David Knows Hip, the owner of Hip Furniture
Known for its airy, carefully-curated showroom, Hip Furniture has served as one of Portland’s premier destinations for modern and contemporary furniture since 1995. At the helm of the showroom is owner David Haleston, a native Portlander with an eye for sleek mid-century looks and finely-crafted pieces.
Tell me about the furniture lines you offer at Hip. What sets your products apart from those offered at other furniture retailers?
The underlying thing for us is that we find suppliers that have the look we want while also producing a quality product. Additionally, our effort is to have a line that isn’t offered anywhere else in Portland so almost everything we have here is exclusive to Hip. We carry several European brands. Natuzzi, an Italian brand, is where we started with that back in 1996. Then we got involved with BoConcept, out of Denmark, and Calligaris and Klei, which are both out of Italy. Then we took on Gus Modern- that’s a Canadian company- and they’re also exclusive to us. All of those companies together probably make up 70-80 percent of what we do. And then we also have Dellarobbia, which is our biggest domestic line. It’s a 30-year-old company out of LA that’s very modern and very sought-after.
Since a lot of these lines are from international suppliers, what kind of options do customers have for customization? For example, what if I want a chair in red instead of black? Am I limited to what you have in your showroom?
It varies by supplier, but for many of our lines, customers have options ranging from fabrics to frame shapes. For instance, Gus Modern will have a sofa with three fabrics, which may not seem like a lot of choices, but that sofa may be available in a loft size made for small living, a regular size, and a sofa and chair set. That will be it, but because Gus ships to us every 10 days or so and they have a tremendous amount of stock, you don’t wait months. Calligaris does the same thing. They chose out of thousands of items maybe a few hundred that they support and bring in from Italy regularly, so you don’t wait for those. But if you want this chair in a different color and they didn’t bring it in, you can get it out of Italy in a broader selection but you have to wait.
What kinds of trends have you noticed developing in the furniture industry?
Our customers are getting younger and, in general, mid-century has been increasing in popularity in Portland. Brand-wise, Gus Modern is probably the premier current company selling mid-century stuff right now and they actually became our number one supplier this year. They just said “this is what mid-century looks like to us” and I think most people would agree that they do a really great job of it. I also think of Calligaris. A lot of their designs, specifically their mechanized tables, used to be considered “too modern,” but their designs have improved year after year and they just keep getting better. It’s been fun to watch that.
What’s your advice for new customers coming in to purchase what might be their first real investment piece? Where do they start?
First, you’ll want to develop a plan of how much money you’re talking about. It’s hard for people to come up with that, but it’s very important. Next, you’ll want to choose a main piece for whatever room you’re working on. So pick your sectional or dining table and put it in a material that is somewhat neutral, and let that piece start to determine where to go. If you get ahead of yourself and start focusing on which dining table and which chairs, there are so many combinations that it can get confusing. Calligaris alone might have 300 different chair ideas, so it’s easier to choose the table and then figure the chairs. Or it’s easier to figure out the sofa and then deal with the coffee table. But not all at once.
We also see customers over time because it is an investment. Usually customers start with the piece that they sit on and next it will be a piece that they eat on. And they might get by with the chairs that they have for a while, and then do the dining chairs, and then a rug for under the table. We can do it either way, but more often than not, customers incrementally build. Financially and psychologically, it’s easier that way.