Nestled inside a strip of antiquated storefronts lies a tiny furniture shop filled with big ideas.
Ideas about moving forward with interior design by moving backwards from our disposable lifestyles. A shop where old furnishings go for a facelift and come out of the chrysalis like a colorful butterfly. A shop packed with imagination using reclaimed materials left for scrap from the building and interior design industries to create modern home goods that play nicely off the updated vintage finds. A shop that holds its own in the realm of established international furniture showrooms by supporting top local furniture and product designers that rival the competition in style, quality and price.
Upon entering, there’s the immediate realization that this place does not exude the familial safety that sometimes defines the midwestern aesthetic but one that shakes up the status quo of what we think a vintage store should be and challenges our notions of how to live,..well,..a more colorful life outside our coveted colloquial neutrals. It is a little shop of transformations and you can call it Omforme.
“It all started with a chair on the street”, is the statement on the website, but in reality, Omforme’s owner has been doing this kind of work his entire life. Carter Averbeck grew up in a DIY family and learned early on that the benefits of transforming through found materials can yield results that are set apart from store bought merchandise.
“Our house was never plain nor did it look like it came out of a catalogue. We were an unusually crafty bunch!”
Case in point: A once dusty set of chairs more than a century old are now displayed in glory after a full transformation into trendy fabrics of bright limes and turquoise that belie their original age. Carter says they’re ready for the next 100 years because they’re built to last, in contrast to much of today’s furniture which is meant to be replaced after a shorter period of time.
Setting aside the eco-friendly aspect of saving furniture from a dump heap, Averbeck’s transformations seem positively gleeful with their renewed sense of value. He focuses on current style and trends and states that since furniture styles are like fashion, everything old is new again. But getting people to understand that buying previously owned furniture is a good value is a tough hurdle. “Let’s face it, our society loves new. We’ve been conditioned into thinking that’s the only route to go for a variety of reasons.” says Carter. Which is why Omforme also showcases modern furnishings crafted by top local talent such as WoodSport and Aaron Brand Designs among others.
The combination of adding new works by local craftspeople to vintage goods makes Omforme anything but a one note. The offerings change regularly and are from every era, packed with as much imagination as what goes into high end furnishings but without the cost factor. Averbeck wants everyone to be able to afford good furniture that speaks to their soul. Rarely does he repeat a design on any given transformed piece so there’s assurance that what comes from here is singularly unique. One step inside this tiny storefront gives way for one’s imagination to run wild with ideas on what to get, transform or create with found materials. Averbeck doesn’t mind, he likes it that way.
With surfaces that beg for introspection, artist Jodi Reeb creates works of art which showcase the depth of abstract forms and the richness of layered content. Reeb is our Rock star Artist for July, whose new series “alchemy Defined” will be shown for the first time at our open artist reception series at Omforme. Wonderfully affable, Jodi sits down and lets us know the skinny on herself and her process for art.
By focusing on each translucent layered surface with a mix of acrylics, encaustic wax, wood, canvas and even glass, Reeb’s process has advanced to more about the dynamics of painting in building up luminous layers of molten, colorful beeswax to capture light and depth only to pair down the process to a final act. Inspiration comes from experimentation and the intrinsic nature of the materials. Her works have graced the interior spaces of major corporations as well as residential homes throughout the midwest.
When visiting Reeb in her studio, we had to ask about the swing.
“It gets used a lot!”, says Reeb, “People really think it’s strange but I know they all want to try it.” For her, it’s a way to break the intensity of her everyday work in art and just enjoy the process of relaxation as much as the process of creation.
You know we just can’t sit still,….
Every few months we repaint the inside of our tiny little shop to keep things fresh and we have a lot of fun doing it! After a long harsh Winter, the worst documented in Minnesota history, it was unanimous to bring a little sunshine in; So we repainted the main room in sunny yellow and cream colored stripes from the dark charcoal tone we had all winter long. Talk about a colorful uplift! Our mood is lighter and hope that all who enter experience the same. Next on the docket is the repainting of the other “tiny room that makes up our shop in a beautiful plum color. You can see that room through the doorway below. What do you think? We’d love your suggestions,…
We are also excited about some of the new artists that are a part of the Omforme family like Michael Mikula, a glass artist, who creates these stunning votive holders reminiscent of art deco styles from the past but squarely rooted in today’s modern aesthetic. In the coming weeks we will be showing you great things from other insanely talented artists like Concrete Pig, Tree on a Hill, and Woodsport,….so keep a look out because the future is bright!
