Photos by Caitlin Abrams
The furniture selection at Habitation Furnishing + Design in St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Habitation Furnishing + Design is a new brick-and-mortar store in St. Louis Park filled with transitional and contemporary furniture, art, and home décor. But don’t call it a furniture store. Owner Gregory Rich says “Internet showroom” is a more accurate description of his latest retail venture.
Rich—a former IT headhunter who switched to furniture importing 15 years ago and ran a couple of bargain stores including Sofo Furniture at Knollwood Center—believes consumers still want to shop in person, but with all the conveniences of the Internet. So he took all the reasons consumers buy furniture online—lower prices, broader assortment, brand transparency, fast delivery—and applied those practices to his physical store, which is an inviting, open space with artfully arranged room vignettes. You’d never know you were standing in the old Koval appliance center now that it’s been gutted, opened up, and completely remodeled.
“Furniture stores are notorious for hiding brand names,” Rich says. “But customers are shrewd. They’re going to find it on their own, go online, and order. So I asked myself: What can we do to overcome comparison shopping and justify brick-and-mortars?”
Habitation sells many brands that do robust online business. Brands such as Joybird, known for its high style, but cost-conscious, sofas, which can be totally customized in differed colors and sizes. “Joybird is a fabulous example of how furniture is going to be sold in the 21st century,” he says.
So why buy it from Habitation? “You can come into the store and see examples—touch them, sit on them,” Rich says. Customers can buy merchandise off the floor or place an order. (The store does not hold inventory.) Disappointed by the final product? Special orders can be returned to Habitation for store credit.
Habitation’s interior designers make house calls, free of charge—another advantage the store has over the Internet, Rich says. “We’re able to sell you more items that will be successfully integrated into your house.” That’s why Habitation offers a mix of styles. “I don’t like cookie-cutter rooms. What people really want to know is how to take a midcentury sofa and make it work with transitional chairs,” Rich says. “The feedback (from customers) so far is that they really love the space itself, which tells us that people are much more comfortable with an eclectic look.”
Prices range from moderate to high-end. Sofas, for example, range from $1,200 to $4,000. “Starter furniture is not something we do—we’re looking for everyone from first-time homeowners all the way up.”
Discounts aren’t something Habitation plans to do many of either. “I think consumers are starting to wise up to retailers that mark things up to mark them down and create a sense of urgency,” Rich says. You can be sure that you’ll never pay more than the Internet price, and that if something is available online, Habitation will find a way to deliver it.
4317 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-426-3548, habitationdesign.com