Volume 36, Issue 5, May 2001


With Praise

BEMA Enclosure Design Winners
by Sarah Wharen


What does it take to win the 2000 Bath Enclosure Manufacturers Association (BEMA) Design Award? Ask the employees of Shower Doors Unlimited Inc. of Lake Worth, Fla., and Mr. Shower Door Inc. of Norwalk, Conn. The two companies were named winners of BEMA’s Fifth Annual Design Awards. Both received their awards during BEMA’s annual meeting in Miami on March 15, 2001.

“This year’s competition was fierce,” said Spike Knadler, president of BEMA and Arizona Shower Door Inc. “Our winners’ designs reflected the evolution of the bath enclosure industry. Using clear tempered glass units, both winning entries are not only functional, but also add light and open up the room. Bath enclosures are not only a reliable solution to keeping water in the shower, but also a way to add a new level of design option.”
Beaming with Achievement 
Tom Whitaker, owner of Mr. Shower Door, said his company entered the contest in the over $1,500 category, just as they had for the past several years. The design it submitted was an enclosure for a new bathroom combining subway-style tile and contemporary frameless accents. “It was a very complicated unit. Anyone in the trade looking at it would recognize how difficult a job it is and be impressed,” said Whitaker.

There were many hurdles to overcome to create such a unique design. For instance, the job was located in New York City, which didn’t provide easy access for the Norwalk, Conn.-based company. Also, the design required special metal-bending techniques, and the vent and arch at the top of the unit compounded the complications, said Whitaker. Despite these and other challenges, Whitaker and his team tackled the project and designed a distinctive enclosure that surpassed its competitors in innovation and practicality.

Some of the unique features of the design included a rotating piece of glass at the top of the unit, which could be adjusted to allow venting. Satin nickel-plated brass created a unique finish. Also, the mitered door seal and use of wall rails blended contemporary and old-fashioned details.

“A lot of people in the industry would have turned the job down,” said Whitaker. Taking on the challenge, however, produced an award-winning design. Whitaker, accompanied by his shop man Gabriel Osorio and installer, Shawn Murphy were in Miami to accept the BEMA award—something to show for all their hard work.

Outshining the Competition
James Sorbor, president of Shower Doors Unlimited Inc., has also added the award to his collection of wall adornments. Sorbor has been in the enclosure business for 25 years and was confident that his company could take on the project, which would later bring home an award. 

“We get hundreds of projects annually,” said Sorbor. “This one was pretty much routine. We have a reputation of being the specialists in the industry. When someone has a unique frameless requirement, they call us.”

The job required a panel and door unit to be installed to a bathtub platform. The unit was installed using pivot hinges to eliminate a gap between the glass panels and the wall, to keep shower water inside the unit.

“The project served a unique purpose,” said Sorbor. “The owner was looking for a design to fit the bill. He wanted a glass door and wanted it to match the rest of the bathroom. He was looking for stability, safety, nice aesthetics and a design that used as little metal as possible.” Sorbor and his team used mitred corners and matched tile accents to bring the bathroom together.

Sorbor was proud to accept the award for the less-than-$1,500 category. “It [the award] comes from top manufacturers of shower doors; it is very nice to be selected by that group,” he said.

Tough to Beat
Knadler feels the competition is important to the industry, and this year’s winners will make for serious competition in the years ahead. “It is a matter of updating the inventory of knowledge for those in the shower enclosure industry,” he said.

The 33 entries were judged based on design complexity and aesthetics by a three-member panel of industry magazine editors. Debra Levy, publisher of USGlass magazine, participated as a judge in this year’s contest. “I was extremely impressed with the quality and intricacy of the entries. Having judged for this competition in the past, I can see how the quality of workmanship has grown over the last few years,” she said. 

shower2 With the similar experience of seeing all the entries, Knadler was able to remark on some developments in style. “The trend is bigger and fancier. The enclosures are getting taller, wider and more intricately designed. More than anything, they seem to be using less metal and more glass for a crystalline effect,” said Knadler. 

Designs that are submitted for the contest are not always practical and Knadler stresses that winning designs require proper background and knowledge to create a pragmatic, as well as innovative, unit.

“The winners are responsible companies that were awarded for their expertise,” Knadler explained.

In upcoming years, Knadler said the industry can expect even more innovative entries in the BEMA contest and the number of participants to steadily continue to grow. The contest will continue to recognize the ambitious experts in the shower enclosure industry and to inform companies of the new developments available.

“We would like to congratulate the winners and thank all the participants and the judges,” said Knadler. “We really feel that the category has grown and people are recognizing that the competition is important.” 



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