Domogroup: Wooden constructions since 1947
What sets apart every Domogroup wooden construction is the fact that the end user’s personal aesthetic choice is involved.
- Author: Stefania Souki
- Photos: Φανή Τουμπουλίδου
The history goes back more than seven decades to… the distant 1947 when the young Efthimis Chalkidis opened his first carpentry workshop in Katerini. Now, Domogroup, headed by Theofilos Chalkidis, having managed to grow in the last few years despite the times, the economic crisis, and the pandemic, is following the exact same pattern as that of the father and the grandfather Chalkidis, adapted to modern day: Offering fully targeted solutions based on the highest-quality material specifications and advanced techniques, using, among all other things, Greek solid wood for impressive constructions that stand out in residences, hotels, and business spaces.
“We participate creatively and assist in the design process, suggesting new materials and technical solutions and assisting the architect-engineer or the owner. We give special value to Greek wood. We use it as auxiliary material in many constructions, giving a personal touch to the final product”, says Mr. Theofilos Chalkidis. “My relationship with wood and its creations began at a very young age. I grew up in a house with a carpentry workshop on the ground floor, so if we couldn’t hear the band saw or the planer working, we thought something… was wrong.”
In 1947, during the Greek civil war, the young 19-year-old Efthimis Chalkidis opened his first carpentry workshop in Katerini, which was housed in his older sister’s barn, who grew tobacco. “Even now there are homeowners in Katerini who still use wooden frames and furniture from the ‘50s, made by my father.”
“My personal, professional involvement with wood did not occur immediately. Initially, I worked in the banking sector and then in the insurance sector. At the time, new conditions were beginning to emerge in the market, with work-on-order craft shops in our region that had a brilliant track record of exports to European industries. There were only a few good stairs artisans throughout Greece and some from abroad, mainly from Italy, with extremely high prices. My father and I were looking into the product, and we agreed that he should start to specialize in his work with stairs. He didn’t make it, however, because he died prematurely in 1984, and it was then that I made the big decision. I had to either close the workshop or abandon my other jobs”.
“That’s how the journey started in 1984: I initially established Interscala in Katerini. Then, Velco followed in 1987, focusing on the pioneering – for the time – wooden thermal-and-sound-insulation frames of German technology. In 1989, the two units co-existed in a 9,500 sq.m. industrial space in Aiginio, Pieria, employing about 250 people. The innovation for the times was that it fulfilled custom orders. At the same time, the sales network was growing, with 17 showrooms all over Greece. In 1997, I settled in Athens and created Domogroup, with the exact same objective, and the extra department of contracts – general carpentry.
“One of the company’s milestones was 1998 when I established the first production unit in Austria (I had expertise in German wooden frames) and then transferred the business activities to Serbia with two factories. From 2003 onwards, we developed in the wholesale market, under the brand name Woodacademy, for customers who were professionals in the industry (carpenters, timber merchants, showrooms, etc.). At the beginning of the building crisis (2012), this activity stopped, and Domogroup proceeded with general woodworking. Today, the third generation is already actively involved in the development and growth of the company and is ready to take over the entire management.”
Mr. Chalkidis says that what has made his company stand out all of these years and has been maintained over the decades is that each product is unique. “We believe the products should have a finishing touch that expresses the end user’s personality. We manage to combine opinions so that even with very small detail, each product is unique. One of the ventures that worked out well for us is that at the beginning of the crisis in 2010, we were able to gather experienced wood craftsmen in our factory and have them work alongside younger ones, who learned many elements of the job. We dealt with the latest pandemic crisis with a “counterattack”, creating two new showrooms in the center of Athens, in Kolonaki and Thiseio, which operate alongside our big showroom in Koropi.”
Domogroup’s comparative advantages
Mr. Chalkidis points out that the company has three main departments operating parallel to each other:
- CONTRACT – GENERAL CARPENTRY for all interior and exterior constructions, from frames and stairs to furniture and even… hangers.
- DOMOGROUP – kitchen – closet – bathroom.
- SOLID WOOD FURNITURE – for the whole house.
“Our comparative advantage in calculating costs that we import the bulk of our raw materials directly from markets in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Apart from that, since the late 2000s, we have invested in selecting and processing valuable trees from Greek nature, aesthetically complementing our constructions”.
“There are 19 types of Greek timber, which are true “diamonds”. With difficulty, due to the lack of prior processing infrastructure, we have managed to give Greek wood the value it deserves. For example, chestnut, walnut, olive, quaking aspen, elm, and alder (which abounds in North Greece and is the wood that all of Venice is made of, but remains unknown in Greece). We “invested” in this part of the market, and this venture proved right. Today, unique Greek wood in the form of tables, chairs, bookcases, and other furniture and special constructions adorns houses, hotels, and business spaces in Greece and the rest of the world. It is no coincidence that almost 40% of retail sales are addressed to foreigners that settle in Greece, but mainly abroad”.
“Finally, it is essential to mention that when we undertake a project, the main work is the part that is not visible, the initial design and communication with the project’s technicians. Together we identify the problematic elements in the implementation of the designs and achieve the perfect technical, aesthetic, and above all, economic result.”
Domogroup is currently executing small and large projects all over Greece, in hotel units, building complexes, villas, apartments, holiday houses, etc. “The demand in Dubai, France, Germany, England, and even America is impressive, mainly villas with demanding constructions. In the past, we had participated in exhibitions in these markets, having built up a clientele of engineering firms that requested demanding projects with special specifications.”
Asked how the company is dealing with the difficult conditions currently prevailing in the market due to the increase in material prices and energy costs, Mr. Chalkidis emphasizes the fact that now “it is very difficult to calculate costs, because every month the prices are different, especially in the furniture market.” He believes that the market is currently moving at two speeds and especially with regard to private consumption in the furniture market, “it seems that there is interest, but the psychology is negative. It is not an easy final decision. We see this especially from spring and onwards in retail.”
On the other hand, there is high demand for large projects and investments in tourism, which, fortunately, went well this season. “So in the hotel, catering, etc. sectors, there are many ongoing renovations or constructions of new units, with strong interest from foreigners and Greeks, balancing the market. We are optimistic that the situation will soon be fully balanced.”