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A day trip for home design ideas

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Story by Deneen Smith

Are you a home improvement television junkie? One who lusts after bathroom renovation projects in design magazines? Then we have the day trip for you.

The Kohler Design Center is a 36,000-square-foot design showroom and museum that, along with an art gallery and a Kohler history museum, features 26 designer rooms built to showcase new Kohler products.

Stephanie Marshall, an interior designer and design center manager, said designers from around the world are invited to create the rooms.

There are rooms inspired by Paris neighborhoods, and rooms inspired by woodlands retreats. Some are cutting edge contemporary, some old world luxurious. All of them together are enough to set a home design nut’s heart aflutter.

“We try to showcase new products and up-and-coming designers,” Marshall said. “We give them the product we want to feature, and that is all the direction we give them. They are free to design the space around the product in any way they would like.”

About 150,000 people visit the center each year. Some are contractors or designers, others visitors from the American Club Resort. “And we have lots of people just looking for ideas,” Marshall said.

While the center’s third floor is devoted to the designer rooms, the second floor features Kohler plumbing products, along with furniture, tile and even engines produced by the company’s subsidiaries.

The ground floor is a museum exploring the history of the Kohler company and the Village of Kohler, one of the first planned communities in the United States. There is also an art gallery featuring work from the Arts/Industry program developed by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan.

Free and open every day but Christmas and Thanksgiving, the center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.

Visitors interested in Kohler’s manufacturing process can also take a factory tour. The Wall Street Journal described the tour as one of the best factory tours in the country.

Marshall said the tour departs from the design center each weekday at 8:30 a.m. It winds through the foundry, pottery works and kilns, as well as the brass area where faucets are made. The tour also includes a walk through the Arts/Industry studio where artists are at work.

The factory tour is not for the easily exhausted or those with a short attention span. Clocking in at about three hours, the tour includes 2.5 miles of walking, although guides can accommodate people in wheelchairs. “We do try to warn people it is a long tour,” Marshall said.

Although the tour is free, the company requests visitors register in advance.

The Kohler Design Center, 101 Upper Road, is in the village of Kohler, accessible from Highway 43. More information, including video features on each of the designer rooms, is available at the Design Center website