RB12 is a home furnishings store located in Shoreditch, London, who proudly represent over 35 contemporary design furniture and accessories brands from across the globe. Their lovingly curated collection lives together under one roof, bringing brands with the highest quality of craftsmanship, material, and innovation to their customers. RB12’s offerings inspire conversations about design while they continue to build collaborative relationships with their clients through interior design and project support. For this month’s Design Store(y) we talked to one half of RB12, Dean Louw, to gather some insight into their shop.
Why did you pick this city/neighborhood/storefront?
We chose Shoreditch for a number of reasons: The edgy and trendy side of Shoreditch fits well with the image of a number of our brands, it is the largest design district in London with a large concentration of architects and designers, and it is the trendy shopping district of the future for London with a lot of large luxury brands taking up residence.
Where did you get the name for the store?
RB are the initials of Rafael Borrego, the creative force behind RB12, and 12 is a number of significance to me, the business/financial force behind RB12. So this way both the creative and business minds are represented in the name.
Has it changed much since it opened? How?
We have evolved the ground floor of the showroom to help define our identity when clients first walk in. Initially the café element was too dominant and that seemed to cause confusion for people who visited us for the first time. We then made the difficult decision to remove the café so that we were sending out a clear message about who and what we were. We also used that as an opportunity to introduce new pieces to the showroom e.g. the Puro Sparkle by Brokis, the Grammi S walnut and marble sideboard by Maami, and the Saba Ring tables. We have also made the decision to remove the bathroom display and focus more exclusively on furniture, kitchens, and surfaces.
What’s one of the challenges you have with the business?
Mobilizing the art and design community. They have fairly busy schedules and our showroom has to be experienced to be appreciated, so getting them to attend one of our events or even to join us for a coffee is often a challenge.
What’s your favorite item in the store right now?
Our brands are considered our extended family members, choosing one over another would be a difficult decision; however if I have to choose then it would have to be the Knot pendant lights by Brokis. They are exquisite examples of hand blown glass and craftsmanship. Brokis has recently launched a smaller version, which now means the range can cater for smaller London apartments and larger homes. They have also just launched the Knot table lamp, which beautifully accompanies the pendant lights.
Are you carrying any new products and/or undiscovered gems you’re particularly excited about?
Armadillo rugs are based in Australia and passionate about sustainability, Armadillo & Co design and produce handmade rugs of immaculate craftsmanship. Every rug is fair trade and made by artisans using traditional techniques passed down through generations of weavers. Their new Egyptian collection is breathtakingly beautiful and so plush underfoot. We recently installed illuminated marble wall panels by Lithos, industrial stone designers who only work with natural stone. I also have to mention Maami (Home and Bath), they produce timeless marble and timber furniture of the highest quality. You can see their passion shine through when you have the opportunity to experience once of their pieces.
What’s been a consistent best seller?
The New York armchair and Pixel sofa by Saba, who produce luxury Italian furniture that brings modern versatility to design classics. Their sofas and armchairs are some of the most beautiful AND comfortable you will come across.
Does the store have its own line? If not, any plans for it in the future?
We have just launched our own wallpaper in collaboration with London Art and KV Duong, a Chrom-art.org artist. It is only available at RB12 and is scaled to the size of the wall being decorated. We are also in the process of designing our own light in collaboration with glass lighting specialists Selène Illuminazione, who have a flair for bold and imaginative Italian lighting design.
Any special events/exhibits/pop ups/collaborations coming up?
We are preparing for our People and Planet before Profit event for London Design Festival. On Thursday 19th September, RB12 will be alive with conversation from a panel of industry experts during this year’s London Design Festival. As part of the Shoreditch design triangle, you will be able to sit and listen with a glass of bubbly and delicious canapes. More and more over the years, we have seen designers become far more conscious of waste production and the impact of their work on the environment, communities, and the ecosystems around us. Especially with the likes of David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg inspiring the masses and making huge movements with their environmental activism. In this panel discussion, RB12 wants to explore how creatives are transforming into their own type of activist by making a stand against contributing to issues such as climate change, animal cruelty, poor ethical production through social enterprising, and working closely with local communities.
Do you have anything from the store in your own home?
We have a number of items including the New York Dining chairs, the Quilt sofa by Saba Italia, a sideboard by Novamobili, the Acco Dining Table by Miniforms, and of course the Mina Island and Natural Skin wall units by Minacciolo.
What’s next for you and your store?
We are currently working on the launch of our new e-commerce site, which we hope to release within the next six weeks. It has been a real labor of love, but something we have to get right. We are super excited to show the world an extensive collection that’s been carefully curated over a number of years.
What’s one lesson you’ve learned since opening your store?
The biggest lesson we have learned is having a very clear message about who and what we are, so that we can deliver a service second to none. We are passionate about what we do and the brands we represent, and we love sharing that with our audience.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to follow a similar path to yours, what would it be?
Location, location, location. It is so important that you choose the right space, and if it takes you a year to find it then don’t rush it. Your first year of business is always the hardest, so don’t be the first tenant in a new development. In today’s market there is no certainty about how long it would take for your neighbors to move in or for the development to become a destination. You want to hit the ground running and so it is key to be in the right spot at the right time. I wouldn’t be true to myself as an accountant if I didn’t mention the importance of having a thorough business plan. Every business needs one, otherwise you are like a ship at sea without a compass.