Saturday, October 21, 2006

West Elm Unveiled

I finally made it to Mockingbird Station to check out West Elm's new store, which has been open four days. The store is the 20th one in the chain and the largest. Its size and its large warehouse permits you to purchase and take home anything from the store immediately. The large size also allows the store to carry more inventory than other locations including otherwise catalog- and internet-only items and to debut new designs unavailable elsewhere.

When you enter, you are at the top of a hardwood stairway, and the perch gives you an overlook on the entire store. The first of many enthusiastic employees greets you as you move down the stairs and into a sequence of furnished vignettes. Trance/electronica mmmmm-shahs in the background and the lighting cascades softly down from the very high ceiling. It feels like you've just intruded into the loft of a hip, tchotchky-loving couple. The arrangement draws you fluidly from room to room, offering stylish bedroom groups, sectionals and dining rooms. A few transition rooms feature tableware, lighting, and storage solutions. Rugs and draperies are nestled toward the store's back end.

One featured group, this gray cloth couch with chairs, is new to the chain, and the sales associate boasted that it was manufactured in the same place as some of Restoration Hardware's furnishings: Mitchell Gold. The group's clean lines were attractive, and the firm back was still comfortable. The sofa was $999.

One of the best advantages of being at the store was the chance to sit-test all the catalog items. This sectional is featured online and in the catalog, and its sleek, compact look is very attractive. In person, the color and finish of the fabric is very nice (another advantage to seeing it in person). It's a comfortable sit on foamy cushions, but the back is very low, and I can't imagine the same comfort during a prolonged lounge, even with the additional throw pillows. Opening cabinets helped with testing hinges and checking out the materials. Good to know before ordering.

Several items are already on sale: there's a feature offer of 30% off all wall shelving, and a nice wood screen was $100 off. While there were some tempting items, I've decided to wait until the Partner's Card discount weekend to get an additional 20% off.

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