The Roots of our Design

Education is a constant at Room & Board and it really helps us with our customer engagements.

This week we are looking at the roots of where our furniture inspiration comes from. One influence is “Mid Century Modern” (1933-1965).

There were a number of designers that we have drawn inspiration from but we focused on Paul McCobb who lived from 1917 – 1969. Some of the pieces he influenced that we offer include the Berkeley media piece, the Reese sectional (The Dick Van Dyke Show), the Lola chair, the Louis chair, and the Grove Office Armoire. It was fun to see our pieces side by side with these designs to compare the similarities and the differences.

It struck us all that when our clients say that we are so modern that actually our designs are influenced by history, from the Egyptians to Bauhaus to Mid Century and more. Here is the Lola Chair example.


Paul McCobb original


Lola by Room & Board







I feel like I am back at college with all that I learn!


Responding with Agility

I always feel like one of the traits that helps me be successful in my work at Room & Board is the ability to be agile. For instance, our customers are wonderful, but sometimes you may be working with someone who is indecisive, or who suddenly changes their mind on what they want. Rather than be frustrated (which is natural when you have invested a good amount of time into a portfolio or order) I find it easier to ask more questions and listen to find out what is initiating the change in direction. Is it something the customer is worried about that I can address their concerns and make them feel confident about the original decision? Great, that’s easy! Did they realize that something in their plan won’t work after all due to colors, spatial limitations, or budget? Then I will take a look at how I can help them find a new solution that will meet their needs. Even in difficult situations, at the end of the day, I still want their experience with Room & Board to be positive. Keeping that in mind makes it easier to navigate any challenges.

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Another example was last week, when we discovered that an item we needed for the showroom had arrived to our Distribution Center in the wrong finish. Since the bookcase it was replacing had sold, we didn’t want to hold onto that piece a week longer and delay that customer’s delivery. After a moment of, “Oh no! What do we do now?” we ended up bringing the Elton Shelf into the showroom in the incorrect finish (walnut–see picture on left). This week, we changed it out for the correct finish (cherry–see picture on right) and the room setting is complete! We worked with what we had, the showroom journey was kept intact, and probably no one would ever even notice the difference if I didn’t point it out. Best of all, we weren’t stressed out by a simple mistake because we chose not to be.

Things happen. There are always going to be challenges to deal with. I always like to remember that I get to choose how I’m going to respond to a situation, and it is easier to be agile.

Time to Reflect

It’s the time of year when we reflect on the first half of our year, and partner with our Leadership Teams to discuss our goals and expand our performances. While this may sound like a fairly standard practice—commonly known in the industry as a performance review—at Room & Board, unsurprisingly, the process is quite different not only in name—Priorities and Measures—but holistically in nature. Rather than the typical by-the-book review of numbers and performance “ratings,” at Room & Board we pride ourselves on reflection and partnership. That is, whether an individual wishes to learn a new a skill, enhance an existing one or grow into a new role, our leadership teams encourage our autonomy in self-directed growth.

Given the special nature of this process, Atlanta did something a little different this year: each associate was given a gift card to our favorite ice cream shop (all hail Jenni’s Ice Cream!) and 1 hour of free time away from the showroom for reflection. As a result, we were afforded a luxurious hour to ourselves…and ice cream (personally, I went all the way and got the Salted Bourbon Ice Cream Sundae)! What a tremendous example of our philosophy regarding work-life balance.

Further, being encouraged to employ and granted the opportunity to exercise such a level of autonomy over our roles and sought after guidance ultimately aligns with Room and Board’s intention to create a “rewarding and deeply satisfying work experience [ice cream and all].”

Harrison Ford


Harrison Boss Ford. #HBF Renowned actor and film producer. Most famous for his role in the Star Wars trilogy as Han Solo and title character as the man, the legend, in the series Indiana Jones. Most can’t hold a candle to Ford’s success or fame, sorry Cait. #callmecaitlyn There’s simply no comparison.

Generation to generation, Ford’s acting continues to crush the charts. Just like Ford’s acting, design is serious. At Room & Board we are assisting others in creating beautiful, stimulating spaces in which people live their lives. How is anyone going to make a difference in the world if they are not inspired by their surroundings? Yaaas.

So obviously what is known colloquially as the “Harrison Ford room” at Room & Board Boston is no joke. The pairing is on point, folks. I mean when you name drop Harrison Ford, it better be epic.

