Custom made doors open on creative businesses |

Custom made doors open on creative businesses

Sarah Gonser

In design language, there’s the theory that form follows function.

But there’s no reason why form can’t be creative and eye-catching while being thoroughly functional at the same time.

Despite the cost, two South Lake Tahoe business owners firmly believe that originality and quality make the difference between attracting customers into a store and letting them pass by without stopping.

Jana Walker, owner of Sealed with a Kiss, and Christian Waskiewicz, owner of Alpen Sierra Coffee Company, have both invested thousands of dollars in – no, not landscape artists, fancy street lighting or expensive outdoor furniture – they’ve invested in custom-made doors.

But these aren’t just everyday doors with a set of hinges and a door handle.

Designed and built by Bay Area artist Bobby Horiuchi and his wife, Hellen Plenert, these doors are fashioned out of exotic wood varieties, using grain, color and texture to create veritable sculptures out of everyday, functional doors.

The Sealed with a Kiss door, which shows a profiled woman blowing a kiss, is formed out of woods from all over the world, collected by Horiuchi and then pieced together bit by bit, like a puzzle.

“I used Honduras mahogany for the frame, Australian lace wood for the blouse and Eastern soft quilted maple for her hair,” Horiuchi said. “This is all wood I find when I travel around in my truck, visiting lumber yards. I often see a future project in a piece of wood.”

Waskiewicz first encountered Horiuchi’s work in Sacramento, when a coffee company that had requested a Horiuchi door reneged on their contract and didn’t buy the finished door.

“When I opened my business up here, I jumped at the chance to use that door. Now, it’s really become a trademark for my coffee house,” Waskiewicz said. “A door says a lot about a place, it’s the first thing a person touches and it leaves an impression.”

Waskiewicz liked his door so much – a cup of steaming coffee with a teaspoon balanced on its saucer – that upon opening a second store near Stateline, he commissioned Horiuchi to build another, this time with two sugar cubes on the spoon, signifying store No. 2.

The doors cost around $3,000.

“The doors were definitely expensive, but they’re built to last,” Waskiewicz said. “When it comes to creating a space where people feel good, I felt that money should be no object.”

Working with Walker, who was out of town at the time of this article, Horiuchi and his wife also designed the metallic, back-lit Sealed with a Kiss signs on the front and side of the building.

Lightheartedly, Horiuchi describes his work as a constant evolution between planned and unplanned events.

“I make mistakes constantly, I think that’s part of the process of making things. Sometimes making a mistake can actually make something better,” he said. “The creative process, especially if you’re a couple, is a balancing act – I’m very headstrong – but my wife and I are a great team.”

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