Furnishing an opportunity

A lifelong fan of design and style, an engineer pulls up a chair in the retail space

Photo: Modern Living London owner Gerrard Marra

GERRARD MARRA WAS a client of furniture retailer Modern Living London for a decade — and to paraphrase American entrepreneur Victor Kiam of Remington shaver fame, he liked the business so much he decided to buy it.

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Marra officially took over the business from company founder Rawle Blackman in late September, and says that while a few things will change, clients can expect business as usual as he transitions from customer to owner.

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According to Marra, who works as a full-time project manager for a multi-national firm, the purchase of Modern Living London is an extension of his love for homes, construction and design. An engineer by training, he’s always been interested in architecture and has acted as his own developer and general contractor for the builds of two family homes, including the one that he, his wife and their three children currently live in.

“I conceptualized and oversaw the entire process of those builds, from initial design to breaking ground to final décor,” he says.

Furnishing an opportunity retail Retail

Citing Modern Living London’s strong ties with local builders and interior designers, plus a loyal and repeat ­customer base, Marra was a longtime fan of store, which carries a wide range of furniture, mattresses and home décor items, with an emphasis on products from Canadian, North American and European manufacturers.

“Furnishings bring life to an empty space and elevate your living experience. My interior designer ­introduced me to Rawle more than 10 years ago and I’ve been a ­customer ever since,” says Marra. “When I heard through the ­grapevine that Rawle was retiring, I thought it would be a great opportunity.”

“Quality contemporary fashion-forward furniture is our niche, and we will continue to align with brands that provide a good selection of customizable pieces” —Gerrard Marra

Out of the gate, Marra plans to refresh the 8,500 ­square-foot space with a new colour palette, and will be reorganizing and remerchandising, aiming to unveil the store’s new look and feel in late October or early November.

Modern Living London’s two long-term employees will continue to operate the store on a daily business, and the store will continue to source furnishings from reputable, leading manufacturers.

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“Quality contemporary fashion-forward furniture is our niche, and we will continue to align with brands that provide a good selection of customizable pieces,” says Marra, offered at what he describes as a “value price point.”

Pointing to a growing consumer awareness about the environmental impact of fast fashion, Marra says the same can be said about “fast furniture.” The chairs and tables that are easily and cheapy acquired are manufactured on a mass scale, and the cheaper items often end up sitting in a pile of trash destined for landfill.

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At a time when people are concerned about the ­environmental impact of their purchasing choices, he is seeing a heightened awareness on behalf of consumers regarding the workmanship and materials going into their furniture selections, plus a willingness to pay a little more for a retail item that is not destined for the landfill after a few years of wear and tear.

“These furnishings are still going to look great and be relevant 10 years from now,” he says. “The quality of the underlying structure and upholstery give these pieces a long lifespan.” Furnishing an opportunity retail Retail Kym Wolfe

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