Room & Board furniture store opens first Washington location

The Minneapolis-based furniture store Room & Board has opened its first area location on 14th Street NW in downtown D.C.
By Jura Koncius
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 17, 2010

Room & Board, a Minneapolis-based furniture store that opened its first area location Monday, already has at least two fans in Washington.

Barack and Michelle Obama shopped the Chicago branch for beds and desks for their Hyde Park home before they moved to the White House.

What's distinctive about the four-story emporium of home stuff at 1840 14th St. NW? Room & Board founder and chief executive John Gabbert says Barack Obama told him that "he liked the fact that the furniture was American-made."

About 85 percent of the merchandise is made in the United States, most at small family-owned manufacturers in 25 states, and the majority is specially designed for Room & Board. The 30-year-old company specializes in custom sizes and finishes, so you can order rugs by the inch. Wandering the floors of the 36,500-square-foot store, you'll discover a West Virginia-made cherry end table with Shaker-like simplicity, minimalist pendant lamps with block-print shades and a crib for a modern baby outfitted with quilted bumpers the color of concrete.

Gabbert says the store's signature look is solid wood alongside modern classics such as the Eames molded plastic side chair and Philippe Starck's Bubble Club sofa for Kartell.

Until this week, the closest of Room & Board's 11 stores was in New York's SoHo. But its executives saw the potential in the newly hip 14th Street corridor that is being tagged D.C.'s Design District. It is home to a cluster of clubs, bistros and furnishings shops including Home Rule, Miss Pixie's Furnishings & Whatnot, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Reincarnations Furnishings, Ruff & Ready Furnishings, Timothy Paul Carpets & Textiles and Vastu.

Plus, the company had a list of 10,000 locals who were customers of the Room & Board catalogue or Web site.

Room & Board's new store was built in what was originally the location of the 1919 Taylor-Tolley Motor Co. Over the years, it served as a Ford Model T showroom, a restaurant supply house, a church and an art gallery. Room & Board bought the rundown property for $6.5 million in 2009 and spent a year and $6 million on the renovation.

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