Retail Designer Martin Roberts Passes Away

Roberts was a leading influence in guiding the home industry’s visual merchandising, branding and rebranding concepts.

Kimberley Wray
06/11/2020
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Martin Roberts

Martin Roberts, an internationally known designer at the forefront of the retail design industry and the president of Martin Roberts Design, LLC—an  award-winning team of retail consultants, architects, industrial, interior and graphic designers—died Friday, May 29, due to complications from surgery. 

A leading influence in guiding the home industry’s visual merchandising, branding and rebranding concepts, Roberts worked for many of the best-known independent retailers in the business, including Mathis Brothers, Miskelly Furniture, Morris Home Furnishings and Haverty’s, in addition to projects for manufacturers like Flexsteel, Harden, American Leather, Thomasville and Home Meridian International. Beyond the home business, his 50-year career was marked by transformational work for companies around the globe from Wal-Mart to Cartier. Indeed, he may be best known for creating the iconic look and feel of Barnes & Noble’s stores, as well as the popular Sheetz café-grocery-gas stations.

“Martin had a tremendously profound and positive impact on the businesses and lives of many of our members,” related Andrew Kauffman, chief executive of the buying group Furniture First. “His talent was limitless, but he was humble about it.  All he needed was a pen and something as small as a cocktail napkin and he could show you how to transform ‘an outhouse into a penthouse.’ One of Martin’s true gifts and strengths was that he ‘got’ furniture retail.  He not only looked at a project or situation through the eyes of the store owner, but through the eyes of the consumer.  He understood placement, flow, accessibility and, in my opinion, the most important factor: Creating ease and comfort for the customer shopping experience.”

Born in 1942 in England, Roberts earned degrees in industrial design engineering and design systems and went to work for Conran’s Habitat in London where he created collections of innovative furniture and household items. It wasn’t long before his work was available in more than 26 countries, a success he credited to working outward from the core to better interpret and identify a project’s essence. In 1990, Roberts founded GRID2 International, a specialized design firm that incorporated scientific methodology to inform and enrich design. He was a frequent lecturer and served as an adjunct professor at Parsons School of Design in New York, and his work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern art in New York. 

Roberts is survived by his wife Anne Roberts, daughter Emma Artz, sons Benjamin and Tony Roberts, and four grandchildren. Service details are not available at this time. 

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