Design Within Reach Revisits Its San Francisco Roots with a New Studio RevealAuthor:Jessica Ritz
Navigating the space between classic and forward-looking creates a certain tension for any enterprise. Design Within Reach has effectively explored this zone since Rob Forbes established the company in 1998, transforming retail in ways we arguably take for granted. Now the brand, which is under the MillerKnoll collective ownership, is making its next bold move that embraces its San Francisco origins. The newly completed DWR Studio located in the city’s Design District in Potrero Hill opened its doors on January 31.
“We’re working hard to make sure this one cuts through,” says Debbie Propst, President of Global Retail for MillerKnoll about the expansive trade- and consumer-friendly presence. The 15,000-square-foot, transformed warehouse built in the 1920s features compelling, accessible vignettes that showcase the range of merchandise at all scales and design vintages, ranging from definitive examples by Herman Miller and Knoll to recent additions such as Australian designer Sarah Ellison’s Float collection and Muuto’s toned-down Scandinavian sensibility. Each product assemblage makes its own statement and collectively tell a story. Here, modernism is flexible, playful, and inclusive. “We like vibrancy and color, and we believe you should live purposefully in your space,” Propst adds.
The San Francisco Studio is the first fully realized built-out effort under the eye of VP of Product Design and Brand Creative Omar Nobil, a fashion veteran who joined DWR in 2022. Upon stepping onto the floor, Nobil’s interpretation of what he describes as “West Coast modern lifestyle” sets the tone. “This is a place where you can see all this amazing design, and touch it and feel it,” he observes. Nobil sought to convey this tactile immediacy by presenting “not just a curation of iconic product, but [thinking about] how you live with it, how you can experience it, and the insane range that we offer.” Senior Retail Designer Lydia Cambron describes this holistically experiential result as “an evolution of a new direction in store design that we’ve been testing out.”
“It is very much centered in being a tribute to the Bay Area. We love this notion of being in context in the area of where our studios are in,” Nobil states, pointing to “a rich history of architecture, design, literature, music, technology, nature. All of those elements have helped inspire vignettes and moments around here.” Imagined narratives include a music listening setup humming with boho vibes inspired by a 1982 image of Steve Jobs, complete with vinyl sourced from Amoeba Records and slouchy Ligne Roset TOGO sofas upholstered in Maharam fabrics. Books culled from the shelves of William Stout Architectural Books and City Lights Publishers infuse more local cultural heritage throughout, too. To further grasp the range of possibilities under the DWR umbrella, clients are encouraged to test home office setups, sit on Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona collection furnishings covered in unexpected leathers and fabrics, and check out model kitchen systems from Danish maker Reform.
Because “we want to have substance for people to walk away feeling as though that they’ve had a worthwhile experience,” Nobil notes, the Gallery section shines a spotlight on featured legacy designers. The inaugural “DWR Presents: Vitra Prouvé Collection Gallery” is dedicated to pioneer Jean Prouvé in partnership with Vitra. Wall text provides just the right amount of digestible-while-browsing historical information, like a completely non-burdensome museum exhibition—but here with material samples and Prouvé pieces on display available in surprising colors. The Case Study apartment, another rotating programmed area, is debuting with an imagined Beat poet’s work/live custom space custom created with USM‘s minimalist white modular Haller Collection pieces.
While this team clearly delights in experimentation, it’s all in service of client engagement and expanding customizable selections in each DWR market. Access to MillerKnoll resources is a boon, too. “‘Modernism’ and ‘modern’ are not buzzwords for us. That is an ethos by which we live and design by,” Propst says. The San Francisco Studio has “allowed us to pull together work that we’ve been doing over the last few years while still staying true and authentic to original design—and broaden the aperture of it.”
To shop the new showroom, visit 1400 17th St., San Francisco, CA, (415) 638-4700
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