French doors on your garage?
Updated On: Dec 12 2012 09:56:45 AM CST
Jennifer Maher was house hunting 11 years ago when a "somebody should invent that" moment turned into a successful national business.
Maher, a makeup artist for ABC News, drove past dozens of homes with protruding garages, or "snouts," as they are sometimes derisively called. Wide, monotone garage doors dominated each home. Finally, she came to a model home with elegant French doors along the front protrusion.
Her excitement about the refreshing style dimmed when she learned the garage had been temporarily converted into a demonstration office space, but a standard, solid garage door would roll into place after the home sale.
She blames builders for popularizing the "snout" in an effort to build homes on smaller lots. "Builders want to cut back on square footage," Maher said. "They sort of cheaped out on the land purchasing and put a box on an otherwise lovely house."
But the French doors on the model home inspired her FrenchPorte garage doors. They look like pairs of French doors that open outward. Instead, they split into five hinged sections, and roll up on standard garage door tracks.
Maher launched Frenchporte about seven years ago, and sales were growing until the housing crash. She said business has started to pick up again as homeowners focus on updating their current homes rather than buying up into a more expensive home.
Garage doors are famously the largest moving part in most homes, so upgrading the garage door can make a big change for any house. Maher said FrenchPorte doors are secure, strong and provide privacy while letting in light.
The "glass" panes are made with frosted bullet-resistant polycarbonate plastic, and the trim is powder-coated aluminum with seamless extrusion. FrenchPorte doors are not insulated, but they are typically installed with tight weather-stripping to seal the perimeter.
The company's four models are named after Maher's three daughters and sister. The first design, the Kendra, relied on existing aluminum extrusions available at a small Pennsylvania manufacturer. By the third model, the Jennifer, the company had started working with a larger manufacturer who could customize extrusions in a wider range of sizes and shapes. The Jennifer has wider aluminum strips and larger polycarbonate panes. A two-car garage door looks like four standard French doors, rather than the five or six doors mimicked with the other models.
The newest update, the Christina, has a more modern feel. Maher said she has sold a few models, but the Christina is not listed on the company's website or brochures.
FrenchPorte garage door systems start at about $2,000, and the company is working with some larger door companies and chain stores for partnerships and distribution.
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