|LED lights along the ceiling guide customers seamlessly through Austin Bluffs Lighting and into the other Coutura-partner showrooms.|
Building and furnishing a new home can be overwhelming. Even when professionals get involved, there are still countless choices to consider and multiple showrooms to visit. A brand-new concept in home-design retail, Colorado Springs, CO's Coutura-Design Inspirations brings the entire decision-making process under one roof, resulting in a buying experience that’s straightforward and comfortable for consumers -- and easier on retailers, too.
The idea for Coutura, which opened officially on Nov. 1, came to Austin Bluffs Lighting owners Kris and Kevin Herdt about five years ago and was fueled by the couple's involvement in the local Housing and Building Assn. and connections that came from lighting homes in the Colorado Springs area for 20 years. Once they began talking about their idea with other vendors in the community, the Herdts learned that several of their neighbors were thinking the same thing.
“We thought it was time for [our community] to grow up and actually offer people a one-stop visiting opportunity when they’re designing their entire home,” says Kris Herdt. “[As a group] we’ve brought together professionals who specialize just in their areas of expertise -- everything from roofing projects, stone for the outside, windows, flooring and lighting.”
Coutura’s anchor showrooms -- Austin Bluffs Lighting (now officially Austin Bluffs Lighting at Coutura), C&C Sand and Stone, Rustic Floor Covering & Design Center, HomeRun Electronics, Complete Kitchens and Pella Windows -- are directly accessible by individual, outside entrances or by entering Coutura’s main lobby, which also allows access to an area with permanent partner kiosks like Pryor Floor and Classy Closets, a common conference room, an upstairs area with leased office space and a rooftop deck that is available to employees, as well as local non-profit groups. Shared conference rooms throughout the building are available to tenants, as well as local designers, builders and architects, for meetings and events. Despite a shared marketing budget, each showroom functions as its own business, though the ultimate goal is to show customers as much product as possible.
Herdt admits that the concept is a bit difficult to comprehend. “If you can visualize a strip mall from the outside, we have that, but then inside, all the spaces interconnect,” she says.
In fact, they do much more than interconnect. The interior of each anchor store leads seamlessly into another, allowing customers to meander through the space -- guided by LED lights on the ceiling -- without even realizing they’re entering a new shop. Moreover, the entire building is cross-pollinated with products from Coutura partners. All the materials used throughout the building are specifically residential and are provided by the Coutura tenants or marketing partners.
“Many times, I'm over in the electronics area explaining about this fixture that's in the theater room,” Herdt says. “And I have flooring in my area that people have asked me about, so I walk them over to the flooring area and say 'This is where you can get it.'”
As a result, much of the product on display is shown in application. Lighting provided by Austin Bluffs is used throughout the building, as are bathroom fixtures from Coutura’s plumbing partner and cabinetry by the in-house kitchen retailer.
"It's all about showing people how extremely high-end, as well as not-so-high-end, finishes can be implemented in application because we carry it all," Herdt says.
Upon arriving, customers are greeted by a Coutura concierge who can take them on a guided tour of the building’s spaces or schedule time with a partner retailer in one of the building's five conference rooms. Designers are invited to store their materials in designated closet space, and builders can park their clients and bring in the tile, flooring and plumbing samples to view at all once.
“At Coutura, thanks to our strong partnerships and ability to problem-solve with our partners, we're able to provide our customers with measurable convenience and endless sources of inspiration,” Herdt says. “The name comes from 'couture,' which means one-off. Everything in here is coutura, it’s all just a little bit one-off and different and unusual. And it’s a fun place to come and hang out. How much more can you ask for?"