May 26, 2024
Kohler Design Center back wall

Kohler Design Center at the American Club

Entrance to the Kohler Design Center in Kohler, WisconsinThe Kohler Design Center is a remarkable showcase of design, offering innovative technology and a look at history.

The remarkable history and highly-touted designs of The Kohler Company meet and come alive at the Kohler Design Center. Located along Upper Road at Highland Avenue between the Shops at Woodlake and The American Club in Kohler itself, the Kohler Design Center is “a three-level showcase of innovative product design and technology, creative achievement, and American history.” The building, located in a former recreation center for the residents of Kohler, opened as the design center in 1985 and draws over 150,000 consumers, builders, architects and designers each year, finding inspiration across its 36,000 square feet of displays.

It’s free to go in, and you can’t even buy anything! The Kohler Design Center is strictly a showcase and museum space. They won’t even take money for the coffee they offer. You can, however, meet with one of the Kohler designer on staff, or bring your own. They can connect you with plenty of dealers and distributors if you wish to purchase any of the Kohler products. Here’s how the Design Center is laid out:

Main Level: Product Pavilion and Water Deck

The main level offers the latest Kohler designs and products. You’ll find a sea of sink and faucet designswide variety of sinks and faucets, toilets, tubs and showers, power generators, and more, including tubs and showers just a few steps up from the main level, which also brings you to the mezzanine level. It’s a

Faucets at the Kohler Design Center
The showcased products are for display purposes only, but that doesn’t mean a few of them aren’t operational. Some of the sinks are hooked up; none of the toilets are.

Mezzanine Level: the Designer Room Gallery

The upper/mezzanine level offers 20+ model kitchens and bathrooms incorporating these products, immersing you in interior design ideas from ultra-modern to classic and retro. Designers created themes with names. Bathroom galleries include Del Mar, A Daily Splash, Barococo Futurism, Minimal Modern, Urban Elegance, and Woodland Sanctuary. Kitchen themes include Crystal Clear, Zen Loft, Mediterino, A Cook’s Garden, and more.

Tub and toilet in a model bathroom at the Kohler Design Center
Tub and toilet (yes, the square one) in a model bathroom at the Kohler Design Center.
Farm door and shower in one of the model bathrooms at the Kohler Design Center.
Farm door style and multiple fixtures in this model bathroom at the Kohler Design Center.

Lower Level: Museum and Art/Industry Gallery

The lower level is a fascinating museum, showcasing the colorful history of the Kohler family, the Kohler Company, and the town itself – one of the first planned communities in the United States. Exhibits are arranged in a timeline progress so you can follow the gradual evolution of Kohler products through the years. Everything from early machinery and power generation products to faucet and bathroom fixture designs can be viewed, as well as exhibits showcasing art and the championship golf courses flanking the area, Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits. Of particular note are the scores of early advertisements used for Kohler products, which reflect consumers’ changing tastes throughout the years. The Arts & Industry Gallery is an ever-growing collection from Kohler’s own Arts/Industry program, which collaborates with artists from around the world. It was originally developed in 1974 by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan just down the road. It continues as an ongoing artist-in-residence program, which helps the company stay creative and gives it access to tools and materials to keep its design minds at the cutting edge of new ideas.

Colorful mid-century sinks on the museum level at the Kohler Design Center
Kohler pioneered plumbing fixtures in a variety of colors, with early examples in the museum on the lower level.
Faucet ad in the men's bathroom at the Kohler Design Center
Even the bathrooms have cool designs and features, including this Kohler ad on your way into the men’s restroom. I’d have checked out the women’s restroom design, but apparently that would be “frowned upon.”

You can also see how it’s all made, right there in Kohler, by taking an “Industry in Action” Walking Tour. You’ll learn about and see the cast-iron tubs, kitchen sinks, faucets, and other Kohler products as they are created. Tours are offered Monday through Friday; there’s one a day, leaving from the Kohler Design Center at 8:30am. Tours are led by Kohler retireees, so they know their stuff! Tours require you to be at least 14 years of age, wear closed-toed shoes, and agree not to take photos (photos are welcomed and encouraged within the Design Center.) Reservations for Industry in Action Walking Tour are required, and you can reserve your spot at (920) 457-3699.

Kohler Design Center Hours:

Monday – Friday 8am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday 10am – 4pm

You can reach the Kohler Design Center via County Y/Highland Avenue from Highway 23, just west of I-43. Highways 28 and 32 also offer close proximity from the south and west. Highways 42 and 57 also come within a few miles of Kohler.

Kohler Design Center Address:

101 Upper Road (at Highland)
Kohler, WI 53044
(920) 457-3699

Wall of toilets at the Kohler Design Center.

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