Making the most of space

Sandra Wood

Chris Cornish purchased Arbutus Furniture & Closets in 2018. This 35-year-old company offers the design, manufacturing, and installation of custom furniture and storage and storage solutions in the residential, commercial and institutional markets. Currently a staff of 16, they are actively recruiting to add more members to their production and installation teams to help them meet the growing needs of their customers. 

The company has a fairly evenly distributed market between their Interior Design and Homebuilder partners, direct to consumers and contract work with Developers and Landlords on large multi-family projects. 

What is Arbutus known for? 

Cornish will tell you that Arbutus has built a reputation for delivering innovative custom designs and quality products at fair prices. But Cornish firmly believes his company’s primary strength is its people. Between this and their innovative storage solutions, we asked Cornish to share more about his company. 

CKCA: What are your strengths? What do you think your company is known for? 

Cornish: We produce a high-quality, competitively priced product delivered with care and attention. We have team members who care about the products we deliver, and they genuinely care about our customers’ satisfaction. We stand by everything we build and pride ourselves on pleasing our customers. As a result, we have tremendous loyalty from our team, some of whom have been with us for 20 years. The same can be said for our loyal customers, in some cases spanning three generations in the same family. 

Living in Place 

CKCA: With the trend towards Living in Place, people are improving their homes, and storage is increasingly important; what trends are you seeing, and how is this impacting your business? 

Cornish: Living in Place is a term that is coming up more frequently. Our designers provide simple solutions for customers looking to improve their living spaces’ functionality, convenience, and efficiency. We have an incredible array of tools, devices, and technologies to help our clients live more comfortably in their spaces: integrated lighting in storage areas with motion detectors or remote control, easy to use blind corner solutions, servo-assisted drawer slides, push-to-open mechanisms, and flap stays with gas springs, to name a few. We also provide clients with motorized blinds and solar shading solutions to increase their spaces’ comfort and energy efficiency.  

Trends in storage 

CKCA: What other trends are you seeing?

Cornish: The unexpected “working from home” dynamic we saw in 2020 and the focus on spending more time at home sparked a surge in projects creating home gyms and hybrid spaces to accommodate studies and hobbies, including recreational areas. Many clients finally tackled their garages, improving their storage for off-season items, tools, yard maintenance equipment, sports gear, bikes, skis, and adapting these spaces into multi-purpose rooms. 

One of our favourite recent projects was in Whistler. Our clients created custom personal storage for each family member – racks and hooks for all of their sports equipment – plus an “après lounge” with a clever secure bar with a fold-down table concealed in one of the cabinets. Immediately, their garage became the envy of the neighbourhood, and the obvious destination for post-mountain libations. 

CKCA: What is the most popular storage system requested from clients and why? 

Cornish: By far, our most frequent request is for converting a spare bedroom into a multi-purpose space with a wall bed, custom storage units, and a desk for a work-from-home setup. 

Maximizing space 

CKCA: What do you think kitchen cabinet manufacturers should consider building that can help them adapt to the new demands in storage? 

Cornish: We have always had compact “convenience” desks in kitchens; however, building more robust and functional workstations adjacent to kitchens has become more common. They integrate charging stations, under cabinet lighting, grommets, pull-out mechanisms for printers, whiteboards, and tack boards, utilizing every square inch. As customers demand more functionality and efficiency out of their homes, we have to maximize all the rooms in the house. 

CKCA: What challenges do you face as a business? 

Cornish: Looking forward, we are facing multiple challenges. Staffing is becoming more complex, particularly in Vancouver, where the cost of living is very high, causing wage pressures. We also see mounting price increases from suppliers all across the board. Just last week, one of our TFL suppliers advised of an overnight price increase of 30%. We are still feeling the effects of supply chain disruptions, and we expect to have continued shipping issues over the short to medium term in the future. 

As a company, we are proud of what we have achieved, and we are excited to continue on our path of customer and employee satisfaction. 

Our Industry Knows Their Space Intimately 

CKCA is pleased to have Arbutus Furniture & Closets as a member. In the kitchen cabinet industry, many manufacturers build far beyond just the kitchen space and create many other functional rooms in the home. One could say that our industry gets to know the area they work with intimately. The trend towards better storage and multi-functional space presents unique opportunities to keep our industry innovating and driving forward. 

We wish Arbutus Furniture & Closets continued success! 

CKCA Members strive for quality, professionalism, and innovation. For more profiles like these and many other benefits, consider becoming a CKCA member!

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