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.
Now that the days are short and the weather colder, the migratory patterns of our customers is starting to emerge. Returning to the nest and settling in. I think that in the great lakes area, last year’s winter has us being a bit more humble and thoughtful as to what this year may bring. Perhaps winter instills in us a tendency to take the long view when it comes making decisions regarding our homes.
For Oakbrook, this is the time of year when custom orders seem to reign supreme. I often tell customers that they will start their new year off with a design that was built just for them. A fresh start, a new piece that can signal a change forward in their home. Completions, beginnings, endings, the seasons and the nesting process continues with us. Defining, and redefining home and what it means to us through a handmade bowl, or a custom sofa, a beautiful rug or a vibrant piece of art. Like swallows continually feathering the nest, our migratory and homing patterns continue.
Our new Complete Your Home department has been in for just shy of 2 weeks now and it is amazing. In my brief tenure at Room & Board, each time we have made a change, they always seem nice. Not so much with this department.
Each time a Design Associate walks into the department for the first time, their mouth just drops at how beautiful it is (me included). Our customers walk in and get very quiet. If you watch them, their eyes just roam and try to take everything in. For Oakbrook, not only is the department really beautiful, but we have seen an almost instantaneous jump in our pillow, frame and linen sales.
What I love about Room & Board is that we’re constantly asking questions and because of this we’re always refining. If you talk to a Design Associate who has been with the company for a period of time, they will mention that this is a second go around for an accessories department. However, this time we seem more dialed into our own identity. Because of this we have a much sharper focus on what we believe is going to work for customers when they are shopping for their own home. However, we are integrous enough to also really want feedback as to what is working and what is not.
I’m looking forward to more changes and more refining as the years come and go. Who knows where we’ll be five years down the road. I can’t wait to find out.
Being back from surgery I’m starting to make my way out on the floor more in the mornings before we open. Today as I was walking around and dusting (our new accessories department is going in) I began looking at some pieces that frankly I have not seen in awhile. Nothing flashy but then that is what caught my eye. A 42′ square Portica cocktail table with a walnut top, a Saarinen side table, a Hudson dining cabinet…these pieces are so integral to who we are that it is easy to “not” see them. The Portica reminded me of a vintage Knoll piece I had seen. So clean and basic, elemental and spare. Essential. The Portica cocktail, vintage Knoll, the Farnsworth house, when seen trip a switch inside that produces a feeling that can only be described as well being.
For someone who is a self described traditionalist at heart, this response has always mystified me. Why the warm fuzzy? When kids draw their house it’s a mishap of crazy. All slanted lines, crayon windows and goofy grinned sunshine. It is absolute simplicity and yet somehow utterly complete. The world they know, rendered in essentials. Great design moves us, touches a place inside that is elemental. A clean line, a crisp edge, a glass wall, elemental and essential. Leaving just enough room for the heart and the soul. A simple rendering made complete.
I spent this summer away from Room & Board due to a foot surgery in late Spring. Roughly thirteen glorious weeks at home with my foot propped up on an ottoman. Thirteen weeks…sitting…at home. Needless to say, I’m very rested.
I have watched every episode ever produced of “Barefoot Contessa” and “Chopped.” Lot’s of movies (many on the all engrossing Lifetime Network, don’t judge) and a fair number of books were read. It was a great summer for my sunflowers but no so much for tomatoes and zucchini. Too much rain I think.
When I received the “ok” from my surgeon to come back to work, I was thrilled. I could not wait to get back to my store and see the people I work with. Being gone has made me realize how much a part of my life working at Room & Board has become. I didn’t realize how much I missed the day-to-day interactions and just general kibitzing with my partners.
So far my return has been gradual and for now I’m on daily phone duty, but beginning to re-establish a daily routine (that is outside of my house, the sofa, and the Food network) is a blessing that I’m really grateful for. Over the next few weeks I’ll be able to join my fellow associates out on the sales floor where the real action is. Selling sofas, planning floor plans, tossing toss pillows… so much better than “Death of a Cheerleader” on Lifetime (don’t judge).
Recently on a busy Saturday I worked with a young couple who were furnishing their first home. As I listened to them eagerly chat about the different items they needed, I realized they were on overload.
What is overload you ask? Well, they had recently moved from a rental loft in the city and purchased their new home in the suburbs. They had coordinated closing dates, moving dates, in-laws coming into town dates, play dates and time off from jobs to actually move and put items in their new home. Now they were trying to design and furnish their family room whilst simultaneously having a painter and flooring person working in said family room. Can you say overload?
After I let them both vent and get out everything they needed to get out, we came up with a roadmap. This is what I love doing.
I asked them what purchases were a necessity and what were the purchases that could be completed further down the line. As we worked through this process a very nice room began to come into focus for them. I told them what we were doing was building an interior design roadmap. This way they would know that for purchases that needed to be made further down the road, they would have a really good idea of the style cues they could follow to give their home that great layered look.
It was interesting to note that as our conversation continued and they spent time perusing through the store, they began to relax. As they were leaving, the woman turned to me and said “this has actually been fun and for the first time in weeks I don’t feel stressed.” “Mission accomplished,” I thought. The following is the Wish List roadmap we put together. Enjoy.
One of the things we celebrate at Room & Board is the hand of the craftsman. As much as we value their skill and precision, we also laud the one-of-a-kind, handmade aspect. Precisely imprecise. Perfectly imperfect. Kind of like myself. Seems like a pretty good place to be.