Photo credits: BCL
So WOW! Room & Board has given each Design Associate an iPad to use in the store when we are working with customers!
Our store was one of the last to get them and I only say that because while the rest of the company is comfortable using them, we are still working it out.
How can we use it to be helpful with customers? We can read email, look up finishes for customers, look up pricing and configure sectionals, print tear sheets, and find sizes and pricing information. It really is a wonderful tool that makes the customer experience more seamless.
We also need to think about how it appears to customers if we are on our iPads. You know how you see a family at dinner in a restaurant and they are all on their iPhone and not talking to each other? Well that is not the feeling Room & Board wants to portray when customers come into the store. So we are adjusting to the balance of how to use them to enhance the customer experience and not detract from it.
We are also faced with the fact that now we not only have a phone to carry but an iPad. Like right now I am trying to remember where I left mine…
And with all of that, the benefits are amazing as long as we use it in the right way!
Where am I? Am I having one of those dreams where I know I am in a certain place but it’s not really that certain place? Things look familiar, but this is not my usual Room & Board. I feel like Dorothy who just landed in Oz. Perhaps I have unknowingly landed my house on a Wicked Witch and any minute a group of Munchkins are going to pop out of a Anywhere Armoire and start telling me to ease on down the road.
Normally, I work at the Chelsea store, but since we have two locations in New York City, we have begun an Exchange Program so that we can all work at both stores. Each day, twoAssociates swap places so that we can become familiar with the other store and also continue building relationships with the staff at the other store. This is in preparation for the future should our two teams merge as one if/when the SoHo store closes. Today is my day to work in SoHo and, even though the furniture and the faces are the same ones I have seen many times, it feels odd to be here. Even though this is work, it doesn’t feel like I am at work. It’s nice to see the collection in different forms. Oh, look, there’s the Bram chair when I’m used to only seeing it is as a sofa! And there’s the Georgia bench which I never see! Callans in Tatum, that chair, oh my! Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
It is nice to be in SoHo, my old stomping ground. After all, I worked at this location for over two years. Not only does it give me the chance to learn about other pieces in the collection it also allows me to have lunch at that burrito cart down the street. Although the Chelsea store is just a few blocks away, it may as well be the Emerald City. It’s a world apart separated by two subway trains and a field of poppies. When I get back to my store on Saturday I will feel home again, but I will know that SoHo is my home too. Every Room & Board is partly my home and if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with. It’s right over there next to the Reese sectional.
I am always a bit mystified when customers (seemingly en masse) start asking for something new or a bit different than what they have been shopping for. Allow me to explain. At Room & Board we are amazing at knowing and offering just the right piece of furniture or color for our customers. We really do listen and try to be responsive to the shifts that occur in customers tastes. Lately, at the Oakbrook location we are starting to hear from our customers about brown. Do we have any browns? (A hearty “yes!”) What is available in brown? And do our browns work with all of the greys that are still out there? One of the things I often tell clients is that when we come out with fabrics on our upholstered pieces, we often choose colors that move in several color directions. Our neutrals (be it greys, browns, taupes, creams, blues, etc.) all play really well with each other. Its nice to see our clients relax when they hear this. They no longer have to fear spending good money on something that is a passing fancy. Good design (and good color) is just the opposite. Its venerable and trustworthy while still allowing room for something new. Greys layer in with beautiful browns just as autumn layers into winter. Ah yes, Mother Nature, she’s still the best designer out there.
