The overhauled former home of a longtime Capitol Hill vintage and design store will be home to not one but two new furniture retailers.
Seattle furniture boutique Inform Interiors is moving up the Hill to Bellevue and Pine to join “contemporary furniture” retailer Blu Dot with its coming soon Capitol Hill showroom in the historic Colman Automotive building.
“We’re excited to be moving to a more vibrant area but we know everything is an adjustment,” Inform sales manager Hillary Rielly.
Their once low-key home on Dexter is now lined up for redevelopment by Vulcan which prompted owner Allison Mills to look for a new interior for her interiors. Inform plans to open the new showroom by the first week of May in the renovated auto row-era building, a space with triple their current square footage.
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The plan for Inform is to share a small portion of the street level retail space with Blu Dot while spreading out to take up the entirety of the building’s second floor.
CHS reported on the plans for Blu Dot coming to Capitol Hill last spring. After work finishing the building’s seismic overhaul and tenant upgrades, the retail spaces are finally ready to spring back into action. The work has created the new Blu Dot and Inform store spaces, and a new restaurant project lined up to neighbor it as well as a rooftop bar. The building was the longtime home of original and vintage furniture concern Area 51.
A Blu Dot representative confirmed the plans for the new store with CHS last summer.
Area 51 exited the Colman in 2016 as the building prepared to move into a “re-tenanting” phase with three to five new tenants and 10,000 square feet of office space. A project titled “Rory’s Restaurant and Rooftop Bar” was part of the plans and added a restaurant with roof deck component to the mix but last we heard a search for a tenant was still underway.
The seismic overhaul and full rehab of the Colman Automotive building on E Pine at Bellevue that it acquired for $3.85 million in 2012 was another major investment in its portfolio of auto row-era properties for Capitol Hill-based Hunters Capital. Completed in 1910, Hunters says the 20,000-square-foot masonry building was originally designed as a garage housing a variety of auto-related businesses that also included Cox Motor Car Co., Reo Truck, Co., Robert Taylor auto repair and the United Motors Co. Inc. The building is listed on a roster of Pike/Pine properties that cannot be demolished under the neighborhood’s preservation incentive program.
Blu Dot is known for its architectural and sculptural approach to “contemporary modern” consumer furniture design and has done battle in the marketplace and in the courts with the likes of Design Within Reach and more. It joins a veteran of the Seattle design market in Inform.
Rielly, with Inform since 2005, knows exactly why the business has lasted a retail lifetime in Seattle. “We are more nimble,” she said.
Since their opening in 2001, the multi-line company has worked in residential and commercial interiors, importing mainly from Europe and Scandinavian factories. Manufacturers occasionally fly in to speak on their original designs at the showroom. “The quality is meant to be heirloom pieces that last a lifetime,” said Rielly.
Their lease will last the next nine years if things go well for the purveyors of modern silhouettes that range from accent pieces to their Mooi Dutch Heracleum II Chandelier at the high end of $4,300. The company carries pieces from vendors seen at other show rooms in Seattle but “it’s not just cookie cutter.”
“We carry more vendors, so our clients can find a variant,” Rielly said of the distinction she describes as “challenging but fun” to pull off.
Owner Mills began as the manager of Inform’s Seattle store before she purchased the local branch in 2005. Inform began in Vancouver B.C. in 1980, where it remains under the same name.
The shop does its own ordering, including their new Taschen “Murals of Tibet,” art book, one of 50 in the U.S., blessed by His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. The Taschen book is a pricey read though wouldn’t have been completely out of place on the coffee tables of the the building’s previous tenant, Area 51 furniture.
The move won’t change the business model, but the space will allow for the addition of accessories and more of what works now. Inform is looking forward to a soft opening in June, when British lighting designer Lee Broom is scheduled to visit to give a talk on his work.
The new inform will encompass 3,100 square feet on the main floor and expand into the 9,000 square-foot second floor with few structural changes. “We’re ready for a bigger space and we wanted to move to an area that supports retail in a much greater way,” said Rielly, who said they expect to benefit from the street’s foot traffic and may add Sunday to their operating hours.
Inform Interiors will be located at the 1526 Bellevue Ave entrance to the Colman Automotive building. You can learn more at informseattle.com.