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50th Anniversary Facelift at De Boer's

Furniture World Magazine


A team of 15 design specialists transformed the look of everything at the six store chain... from their logo to delivery vehicles and exterior storefronts.

"The Challenge was to take a brand image that had equity in the marketplace and reposition it to speak to a new generation of homeowners while maintaining its strong relationship with existing customers."

There are many ways to celebrate a 50th Anniversary. As might be anticipated, De Boer's pulled out all the stops. Family owned and operated, there are six stores, four in metropolitan Toronto as well as the prestigious single-unit De Boer Studio Collection, and the sixth showroom in Ottawa, Canada's capital city.

John de Boer, President and son of the founder, introduced a new logo and corporate style at a glamorous special reception, simultaneously launching a landmark upholstery collection by the 70-year-old design guru, Vladimir Kagan, affectionately dubbed the "Grandfather of Modernism".

It was in 1980 that John took over the reins from his father, Anne de Boer, a native of Holland, now 88 years old. Both men are gifted with a strong work ethic, innovative thinking and integrity. De Boer's is never open for business on Sunday. Their European based philosophy incorporates the enjoyment of a day of rest with families and friends.

After 50 years of extraordinary success, it seemed the right time for the de Boers to totally redesign their retail brand image. Award winning Kramer Design Associates were chosen for the task. Jeremy Kramer, Vice President and Creative Director, said "The challenge was to take a brand image that had equity in the marketplace and reposition it to speak to a new generation of homeowners while maintaining its strong relationship with existing customers."

KDA's multi-disciplined team of 15 design specialists, including an architect, industrial designer, interior designer and graphic designers, transformed the look of everything from De Boer's logo and corporate colors of walnut, plum and soft green, to the design concept of its furniture delivery vehicles and exterior storefronts.

More impact was added to the De Boer's script namesake logo, but the linkage to the de Boer family legacy was preserved. The new wordmark integrates the original signature logo, but has been strengthened to become more fluid and refined. It reflects a strong sense of elegance, craft and tradition, reflective of De Boer's conviction that "there is no substitute for fine, genuine materials, imaginative design and world-class craftsmanship".

And there is a secondary graphic device. The De Boer's monogram is also to be used as an ornamental decorative element on the store's gift labels, packaging, door handles and, in super-graphic scale on the entrance canopy towers.

Over the next two years, all store exteriors will be transformed. The North York (Toronto) location will be the first in fall 2000.

The design and home furnishings community had special incentive to attend. Vladimir Kagan's latest creation, the Bilbao Collection, inspired by Deconstructionist architect Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, was in pride of place at the flagship store. Definitely avant garde, Bilbao redefines sectional seating so that it can be placed freely in a room. "The furniture, not the walls, delineate and define the space," said Kagan.

Born in Germany, Kagan was raised in New York where he studied architecture at Columbia University. In 1947, he joined his father's furniture making shop and was commissioned to design the Delegate's Cocktail Lounge at United Nations' headquarters, then located at Lake Success, New York. By 1950, he had opened his own showroom in New York where he attracted international acclaim by breaking free from conventional postwar modernism of boxy Bauhaus, introducing sensual sculptural designs. His clean linear shapes, cantilevers and the interplay of negative space reflect his architectural background.

Over the years his customers have included Marilyn Monroe, Gary Cooper, Xavier Cougat, Andy Warhol, Donna Karan, Dan Akroyd and Isaac Stern as well as Gucci designer, Tom Ford, who commissioned Kagan to recreate Omnibus, a multilevel sectional seating system for use in Gucci stores worldwide.

Kagan teaches design at New York's renowned Parsons School of Design and divides his time living and working in New York, Palm Beach and Nantucket, Rhode Island with his wife, needlepoint expert, Erica Wilson.

Said John de Boer, "Over the last 50 years, Vladimir Kagan has served as a true testament to the longevity of modern design. He is a credit to the furniture industry, and plays an important role in helping us continue to provide the finest in modern furniture to Canadians." The Bilbao Collection is sold only by De Boer's in Canada.

But there's even more. John de Boer has initiated an exclusive delivery practice, Red Carpet Service. "It's a true reflection of our commitment to service excellence. It's a little extra that makes a big difference. Our customers appreciate the fact that once they order their furniture, their job is done. We take care of everything else and ensure that their shopping experience is rewarding, memorable and keeps them coming back."

Here's their "satisfaction-oriented plan"

  • A thorough inspection of the furniture prior to delivery. After it passes inspection, the furniture is carefully polished and prepared for delivery.
  • A three-hour delivery window so customers can better plan their day.
  • A courteous customer phone call from the delivery team advising them they have just left the previous stop and are en route to the customer's home.
  • A standard logistics inspection of the in-home delivery path and intended furniture placement.
  • An actual eight foot red carpet to be rolled out at the front entrance of the home!
  • Interim removal of obstacles along the delivery path.
  • Moving furniture to clear the way for a new piece, if required.
  • Assembling, straightening and leveling the new furniture.
  • Putting any required final touches on the new pieces, such as dusting, cleaning glass and installing lights.

In addition, De Boer's will hold furniture orders for three months (purchase payment is required after 30 days from receipt in the warehouse) without extra storage charge for customers who are unable to receive their order right away. This is especially advantageous for customers waiting to move into their new homes. If necessary, De Boer's will continue to store the furniture for up to nine months at a nominal storage charge.

While no new stores are planned in the immediate future, John acknowledged that "if the city gets any bigger, we may have to expand further". Success breeds success.