Provided by Durasein
What Huntington Beach, Calif.-based solid surface company A Top En-counter lacks in size, it makes up for through creativity, ingenuity, passion, the utilization of advanced equipment and experience.
Owner Kevin Libby didn’t take the traditional path to solid surface fabrication, but rather started his journey building houseboats. This led to his employment with a small cabinet shop and then a company specializing in European cabinetry. It was there that he was introduced to a material made largely of high-grade acrylic called solid surface.
Libby was intrigued by solid surface, which he regarded as “a material with potentially unlimited applications” and he learned the fundamentals of fabricating it. In 1991, when he started his own business, Libby knew he wanted to specialize in solid surface.
He established A Top En-counter and focused mainly on kitchen and bath countertops. While every countertop is unique, Libby felt fabricating horizontal surfaces was a straightforward process. The company started with 100 percent residential jobs but now does about 50 to 70 percent commercial work, depending on the year. It handles a lot of healthcare projects because of solid surface’s hygienic qualities, and shower walls and tub surrounds are a decent part of the mix.
Specializing for Success
A few years later things grew more interesting in terms of just what a creative mind with passion can do. Libby, who has a love of boats and is an owner of one himself, had the opportunity to fabricate countertops for a 35-ft. catamaran. Although he was experienced in the possibilities of the material, he was challenged well beyond the standard project, but he was up for it.
After reviewing the project, Libby knew that because of the curves required for the job, more advanced properties of solid surface would needed; such as thermoforming. So, Libby and his right-hand man, who has worked at the company since 1992, educated themselves on the process and even built their own thermoforming oven. Relying on their ingenuity and expanding experience, they successfully completed the job to the exacting specifications that the intricate project required. Over the years the success with the first boat led to more work in the marine industry upgrading boats and yachts until A Top En-counter became recognized as the most proficient fabricator for this specific market segment.
“We are one of the only acrylic solid surface fabricators experienced in boat/yacht fabrication and installation along the coast from Marina Del Rey to Dana Point,” explained Marta Libby, the company’s CFO and a major advocate for the benefits of solid surface. “Many jobs require thermo-forming and all jobs have funky angles and radiuses.”
After plenty of research, the investment in CNC machinery allowed A Top En-counter even more intricate and accurate design and fabrication ability. The addition of a digital templating system solidified the technology it needed to thrive in a changing industry. Creative experience and advanced equipment meant the company could thrive without the constant need to grow, but rather rely on its ability.
Now, 30 years later, the company is a top solid surface fabricator covering L.A. County to Southern Orange County. Its fabricators comprise a unique level of combined experience and expertise. With a growing presence fabricating commercial projects, such as dental, medical and retail, coupled with specialized aerospace prototypes and thousands of residential projects, plus boats and yachts, A Top En-counter is truly a master fabricator of acrylic solid surface.
A Top En-counter typically hits a variety of markets including residential, commercial, general contractors, builders (custom, not production) and use an estimated 20 to 30 sheets per month. It’s much more about the quality than the quantity.
“Many commercial jobs are spec’d out, but others, such as residential kitchen or bath when working directly with a homeowner instead of a designer we can be more creative,” explained Marta. “We worked with a private high school that provided a framework that enabled us to be as creative as possible. They want something unique as well as practical. We seek out jobs where our design experience can be utilized, but we’re also happy to interpret a client’s vision exactly.”
A Top En-Counter with Durasein and Unique Solid Surface Uses
Marta had strong opinions regarding the company’s creative team when introduced to Durasein. “The first thing I did was pick the patterns unique to Durasein such as Serenity, Barnwood, Harmony and Luna,” she explained. “The distinctive linear pattern reminded me of higher-end ceramic tile that Ann Sacks or Porcelanosa introduced.”
“I liked the play on the high-end natural marble, but the beauty of Durasein is that there are no grout lines,” she continued. “Another interesting and unique feature of Durasein is that fabricators can use either the front or back of colors, such as Weathered Wood, Royal Carrera and Naturally, increasing pattern selection within the same color – genius!!”
Marta had no problem expressing the passion she has for solid surface as a versatile material. “We’ve done unique, high-end projects that consisted of routing solid surface panels to emulate shiplap for shower walls and ceilings,” she said. “Another interesting project was a rooftop we backlit with different colored lighting.”
She noted that Carrera and Calcutta patterns are dominant in the market. “I’m glad Durasein offers the veined Dreamy Collection Light Haze, which satisfies that design trend,” added Marta. “We’ve been fabricating it for shower walls more than ever. Solid surface has really grown in the market and people are mixing it with cool patterned and encaustic tile accents to add color and interest.”
Planning for and Understanding the Future
A Top En-counter has a solid philosophy for remaining successful that includes never giving up during challenging economic times, always being on the lookout for new and innovative products and, most importantly, providing exceptional fabrication and installation to ensure maximum customer satisfaction.
The team also has ideas about what the future may hold. “We would love to see solid surface showcased more in hospitality settings that illustrate how stunning it can be,” said Marta. “We are constructing a large outdoor kitchen/living space at our home that combines visual patterns strategically using dramatic under-lighting. Our home is only 5 minutes from our business so we can use it as an extension of our showroom.”
Marta went on to point out how younger homeowners seem both interested and excited about solid surface. She also believes they embrace the simple seamlessness of solid surface and how it can be renewed rather than replaced.
“Ultimately, the future of acrylic solid surface is in the hands of the manufacturers – those willing to put money into marketing and promoting its exceptional properties and capabilities vs. other materials,” added Marta. “Designers, especially, should look beyond hard surfaces and get educated on acrylic solid surface products and the amazing things they can do to kick a design to the next level of customization.”
For more information about A Top En-Counter, visit www.atopencounter.com.