Our Merchant Associate and Visual Associate teamed up to create this product pairing for the new intros this summer. The simple, heathered Briar charcoal fabric and elevated almost spindle leg of the Harrison sofa paired with the inviting cognac leather Ford swivel chairs is flawless. Comfort meets style, a statement for sure, but not pompous (as we all know success requires time) just as the name implies.

Changing the Way Customers Shop

Since entrepreneurialism was born, there was a belief that competition creates a healthy business atmosphere. This may be true for business in general as the old saying goes, only the strongest and best will survive, but competition isn’t always in the customer’s best interest. Due to decades of aggressive tactics by sales personnel of all trades, customers often tend to shy away from being approached when entering a store. Well, just as Uber is changing the way people get around, Room & Board is changing the way people shop.

Design Associates are salaried employees who work as a team and are there to support one another to create the best experience for the customer. Visitors notice almost immediately when they enter one of our showrooms that something, although they can’t quite put their finger on it, is different.

Simply being in our stores is calming, soothing, and enjoyable. We, as Design Associates, can see when customers are on-guard during their first visit but when shoppers don’t encounter the expected sales tactic or gimmick, they instantly let out a deep sigh of relief. Being  greeted with a sincere smile and a genuine “Hello and Welcome” with no pressure, is when customers learn that non-commission-based sales allows them a certain level of comfort as soon as they enter. They are free to ask anyone any questions without feeling like they must only work with one person. It’s then when it becomes clear as to why the atmosphere here is unique, making it a pleasant place to come, browse and shop.

Just as Netflix changed the video rental business, Room & Board has a distinct business philosophy which is changing the way customers feel when shopping for furniture and hopefully, changing what customers everywhere, will come to expect.

The Lasting Effects of Room & Board and Donuts

Working at Room & Board can really get under your skin and affect your life outside the showroom; it’s sorta like eating a powdered sugar donut. You know how when you first see a powdered sugar donut your impulse is to cram the whole sugary confection into your eating hole, right? (Surely I’m not the only one who feels this way.) You pick up a napkin and try to restrain yourself and eat it slowly so as not to get powdered sugar all over your face, but the you can’t resist the urge and before you know it, you are in the middle of a powdered sugar cloud like Pigpen from the Peanuts comic strip. Hours later, when you are on the subway or at the grocery store, you may catch a glimpse of yourself in the reflection of a window and see a remnant of white sugar on your forehead alerting everyone that some time earlier in the day, you went downtown Julie Brown on a powdered sugar donut. What I’m saying is, the experience stays with you long after the activity is done. That’s what I mean about working at Room & Board.

I was in Texas this week visiting my family and seeing how long a glass of Sauvignon Blanc can stay moderately cool in 90 degree heat. (Answer: about four minutes.) In my parent’s house, they have a dining table that is very large and surrounded by eight chairs. The table is rarely used for dining and serves as a catch-all for everything from laundry to keys to the homework of niece. Every time I walked by the table, I found myself pacing around it to gently slide the chairs underneath the table making sure they were all of equal distance from one another. This is what I do every day I am at work, whether it be an Adams, Andover, Portica or Ventura: I reposition chairs around those tables so that the furniture looks its very best. It’s in my blood now and I know that whenever I see a dining chair slightly askew from its table I am going to have to fix it so it looks neat and tidy. I do the same thing with the cushions on the sofas of my friends’ homes, smoothing them out and fluffing the pillows and I will straighten a crooked mirror or picture frame regardless of where I am.


Room & Board has done this to me and I don’t mind it one bit. It’s under my skin. Some things stick with you, be it the urge to straighten dining chairs because you did it all day at work or be it powdered sugar because you crammed a donut into your mouth.

New Pillows

At Room & Board we have a “mid-year” floor change where new furniture and accessories come on the floor along with new fabrics and covers on existing frames. As a Design Associate, I love these changes that come twice a year because it freshens up the store.

This year a new color, “indigo,” was introduced in pillows, accessories, rugs and artwork. The question for us was how will we incorporate these new items and this new color into our existing products?

One of our Design Associates created a design exercise where she had us pick one of the new limited edition or one-of-a-kind artwork groupings and a specific sectional. We were given 15 minutes in pairs to pull together new and existing pillows, accessories and rugs in “our room.” Well, not only did we have fun “playing” with the new and old items, but in the end we were able to share ideas with each other and actually see how it all looked. I am including some photos so you can see what we came up with!

We continually have education in our daily meetings, which provides us with the knowledge we need to be successful and therefore provide the best customer experience.

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