Are you the next icon?

During the last few months here at our Central Campus, the new 2015 collection arrived piece by piece. At Shop From Home, we are in the unique position to interact with our customers and also have full access to all of the behind-the-scenes buzz in the company. We get to explore the photography sets, see the evolving prototypes in the “Lab”, and contribute input regarding product development.

This all comes together back in our Central Lab every autumn. Picture a high-ceilinged immaculate warehouse space divided into open rooms, some with experimental paint colors & display pedestals, and some with staged wood flooring. Each space contains vignettes with designs from our new collection, and we get to inspect, measure, and use the furniture so we can help our customers “explore” the collection in our phone conversations once it’s unveiled in late December.

Every year, without fail, there is that one piece that stands alone. It’s the one we’ve watched grow through the steps it takes to create a new design. We’ve seen the collaborative efforts between the designer, the maker, and the research team. Back in the lab, there it sits…a beautiful and complete piece.

And every year I wonder to myself, “Are you the next icon?” Are you the chair that, 30 years from now, design students will reference or interior designers will insist be the one thing that stays in a whole house remodel or collectors will exclaim, “You’ll never believe what I found today! A Paris chair circa 2015!” We all know those pieces. They are the Arne Jacobsen Egg Chairs and the Marcel Breuer Wassily Chairs of the furniture world. They are instantly recognizable and are equal parts furniture and sculpture.

Stay tuned. We were able to see our new Paris Chair in the Lab this fall, and you can see it sometime in 2015. It will be worth your wait, and it might just be the next icon.

Balance

Life is hard sometimes. Things happen. People get sick. Pets get sick. Our Monday morning – or Tuesday or Friday morning – can change quickly when the dishwasher breaks, that salmon you had the night before with that “odd” taste kicks in, the doctor finds “something” during your last check up, or your kid or dog wakes up feeling ill. We have several associates here in the store that, for one reason or another, are going through some pretty intense non-work issues.

Many companies have a set number of personal and sick days that you can take each year. Most employees find themselves under pressure to save those days for when they are deathly ill or for when the most severe things happen. They drag themselves to work with a fever or feel torn between doing what they feel they should do and what work rules say they have to do. It doesn’t breed openness and conversation. The scales of work/life balance seem to tip in the wrong direction.

Room & Board doesn’t have a formal personal or sick day policy. It’s often a conversation about what’s happening in your life and how you can best balance the needs of the business and your personal obligations. It’s about trust. It breeds openness and empathy. I’ve seen many associates taking up the slack for peers as they work out the things that life throws at them; we all know it could be us in their shoes.

Granted, it is a balance you have to find. With possibility does come responsibility. It’s up to you not to abuse the trust that’s put in you. You have to find a balance. But wouldn’t you rather have a job where you can actually have that discussion rather than being in a job where discussions like that are completely off limits?

Complete Your Home

Complete Your Home

You can have the most beautiful furniture in your home, but it can still feel bare. The key is to layer in accessories to make it feel complete.

Pillows, rugs, art and books are a great way to soften the space and to make it feel warm and inviting. Also the right lighting can make or break a room.

At our Culver City showroom, we recently installed our Complete Your Home Department. The space has inspired our customers to think about adding color, texture and dimension to a room.

It is absolutely stunning and has been such fun to work in! Visually it has been very impactful and super easy to shop.

From the assortment of beautiful pillows to peruse, to our hand-crafted accessories displayed. The room proudly shares our American-made vendor stories that help connect our customers to the pieces.

As a DA it feels extremely fulfilling to add those final touches to my customers’ rooms. The Complete Your Home Department has now given us the tools to do so. What a great addition to our showroom!

Complete Your Home

Action toward Floor Change

The store feels quiet right now despite the hustle and bustle outside our doors. The world has turned its focus toward the Holiday Season. We had a great November and as everyone focuses on their Holidays our December will continue to be a behind the scenes focus on the Floor Change.

I know myself and my partner [Harriet] in the fabric area are looking ahead to what we need to be aware of for Floor Change. We have marked our hanging samples with discontinued stickers and labeled the discontinued fabrics in our drawers. This will alert our co-workers as well as customers that some of our fabrics will be going away and we need to be aware that there are limited quantities.

This time of year we need to be super aware of all the nuances of limited availability on quite a lot of product. Our sensitivity to the possible disappointment of our customers is of utmost importance right now.

We are slowly receiving all the tools we need to make the shift for our new product. We have received some of the new fabrics and will put those on the floor on Christmas Eve. A lot happens on that day before our Clearance begins on the 26th. All the tags in the showroom must be changed, we take out the discontinued fabrics and add the new ones and ready the showroom for Phase 1 of our approach to Floor Change. Our clearance begins at midnight on December 24th.

