Design veteran Martin Roberts has opened a new “virtual” business, Martin Roberts Design, and closed the Grid2 design business he founded with partners in New York in 1991.
Published first in Furniture Today.
Roberts said the new business model allows him to cut costs and use new technologies to employ his Grid2 team on home furnishings industry projects on an as-needed basis. His former partners in Grid2, Aka Ma and Betty Chow, wanted to go a different direction and have opened a China-based design business, he said.
The new firm, online at MRobertsDesign.com, will focus on home furnishings, an industry Roberts has specialized in for years. He has done retail, showroom and branding projects for companies such as Havertys, Thomasville, American Leather and Aspenhome.
Roberts is using Skype and other technologies to work with a “virtual staff” from the former Grid2. He also has 1,300 square feet of office space and other resources available to accommodate on-site collaboration, he said.
Grid2 “wasn’t an economic model,” Roberts said. “The whole idea of having a staff of 30 people and 40 computers in the middle of New York (with its high rents) is not a modern model.”
Roberts said he can now network with the right people for a project without carrying that overhead, and pass the savings onto clients. He also said his people are enjoying working from home.
Roberts said he remains president of the Dovetail Alliance, a consortium of home furnishings industry service providers, including his new firm. He’s also president of Toby Roberts Designs, which designs furniture for suppliers such as Harden, Norwalk and American Leather.
Current retail projects for Roberts include a new 35,000-square-foot complex for Topeka, Kan.-based Discovery Furniture, featuring a three-store format; mixed-used retail design work in Barbados; and a two-level, 75,000-square-foot WOW! Home Furnishings store (for Weekends Only Warehouse) for Mattress King that’s coming to Denver.