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Susan Dickenson

Retail Profile: Interior Illusions

Los Angeles

The Interior Illusions brand, curated by owner Michael Valles, marries high style with modern sensibility.

Since 2004, Southern Californians in search of sophisticated glamour have found it at Interior Illusions, recipient of last year's ARTS Award for Top Design Furniture Showroom in the Western United States.

From showrooms in West Hollywood, Palm Springs and Santa Monica, owner Michael Valles and his staff also provide interior design and staging services to a clientele of discerning homeowners, celebrities and executives. Recent commercial projects include partnering with the new W Hotel & Residences in Hollywood to design and merchandise a model penthouse unit.

Earlier this year, Valles extended his customer base into downtown Los Angeles with the opening of I Squared, a "design boutique with modern sensibility" geared toward the area's young, urban Angelenos. "I Squared gives consumers the opportunity to experience the luxury and style of Interior Illusions at an accessible price point," he said.

Valles also sees it as a retail void that needed to be filled. "Despite the influx of residential, food and nightlife establishments in downtown L.A., the area still lacks many of the trendy, exclusive retail options found in most Southern California neighborhoods."

Collections of multiple vendors are combined with custom furniture pieces at showrooms in West Hollywood, Palm Springs and Santa Monica.

A 1998 graduate of Cal State Fresno University, Valles worked as a financial consultant before opening a retail and design firm that today includes the I Squared boutique and Interior Illusions' 4,000-sq.-ft. store in Palm Springs, 6,000-sq.-ft. store in Santa Monica and 8,600-sq.-ft. store in West Hollywood. In 2008, when Interior Illusions was named to Home Accents Today's Retail Stars list, Valles estimated annual sales at between $3 million and $4.9 million.

Describe your store: Our operation is about 40% retail, 30% design and 30% custom furniture-design build. We create intimate vignettes and merchandising to give our customers an idea of how to set a room with our pieces. To display a collection, we combine textures and colors; we also layer pieces to give depth.

What makes you different? We are a lifestyle store, and we create a mood. We have branded ourselves as Interior Illusions. Even though we work with multiple vendors, we combine collections and cherry-pick them to create our own collections.

How's business? Retail has been off compared to previous years' numbers, so we're doing more outreach. We drive our business though design projects and staging to complement in-store sales.

About what percentage of your sales are home accents? 30%

What categories of home accents do you carry? Accent furniture, lamps, wall decor, decorative pillows, throws, permanent botanicals, tabletop, garden accessories, fragrance, decorative accessories

Trade shows/markets you shop: High Point, Las Vegas, New York gift show, ICFF

Do you see any trends emerging or remaining "hot" in home accents for your area? The trend that has been consistently hot for us is jewel tones, and silver and gold for accent pieces.

Describe your average customer: Middle-aged professional in the entertainment business, or high-level executives. We cater to a discerning clientele that likes to entertain.

How do you reach your customer? Direct mail, Facebook, Twitter, Constant Contact, Web site, store blog, tri-fold flyers, consumer and trade media via our PR firm, and co-branding on TV shows. We also host Emmy and Oscar gifting suites in our showrooms.

How do the gifting suites work? They're hosted at the West Hollywood showroom, but we stay open for regular business during the events. It really creates a buzz — the paparazzi, press and blog coverage, valet, and activity going on in and around the store. The PR tends to not really have anything to do with interior design, but it is good for overall branding and name recognition on the local level.

What's the best idea, event or change you've made recently in the way you operate or market your store? Teaming up with the W Hotel to design and install the model penthouse unit. This resulted in huge exposure, and we are already capturing business from the project.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job? Client satisfaction! I love working on design projects, doing the reveal with our clients, and assisting them with the transformation of their home or space.

Web site: interiorillusionshome.com



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