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Standing On its Own Four Feet

Aug. 28, 2017

Design Within Reach opens its first showroom dedicated to its fastest-growing division: contract design.

After spending the past few years establishing a sales team, customer service staff, and operations forces that properly address the contract business, Design Within Reach (DWR) decided it was time to also dedicate a physical space to the needs of the trade customer. It tapped D-Form-A (DFA)—a multi-disciplinary firm out of New York that has created DWR’s retail studios for years—to do just that and help jump on an available spot in a prime location: the Boston Design Center (BDC). 

In less than three months, the team was able to conceptualize the first DWR contract showroom. Its doors opened in July, with many important customers either in residence or shopping around the BDC. “Our strength as a contract vendor is that we have access to a tremendous number of different lines,” explained Alain Capretz, director of studio design for DWR. “So the main thing we wanted to communicate is the variety that we have and to promote the brands we represent.” 

The new showroom’s layout achieves these goals and more adequately caters to this specific sales channel.

DFA did a lot with just under 2,000 square feet. The showroom is flanked with two bi-level chair walls featuring approximately 60 chairs, stools, bar stools, and more. Down the center of the long, “train-car” format, the design team placed six, slightly elevated 10-foot x 10-foot platforms that support branded, loosely coordinated furniture vignettes. Each features a partition that has verbiage about the manufacturer—all of which are top sellers for DWR— or the design on display. “They really show how to use product,” said DWR vice president of Contract David Kennedy.

We try to create, with a mixture of products and brands, spaces within our space to show people how they can live with modern. Our mission statement is making authentic modern design accessible. 

—David Kennedy, VP of Contract, DWR

Enlisting DFA once again brought a level of display and style to the space, translating DWR’s merchandising strength on the retail side over to the contract world. Compared to the retail customer that might look to DWR as more of a guide, contract designers know the lines the company represents well. “They are more open to category presentations such as soft seating, dining, lounge, outdoor,” Capretz noted. “They are coming to us less for a whole-room solution, needing instead more environmental solutions.” By comparison, most DWR retail studios are much larger and arranged in “suites” of room types such as bedrooms, bathrooms, etc., that can provide more detailed assistance than a contract designer might require.

Approximately 30 brands are represented in the showroom, including some unique to DWR Contract like Stellar Works and Tacchini, legends like Fritz Hansen, or
lesser-known brands such as Casala—a functional seating group out of the Netherlands. “Bringing those [unfamiliar] designs and brands to the U.S. is a big part of what DWR has done for almost two decades now,” Kennedy explained. The DWR contract sales team that he heads represents tens of thousands of products, and in a number of instances, the company acts on behalf of the vendors for everything they sell and make in the U.S. 

The furniture vignettes within the showroom might be a small assortment of the iconic pieces that each vendor has to offer, or newer pieces arranged loosely in a lounge setting. As the location was an existing space, the design team needed to adapt to certain remaining elements, such as the drop ceilings. But what wasn’t difficult to embrace were the inherited characteristics thanks to location. “There are windows at the far end of the showroom that have an amazing view of Boston Harbor,” Capretz noted. “It’s a very long train-car layout but the payoff at the end is this fabulous view, which is a wonderful thing to share with our clients.” 

Photography By Jared Kuzia

About the Author

AnnMarie Martin | Editor-in-Chief

AnnMarie has been covering the commercial design space since 2005 and has been on the editorial staff at i+s since 2011. Her style and vision has helped the brand evolve into a thought leader in purpose-driven design and cultural movements shaping the way we live and work. She returned to the role of editor in chief at the start of 2023 and her journalism and fiction writing background have helped to craft bi-monthly issues that don’t just report the latest industry news, but tell a cohesive tale of some of the biggest topics facing designers today.

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