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For the Love of Quality

Our consumer world sends us mixed messages. On the one hand, we are told that an indicator of success is having lots of material possessions. On the other hand, we have all learned the hard way that buying cheap appliances- such as that low quality vacuum that does not have enough long-term suction- is not the way to go.

We want diamonds, but not cloudy ones. Cars, but not tin boxes. Large houses, but not poorly constructed McMansions.

We want to engage with a world that looks, feels, and operates well. We want to walk into a bathroom and have it not just thoughtfully designed with an intuitive layout, and not just look good with the right materials, surfaces, and lighting, but it should feel right.

steve-jobs-on-quality

We all know the experience of the fake luxury faucet. It isn't spoken of much, but it is a regular part of our modern lives. You walk up to a sink that looks attractive, you see a faucet that looks like it belongs in such an environment, and then you touch it and you are transformed to the cheapness of your local Home Depot faucet section. The faucet looks like an attractive metal piece, but it feels like plastic. Well it is plastic!

Most faucets on the market today are made in made in China from plastic. They use all plastic parts on the inside, and then coat it with a metal-like surface. From a distance your eyes can be fooled, but your hands cannot be.

Beyond the obvious short life of such faucets and their miraculous ability to peel away and reveal their true white plastic nature, it is the feeling of them that I approach today.

Plastic feels cheap. It is cheap. And, it robs us of an essential human experience that dates back to the earliest days we walked this planet. We evolved in a world of quality. Nature is inherently high quality. It consists of wood, stone, and other perfect materials. We have learned how to extract and utilize natural quality in many ways, such as wood boards from trees, marble slabs from hills, and metal from stone.

The less we process nature, the more of the quality that remains. Particle boards made of saw dust is one significant step less quality than the cut boards that yielded this waste. Not only is natural wood more beautiful, it is also free of environmentally destructive adhesives. The more we process materials, the more the quality drops.

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It can be expensive to build with quality materials. A rich mahogany floor will cost you significantly more than a linoleum one. But don't for a minute think that you can have that same quality of experience on the linoleum. Materials such as linoleum, formica, particle board, and the like, effect our psychology in ways yet to be fully understood.

We can engage with quality in multiple ways. One is to be a producer of a quality product. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to develop such an expertise. It doesn't just happen through repetition, it happens through mindful engagement. Mindful engagement is what makes Japanese factories known for their high quality, and thoughtless repetition is what makes some Chinese factories all the worse.

The other way to engage with quality is in sensing it. Have you ever heard music streaming from speakers that just has too much static? We all have. The quality isn't there, and the receiver pays the price. If the volume is too high and the quality is too low, it can be outright painful to endeavor the most beautiful recordings.

As with sound, so is touch. Touching cheap things is no different than listening to music from cheap speakers. The fingers have millions of years of evolution in them to receive all types of signals beyond our mental cognition's knowing. In other words, our fingers can detect quality and it effects us even if we don't realize it.

Thus drinking from a plastic cup, no matter how sturdy it may be, is an inferior experience to drinking from a glass one. Glass feels right, plastic does not. And, it effects us in a deep way that we have yet to quantify.

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Bringing this back to the faucet example, a quality faucet communicates something to your being. If you don't know what I am talking about, just go to your local plumbing showroom and ask for a high-end faucet like one of California Faucets. You'll instantly feel that there is an invisible message that moves from fingers to consciousness, and it whispers something like “everything is okay” or “the world feels right.” You might not hear this message if your mind is too distracted by thought, but it is there. The message is always coming our way- pursue quality in all that you do. Making faucets, buying faucets, using faucets- quality is the path as it is the only thing that feels right.

icon-awardBy the way...

interior-design-magazine-awardI wrote this post in response to hearing that California Faucets won a Best of Year Award from Interior Design Magazine, their 3rd award in the past 5 years, for their ZeroDrain® and its “zero clearance” design. Last year (2013) they won the award for their StyleDrain® Tile, and in 2010 they won it for their CeraLine® drains.

They win awards not just for design, but for their quality craftsmanship- handmade in America. In a world full of companies that are always looking to make a quick buck by taking short-cuts, it is a true pleasure to come across companies such as California Faucets that value quality. In a consumer world that often sends the message that more is better, quality products such as these remind us that we are in no rush to buy more, rather we are given the opportunity to buy right.

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