Smile Politely

Furniture Lounge celebrates eleven years of business

Shockingly, my first visit to Furniture Lounge was for the following interview. As a recent college grad, I had assumed that Furniture Lounge was a store that merely resold fancy old Mad Men-esque furniture. Nope. Furniture Lounge isn’t just about Mid-Century Modern furniture; it also sells clothes, records, local jewelry, and local art. It happens to be pretty involved with the local community as well.

I sat down with the owners in their store on the eve of their eleventh anniversary after a quick tour about the shop, checking out some seriously awesome flamboyant clothing and a neat showroom display area at the back of the store (see picture gallery below). 

Smile Politely: How did you get to where you are today?

Amanda McWilliams: We wanted to open a general consignment furniture store and we ended up finding a  space we liked so much next door [IndiGo Gallery] that we decided we’d rather have cool space. So we decided to specialize in retro furniture, which actually was our passion, so it worked out great.

Scott Schaub: We were next door for seven years, and we were in Urbana next to Mirabelle for two years. It was a little different there, we just mainly did furniture.

McWilliams: Well I worked in the Art Mart since 1986, on and off. So their love of modern rubbed off on me, and my parents like it as well. And then I met him [Scott] and that just reiterated it.

Schaub: After failing miserably at college, I joined the military and I was stationed near Palm Springs, California. And so we would go there on the weekends, and just through osmosis I picked up on the style, the architecture, the art.

McWilliams: Palm Springs is the mecca of total, blow-your-mind Modern.

Schaub: So when I moved back home, I collected stuff that reminded me of there. And one thing led to another and I met Amanda and she wanted to open a store and just went from there. 

SP: Is Mid-Century Modern culture popular around here?

McWilliams: It’s definitely become more popular in the last two or three years in this area. 

Schaub: When we started, people would laugh at us when we’d buy stuff, and now they’re our competitors for finding items. But the culture, in the last six or seven years, it’s in every commercial you see — it’s modern design; it’s Mad Men. Now Bachelor Pad [a local radio show and also a magazine] has been around for about as long as we have.

SP: How do you find these particular items? 

Schaub: People bring things in. We buy estates from folks that are downsizing or if they’ve had a relative that’s passed away and are trying to combine households. We also do the mundane garage sale, flea market, thrift store, anywhere there’s potential of having something unique.

McWilliams: We go all over too — South Carolina.

Schaub: We take a trip down there at least once a year. Sometimes twice.

SP: What have been some exciting finds over the years?

McWilliams: You know, it’s always the cool thing until you find the next cool thing. A couple months ago, Scott found “The Lamp,” and now it’s kind of like ‘the lamp.’

Schaub: There’s always something out there that amazes us. The lamp that I found was used primarily in case study houses out in California for the Art and Architecture magazine; I can’t remember what the magazine was. Anyway, Jul[iu]s Shulman was a famous photographer who would take the shots in case study homes and he used these lamps in the backgrounds of a lot of them. The lamp was designed by some guy, I can’t remember what town in southern California, but he made them in his garage. The examples that were made out of his garage, I’m assuming, are no more than a thousand or more. Yet we managed to find one around here that had made its way all the way from California.

McWilliams: And it’s in great shape.

Schaub: It had been sitting in a rental property for five years before we found it. So the fact that it had managed to survive all that was pretty exciting.

SP: What did you sell in your first shop?

McWilliams: We were just furniture, hence the name Furniture Lounge. And so we had about forty pieces when we opened. Which, in an ideal world, I’d rather have less and showcase it versus having to appeal to anybody that just walks in.

That’s why we’ve tagged ourselves “Your one-stop retro shop.” But we also like to help locals out too. So we have three or four local artists. We have five local jewelry artists. And you know, we do Bachelor Pad [magazine]. Because we all have to help each other out. It’s nice that we can all cross-promote each other.

SP: What does a typical day for you look like?

Schaub: We box up things sold on the internet. We come into the shop and socialize with lots of regular customers. We love our customers. We’ve made great relationships with people and many of them have become our really good friends. Some people just come to hang out for a little bit and other people come just looking for stuff. Then we do deliveries, and we go look at stuff to purchase.

McWilliams: The bottom line is relationships. You can make all the money in the world and not have any fun. As far as being involved in the community, we donate to most causes, from Mike ‘n’ Molly’s Mustache Contest to Artists Against Aids, the Humane Society. We always try to help out local fundraisers and things though.

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In celebration of their 11th anniversary, Furniture Lounge will be hosting a sale of 25% off all in-store items (except for local jewelry), and 10% off all furniture pieces. You can find more information about Furniture Lounge on their website and Facebook page, or you can visit them at their store at 11 E. University Avenue, Champaign.

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