Interview by Michelle Heslop. Photos by Jody Beck.
How did you both get started with Gabriel Ross and how have your roles changed over the years? Amber began her career more than 20 years ago as an interior designer, when Gabriel Ross still manufactured furniture and had a small showroom on Bay Street. Over the years, she became the face of the showroom which morphed into an Operations Management role as our e-commerce platforms grshop.com and modernplanet.com continue to grow.
With a background in finance and operations, Alison originally started as our accountant, with a passion for danish modern and midcentury furniture and design. She now takes on a multi-dimensional role as our CFO, with a sprinkle of marketing and sales management and a dash of e-commerce merchandising.
Although we have experienced considerable growth over the last year, we are still truly a small business at heart. Each of us takes on many different roles within the company and we couldn’t do any of it without our amazing team. There are so many moving parts in this industry, particularly with the obstacles over the last year with material shortages, temporary manufacturing closures in Europe and the US, and the global challenges with logistics and supply chains. Our entire team has been incredible despite the turmoil that often comes with changes.
How has founder Ross Taylor’s role changed since stepping back last year? Ross has set the foundation for the future of GR. Anyone who knows him will know he will never retire, in fact he seems to be taking on more endeavours than ever before. You can currently find him down the street at Part & Whole, Fawcett Mattress, or at one of GR’s sister companies Chester Fields and House of Chester. He still likes to come into the showroom occasionally to give us his opinion on new pieces to order. Sometimes we take his advice (wink wink).
As partners, we still work closely with Ross on a variety of topics, and we don’t hesitate for a second to pick up the phone to get his advice or input on issues that arise, big or small. Ross has been and still is an incredible mentor to both of us.
Gabriel Ross has always carried some of the most iconic furniture designs/designers in the world. Will you be making any adjustments to that line up? The icons always have and always will be at the core of our brand ethos. It is impossible to represent original authentic design without showing the likes of Herman Miller, Knoll, Vitra, B&B Italia, Cassina, and the designers behind these iconic brands. That said, we are always expanding our brand lineup to include something for anyone and everyone interested in owning an original design with quality craftsmanship. Some recent additions that are gaining a ton of traction for us are Belgium-based solid wood furniture maker Ethnicraft, lighting from Petite Friture in Paris, beautiful outdoor furniture from Danish design company Cane-Line, and handmade contemporary lighting from Lambert & Fils out of Montreal.
How should customers who are buying their first designer piece of furniture prepare for the experience? With so much selection, how do you choose the right piece? Just stop by our Rock Bay showroom and soak it all in. Every piece has a story and a history, but also it’s all just really beautiful to look at. Our showroom staff have an absolute wealth of knowledge which they are happy to share with you, or provide suggestions for alternate items in different fabrics, finishes, or price ranges. Consider who will be using this piece of furniture, for what purpose and for how long. Think about where and under what conditions it was made, and how it might complement the existing style of your home. Danish designer Finn Juhl said it best: “One cannot create happiness with beautiful objects, but one can spoil quite a lot of happiness with bad ones.”
Are there any new furniture lines in the store that are getting you excited? We have recently become a retailer for B&B Italia, the premier contemporary furniture manufacturer out of Italy. You can expect to find iconic designs like Camaleonda, Tufty-Time, and the instantly recognizable UP5_6 armchair in our focused mezzanine showroom space for this prestigious brand.
We’ve also recently completed a patio addition – a space prioritized for outdoor furniture which we’ve never had the ability to appropriately showcase. We have some amazing outdoor lighting, rugs, dining sets, and lounge pieces for instant backyard inspiration.
Does Gabriel Ross carry any pieces from local designers? Yes! We love to feature local designers and manufacturers. We carry some amazing (heated!) outdoor furniture from Metchosin-based manufacturer Dodeka which has been very popular over the last year. We’ve also partnered with Kurva Design; Mike Randall builds handcrafted modern pendant lighting out of his Fernwood studio. And of course, we have to mention Bocci, a GR mainstay and one of our most popular lighting lines based out of Vancouver.
Any recent shifts or changes you see in the showroom these days? We have been seeing a big shift recently with a younger demographic showing interest in original design. With an overflowing market of cheaply made, disposable knock-offs manufactured in questionable facilities, it has been so great to see a growing appreciation of locals that understand design and appreciate authenticity.
Ross aptly pointed this out back in 2015:
“Stop by Gabriel Ross and let myself or any of our staff make you a coffee. Sit down across from anything that intrigues you and study it. Look at every single detail, tuck and fold, stitch or button. The grain of the wood, the way the finish is applied, the way the light hits it from different angles. Sit in it or on it. Every detail was considered during the design process and I guarantee that what you’re looking at was the result of a lot of painstaking consideration. You don’t get that from a knock-off and that is why the real thing costs more.”