We will sell through a lot of product on our showroom floor from the 26th through the next week. Every aspect of preparation will lead us to the Floor Change 2015 and a new and beautiful presentation of our showroom.

Moving to Chelsea

In twelve days, Room & Board will have a new flagship store in Chelsea, New York.  Though the excitement at Room & Board SoHo is mounting, it is bittersweet, as those of us who are moving to the new location cleanout our SoHo lockers and begin to say our goodbyes.  Today, two of our Leadership Associates will work their last day in the SoHo store; this past weekend, I worked my last Sunday shift here without even realizing!  And before we all know it, Room & Board New York will exist as two store locations, instead of one.

What has been truly amazing to witness as we make this transition into two separate stores, is the obvious impact working at Room & Board has had on the lives and relationships of its employees. From Design and Leadership Associates, to Visuals and Merchants, and everyone in between, friendships have been built on teamwork, so much so that we’ve become an odd family of sorts, and it’s difficult to imagine that changing in any way.  But change it must, and all for the better: The new Chelsea location is breathtaking!  And as its doors open on December 13th, we will all be proud.

December in Seattle

CYH Xmas

Wow, it’s December already! Our Visual Associate (Julianne) has been putting out a few touches in the showroom to reflect the holiday season, and I wanted to share a picture of one of the spaces in our Complete Your Home department that I felt captured the spirit of how we inspire our customers. Compared to most of the retail neighbors here in our shopping center, we’re much more conservative with our holiday decorations, which is yet another way that Room & Board sets itself apart from our competitors. What I love about this approach is how thoughtful it feels in acknowledging the season, while still keeping the focus on our brand and products.

The picture above is one of the cube clusters in our Complete Your Home department that I think best illustrates this. Julianne has curated a moment here that, for me, speaks to both how a customer might want to pair items in their own home, and offers ideas for holiday gift giving at the same time. I love that the holiday feel comes so much from the colors and textures of the items she chose, along with a few pine cones and berries. It looks so simple and fresh!

Our Complete Your Home department has been such a success, I’m excited to see how it performs this month. And, of course, we still have our Clearance and Floor Sample event on December 26th to look forward to…

Behind the Scenes at Shell Lake Woodcrafters

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“The character of a company is based on the top,” said Dan Ringwelski, co-owner of Shell Lake Woodcrafters. Shell Lake has been a Room & Board vendor since 1992 and makes our longstanding Linear collection of cabinets, in addition to Delano storage, Fisher kitchen islands, Graham media consoles and accent tables, and Whitney cabinets.

Dan was referring to his company’s longtime partnership with Room & Board. Heads from each of Shell Lake’s various departments, from the front office to the production floor, had stopped to meet us – four Shop From Home Design Associates who had made the two-hour trip up north to the town of Shell Lake, Wisconsin.

Of course, at Room & Board, we knew what Dan said to be true. We’d seen firsthand our own leaders’ involvement, commitment and passion for great design and quality furniture. “One of the biggest thrills in working for Room & Board is the consistency; the beauty of working with the same people through the years,” said Craig Hanson, Plant Manager. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. “

Hanson has been with Shell Lake Woodcrafters since its beginning in 1991. “I’ve done everything. There’s nothing I can’t do. I feel most comfortable out here in the plant.”

At every point, from the mill room to assembly, to sanding, finishing and inspection, we were awed by the human component that went into each and every Room & Board piece. We saw Scott, who gave us a quiet nod as he milled the lumber, his skilled eyes hand-selecting boards with special attention to color and grain. We saw the beautiful curved corners of the Whitney collection being hand-sanded. Each Room & Board piece was being made one at a time.

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We met Mark, the Production Supervisor, another veteran employee, whose daughter Emily works in the drawer department. Emily is married to Andy in the building department, the son of Lori, who has worked there since the 1990s. Another family had three generations currently working at Shell Lake.

“It’s about the people, not a piece of machinery,” Craig told us. By the end of the tour, where the finished pieces were being packed up for the journey to Room & Board, our pride over these cabinets and accent tables was amplified tenfold because of just that – the people at Shell Lake Woodcrafters.

Dusk was just setting in when we left Shell Lake in the late afternoon. When we arrived, we liked these pieces of furniture. We admired the beauty and had great trust in the quality. We left with deep respect for the craftsmanship that goes into each piece, for the artisans – the people – behind the scenes in quiet Shell Lake. Seemingly small, meeting and getting to know makers like these has a profound, lasting impact.

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Photos courtesy of Zachary Herbst, Shop From Home Design Associate