Our new Look Book is here for Spring! Take a look inside and you will find a few of our many transformations on furniture, along with new modern items designed by some of the most talented craftspeople in the Twin Cities. If you’re craving to renew your interior for Spring, we may just have what you’re looking for.
What’s that famous saying again? Oh yes,.. “The best things happen when you least expect them.”
Like any small business owner, I work hard at trying to promote this little shop. To build relationships with people through it. I facebook, twitter, instagram all our goods available as social media plays a big role in our marketing efforts. First of all it’s free unless you decide to pay to advertise on these sites. With the right content, connections can be made in ways we would have never been able to before social media.
Still, with all the time spent posting to this site or that, making content engaging, adding great photos and so on, you start to wonder if all of this is doing anything? At times, it feels as if I’m posting things into the virtual abyss hoping anyone notices.
Someone did,… It was the American Craft Council and oddly enough they contacted me through social media with a single tweet. They asked if I wanted to be a part of their “Make Room For Craft” event where a Designer gets to choose pieces of art from the show and design a room around the art. I remember this being such a fantastic event last year and thinking to myself how cool it would be to be a part of this. I never dreamt it would happen yet a year later it is happening. “When you least expect it right?,…”
About the ACC The American Craft Council is a national, nonprofit educational organization founded in 1943 by Aileen Osborn Webb. With a mission to promote understanding and appreciation of contemporary American craft, we celebrate the remarkable achievements of the many gifted artists today who are working with a variety of materials.
I am fortunate to be working with some extremely talented artists: Tim Burns with his almost vertebraic wood sculpture. Michael Mikula’s luminous glass sculpture, Scott McGlasson’s modern organic furniture and Lynn & Chris Corrie with their glass panel art. These are the objects I am designing my room around and it is going to be great to collaborate with such talents. If you happen to live in or around the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/ St Paul, I encourage you to come out to the event on April 11-13 at the St Paul RiverCentre and view not only these artists but literally 100s of the finest crafts you can view in one setting in the country.
American Craft Council Show April 11-13
St Paul RiverCentre
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.
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.
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.
I’m going to ask you to picture a bold interior room in your head. What immediately comes to mind?
Do you envision a room so intense that it overwhelms? Too much color, too much pattern, too much of both? That’s usually what happens when I ask potential clients this question. They go to extremes in their imagination and the resulting imagery isn’t what they want in their own homes.
What if I said you can have a bold look in your home without going crazy? It can happen. With a plan of attack and the knowledge of your favorite colors, you can have the bold yet comfortable home that doesn’t scream of overwrought design.
When asked, “what is your favorite color?”, almost no-one answers beige. So why is it we live in such fear for color? The design industry may have something to do with it. For decades there has been a trend towards using neutrals as a base and if warranted the judicial use of controlled brighter tones to help flesh out a room. Seems like sound advice, Yes? Except when the room you’re designing ends up being cold, lifeless or just plain jane in appearance. If that’s the case, then it’s time for a color injection.
“Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world.” ~Allen Klein
Life is about color, all you have to do is walk outside to see that. Beautiful gardens bursting with color, blue skies, even the desert has intense colors going for it and yet most of us shy away from it and choose what we think is “safe” i.e. neutrals. If the quote from Allen Klein is any indication of how colors affect our lives, then it might be worth adding more color to yours to fill it with joy instead of the alternative.
So how do you start? It’s easy, first pick your favorite color. Then pick coordinating colors to go with it. This is where the fun can begin. For simplicity, here’s a link to understanding color harmony at Sensational Color. Once you’ve decided which version of color harmony you like you can be off and running.
Next there’s the ever solid advice called the “60-30-10 Rule” which states that you can use your dominate color for 60% of the room’s space, 30% for the complimentary color and 10% for the accent color. So let’s say the wall color takes up 60% of your over all design scheme, then you have other colors to use with furnishings and etc. Let me make it clear that this formula doesn’t mean one has to start with the dominate color being a neutral unless desired.
