The chairs that started it all
Four years ago Carter Averbeck was at a crossroads. He had an established business in a field where he once had immeasurable passion and drive to succeed. For 15 years, Trompe Decorative Finishes was Averbeck’s pride and joy; an art related business with faux finishing, murals and fresco work. Many restaurants, hotels and commercial spaces have been graced by the artwork of Trompe. All that changed in 2009 when Averbeck, who’s years of dealing with hard issues within the industry, was finally worn down. ”I got tired of stagnancy, the lack of respect despite being hired for our excellent reputation. It seemed all paths led to the same place. I was stuck, miserable and perpetually exhausted. I knew instinctively that I was losing passion for a business I once loved and it scared me.” This, coupled with family deaths, brought Averbeck to a low point in his life. Something had to change, Carter knew it, but what?
He started to go back to a lifelong hobby of transforming furniture. It had always been a way to ease his overactive mind from the stresses of whatever was going on. “I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of taking a forlorn piece of furniture and breathing new life back into it.” says Carter, “It gives me a sense of satisfaction to create something beautiful out of older things.” While working on a set of dining chairs in bright, saturated colors, Averbeck made the decision to put his work on Etsy. “I didn’t know if anyone would even bother to look, let alone like all this brightly colored furniture,” he recalls, “At the very least I’d try and see if anything sells.” It didn’t take long for those chairs to sell and for Averbeck to get an instant following on Etsy.
“I kept on going, without much of a plan other than faith that things would work out.”
The initial launch of his new Etsy store, gave rise to the name Omforme, a Norwegian word meaning “to transform”. Averbeck was starting to transform his life while transforming furniture, hoping more people would like his wares and be willing to buy. “I kept on going, without much of a plan other than faith that things would work out.”
Pop up shops soon followed. a sort of test market, where Omforme started to showcase what is now a signature look of joyously colored and sleekly restyled furniture sold at affordable prices. Another thing started to happen at these pop up shops that Carter didn’t anticipate: new clients started calling for interior design work despite the fact that he had never done anything of this nature before. Still, customers liked what was being produced at Omforme and the phone calls started coming in.
Kodak chandelier by artist Aaron Brand
As Averbeck dove deeper into the fold, he realized he could also transform the lives of others as well. “Why not?”, says Carter, “There are many people who need an uplift just as I did so why not open a door for them to succeed?” The only problem was how to go about it considering Averbeck wanted to help others through several avenues. First on the list was to support local artisans. Second was to support the environment by the dedication of restyling older pieces to keep them out of landfills. Third was to support charities, non-profits and educational programs through sales of merchandise at Omforme.
Combining all these aspects into one business model was something Averbeck had not encountered while investigating other shops. While many had a similarity to Omforme in one aspect or another, none seemed to have all three ideas combined as a business. Carter notes, “This was new territory as far as melding these different aspects into a whole entity. A business model unlike anything operating now. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but I’m determined to make it work.”
In 2013, Omforme had garnered enough money to open a permanent shop in the Wedge Neighborhood of Minneapolis. In less than a year, Omforme has been able to bring in other local artisans whose modern furniture and home goods are an added benefit to the shop’s offerings of vintage goods. Averbeck has also put a program together where he works with smaller charities to raise funds for their efforts with sales of merchandise from the shop. “It’s a great feeling to be able to give back to the community and these smaller charities need all the help they can get.” Averbeck works with many different charities and non-profits where a mutual respect is nurtured and given seed to bloom. To date, Omforme has given back to 5 different charities with plans to add more. The next step in Carter’s goals is to help those who are going through a life transition by offering opportunities to learn how to refinish furniture as a way of regaining pride in one’s self and being able to move forward. He sights his own life as an example of how change can happen. One of his favorite quotes is this: “Change happens. Growth is optional.”
With a look of absolute pride in his eyes, Averbeck asks the following of all who enter Omforme: “When you walk outside of this tiny little shop, look up at the signage a second time. That funny little Norwegian word has a lot more meaning behind it than you know!” Transforming furniture, homes and lives,.. Omforme is paving the way.
1949 Highboy in white lacquer & Walnut, Mod Swivel chair in cut velvet, Rosenthal dinnerware, mid century double tiered floor lamp.