Beyond Online Research: Designing your home with all of your senses

7 Questions with Marissa Murray
December 19, 2018
Living Coral: 6 New England Designers Discuss Pantone’s Color of the Year
January 23, 2019
Show all

Beyond Online Research: Designing your home with all of your senses

Whether building a custom modern farmhouse or remodeling a classic Shingle Style home, New England homeowners are known to peruse hundreds of photos on Houzz, create various inspiration boards on Pinterest, then Google to find trusted resources. However, online research only goes so far. You’re not designing a two-dimensional environment; you’re creating a lifestyle. You want your home to make you and your family feel a certain way. 

While there’s no online tool that can help you truly experience the best choices for your home, there is one destination in Boston’s Seaport where thoughtful sensory adventures are helping homeowners imagine how their home design choices can change the way they live. Behind the walls at 7 Tide Street, just steps away from the Boston Design Center, architects, designers, and homeowners are discovering a new way to select products for their homes. 

“We wanted to create a single destination that would allow homeowners to immerse themselves in world-class home design brands,” says Sean Clarke, whose company owns the building and operates New England’s Official Sub-Zero/Wolf/Cove Showroom and Test Kitchen at 7 Tide. “We invited the country’s most innovative brands to join us and the result has surpassed our wildest dreams. Each of our partners has leveraged their industry’s best thinking to create spaces that are unlike anything else in the country.”

Here’s a look at what you’ll see, touch, hear, smell and taste inside 7 Tide…

If you think of windows and doors as building materials, think again. On the first floor of 7 Tide, you’ll encounter the country’s first Marvin Windows and Doors Experience Center. This space feels like an interactive museum with many stories and touchpoints. Leveraging three proprietary technologies developed specifically for this space, A.W. Hastings, the company that represents Marvin Windows and Doors in New England, has designed an award-winning experience to help homeowners understand how the selection and placement of windows and doors can change their lives. 

“The idea of customization is exciting for homeowners, however narrowing the many choices can be overwhelming,” explained Miana Hoyt Dawson, A.W Hastings director of marketing and a driving force behind the company’s 7 Tide concept. “Marvin at 7 Tide is designed to offer extraordinary options and then help to narrow down those choices for a homeowner who is facing a decision for their own space. There really is only one set of options for them in that space. We want to provide them the tools and be part of that conversation.”

Homeowners first encounter Marvin’s Living Room Experience, where visitors see photos of unique installations of windows and doors to get their creative juices flowing. Then comes the feature that really excites visitors: showing windows and doors in full scale and changing the sizes and shapes in real time as the homeowner reacts to having each in her home. If an 8-foot-high door doesn’t feel large enough, immediately it is transformed into a 10-foot door on the wall in front of her. If a bank of three windows doesn’t feel right, with the click of a button she instantly sees four.

Next is the Resource Pavilion where, in addition to seeing samples of wood species and colors for metal cladding, visitors engage with a Touch Table to design their own windows and doors. Select a window style and place the wood sample on the table, and it immediately renders in that wood. Change the sample color on the table and the rendering redraws instantly to show a new option. As if this weren’t exciting enough, everything in the Marvin Experience Center is “Session-based Technology,” meaning when you arrive, you are given what looks like an ordinary notebook, but embedded inside is an electronic chip. This allows you to simply tap the notebook on any photo, rendering or sample that inspires you and it is saved and emailed to you within a half-hour of your visit. You can then share your selections with architects, interior designers and family members. 

“We are very excited to be on this journey with the homeowner,” says Marvin at 7 Tide manager Lauren Hokenson. “We talk about their space, how they want it to feel, what their hopes and dreams are in this new home or remodeled room. With Marvin Lift and Slide Doors surrounding much of the building, we are able to exemplify this very exciting way to connect your home’s interior with the landscape beyond. We have lots of tools to help homeowners make these very important decisions with confidence.”

More than 20 years ago, Tom Clarke opened the first Sub-Zero showroom in the country in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. That was followed by a second one in South Norwalk, Connecticut, and then he replaced Hopkinton with an even larger showroom and test kitchen in Milford, Massachusetts. His award-winning experiential showrooms were the first place where homeowners could actually test drive appliances. So, it’s no surprise that Tom and his son Sean would be the forces behind 7 Tide. Clarke’s newest Sub-Zero/Wolf/Cove Showroom and Test Kitchen is the largest space at 7 Tide, offering a totally kinesthetic experience. 