A big tip when planning a room is NOT to select the wall color first. Why? It is because paint is the least expensive thing in your design scheme. I’ve seen many cases where the client picked a color for the walls and then had a hard time selecting furniture to go with it. There are far more choices of paint tones then there are sofas, so if you have your eye on the brightly colored sofa, get that first. Then work your way around it with items to compliment
Since color choices are highly subjected to personal tastes, select what you like regardless of what is trendy. After all it’s your home. You need to wake up every morning and come home at the end of the day to a home that speaks volumes of your multi-layered persona.
Of course we wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that every photo here shows a mix of new and revamped furnishings to create a wonderful home.
*Don’t worry about making your life sedate, if you live in a neutral themed home odds are it’s already there. Instead, worry about not making it a rich experience. Color can add the richness into your interior and conversely – into your life.
We are proud to be a part of Midwest Home Magazine’s “Design Week” coming up on February 20th, 2014 for an open house cocktail hour and chat on how eco-friendly design can transform your home into a more beautiful interior. This is such a great event for both the public and those in the design world to see firsthand what exciting developments are happening with interior design in and around the Twin Cities.
Walking into the door at Omforme, you’d think it was just like any trendy boutique with various items from vintage furniture to modern designed home accessories and gifts all wrapped up in a pretty package, but there’s more than meets the eye in this shop.
The secret is something you’d never expect: everything in this trend filled boutique is recycled. Yes, recycled; Something most of us do with our aluminum cans and empty glass jars.
Spending over 15 years in the interior design industry, Carter Averbeck knew a thing or two about excess; Mostly that the industry was full of it with no signs of ending soon.
“I kept on wondering who needs 2000 sofas to choose from?”, says Averbeck as he chats about how the industry has been hard pressed towards becoming more eco friendly. “It’s almost like the white elephant in the room, people dancing around the subject of becoming eco-conscious. Some try to come up with solutions but the underlying problem still persists: How do you not run out of natural resources and still keep the consumer market interested in what you’re selling?” Substitutions have been put in place to help curtail the inevitable loss of once plentiful materials like certain species of woods or natural stone that is no longer quarried. Sure there’s products out on the market like bamboo to help with sustainable forestation and things made from medium density fiberboard (MDF), but this is only because consumer demand for “new” is outstripping our natural resources as it has been for decades. We’ve just learned to live with it. That doesn’t mean we’re headed for trouble yet, but we can be unless some innovative solutions are put into place and one of them, according to Averbeck, is the easiest to do: buy previously owned items that have been reconditioned to new again.
Inside Omforme is a realm of objects from restyled vintage furnishings to items made by select artisans. It’s done with a modern, up to date touch and it’s all locally sourced. It’s important to Averbeck that he keeps things as local as possible when working with vendors. “It’s the fastest way to grow a sustainable community where everyone can prosper.” says Carter. Tables made from reclaimed black walnut boast a modern organic touch by Nick Thompson while white ceramic cactus vessels are used for aromatic soy candles by local candle maker Cheryl Krejcarek of Idlewilde candles. There are blankets made from excess cashmere knitted fabric attained from the famed fashion house MISSONI, which sell for substantially lower prices than it’s new counterparts. “Buying recycled or reclaimed goods doesn’t have to mean you must resign and give up on luxury. You just have to be smarter in how to attain them” he states. The stigma of used furniture is slowly being lifted and Averbeck’s shop is a shining example of how it can be done.
Carter estimates he’s helped save close to 10,000 pounds of furniture from the landfill by restyling each piece for modern day interiors. True, these aren’t your everyday shabby chic transformations with many pieces boasting a more urban feel that doesn’t entirely eradicate vintage beginnings but enhances characteristics in a new format much like what a new hair style would do for an individual.
Reclaimed materials are utilized in innovative ways showcasing the beauty of what was originally intended for the scrap pile and yet at Omforme these materials take on a sophisticated appeal under the creative editing eye of Averbeck. Since opening the shop in it’s permanent location in August 2013, Carter has had a steady stream of customers coming in to experience the shop and even bring in their old heirlooms for an update to fit their current design style. “People are now excited to get that old chest or chair out of the basement and make something out of it that’s cool” says Carter, ” I’m thrilled that everyone from interior designers, architects and new customers are finding inspiration here and that it has become a go to place where the unique and possible can be obtained affordably.”
If you would like to know more; Omforme is open weekends and by appointment during the week. Please click on the “contact us” section for more information.