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14th St: A Preview Look at Room & Board

by Borderstan.com June 13, 2010 at 4:38 pm 1,518 8 Comments

Tom Hay Logan Circle Room & Board 14th Street NW

14th and T Streets NW: Room & Board  officially opens Monday, June 14.  There was a preview opening this weekend. (Tom Hay)

From Tom Hay

Furniture retailer Room & Board opened the doors to its first DC store this weekend at 1840 14th Street NW, at the southeast corner of 14th and T. Based on the crowds in the store just an hour after opening, it appears 14th Street has a new landmark. Furnishings are in the classic contemporary style, which will have strong appeal among the young professionals who have moved into the area in recent years.

The Saturday and Sunday opening was a preview and the official grand opening of the 36,000-square-foot store is Monday, June 14. Jill Byrnes, Creative Director for Room & Board, said she expects several thousand to visit the store in the first few days.

Tom Hay Logan Circle Room & Board 14th Street NW

Inside Room & Board. (Tom Hay)

First, some background on the building. The store is a complete renovation of the former R.L. Taylor building which was built in 1919. The location was a showroom for the Ford Motor Company.

In recent memory, the building was home to the Church of the Rapture which sold the property in 2005. Various plans came and went in the past five years, including condominiums and then a combination yoga studio-comedy club-restaurant.

The “Georgetown style” renovation of the once drab building is impressive inside and out. Many of the formerly bricked-up windows have been opened up, giving the store a welcoming facade and providing great daylight for the interior spaces.

A few interior highlights:

  • Grand three-story staircase, which is flooded with natural light from a new window on the west (alley) side of the building.
  • Garden “showroom” on the T Street exterior.
  • Abundant natural light from the large windows on every floor.

Room & Board has received both praise and criticism in the local press and neighborhood blogs. Some argue that a national chain with a massive footprint such as R&B will harm independent retailers such as Vastu, Muléh, Urban Essentials and RCKNDY, which have operated in the 14th and U corridor in the past few years.

Supporters say that the Room & Board will anchor the area as a home furnishings shopping destination, in turn bringing more foot traffic and new customers to the area. Only time will tell, but if the crowds I saw this weekend on 14th Street are any indication I predict and hope this is a win-win for all.

Tom Hay is a business and general news contributor to Borderstan. A 23-year resident of the neighborhood, he is a law librarian by profession.

  • The real treat for shoppers is the fourth floor addition, with walls of glass and a terrace with spectacular views of the U Street corridor.

  • Gumpper

    It will be interesting to see how competitors will respond. Those who merchandize and market properly should thrive from the additional foot traffic. Muleh will benefit, I predict, since its furniture selection is very different from R&B’s but likely to be of interest to those who come to the neighborhood for the first time to shop R&B. I’m not impressed with Vastu’s negative ad campaign denegrating R&B’s knockoffs as not being “real.” The Vastu furniture I have has proven to be such poorly-made crap that I’ll gladly trade it in for R&B’s well-made knockoffs. I’m not surprised Vastu went the snooty route, and I won’t be surprised when Vastu fails. I have my fingers crossed for RCKNDY and WellBuilt — both deserve to thrive.

  • MG

    R&B’s good for moderate priced Canadian furnishings but better quality is close by at Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.

  • Scott

    As a lawyer and, full disclosure, a satisfied Vastu customer, it’s important to mention what’s at stake and why they likely are representing their brandnames as ‘real’. Vastu represents Knoll furniture which holds the trademark on their authorized furniture. “Knock-offs” are illegal trademark infringement (similar to plagarism, stealing intellectual property, etc) and if you don’t defend your trademarks, you risk losing them. If R & B is truly selling unauthorized reproductions, they are violating the law. Pointing that out isn’t ‘negative’ and ‘snooty’, it’s smart and legally a good move. If you don’t like Vastu furniture, that’s entirely your right, although from what I’ve seen, an unusual opinion. But defending illegal activity is wrong.

  • Heidi

    What a horrible comment to say that you hope Vastu fails. They have been a valuable addition to our neighborhood for years. I am always treated like a friend when I go there and the owners are proud residents of Logan Circle. I hope that Room and Board brings them many new customers.

  • Bags

    I think that the combo of R&B and Gold & Williams down the street are helping to anchor the area as a furniture shopping destination, which should help the smaller local stores. Sure, I live nearby so I can window shop, but when I lived over at Woodley Park, I went up to Bethesda because I could look through several stores for furnishing and design ideas. Fingers crossed, but I think we’re on our way.

  • Melissa

    Room and Board should send Muleh, Vastu, go mama go and HomeRule a big bouquet of flowers. They helped establish the neighborhood as a furniture and accessories destination long before it was on any big box retailer’s radar.

  • Sib

    I was surprised at how nice their furniture is but also how expensive. I was expecting pottery barn type prices. But it all seemed like solid wood and well made. Anyone know what the building in the alley behind it is? If you look down from the top floor you can see it has an amazing roof garden. Its across the alley.

  • I can’t help but think that the rooftop would be a spectacular location for a restaurant, bar, or really anything drawing folk up there on the evenings. The stairwell on the south end of the building appears to be separate from the main showroom & might go up to the top…


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