Q&A with Arhaus Furniture Product Designer Adam Dunn

Celebrate summer with Midwest Home magazine, Arhaus Furniture, and Pittsburgh Blue at Design & Wine (the second in a series of four) on Wednesday, June 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Arhaus in Edina’s Galleria. Arhaus Furniture product designer Adam Dunn, the company’s go-to tabletop designer, will lead a lively and informative tablescape design demonstration while attendees enjoy light appetizers provided by Pittsburgh Blue, plus white wine provided by Ste. Michelle Winery. Adam will show attendees how to set an everyday tabletop (given away to one lucky winner), an al fresco tablescape for two (incorporating items from the garden), and special occasion table décor for fine dining.

Tickets are $15 per person in advance; $20 per person at the door. Purchase four tickets for $50 and your name will be entered into a drawing for a stay at The Westin Edina Galleria Hotel. Proceeds from the event support the Twin Cities nonprofit organization Bridging, providing furniture and household goods to families and individuals transitioning out of homelessness and poverty. Advance tickets can be purchased at MidwestHomeMag.com.

Kensington tabletop Arhaus
Kensington Table, Arhaus

Q. As I understand, you started out as the Arhaus visual merchandizer in Chicago, creating lifestyle vignettes, and have since moved to Ohio to create tablescapes and work on product design. Do you have a background in design?

A. Before joining Arhaus, I worked in the fashion industry as a wardrobe stylist. Surprisingly (to me at least), it was a pretty easy transition to home fashion and retail. I was accustomed to pulling together looks and telling stories in magazine layouts, and at Arhaus, “retail is theatre.” In order to “set the stage,” we rely on everything from the furnishings to the wall treatments and finishes to the overhead lighting to the architectural elements reclaimed from places around the world. Our stores are divided into several distinct looks, each telling a different story of home design. Starting in a visual merchandiser role at Arhaus, I was able to tap into my styling background and create vignettes—rooms rather—that tell the Arhaus story and inspire customers to take entire looks and incorporate them into their own homes.

Q. What makes Arhaus different from other furniture stores?

A. Our assortment is unmatched in the industry. We travel the world to find highly skilled craftsmen to create high-end, fashion-forward designs. We’re fortunate enough to work with true masters of furniture design and construction here in the U.S. and abroad. Superior quality in material sourcing (sustainability is always top-of-mind) and craftsmanship sets us apart, along with a unique collection of furniture and accessories that touch on all style personalities.

Q. What’s a ‘typical’ work day like for you?

A. I’m not sure if I ever have a ‘typical’ day. My position pulls me in many directions. I spend about 60 percent of my time overseas, where I’m moving from city to city working with our manufacturers on new designs, reviewing production of products, attending international furniture and design shows, and looking for inspiration at local markets and antique shops. When I’m home—which is Cleveland—and in the office, I’m looking at the individual sales of the product categories I oversee, identifying trends, and of course, always designing new items.

Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?

A. I love to design. Despite loving it though, I have to admit it has its challenges. We create products that are not only beautifully made, but desirable to our customers and functional for today’s busy lifestyles and families. It’s not about just designing something new and different; our customers have to love it and buy it for their home. It’s a balancing act.  

Q. What was the most memorable vignette you helped create?

A. Arhaus was a participant in an outdoor home and design show at an estate in the Chicago suburbs. We chose the greenhouse as one of our rooms and turned it into a fantasy bedroom. The space was beautiful with large open windows and stone floors, so we decided to play off obvious garden location and create a high-end, lux bedroom.

Q. What sorts of things do you look for when you’re traveling for work?

A. Smart design is in the details. Of course, we always want to be ‘on trend,’ but more importantly, we want to present our customers with beautiful furnishings. Designs must blend seamlessly into homes and individual room designs. We look for interesting accents like antique hardware or an overly distressed finish. Or perhaps it’s as simple as unique molding and trim detail.

Q. Can you offer our readers any general tablescape advice?  

A. You can create a beautiful tabletop with anything. Personally, I’m drawn to more interesting layouts rather than something one might consider classically beautiful. But, as a general rule, I think differing levels of height on your table is the best place to start. Your eye should never land in just one place, and there should always be constant movement in the design. I’m not suggesting that every tablescape requires height and drama, but keeping the design moving makes the table more interesting and inviting. Think in terms of organic movement in nature and how interesting that can be. Even when plants and flowers are planted together, they never grow at the same height, there’s always variation.

Q. What’s your personal favorite extravagance/splurge(s)?

A. I always say, “It’s worth saving and purchasing the real thing as opposed to a replica.” Whether it’s furniture, art or décor, I find myself loving pieces not only because of the brand but because of the quality or story behind the original design. It’s worth purchasing a higher-ticket item when you know you’ll own it for the rest of your life.

Q. Do you collect anything?

A. I’ve never really thought of myself as a collector, but I was looking around my apartment last night and noticed I seem to have a taste for the off-beat, be it art or objet. Traveling as much as we do, I’ve been lucky enough to stumble across a variety of interesting pieces, but honestly, great art and objet can come from anywhere…my favorite painting is from a local artist in Toledo, Ohio.

Q. What, in your opinion, is never a “wasted investment” when it comes to your home?

A. Never be afraid to purchase one or two statement pieces. If you fall in love with a quirky cocktail table, buy it! Make it the showpiece of your living room and play down the pieces around it so that table can tell your story, your style, your personality.

Meet Adam in person June 5 at Arhaus Furniture in Edina’s Galleria.

Becket Table, Arhaus

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