By Liese Gardner
Last week I wrote about companies that are too big to succeed; meaning too locked into their one big money maker to shift with the market. The day after I wrote that I attended HauteTea with E. The “E” stands for Eddie Zaratsian, owner and creative force of tic-tock Couture Florals. It was held at Restoration Hardware West Hollywood on Beverly Boulevard in the heart of Los Angeles’s interior design neighborhood.
I hadn’t really been paying attention to what had been going on with Restoration Hardware’s brand of late, although I knew that the company is big in terms of locations and popularity. What I hadn’t realized was that it had been taking steps to think small.
It was thinking “community” when it teamed with Eddie to create a line of seasonal retail floral pieces and containers. And it was thinking that same thing (only on a bigger scale philosophically) when, in its new catalog it stated “OK. We heard you. One size doesn’t fit all. So for those of you who choose to live in smaller yet no less stylish environs, we’ve scaled down our entire collection to offer sizes that work.”
Although not as mega as Restoration Hardware, Town & Country Party & Event Rentals in Los Angeles is certainly large as event rental firms go. Its warehouse and showroom is now 125,000 square feet and owner Richard LoGuercio employs a small army to not only build new inventory, but to maintain it.
But Los Angeles has become a series of separate regions cut off from one another at times by debilitating traffic, as well as lifestyles and aesthetics. Not everyone can, or wants to, get to the Van Nuys showroom. Its sprawling nature, so perfect for that community, might not emotionally connect with the client from Pasadena, an upscale area with many tony weddings and at-home events.
But what does connect is the showroom Town & Country opened there in June 2011. And this May, LoGuercio will be opening another showroom in a geographically opposite and yet economically similar area — Santa Barbara.
Like Restoration Hardware, Town & Country heard its clientele. The Town & Country Pasadena showroom is housed in a beautiful old brick building. Situated on a major thoroughfare, it invites visitors (at times 15 people a day) in with large windows, shutter doors, awnings and flower boxes. Inside it has high, exposed-beam ceilings and is packed to the gills with beautiful vignettes so visitors bump into a new look at every turn.
And to complete the community aspect, the two design consultants who oversee the showroom and attend to this clientele are not from the rental industry, but lifelong residents of the area.
Kelly Dunn and Marilyn Bednar had separately met Richard during his brief retirement from the rental world. Both had been involved with the schools and the area’s nonprofit organizations.
The showroom is a collaboration of Richard’s larger design vision and their daily aesthetics. The tabletop designs in the large picture windows change seasonally and have a definite retail feel. “People come in from seeing the windows,” Kelly says. “At night the building is lit like a retail shop and there is a lot of traffic from two really nice restaurants nearby. One of the first things they say is the look of the place makes them want to throw a party.”
And although there are many vignettes everywhere – with Vineyard and Amalfi collections remaining on the “most popular” list – often, Kelly says, it is one item that will catch a person’s attention and from that an entire look is born.
“Then we shop our own showroom, looking for things that complement each other to bring our vision to life,” says Marilyn.
They may have taken different avenues to get there, but both Restoration Hardware and Town & Country have discovered at least one of the secrets to making an emotional connection with a client that truly is about lifestyle. In the process of appearing small, no doubt each will grow even more.
The Making of a Successful Showroom
- Vignettes designed around seasons and themes give clients the vision they need. Include as many details as possible.
- Create a good flow so people can move around easily. The flow of this showroom is somewhat similar to a pinwheel, with one outside circle with a variety of routes leading into a center.
- Create an edge of discovery. Dividers – either solid or sheer fabric or larger set pieces — block the view from one look to the next and give people the sense there is something just around the corner to discover anew.
- Abundance. More is more. In this space, with its high, dramatic, a row of colorful wood chairs gives visitors a reason to look up. Small vignettes within vignettes make them feel as though they can’t possibly take it all in and should return another day.
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