Design (not quite) Within Reach | Design (just out of) Reach

For years we have heard these names for our business and looked at them as sort of like “Whole Paycheck” for Whole Foods. Nicknames like these indicate that our things are certainly not cheap, but that they represent a quality and value level, much as Whole Foods represents freshness and organic purity. In fact, over the last few years we have even embraced these nicknames. When we moved from faithful, but unauthorized, reproductions of the classics, our prices for these timeless products rose further, but “that is the price for authenticity and our clients value that” was our belief. 

We focused our marketing and messages more on these products and perhaps even let our egos get a little over exuberant. Our printed materials and our main focus moved more toward a trend-driven design aesthetic, and frankly, depicted almost unobtainable lifestyles. The further we went in that direction, the louder we heard that nagging little voice in our heads that kept saying “modernism is about egalitarian design and affordable, accessible, real products that function in everyday life.” But we convinced ourselves that we were presenting the quintessence of modernism. 
Then the tsunami hit our economy in late 2008 and threw cold water on the party. 

People began to revisit their values and question what was really important. Decadence and opulence are no longer considered desirable and we are reacquainting ourselves with the things that really matter, as people and as businesses. We have spent a lot of time on this subject of late, as we consider the road ahead.
We realize that what we offer will never be “cheap” and we accept that. Our desire is to bring you products that are well designed, functional, able to provide years of pleasure, and of a quality level that can meet the rigorous standards of everyday life. By the same measure, we never want to offer products that are “expensive” (i.e., not worth the price regardless of the price). It is our belief that every product we offer represents a true value to the person who will own and use it. This will vary from person to person and by use. So while we offer a crystal Artichoke Lamp for $65,000, we believe it represents a value to the person who acquires it and part of that value is the joy it brings every time it is turned on and the individuality it represents, knowing it was handmade just for you and there is no other lamp like it in the world. Unique, just like people. At the same time, we offer the Shade Pendant for $375 and it is also beautiful and functional and represents a value for a different purpose or person or budget or room. The commonality between these two items is they both provide light, meet our standards of quality and design, and will provide years of pleasure to the owner. Neither is disposable or temporary. 
As we thought about this and reviewed our product offering we realized that we have, and continue to have, a wide assortment of products that represent the best of modern design at very reachable prices. Examples include the Shade Pendant mentioned above, and the Kyoto Chair, which was on the cover of our first catalog, is still in our assortment and sells for $125. In fact, we have a range of chairs for around $100 that meet commercial standards and meet our design criteria. The more we looked, the more we realized that these Basics have been serving us well for 10 years, we just stopped appreciating them. Because we stopped talking about and stopped showing them, they became the quiet little workers in the corner that simply and effortlessly did exactly the thing they were designed to do and did it well. These products range from chairs to sofas to beds to Tools for Living; they exist in every category of our assortment. 
We have rediscovered the value of things you can count on. We are embracing core values – eating comfort food, if you will – and remembering just how comforting these things can be. We would love to hear your thoughts on this subject, or most any subject for that matter. After all, exchanging thoughts and ideas is the real point of modernism. 
Posted by Ray Brunner, CEO