Elementary, My Dear…

A lot of what we do here at Room & Board comes down to problem-solving. Clients old and new call every day with a range of questions, and our job is to figure out what we can do to help. Sometimes the answer is clear, but there are plenty of occasions when some cooperative detective work is in order. This was the case with a recent client of mine. He called needing to replace a switch on his 12-year-old Tolomeo lamp. He didn’t have a recent order to refer to, and the piece he needed wasn’t on the Parts list we use at the store level to order replacement parts.

So I brought in reinforcements.

I contacted our Service Department to find out if the part was something we could order from the vendor. The service department reached out to the vendor, verified that we could definitely order the necessary part, procured pricing and lead time information and then contacted me to make sure my client understood that the part would need to be installed by a certified technician. I reached out to the client twice to keep him posted (and let him know I didn’t forget about him! — some things take time). Then, once all the details were sorted out, my colleague in the Service Department contacted the client directly to finalize the order.

This turned out to be a pretty easy case to crack, but it wouldn’t have been possible were it not for the strong circuitry of communication that runs through Room & Board. It’s comforting to know that even when I don’t have the answer, I can always find someone who does.

Our Partners at Central

I have spoken before about our close proximity to Central and the many ways we connect with our partners there. We host new partners in the store in groups of 2-5 to talk about what our job entails and hopefully we will gain a greater understanding of their roles. Last week we hosted 2 newish partners and I was the person who led the tour/discussion.

I am energized by any conversation that involves talking about the depth of what we do. The more I talked, the more I realized the importance of sharing our roles. They didn’t realize that we help people put their homes together with our expertise in color, design and space planning. Sometimes I forget how much we know and how much we can help our customers with a few pertinent questions about their lifestyle and specific needs.

I was also able to learn a bit about our partners’ roles at Central and how we can be more proactive as Design Associates.


Small Town Feel

I grew up in a small town in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Very rural. I had one car accident when I was growing up – my car was hit by a horse and buggy. Really. It’s a long story.

In keeping with that small town feel, in my hometown everyone says hi to another. If I’m home visiting and driving on a back road I know that I’ll be giving a two finger wave to vehicles that pass me from the other direction. It could be a car, a pickup, a tractor or even a horse and buggy. It’s about being a good neighbor.

In my adult life I’ve lived all over the country and in large cities mostly. At first I was thrown a bit. I was saying hi to people that I passed on the street and even occasionally giving a wave while driving – just out of habit. More than once I got the odd stare from people wondering exactly what I was doing. Now, I’m a bit more seasoned and aware of the right time and the right place for being overly friendly to others.

However, there are still times when I go back to my heritage. For me, being in my store is kind of like being home. If I see you I’m going to say hi, even though you may have already had seven other people say hi to you since you walked in the front door. It’s not me being pushy. It’s my way of honoring my roots. And of being a good neighbor.


In-Store Events!

Bellini Chairs

There has been a lot going on and I was originally wanting to write more about my ongoing transition into the Retail Merchant role for our store today. Then, as I sat down to write, I remembered the sea of Bellini Chairs that are stacked right behind me and I thought this would be a good opportunity to write about our in-store events instead. (So more on my various roles in the showroom later…)

At the beginning of the year, one of the Priorities and Measures I set for myself in 2014 was to assist our In-Store Brand Team with an event. When we hosted a private volunteer/donor appreciation party for Architects Without Borders (AWB) recently, I had the opportunity to check this goal off my list. Everything went smoothly and there were probably about 50 people in attendance after our store had closed on a Sunday. My role for the evening was to help man the door and let attendees in while inviting customers to come back during our regular store hours. One of our Design Associates on the Brand team actually did the catering, which turned out beautifully. The organizers from AWB were thrilled with how well everything went and we were able to introduce our brand to a variety of architects and designers who hadn’t yet been into our showroom.

Tonight will be our second in-store event within three weeks, so our Brand team has been busy planning and executing all of the details that go into hosting a large group of people within our space. These chairs are all here in anticipation for “An Evening with GRAY Magazine,” which will feature Editorial Director Jaime Gillin with a panel of local experts as they hold the first of an anticipated series of “GRAY Conversations.” Our Design Center will be turned into a pop-up auditorium where the panel will be having their discussion. Although I’m not working tonight, I’ll still be here this evening to support our store and Brand team in an unofficial capacity. With an RSVP list of 130, it will be exciting to experience an event taking place that is open to the public as an attendee.

