Blending in at Room & Board

One of the important skills of being a Design Associate is enjoying the interplay of color and pattern, and finding ways to make those elements work together. As a team, we’re in tune to those elements in all of our surroundings. Photos frequently get taken and shared when two of us are dressed similarly or when we’re dressed like the product! Enjoy some photos I’ve taken over the last year of staff members matching product in the showroom.

This is Jason and Jeff blending in with our “Beach House” color story in the Complete Your Home shop. The Beach House has disappeared in 2017, at least for the winter, but this is a nice reminder of sunnier times:


Here, Janice is getting Zen on the Hess sofa in Kellen fabric. Kellen was a new addition for us mid-year in 2016, and has carried over on Hess into 2017. Last autumn, the Hess was accessorized with a bright orange pillow and a mini-pumpkin plant that reminded me of tomatillos. Janice’s bright sweater was yet another pop of color in the room.


That sweater had even more in common with the Murphy sofa in Tatum Poppy!


Kelly also had an almost exact match with the Hess accessories when she wore a scarf that looked like it was cut from an Illusion pillow:


Sonoma is known as “Sparkles” in the showroom for her love of glittery clothing, so Christmas decorations gave her a chance to blend in:


Of course there are always people who don’t like having their photo taken, but Heather agreed to pose with the pillows she matched on the Grove bed, as long as it was a blurry action shot, so she couldn’t be recognized!


And on that fun note, I’m off to explore more of the new offering for 2017. Maybe I’ll find my own perfect match!



Design and Real Estate Markets

We sell furniture, so of course, it’s natural for customers to come into our showroom and ask for design help in selecting the right pieces for their homes. With time and experience, however, Design Associates dip their toes into so much more than furnishing interiors.

Room & Board Design Associates have diverse work histories. Many come from retail, the furniture industry or even straight from college. Some were artists or teachers in their former lives. A passion for beautiful spaces and an innate sense of design is what brings us here. Over time, we start to engage in reading customers’ floor plans and space planning.

In urban areas such as Boston, high-rise luxury buildings are being constructed faster than ever, changing the skyline like never before. As units are sold, many buyers come to Room & Board to furnish them. Working with customers from these new developments allows us to become  familiar with the building, the layouts and the areas of town, but also with their occupants. We get to know the new landscape, the revitalized neighborhoods and how they affect the culture of our city. This, in effect, gives us first-hand knowledge of what is happening in the real estate market.

Many of our customers learn of Room & Board from word of mouth from happy customers. We get to know our customers and their neighbors and we ultimately begin to understand real estate trends in ways we never imagined. When customers are new in town and come to us to furnish their homes, we’re very proud to share our passion for design as well as our knowledge of our communities.

Just another wonderful aspect of working for Room & Board.

19 years and counting . . .

I have been a Room & Board staff member for 19 years and there are many good reasons why that is true. The number one thing that keeps me coming back is the mutual respect we share in the store and amongst all staff members. This gets extended to customers, our vendors and all people we come in contact with in our everyday lives.

There is never any finger pointing when a mistake has been made. We are all personally accountable and make sure we don’t repeat the same problems. We are entrusted to do business in our own unique way, working with customers based on who we are instead of a vision created for us. We are all unique individuals, we enjoy each others differences and respect our diversity. It is a totally enjoyable environment where there are many laughs and good conversation. This extends to our customers whom we enjoy, get to know and help deeply.

We are asked for our perspectives on many levels when it comes to our interactions with customers. We have a book where we record customer requests and they are looked at and taken in to consideration and those suggestions often become part of our collection.

We drive our own careers with Priorities & Measures, a yearly exercise where we identify ways we wish to grow in our jobs. Within the store, we each take on other responsibilities that contribute to the overall function of the store. I personally am involved in training new staff members, ordering and organizing our fabric and leather swatch books and helping with the Design Center.

