Over the years, the Belfort Furniture campus, housed in what was once a shopping mall just off the highway on route to Dulles Airport, grew organically into four unique buildings with five separate entrances. Promoted as Washington D.C.’s largest selection of home furnishings, encompassing some 100,000 square feet of selling space, the retail complex worked well enough to make Belfort the premiere retailer in the area, and consistently one of the Top 100 retailers in the nation.
Yet, as Belfort has continued to grow, the shopping experience has become somewhat disjointed and confusing for customers, and the retailer has recently contracted with Martin Roberts Design to reimagine the existing concept. “This will be our first chance, in 28 years now, to design a building with everything that we’ve learned using our existing space, as opposed to growing into buildings that existed around us,” says Matt Huber, executive vice president.
“We always knew that when we were ready, we wanted to work with Martin,” Huber relates. “We actually talked to him back in 2007, just before the whole industry came to a near stand-still. He had some really good ideas, and we had seen some of his other projects that had involved updating facades and making the exteriors of stores more current. I was also really impressed with the project that he did at the High Point Market Showroom Building, 220 Elm, involving Pulaski and Samuel Lawrence, where he took a box and really reimagined how the space works. Today when you walk in over there, you encounter a sort of inspirational space, and a bit of a decompression zone, and that’s exactly what we were looking for.”
According to Huber, when the renovations and expansion are complete, Belfort Furniture will comprise one larger, and unique location, including an existing building with additional space added to the mezzanine. The physical plant will also integrate Belfort’s existing distribution center, reconfiguring it into additional retail space that will include a wine bar and café.
The wine bar, suggested by Roberts, is of particular significance, given the Huber family’s passion for its sister business, Stone Tower Estate Winery, located just a 20-minute drive away at the family’s Loudoun County farm. “It will have an integrated, but separate, entrance so it will have a life of its own,” Huber describes. “Thanks to our existing winery project, we are already partnering with local bakers for breads, artisanal butchers and local cheese makers, we’re already working on sandwiches and salads and local produce, and we intend to capitalize on all of those things in the café.”
Along with food and libations, the wine bar area will also be a place to serve up “fun, exciting kinds of furniture, more unique, one-of-a-kind items,” the executive describes. “We will use it to bring in truckloads and containers of unusual things to make it more of an inspirational space. We’ll have booths and spaces for music, and it will be a place where people can take a pause from shopping, because that’s one thing that we’ve found that people like when they are spending a lot of time on our campus—being able to sit down with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee to sit and think and plan it all out. We expect it to be pretty cool and a draw as a gathering place, in and of itself.”
Roberts, who was the creative force responsible for putting cafes inside of hundreds of Barnes & Noble bookstores, says it’s a natural move for the furniture retailer. “We’ve always believed that putting food service inside stores is a good way to get traffic. If you do good coffee, you’ll get morning. If you do good sandwiches, you’ll get the lunch crowd. And if you do wine, you’ll get dinner too.”
Additionally, the revamp will involve the aforementioned warehouse conversion, new entrances, a new façade and exterior treatment, as well as rebranding. When complete, it will resemble a series of shops from the exterior.
About Belfort Furniture: Washington’s largest furniture store features over 100,000 square feet of showrooms of name brand home furnishings including Belfort Signature, Bernhardt, Flexsteel, Huntington House, Hooker Furniture, Kincaid, Lexington, Rowe, Stanley, and more. Belfort also offers in-home design services, custom window treatments including draperies, valances, shades, shutters, blinds by Hunter Douglas, Graber and Norman Window Fashions. The mattress gallery features Sealy Posturepedic, Tempur- Pedic, Stearns and Foster, and more. For more information visit www.belfortfurniture.com.
About Martin Roberts Design: Already well-known as a pioneer in air terminal design, in addition to more than four decades of world-wide design work with marquee brands like Barnes & Noble, Cartier, Procter and Gamble and Pathmark, Martin Roberts turned his focus on the home furnishings industry. Today, as head of Connecticut-based Martin Roberts Design—an award-winning team of retail consultants, architects, interior and graphic designers—he is responsible for the look of leading furniture brands and independent home furnishing stores across the U.S., Canada and Caribbean. Indeed, last year alone, the firm was responsible for the look of more than one million square feet of home and appliance stores in six countries. With a client roster that reads like a Who’s Who of the home business, Roberts has accrued numerous design accolades, including several Store of the Year Awards. Above all, he is devoted to helping clients, in every consumer segment, maximize profits through innovative design solutions, and every project reflects his client-focused mission to influence consumers to buy more, more often.