Monday, August 20, 2018

Furniture Retailer Blu Dot Opens in Capitol Hill

Minneapolis-based designer and maker of modern home furnishings Blu Dot opened a sprawling 5,800 square foot store in the historic Coleman Auto Building in Capitol Hill on July 19th. The expansive store features an assortment of products and a dedicated space for interior design clientele.

Co-founders Maurice Blanks and John Christakos.
Photo by Ackerman + Gruber.

The story behind the company is an interesting one. It reiterates the old phrase—necessity is the mother of invention. Blu Dot was founded in 1997 by three college friends: Maurice Blanks and John Christakos (the co-founders) plus a friend of theirs who is a sculptor. They all shared a passion for art, architecture, and design.

Christakos tells us, “We started Blu Dot when we began furnishing our first apartments and homes with “real” furniture. We all loved modern design, but at that time, good design was either very expensive and came from Europe and took 4 months to get or it was IKEA. In the late nineties, there really was nothing in this vast area in-between the very high end and the low end. We were young enough and just naïve enough to try and change that!” The company has come a long way, having recently won the Cooper Hewitt’s (Smithsonian Design Museum) prestigious National Design Award for Product Design, which in the design world, is the equivalent of an Oscar.

Photo credit: Blu Dot.

Capitol Hill is always buzzing with everything that’s fresh and trendy, so it feels right for Blu Dot to have launched right in the center of the neighborhood. The store is specially designed with Seattleites and their homes in mind. It is minimal and not fussy. Most of their products have a really cozy feel. Think Chintz armchairs and velvet sofas that you could curl up in and enjoy the sounds of rain outside. Christakos says, “People in the Northwest tend to gravitate towards the colors we see in our natural environment—our Marine Blue and Olive colors are popular in all our markets, but especially in Seattle. Also, we expect our more luxe and cozy materials to be really popular—aniline leathers, velvets, and wool.”

Blu Dot is unique in that instead of outsourcing designs, they design everything they sell. They have bestsellers and new offerings from their iconic hot mesh chairs to comfortable hunker beds with built-in side tables. There is a huge 60-foot collage on one of the walls which include preliminary product sketches, pictures of prototypes and references to music, travel, art, and nature that inspire the designs. It makes for a nice behind-the-scenes look into the design methodology. The timber-framed store fits very well in the eclectic neighborhood with its hip coffee spots and vibrant art scene.

Photo credit: Blu Dot.

The pieces are versatile and you could find fun pieces to jazz up an old space, modern furnishings to do up a new office or unique stuff for a vacation home. Christakos talks about the company’s unique selling point, “Our goal is to democratize good design—to take the elitism out of modern design. We design everything we make. That is very different than most of our competitors who are, really, retailers (not designers) reselling goods they buy out in the market.”

On the customer they’re designing for, “through our brand, we like to show that while we take our work seriously, we don’t take ourselves too seriously—everyone is invited to our party. Our customers range from a 20-something software developer to a cool couple in their 60’s or 70’s furnishing their new downtown loft, and everything in between.”

Blu Dot       |        401 E. Pine Street, Seattle      |         (206) 858-9309

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