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.
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.