efficiency and products, expand to new markets and increase profits. This year, in the track for New Business Sectors, the seminar Leapfrog from Laminate to High End Concrete will be held on Thursday, August 25 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

This educational presentation is presented by the Jeff Girard, president of The Concrete Countertop Institute, and it will discuss how companies may break out of the limitations of laminate countertop fabrication. Most laminate fabricators and woodworkers already have all the equipment necessary to fabricate concrete, so it may be of great benefit to take advantage of this growing market.

Before August 1, this education session will cost $55, and after August 1, the price is $65.

For further information, visit the IWF Atlanta website or send an email to iwf@iwfatlanta.com.

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Tips From Granite Grannies: Fabricating for an Apron Front Sink

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Tips From Granite Grannies: Fabricating for an Apron Front Sink

Posted on 07 July 2016 by CRadmin2

BLANCO interviewed Lori Hethmon, Founder, Owner and Lead Designer for Granite Grannies on her best tips for fabricating for an apron front sink.

IKON Apron Front Sink

BLANCO makes apron front sinks in fireclay, stainless steel and now, for the first time in granite composite with their groundbreaking IKON™ apron front sink.

Q1: What are the different installation methods for apron front sinks?

There are basically two types of apron front sink. Some apron fronts offer a frontal piece that wraps around cabinetry – basically a rectangular sink with a false front that makes it look like an apron front. Actual apron-front sinks require precise measuring to fit within cabinetry. These features affect the way the counter top is cut.

An apron sink must be on site, and sitting in the exact location preferred by homeowner before we can template the project. The farm sink can typically sit farther out from the cabinet or sit farther to the back wall. Additionally, the shape of the sinks will vary considerably and must be templated on site.

Q2: Do you review the desired reveal with the customer? Or do you prefer a reveal and just go with that.

Reveal or no reveal that is the question. Sink companies like the reveal, fabricators do not.  If the sink is showing under the countertop it should be a perfect 1/8″ or a perfect 1/4″ all around. This is a challenge considering the walls and cabinets are not perfectly square in a real house new or old. It also means the silicone used to seal the sink in place is visible. Most fabricators will advocate for the countertop material to overhang the sink. It is a clean crisp look and any slight variation in the overhang is not apparent. Additionally, a sink reveal leaves a ledge for soap and grease to collect. If you have ever seen a sink with a reveal in the normal home after a few months it looks messy. It is one more area to keep clean and shiny. A homeowner would want to raise the issue of a reveal and express their desire for this type of installation.

Q3.  With apron front sinks coming in different materials, what is your opinion from a fabricator perspective?

The SILGRANIT apron front sinks have added a wonderful option to the marketplace. Many people love the homey feel of the farm sink, but do not love the modern feel of the stainless nor the concerns about a porcelain sink. The color options are also a big deal. A white porcelain farm sink makes a big statement whereas a SILGRANIT can integrate better with the environment. The Truffle color, which will be launched soon is a soft tie-in to stainless appliances. Café Brown looks fantastic with a wood cabinet and wood floors. Anthracite is warm with a contemporary feel.  It’s often hard to choose the SILGRANIT color.

Q4. What counter surfaces do you recommend work best with Apron Fronts in general?

For the most part natural stone or any quartz type man made slabs are going to function the same as far as installation. A sintered or ultra compact surface or porcelains tops can be used – but it’s best to work closely with the manufacturer on fabricating thin surface materials.

Most good fabricators are more than familiar with the particulars of a farm sink installation by now. The trend has been growing steadily for five or six years now. It doesn’t show any signs of waning and I believe the farm sink will have a lasting shelf life decor wise.

Q5: Do you think the faucet has to be traditional in style? Or the kitchen? 

As with any type of sink the faucet should be functional per the homeowner’s preferences. The decor styles are considerably more eclectic today and a contemporary faucet model can look wonderful with an old style farm sink. What’s old is new. The farm sink itself is an historic look but considered contemporary in today’s decor. One note is that the bridge faucet with two holes means that the counter top seam is showing more. If the faucet is a single hole mount the fabricator can often drill the faucet hole through the seam leaving only an inch or so visible.

About Granite Grannies

LoriHGraniteGranies

Granite Grannies is a boutique fabricator of unique and exotic natural stones. They are a woman-owned, family-run shop focused on one beautiful space at a time – located in the greater Washington, D.C. area. http://granitegrannies.com/

 

About BLANCO

For three generations, BLANCO has quietly and passionately elevated the standards for luxury sinks, faucets and decorative accessories. Proud of its European heritage and award-winning German engineering, BLANCO is steadfastly committed to their tradition of high quality, innovative design and unsurpassed service since 1925. Dedicated to quality without compromise, every sink is closely inspected many times before it receives the BLANCO name.  www.blancoamerica.com

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