An unexpected(?) showroom result…

Over the years I’ve been in many a rug showroom. Early on my capacity was that of the porter/salesman/manager and in later years I’ve been fortunate enough (depending on your perspective) to be the sales representative/account manager/consultant. Throughout all of these situations, in all of these showrooms varied, I’ve seen a lot. Some are what I consider to be one of the best run showrooms in the country, such as floordesign in San Francisco. Others such as The Rug Source in DenverRugs by Robinson in Atlanta, and J.Asher in Washington, DC offer a superiorly rounded selection, well tailored to their respective markets. All of these, and the many other  successful showrooms not named herein, share common traits as well. Superior service, knowledgeable, friendly and capable staff, and a commitment to always move forward, showing new designs and textures in what is a fashion driven market. A final commonality is, generally speaking, generous amounts of space in a commercial setting. The reasons of course are apparently obvious: Rugs take up space. To show them, you simply must have floor space to open the rug for the dramatic reveal. While I am not arguing against the reveal (in fact I am going to further support it) nor against open floor space, I am going to suggest that a rug showroom can and should do more with considerably less show space than is the current norm. 
A little background…
For the last while now I’ve been working with Robin Gray Design. Of the varied projects I worked on with them was the establishment of a home showroom. Through a sometimes frustrating process (isn’t the search for suitable space always that way?)  a decision was made with my urging to re-invent Ms. Gray’s then existing office space, into a rug studio as it has been styled. 
Why was there hesitation you may ask? Well the space is an old home, with comparatively small rooms and low ceilings. Not your typical rug showroom. Of course, Robin Gray Designs is no ordinary rug company, creating “rugs less ordinary” as the byline goes. The transformation from house to architecture studio to rug studio is no less ordinary. In fact, I’d say it has exceeded expectations all around and can now be viewed as the prototypical rug studio/showroom/gallery.
On May 1, 2009, I was involved in the opening gala at Robin Gray Design‘s newly re-invented showroom/studio/gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico along with Robin Gray of course, Nedret Gurler, Nina Smith of RugMark, and a host of guests that totaled around ninety (90) for the evening. The reaction of the admittedly non-ruggie crowd was that of amazement of what can be done with a small space. So…..what did they see? This is the studio…

Now gentle reader, it is easy to say “Those people who like it aren’t rug dealers. What can they possibly know about how a rug showroom should look?” While indeed they are not rug dealers, I would point out that Kerry Smith of Lapchi was not a rug dealer before Lapchi, yet the showroom model he promotes certainly seems to have a small following. Beyond that though, regardless of the background of any of the opinion spouters (myself included) everyone is or has the potential to be your biggest asset: A Customer. That notwithstanding however, the point of this post is about the use of small space, not about listening to customers, so my digression aside, back to the space.
The space and what I think of it.
Clearly we’ve established I think the space turned out great and works well, so what is left to discuss? The why of course. First off, by limiting the number of rugs shown at any one given time the showroom has the discretion to shape the first impression of the visiting customer. Furthermore, for a skilled salesman or saleswoman this narrowing allows complete control over what product is shown. By listening to the customer, the salesman can direct which rugs can be brought from the back and shown, best satisfying the particular needs and wants of that customer, in what is often a heightened dramatic reveal. This is not a new technique, rather one borrowed from another well known company in the rug industry, whom we can assume borrowed it from high end fashion, whom we can assume borrowed it from elsewhere. Perhaps a very savvy rug dealer? Regardless, the results are the same. A superior experience.
This brings me to another feature of the showroom. Near copious amounts of space. “Wait” you say! “Aren’t you arguing against copious amounts of space? You said you were”. On the contrary, I am arguing against copious (must be my word of the day) amounts of show space. The argument in support of a lot of space still holds. Rugs do take up a lot of room. But in my version the generous space is allocated behind the scenes, where the clutter and dust and other accoutrements of rugs sales live, as is often the case, in near chaos. Just ask yourself. Have you ever seen a cash register at Tiffany?
It’s a wrap!
I truly do like the space that Robin designed for her new Studio. With a stunning first impression (to the customer) and the necessary support spaces (kitchen, bathrooms, storage, office) hidden behind the scenes, I think she is poised to set the trend of showrooms of the future (to borrow a phrase). Furthermore with her refreshing aesthetic, variety of construction options, and multiple price points, I think she has more to offer rug showrooms than many have yet realized.
Cheers to Robin!