Low Maintenance Does Not Have to Mean Schlocky
I spend a lot of time working with architects. Mostly high-end, residentially focused architects. We talk a lot about wood products, often used in unique, quirky and intricate designs. I’ve been fortunate to be involved with some truly magnificent projects, making use of a wide range of our products in spectacular and enduring ways.
You know what all these architects have in common? They all have the same response when I mention any of our nonwood products:
“Eeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww,” they say, almost universally. The reaction is visceral, as if they just ate a bite of rotten fish. Often I’m almost made to feel out of place by even mentioning the topic. It’s like I wore Old Navy to the Oscars.
So, with all due respect, here’s the thing. 20 years ago, they were right. Composites were ugly. Nonwood decking was cheesy, and fake siding looked fake. People don’t hire Manhattan architects to design for vinyl.
The stuff served a purpose, to be sure: there are plenty of folks out there for whom low maintenance is the #1 priority, and many of those were willing to make compromises on aesthetics just to not have to stain their damn deck or siding again.
And because the first generation of low maintenance exterior products was so…well…yuck, many architects turned up their noses at the whole concept. Nonwood = fake = ugly = get it away from me.
Fortunately, we’ve come a long way from that.
Now, being real, composites today still don’t perfectly emulate wood. And they may never get there. But when I go down the rabbit hole with an end user, I more frequently find that while there are folks who simply want the warmth of wood and want the feeling you can only achieve with a natural product, just as many folks simply can’t accept the changes wood undergoes. And many of those would do well with wood alternatives.
We just need to pick the right ones. At Russin, a big part of my job is product curation – I couldn’t tolerate a junky composite deck board, and I don’t want to supply siding projects that I wouldn’t be proud to stare at. We need to choose mindfully, for sure, and understand that if we’re going to suggest a wood alternative to an architect, there needs to be a valid “why” – low maintenance at any cost simply won’t cut it.
That’s why we put our name behind Deckorators and AZEK Captivate, and why we’ll continue to lean into alternative products which are made differently, which perform and look better, and which truly advance the industry.
Because I turn up my nose at gross things, too.
About the Author
Jordan Russin is the 3rd generation Co-Owner and Co-President of Russin. His passion for the lumber industry, custom homeowners and architects, and the Russin team knows no bounds. When he’s not working you can find him skiing with his family, climbing mountains, or with his nose buried in a book.