“Our mission is to educate visitors about the changing landscape of kitchen technology and create ways for them to enjoy a total sensory experience of their new kitchen before it exists,” says Jeremy McCulla, manager of Clarke at 7 Tide, where he earned design industry kudos as Boston’s top customer service professional last year. “During a visit to Clarke, you not only see and touch beautiful products and have all of your questions answered, but also smell the aroma of wonderful cooking, taste the freshest food and cook on the kitchen technology yourself.” 

In addition to actually experiencing the world’s finest appliances—everything from induction to convection steam cooking and customized refrigeration and wine storage—Clarke also features a 16-by-9-foot video screen where architects and designers can project floor plans and three dimensional  project renderings just steps away from the specified appliances to exemplify how a kitchen will both look and perform. 

Technology was a driving force behind the overall design and shopping experience at the Kohler Signature Store by Supply New England at 7 Tide. “We wanted a next-generation showroom experience for our customers. We wanted people to have a reason to come here,” says Sabrina DaLomba, director of showrooms for Supply New England and a leading visionary behind the 7 Tide store concept. Customers can meet with professional on-staff designers, browse products with the help of an expert and, straying slightly from the Clarke and Marvin experience rooms down the hall, clients can purchase products right in the store.

Inside there are close to 40 shower heads to test, 14 working kitchen faucets and two Experience Rooms, where customers are invited to try smart home technology before they invest. In one Experience Room, homeowners can try out the Digital Thermostatic Valve-controlled walk-in shower, which has eliminated the need for handles and knobs, and allows users to customize temperatures and spray settings for each shower head. In many of Kohler’s bathtubs, users can incorporate light, sound and heat therapies with VibrAcoustic, Chromatherapy and BubbleMassage Air Bath and Bask heating. The bathroom has become a personalized sanctuary for relaxation. “Instead of making appointments to treat yourself, you can actually bring the spa experience into your home,” says DaLomba.

One bath vignette looks like a well-styled display, but actually has a Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror with Amazon Alexa. Customers can test the technology that has Amazon Alexa embedded and also has built-in voice-controlled dimmable LED lighting. The product can connect to the other Kohler Konnect products, allowing homeowners to listen to the morning news while brushing their teeth. Without hitting a switch, they can activate a brighter light for their morning grooming routine.

While the showroom is a great venue for touching and testing products, homeowners can have a hard time visualizing what their design choices will look like in their own space. That’s why the Kohler Signature Store by Supply New England installed a virtual reality experience for their clients. The on-staff designers are able to plug design concepts into 2020 Design Software  that the clients can see, wearing special goggles that give a 360-degree view of their project. “Before, clients could only see static images, so it was hard to visualize. With the headset, you can actually be in your kitchen and feel if it’s right for you,” says DaLomba. “It’s really a next-level experience that helps you decide which direction you want to go in for design.”

On 7 Tide’s second floor, design professionals can work with Reflex Lighting, an industry leader in innovative energy-saving lighting solutions for residential, commercial, industrial and academic environments. While the Reflex facility upstairs is only open to the trade by appointment, homeowners can now learn about the latest smart home lighting technology offered by Reflex in a new interactive display in the Clarke showroom. 

Inside one of the many designer kitchens on 7 Tide’s first floor, homeowners will find a HALO Home Smart Lighting System by Eaton and have an opportunity to learn how this innovative lighting option offers a convenient way to control your home’s lights with the flexibility of individual room or whole home control. 

“We installed this system in Clarke’s showroom so that homeowners visiting 7 Tide can see and play with the HALO system for themselves,” explains Reflex Lighting’s Paul Grossman. “It’s pretty dramatic when you can see what a color temperature does to a surface. Light and color create a mood and feeling in an environment. Visitors can use the iPad to understand how the system can change how they feel in their space.” 

Whether you visit one or more brands at 7 Tide, you’re sure to come away with the same sentiment that has been repeatedly voiced by visitors: “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” Homeowners are welcome to visit 7 Tide with or without their design professional during any stage of their project. Free parking is available right outside the door. Visitors are welcome to browse any of the experiential spaces during operating hours Monday through Saturday. If you would like to ensure that a consultant will be available to review various facets of your project, an appointment for each brand is recommended. To plan your visit and make the most of your time, see