When I asked newer staff members what stands out to them, the answer I get is how surprised they are to actually get an hour lunch break. In so many jobs, it would be non-existent or they would have to punch out for their half an hour. Furthermore, we have that hour to ourselves and if something comes up, it is taken care of by our peers.

With the advent of profit sharing I believe we will take even more ownership in our job. It has been an amazing experience working for Room & Board. Each day is a pleasure. Thank you!

Clearing the air

If you’re a fan of Mad Men, it’s hard to imagine a midcentury interior without the cloud of cigarette smoke swirling above the heads of those seated on the very stylish furniture. In the 1950’s and 60’s cigarette smoking was considered glamorous and cool. Anybody who was anybody was a smoker. James Dean and Audrey Hepburn, to name just a few. Most everyone was smoking or aspiring to smoke – how many old movies have we seen where kids can’t wait to try smoking, just like their parents?

My parents were young smokers, but quit cold-turkey when my older brother was born and his little lungs had very little tolerance for cigarette smoke. As a child of the 60’s I don’t remember my parents ever smoking. I do, however, remember lots of family gatherings surrounded by a foggy haze of smoke from relatives.

Little by little, it has become clear that smoking is harmful to the body – both for the person smoking and the people around them. Contemporary research and information shows us how damaging and life-shortening cigarette smoking can be.

It’s for that reason that as of January 1, 2018, all Room & Board facilities will be tobacco-free. This will include cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. The buildings have been smoke-free environments for years, but this policy will include outside areas, parking lots, alleys, etc.

Yes, it starts in 2018. As I write this it will be pretty much over a year from now that this policy activates. The understanding is that it can take a while to kick a habit that many have had for years, often working through several failed attempts before finding a treatment that sticks. Smoking can be a tenacious monkey on your back.

We also understand that being smoke free benefits not just the staff member but those that love and care about the staff member, at work and at home. It’s important to your quality of life. For this reason Room & Board is offering lots of support like telephonic tobacco cessation counseling, access to state-sponsored programs, doctor prescribed Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products at no cost through our company insurance, and even support for alternative treatments such as hypnosis or acupuncture if traditional treatments aren’t successful.

The good things in life endure – like classic, contemporary midcentury inspired furniture . . . ahem. And those things that we once thought were good and sexy and cool, but now know are harmful, well, those things have had their time. It’s time for a journey forward to a happier, healthier tomorrow.


Chicago Tribune Features Blog


For the first time ever, Room & Board has a Staff Member Store showcasing a plethora of branded merchandise. In other words, swag. Now, we can rep Room & Board all day erry day. Look fly in your R & B fleece. Half zip or full? Why not both?! Keep the brewskis on point in a fashion-forward R & B cooler! Yaas. Want to look boss at the gym? We can get swoll with a stylin Room & Board duffle. Live in a rainy climate? There’s even an umbrella. What about color coordination…? Per usual, the offering specializes in grey neutrals. Duh. But, most importantly, who is the hunk modeling the men’s line? We would like a clothing how-to-wear demo stat. Worried about sizing, especially when taking Thanksgiving into account, or just want to check quality and feel? A sample pack of apparel will arrive at each store location soon. We can only hope Room & Board matching PJ sets are in the works along with corresponding Snuggies as we approach this holiday season. #swaggeronahundredthousandtrillion


Keeping in Step from the Showroom to Santiago

In previous posts, I’ve espoused the importance that teamwork plays in the day-to-day showroom experiences of a Design Associate. With its own tenet in the organization’s Guiding Principles, Room & Board is a strong proponent of teamwork, encouraging employees to “build relationships based upon mutual respect and collaboration” with customers, vendor partners and peers. Teamwork is especially pivotal to the success of the Atlanta market given its relatively small size. With a staff of 12, we rely on one another constantly. I ask my colleagues for their opinion when creating intricate design schemes for customers, when I’m posed a question that I can’t answer, and when I can’t figure out why I’m not able to complete my order in SAP. In our market, where multi-way switching is not an option, it’s a team effort to simply turn on and off every one of the hundreds of lamps decorating our showroom at the beginning and end of each day!

