Boston Interiors, a Top 100 furniture retailer in the U.S., was founded in 1979 as Boston Bedroom in Brookline Village. Headquartered in Stoughton with seven Bay State locations, the company will soon open at Legacy Place in Dedham. At the same time, they are poised to introduce their first store outside of Massachusetts before the end of 2017. Stefanie Lucas has been CEO of Boston Interiors since October 2014. During her career, she has owned her own advertising business plus held senior leadership positions at Chico’s and Reebok International, and just prior to Boston Interiors she held the position of CEO at Rowe Furniture. Recently, we asked Lucas about the Boston Interiors’ philosophy, her own design inclinations and what’s on the horizon for the company.
Where is the new out-of-state store?
Bedford, New Hampshire. This is a big step for us to see how the look and feel of the brand resonates with people outside Massachusetts. I believe that ultimately we can extend outside of New England. We already have lots of people who know us in the New Hampshire area and seem very excited that we are coming there.
How do you describe the “look and feel” of Boston Interiors?
We are relaxed, comfortable … the way people actually live. We are not too formal or too sleek, sort of right in the middle, which is often the most livable. I think of Boston Interiors as a curated collection, pre-edited for customers to make the shopping experience easier. A lot of big-box furniture stores mass sell everything imaginable. Sometimes that’s not what people want but rather they want more of a feel-good experience, a smaller environment, not high pressure. We can give design help if you want, or even just an opinion, as though you were taking a friend shopping with you.
It sometimes surprises people that they can customize in an affordable way. We have hundreds of fabrics to choose from; I think people want that now. It used to be “sofa with matching love seat and chair.” People don’t necessarily want that anymore; they want an eclectic mix and the ability to personalize it. I think custom furniture for many years was a hidden secret. We’re trying to make it more recognized—that’s fun. We do a whole lot of custom furniture and make it very accessible to anyone.
How did you end up in this business?
When I sold a small ad agency I created shortly after college, I went to work for The Door Store furniture company, which at the time had 17 stores in Florida, where I grew up. Many years later, coming full circle, I went to work for Rowe furniture, which was always a big supplier for Boston Interiors. We continue to buy product from them today. I also think that although my other experiences were in apparel and footwear, they are all fashion products, all emotional purchases and all products that I personally love. [This career path] was unplanned, but somehow it worked.
Is it brave to open more brick-and-mortar stores when online shopping seems to be growing in popularity?
Boston Interiors has to evolve with the way consumers shop. Understanding that people don’t necessarily buy furniture for life anymore, we have to be sensitive to how people shop and what they are looking for; certain people prefer to buy online rather than go into a store. My oldest son hardly ever goes into a store. We have to constantly ask ourselves how we are getting ahead of that, making sure we’re prepared and getting ready to picture what our business will look like in the future. I think furniture retail, however, relies heavily on the consumer sitting in, or touching the product before they buy. It is a big purchase for most people and they still want to see it in person. I don’t see that radically changing any time soon.
What is your online strategy?
We are putting a lot of effort and commitment behind our website. One of the missions I have for our buying team is to show more product on the website than we have in the store. We’re not there yet, but it’s very important to us.
How do you view the future of Boston Interiors?
If you look at the way the furniture industry has changed over the years, people shop differently now; they’re doing more homework before they even go into a retail location. There are things that help guide them—what they see on design shows, for example; people come in really prepared in a lot of cases. I think because of that they don’t necessarily want to go to a massive store, with lines and lines of products, and sift through 70 percent of things that aren’t relevant. Retail is struggling to change and evolve as technology evolves along with the way people shop and watch TV. I think at the end of the day people want to touch, feel, sit on and experience a major purchase. We try to give them our curated version of this.
What item in your own home could you not live without?
I would say it’s probably color that I can’t live without; I think it’s important to one’s state of mind. You can create a cheery, happier home with touches of color even if the base is neutral. I’m not shy about color—I lean toward raspberry pink tones more than greens. I’m definitely a fan of color and layering of pattern and fabrics. I’m kind of an upholstery person at heart.
What do you enjoy most about interior design?
The thing I like most about it is making homes beautiful but also comfortable and realistic. I don’t like when a home looks untouchable, museum-like.
Do you hold your own home to a higher standard?
No. I think the challenge for me is that I’m constantly looking at product, and I hope I look at it the same way a customer does. I spend a lot of time where I live, and I want it to have a very down-to-earth feel. I also want my house to be colorful and have interesting points of view, no matter what corner you’re looking into. I think a person’s home is such a reflection of themselves and how they live, and certainly, I am no exception. The only difference is that I am constantly “shopping” so I am never, ever “finished.”