Lee Whitaker, President of Barrie Trim & Mouldings, has really been a trailblazer in the Ontario marketplace with upgrading homes, selling added value and the fact that moulding and interior doors aren’t just functional, they add style and character to a home as well. While Lee has taken some risks and has gone against the grain, it has proven to be successful.
The Finished Space: Tell us a little bit about yourself and Barrie Trim.
Lee Whitaker: My father started Barrie Trim in 1985. I got involved with the company in 1999, then left and went to school for business. When I came back, I saw an opportunity to grow the company by offering new products and expanding the physical space of the business itself. With that said, that’s where I sit today as President of the company, most recently having an acquisition to buy my father out and keep the BTM legacy moving forward.
TFS: What do you love about this industry?
LW: Growing up in it, I just love construction, myself. I like building homes. I like to see people experience different products in their home, hence why we offer the new Collections from Metrie at Barrie Trim. I think they offer people a variety that they would have not been able to see at another store and allowing to treat each house as its own identity, meaning that each customer or consumer that comes in here wants to see a certain product that meets their criteria and needs in a home. I think we offer that across the board with not just only trim and doors, but also with stairs and railings. We offer a variety. I think people really want to see variety, and obviously the price that comes behind it and the quality.
TFS: What impact do you feel interior finishings have in a home?
LW: A tremendous impact. I think updating your home with modern trim or trim that’s in tune with the marketplace right now exemplifies the home, and it allows for a better bang for your buck on the resale of a home. I do believe that trim, doors and stairs are almost now a piece of furniture within the home. It’s something that people see frequently and are paying attention to in a home now.
I think in the past it was always seen that people were so focused on flooring and kitchens. Now, I’ve really seen the turn in the last 10 years where new designs and styles come out and people are really spending that time to make sure they are applying the right mouldings and doors and stairs and railings in their home to showcase what they are about.
The biggest impact that I am seeing right now would be choices of door styles and heights. When you think of an 8 ft. door in a home and how much character and value that could add to a home, I would say, personally, dealing with a lot people that are building customs, is to sell them on an 8 ft. door even if they have a 9 ft. or 10 ft. ceiling. I would say that is what draws the most attention to your home, virtually looking at a door and looking up even if it is a 9 ft. ceiling. It changes the overall impression of your home making it feel more grand and rich.
TFS: What’s the biggest mistake you find people do with interior finishings?
LW: I think it would be sometimes not always the willingness to look outside the box. There are a lot of people out there wanting to adapt to change with different mouldings and trims, but there are still a lot of people who want what they want and what they are used to seeing in other people’s homes. They are used to seeing one profile—like a 3” backband casing with a 5 ¼” base—and that is enough for them.
I think that’s where we at Barrie Trim are trying to change the marketplace to allow people to just be a little more creative, think outside the box to be able to put something on that wall, and be happy with it after the fact.
TFS: What interior finishing trends are you noticing in your market?
LW: Coffered ceilings are taking off more on the custom end. I do a lot of this square S4S (flat stock). That is very popular in our market. Our market is situated north of Toronto. We take care of and service not only the ‘Cottage Country,’ but also what I like to say is the ‘Chalet Country,’ which is the Collingwood area, which is more Craftsman style. So a lot of people are maybe getting a little out of the stain and going more into the paint-grade, square style; just simple moulding on the walls with a little more character on the doors.
I see paint-grade right now as being more of a standard over stain-grade. It’s clean, simple colors. The light tone greys, the very white, Oxford white or white finishes on the doors is what people want to see. I think stain-grade has a lot of character depending on the style of home your building, but it can also date itself a little quicker than the traditional white, white clean lines of modern trim.
TFS: What’s your favorite Metrie Then & Now Finishing Collection?
LW: I believe sometimes that less is more even being in the trim industry. Simple, clean lines. So I would say that the Very Square Collection, the contemporary line, would be my favorite, personally.
How do you ‘Finish Before You Start’ at Barrie Trim?
LW: In our company it is when people are thinking of starting to put a hole in the ground and they are bringing in the drawings and they are going for budgetary pricing. It’s getting them in here and getting the samples in their hands that they can physically carry with them to the flooring company, the kitchen company, and they can tie it all in together. That’s the easiest way to ‘Finish Before You Start,’ then you are blending that cycle of interior finishings throughout the house.
It’s an imperative step. Especially when you are thinking of how much moulding you can put in a great room of a home, from panel mould to chair rail to casing, etc. and then you flow into a very large grand kitchen beside that that might have cabinetry built into the ceiling. What style of crown and what style of door you are going to put on your kitchen cabinet? Do you do shaker, recessed panel? I think having that is a great way to blend it all in even from the cabinetry that you might be putting in the bathroom.
I think the Metrie Collections were well thought out. It took a lot of process to think of how can you bring out five new Collections and meet the criteria of a lot of different consumers. I think the Collections will do well and I think our biggest tool is having a showroom, an active showroom where those Collections can really speak for themselves and allow the consumer to come in and touch and feel the product and see the product. It speaks wonders.
Barrie Trim & Mouldings is a Premier Metrie Dealer that features Metrie Then & Now Finishing Collections in their showrooms in premium life-sized displays of doors and moulding. They offer a broad selection of Metrie millwork products, trained staff and services.