As such, it should come as no surprise that when one of my colleagues is away from the showroom for an extended period of time, the impact of that absence is especially impactful. Faced with the imminent departure of our own Sandra Pawliger on a two-week backpacking adventure along the Camino de Santiago (commonly referred to as the Road to Santiago) in Spain, we decided to join her in spirit.

What resulted was a market-wide ‘Step Challenge’ in which we electronically tracked the number of steps taken during our work day. Because Sandra’s journey involved an amount of walking considered obscene to most of my teammates, we cheated a bit at the onset and tallied the total number of steps taken by each staff member as we progressed down the trail. Only in this manner were we able to keep up with Sandra. At each stop on her itinerary, we celebrated by sharing a bit of knowledge about the sights, people and cuisine she was encountering at the moment!

This effort not only raised our collective consciousness surrounding our level of fitness in the showroom, it increased our knowledge of a historically and culturally significant pilgrimage, embarked on by hundreds of thousands of travelers each year. For an idea of the sort of experience that our market was able to partake in, both firsthand and vicariously, see below for a sample of some of the gorgeous photos that Sandra shared with us upon her return.


Edina Showroom Hosts Guthrie Theater Season Kick-Off

Minnesotans are proud of any “firsts” or “mosts” that take us out of the flyover category. Keith Ellison was the nation’s first Muslim Representative in Congress. Minneapolis vies to be the nation’s most fit city. The Minnesota Arboretum has developed some of the best-known apple varieties. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts has one of the best encyclopedic collections in the country, and the Walker is nationally known for its modern art. The Twin Cities’ park systems consistently take top honors at the national level. Lakeview Chapel has the finest Byzantine-style mosaics in the country. Every few years, we build a new stadium. And, until recently, we had Prince.

Of course, Minnesota is also the home base of Room & Board. Recently Room & Board hosted an exciting event celebrating its continued partnership with another Minnesota “most.” The Guthrie Theater was founded in 1963 as a regional alternative to the monopoly of Broadway. Broadway at that time increasingly relied on immediate successes of splashy musicals at high ticket prices in order to cover huge production costs. The Guthrie’s goal from the beginning was a not-for-profit environment showing “classics in rotating repertory with the highest professional standards.”

In 2006, the Guthrie opened its new space right on the Mississippi River, designed by architect Jean Nouvel. In 2016, the Guthrie redesigned their VIP reception room in this space, with help from Aaron Dahl, Room & Board Design Associate. The redesigned VIP reception room has played host to paintings by another Room & Board staff member, Customer Support Associate Josh Meillier.

The latest collaboration with the Guthrie was an event to kick off their 2016-2017 season. Singers from The Parchman Hour performed during a two-hour event which also included small bites and drinks. The Parchman Hour is a variety showcase of songs and stories from the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1961, brave souls known as Freedom Riders boarded buses and headed into areas of discrimination to stand up against segregation. Some were imprisoned in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Farm Penitentiary, where they developed the songs and stories that make up The Parchman Hour.

Our event to celebrate The Parchman Hour was planned by Design Associate Aaron Dahl. Retail Market Manager Elise Nicpon took an hour out of her day to pick up the audio equipment, which had been routed to an outer suburb by the rental company. Caterer Cynthia Olson expanded her usual repertory to include southern classics like ambrosia salad and shrimp and grits. Guthrie reps placed flyers around the showroom. Singers Cat Brindisi, David Darrow and Nathan Barlow performed with passion and style. And event-goers lingered longer than usual, exploring everything from the baby section for their grandkids to the Callan chair for a new apartment.

We’ve already received a thank-you note from the Guthrie reps who teamed with us on the event, noting how enthusiastic the response was. Hopefully this will be part of a growing collaboration between two great Minnesota “mosts.”