Each January, our Room & Board catalog is unveiled and with it the official introduction to a new Room & Board collection. Not unlike that movie premiering next weekend that you’ve been hearing about for the last few years, odds are that the team behind the scenes at Room & Board has been working on any new piece for over a year or longer.
I chatted with Michael Brotman, a Merchandise Manager on the Room & Board Product team for the past eight years, to get some of his behind-the-scenes perspective on our 2015 assortment.
How would your describe your design philosophy?
I believe that the best results come from sharing great ideas and staying true to our roots. Our assortment’s foundation has influences ranging from Shaker, Asian, Arts & Crafts, Danish, and Modern design movements. If we focus on these timeless periods, we can’t go wrong. The ultimate goal is for our customers to buy a piece of Room & Board of furniture and love it forever. We focus on creating lasting pieces with great design and great quality that that will get passed down to the next generation.
How does a new piece get its start?
Inspiration is everywhere. I keep a folder of images and quick sketches to pull from when the time is right. We’re constantly seeking out ideas from blogs, design and shelter magazines that help us identify needs and keep us abreast of trends and potential new materials. New pieces are often inspired by feedback from customers, stores, vendor partners, and certainly our analysis of our sales trends.
Take us into the design process.
No one individual designs a piece. Maybe it starts with feedback from one of our stores, for example. From there, we’ll sketch something up. I’ll share the design idea with [CEO] John Gabbert who will provide his input. Nancy, our Photo Creative Director might see it and weigh in – “What if…?” It will be refined further. Next, we’ll share the idea with our vendors so that a sample can be made. But the changes are not done yet! The vendors will often add even more great input. All of this collaboration inevitably makes a design better than if it was done by only one individual.
It’s a beautiful evolution. And throughout the process, each one of us is thinking — How will our customers live with it? Will they love it? How can we make it even better? We’re trying to elevate American design and craftsmanship and bring it back to the way it was.
When does the process for new additions to the assortment start?
It’s a never-ending cycle at this point. The creative process and timeline is ongoing.
When do you finish?
Our deadline is the photo shoot deadline for the catalog. All final photo samples need to be in around September 1.
Do you have a favorite new piece in the 2015 collection?
This is a really tough question! We all work so hard to bring new collections to life that we get a bit attached to each and every one of them. Some a bit more than others, but just like a parent, how could you ever choose your favorite? We love them all!
If I have to choose a favorite for 2015, our new Parks accent tables are really special. The collection is named after the company that makes them for us. The M.H. Parks Company is a seventh generation woodworking company based in Massachusetts. They began making bobbins for the garment industry well over 100 years ago and they have many of the old machines from that era. They still use some of these old industrial machines – that were used to make these specialized bobbins – to make our Parks Tables. There are very few of these machines left and even fewer are in use today. I love that we are able to partner with people like Todd Parks and his amazing craftsmen to help us bring our ideas to life. This is one of the very best parts of my job.
How does it feel when you think about the number of homes a piece you’ve help design ends up in?
There’s nothing better than seeing all of the hard work that we put into something new really resonate with our customers. We put our heart and soul into these pieces. When someone chooses to make an investment and purchase something for their home that we’ve created, it’s such an honor. Knowing that they’re going to live with that Room & Board piece and love it for years and years…that’s what it’s all about.