Coming up, we will be hosting our New Accessories Launch in October by partnering with Seattle Magazine. As a newer market, it has been fun to see how our showroom has grown and developed relationships with various media outlets and organizations to support our business with these events. Here’s to continued growth and partnerships in the future!

House Rules

I take for granted how confident I am with home design. About the design rules that are important for me to follow in my own home and the ones I can break. About mixing and matching finishes, textures, and colors and finding that balance in terms of scale and proportion. On the best of days, from the right angle, after I quick grab that herd of My Little Ponies off the floor, yes, I think, yes, my family’s little cottage could be in Domino or Lonny. Or at least this particular six square feet might pass the test.

But I’ve worked here for nine years. I’m immersed in beautiful products, surrounded by creative people. Inspiration is everywhere here at Room & Board, from gallery walls to paint colors, from house plants to coffee table books and everything above, below and in between. I don’t see, nor do I feel any impact of design rules. It’s my job to instill confidence into the customers who might be uneasy or might not enjoy this process.

As a Design Associate, I frequently get asked about “the rules.” And so, along with my advice, I frequently give my permission to our customer: it’s your house, you make the rules. Relax. What do you like? What makes the most sense in the space, in your life? Pause a moment before assuming that the sofa you love in the showroom at 101” will work in your home. Masking tape or painters tape works wonders: A rectangle table might not work the best in a square room, but tape it out on the floor. How do you feel? Same with that area rug size, tape it out if you’re on the fence. For that pendant height in the hallway, tell the electrician to be flexible, holding it for you at various lengths before committing. Order as many fabric swatches, rug, wood and stone samples as you need. Find your instincts and trust them. Don’t worry about what anyone else says, if it works for you.

For my own home, it’s all about comfort and classic design, careful balance and proportions within 1926 rooms. It’s a careful blend of family heirlooms mixed with modern classics. And, it’s about fun. Hence the My Little Ponies. The biggest rule in my home – if there is any – probably has to do with budget. And putting away your toys.

Selling Sofas, Selling Cars

In many ways, being a Room & Board Design Associate is being an educator. Of course we are here to show our newest team members the lay of the Room & Board land: That’s a given. But each of us also has the daily task and responsibility to engage in educating ourselves so we can, in turn, relay the most recent product information to our customers. The more we know about each collection at hand, the better we can educate our customers on what to expect from a particular piece of furniture once they get it into their home, and how best to care for it over time.

I like to tell my customers that caring for furniture is a lot like caring for a car: Without gas and regular oil changes, a car won’t run, and it certainly won’t withstand the wear and tear of daily use. Furniture operates in very much the same way: sofa cushions need to be flipped, fluffed, and vacuumed; the oil and wax finishes on certain case goods need to be replenished with satin wax when dry or else the wood will crack; marble is porous, and coasters are required; micro-suede is great for kids and pets, but watch out for oil based stains! So, I guess, in actuality, being a Room & Board Design Associate is a lot like being a car salesman!

Elevating Expectations

Contacting a company is intimidating.  Based on past encounters, or the storied experiences of others, we don’t expect thoughtful assistance when we call a company.  We expect pushback or apathy, but reassurance and satisfaction are things we only hope for.

Room & Board is different. Our Shop From Home team uses a diverse skill set to solve problems via phone or email for the vast majority of the day.  Whether it is space planning, accessorizing an almost finished room, finding a delivery route that will fit a customer’s schedule, or arranging for our service team to go to a customer’s home to repair a piece of furniture, we are almost always facilitating solutions for our customers.

And there is never a script.

What that means for our customers is that we have the freedom to listen, person to person, to their concerns.  We have the education to understand what tools are at our disposal to help them.  We have the autonomy to do the right thing for both our customer and our business.  And at the end of the day, we have the peace of mind that comes from actively preserving our relationships with our customers.

With the freedom to approach every conversation as an opportunity to make a connection and solve an issue, each customer quickly feels reassured…especially if they initially had reservations about contacting us.  We are decidedly unintimidating.