Why Roche Bobois Brought Uber-Fancy Euro Furniture Back to Portland

The luxe French brand tried and failed once before...but now Portland has changed.

By Cervante Pope January 19, 2015

In 2005, Roche Bobois—a French furniture brand known for luscious color schemes, collaborations with the likes of Jean-Paul Gaultier, and high-end niche appeal—opened a Portland store. Demand proved low, and the store vanished quietly. Last fall, however, the company returned in triumph, opening a new showroom in a strikingly whitewashed former carpet store in the West End. Will things go better this time?

Marcelo Sanchez, the new Portland store’s manager, believes things have changed in the last decade. Portland’s vaunted appeal to national and international transplants and economic growth have stoked demand for Roche Bobois’ popping colors and extravagant, statement-piece silhouettes. According to Sanchez, the Seattle location of Roche Bobois found itself helping many a Portlander in all their eccentric furniture needs; hence the West End shop, unveiled on October 30th of last year.

Founded in 1960 by two French families, the Roches and the Chouchans, Roche Bobois operates dozens of American showrooms. At the Portland location, Sanchez has full creative control. “Our collection is so extensive,” he says. “There are so many pieces that it is impossible for all locations to have the same. It’s up to me to decide which pieces I feel are going to sell well here. We usually have our best sellers. It’s just a process of deciding what pieces people respond to.” Those best sellers include funky couches and coffee tables—all of which can be customized (along with basically every other piece of furniture Roche Bobois produces) to the buyer’s liking.

Customization of Roche Bobois pieces is a very thorough and quite popular option for the Portland market. The brand offers more than 50 different leather colors, 25 different stitching colors, three different leg colors for couches and tables, and over 15 size options for pieces. One customized piece usually takes between four and half to five months to produce. Suppliers need 12 weeks for building a piece, which afterwards is shipped to the company’s forwarder in Italy, then put on a vessel from Italy to San Francisco, then driven from San Francisco up to the Pacific Northwest. (If a customer chooses to buy a piece in its original design, it would be available in about a month.)

About 70 percent of Roche Bobois Portland customers choose customization, according to Sanchez. For such luxe and detailed pieces, it’s good to know that all of Roche Bobois pieces come with a 10-year warranty. Though normal wear and tear obviously isn’t covered, if there’s any sort of discoloration in the leather, for instance, or if a piece isn’t structurally sound, it can be sent and recycled to create a whole new piece.“The 'eco-friendly' label is more for the wood pieces,” Sanchez says. “They have pretty strict sustainability standards, all the way down to the leather and the way the cows are fed. It far exceeds any standard in the US.”

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