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Where: Larimer Square, Downtown Denver
Give One Year of 5280 for just $16.
Go For: Expert interior designers ready to create a plan for you and your space, or just to peruse showrooms filled with home accessories, furnishings, and art.
5280 Pick: This urban-whimsical decorative plate (pictured right)—can you find the elephant in the city landscape?—is one of many examples of goods from Denver artists in the store. Maker Natalie Martin’s colorful works can both complement a larger design scheme or serve as conversation-worthy stand-alone additions to your home. $425
Element is nestled into cozy Larimer Square but expands with possibilities once you enter. Store owner Robert Zimmerman and his design team not only make great use of their space with expertly curated furniture, art, and accessories, but almost everything in the store lends itself to customization. Zimmerman opened the store with the hope of offering his own unique sense of style and design services at a price point that wouldn’t alienate customers. Here, he reflects on the decade-plus he’s been doing just that.
5280: What was your thought process behind opening Element?
Zimmerman: I opened my doors almost 11 years ago in the Golden Triangle with the concept being me as my own customer. I love furniture and interior design, so I was just trying to fit a niche. I like more contemporary with a modern influence. My standards are quality, price point, and style. I really wanted people to know that you could find excellent products out there for a medium price point because I felt there was a big need in this market. I think there’s a lot more creativity that can be used with smaller spaces, and my products are geared toward those more creative options.
5280: What’s your approach to designing a space?
We have an interior design plan that’s pretty structured. It’s basically all planned out in advance with the presented materials, storyboards, and colors—everything that a client needs to understand his or her plan. I don’t think a lot of people do that planning. I had a client recently where we filled his house as we went along—and it was a nightmare. I think a lot of people do it that way and then get overwhelmed because you add one piece and it alters everything else. It’s a domino effect. I would never recommend doing it that way.
5280: What has been the most surprising part of the business?
Probably how complicated it is. This business is pretty inefficient, especially the way we’re set up, where it’s mostly custom orders and stuff like that instead of having big truckload orders. There’s a lot of coordination. Say we’re doing a whole house that may be comprised of purchase orders from 10 to 15 different companies; trying to coordinate that is pretty complicated. We have a great system that helps us keep track of all that and keeps us very efficient.
5280: How is the industry different than it was a decade ago?
The industry has more interesting products. Everyone’s trying to compete and outdo each other. When I first started, everything was being repeated, and in the last five years there’s been a lot of innovations. A lot of really cool looks are coming out in the contemporary area, and I think people are really striving to make a good-quality product versus a cheap product.
5280: Who is your ideal client?
I like people who respond to what we’re doing. My ideal client is someone who can share my enthusiasm for all of the decor I can provide. I like good service and I value it very highly. It (good service) definitely means something to me, so we make sure to provide that. My biggest objective is to make people smile. When I see someone after an installation or see their face light up because they love something after it’s installed, that is my biggest reward.