My undergraduate degree is in Art and Visual Culture. Now what does that mean? Well, in a liberal arts school that means Art History in addition to a few courses in studio art, the humanities, sciences, and of course mathematics for good measure. #itsagreatdaytobeabobcat So in other words, I really didn’t receive any formal education in interior design. After taking on just two harsh years in the real world — the streets of Boston, I decided it was time to get back to the protection of the familiar academic bubble. Being the curious learner that I am, I decided to take a course this fall in none other than “the history of interior design and furniture.” #back2school Shocking, I know. On our most recent field trip, we toured the famous Gropius House! Loved. For those who are not familiar with the man, the legend Mr. Walter Gropius, well let me tell you. First, he was really in the truest sense of the expression, “a game changer” in terms of both architecture and interior design practices for his time. He founded the German design school known as the Bauhaus and is credited as one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century. Yeah. What can you say you’ve accomplished today? Boycotting the Starbucks holiday cup?…Well, that’s noteworthy too. ;)
The Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts exhibits the work of furniture designer, Marcel Breuer. Our current collection at Room & Board contains modern adaptations of his work. I was thrilled to see our Lange Chair featured as Mr. Gropius’s primary dinning chair. Awesome. My course started with the Egyptians and now we are coming up on the English Renaissance time period. The more we cover in class, the more I grow to appreciate the roots of many of the pieces I surround myself with everyday in our Boston showroom. #nerdlalert
Working as a Design Associate gives you the power to make decisions based on your customer’s needs. This can be relevant to designing, selling or problem solving with them.
Occasionally it’s fun to bring another Design Associate in on the project to get an alternative view. We call this partnering.
What do you think of this layout? Does this color combination work? Have you experienced this issue before? Is there another way, a better way?
Getting a colleague’s perspective can help you view certain scenarios from a different angle, which typically results in finding the perfect solution for our customers.
I truly believe that collaboration is the key to some of our best work.
What makes our group special is that we can bounce between autonomy and teamwork, without missing a beat. Professional balance is everything, and I think our Culver City team has mastered it!
We are very fortunate here at Room & Board to have the opportunity to do what we love. Our showroom is a beautiful work environment. We work as a team; we enjoy sharing our passion for design with our customers and making lasting connections. Every day I come to work, I feel a sense of relief to be able to shelter myself from the world outside and focus on only beautiful things. It’s a utopia of sorts, one could say.
In addition to our great work place, Room & Board offers full benefits even for part-time workers. It’s a rarity in today’s business environment. Things like insurance and 4o1(k) plans are very meaningful tools in our quest to provide the best for our families. Recently, my college sophomore daughter became ill and had to go to the emergency room for care. It was scary for her but being able to provide that assurance of coverage gave her (and me) tremendous peace of mind knowing she would be cared for. Aside from just the insurance, we have the opportunity to prepare for our financial future by putting a little aside into our 401(k) accounts, where Room & Board generously matches our contributions (a discretionary match based on company profits of up to 50 percent of our first 8 percent). Younger folks need to start now in planning retirement and older ones, need every chance to secure peaceful senior days. Our schedules are flexible and with our many paid holidays, we often have opportunity to slip out of town for small getaways.
If that was not enough, every Room & Board Design Associate is offered 3 weeks of paid vacation time their first year of employment, which is simply unheard of here in the US and honestly, it was a huge deciding factor in my considering the position as a Design Associate. I’ve always had the freedom and flexibility to group days off together so that I can travel. I have family and friends all over the world and it’s important for me to be able to see them often. The vacation time for me is simply another wonderful aspect of working for Room & Board. It fuels my passion for design as well as travel. It also allows me to refresh and regroup. As Martha Stewart says often, “It’s a good thing.”
It might just look like Post-it notes on a sheet of paper to you, but really it’s our upcoming store design.
Every year in January all of our stores go through “floor change.” Room & Board Vendor Merchants collaborate with our suppliers and designers to create new furniture and new fabrics. Our Visual and Merchant teams spend months determining the best floor plan for each specific store based on sales and the store layout. They decide where to insert the new while preserving our “hot” items and considering the color, scale and style. It is a daunting task with so much riding on it since it will stay in place for all of 2016.
Once the design is finalized, the fun starts for the Design Associates! During our daily meetings we are guided through the floor and get to imagine the new arrangements of furniture, rugs and accessories.
The only downside is that we get so excited about the new products we can’t wait for January. Well, actually, I am not one to rush time itself! So let’s enjoy the fall, the holidays and let January come as it does!