Strategically located among the design studios, art galleries and furniture stores in downtown Scottsdale, just east of Phoenix, Lightform Lighting caters to modern, high-end residential and commercial clients with a unique mix of inventory.
Owner Chad Rothe calls the showroom a “labor of love,” and its evolution appears to be just that. Rothe went to school for interior design, and interned and eventually worked for a small contemporary lighting showroom that became a high-end furniture and lighting store. After six years on that path, Rothe left and opened his own consulting business, which in 2002 morphed into Lightform Lighting, the first iteration of which was a 1,000-square-foot space.
“We outgrew the old space exponentially,” Rothe says. “We were just running on top of each other. So my accountant said, ‘OK, if you’re wanting to do a showroom, we can afford exactly double of our electric bill and our rent.’”
Rothe found a space in downtown Scottsdale — an area he calls “a mecca of designers and architects” — put up a wall to cut down on square footage and, consequently, rent, and built and welded all the desks and lighting displays himself.
The 3,000-square-foot Lightform Lighting showroom, which will be two years old this month, is now in a prime location to serve the area’s design community, though Rothe says the split is about 50/50 between architects and designers and homeowners shopping the showroom.
“We will design an entire home, an entire restaurant, or we will cater to selling one wall sconce for a powder bathroom, and anywhere in between,” he says. “We’re probably 30 percent commercial and 70 percent residential and residential is incredibly high-end.”
Lightform represents 100 to 150 manufacturers and the style is “modern, modern, modern, modern, modern,” according to Rothe. The showroom caters to a clean aesthetic, with artisan glass and ornate acrylics. It also carries pieces from more organic manufacturers who use natural materials like wood and bamboo.
“We work with a couple architects whose building style is concrete, glass and steel, so a real minimal approach on the lighting,” Rothe says. “There’s also a lot of modern farmhouses where we’re getting into some of the more soft wood tones and organic wood fixtures.”
The showroom is also interactive and educational, with a small-but-mighty 110-square-foot light lab. A Kelvin temperature box presents a range of lights from 2,220 Kelvin to 4,100 Kelvin. The ceiling grid has strategic recessed lights and track fixtures. There are color- and temperature-changing lights around the soffit, and a linear LED at a 10-degree beam angle accentuates the texture of the light lab’s back stone wall. On the day of our visit, Rothe was expecting a manufacturer to deliver a display showcasing their architectural elements, up lights, path lights, bullet lights and wall sconces.
Lightform has a staff of 11, which includes four lighting designers, three AutoCAD operators and a social media manager. The staff dives into their work head first, learning on the job by shadowing more experienced team members. They also attend Lightovation in Dallas every year to keep up with education and trends and to source new product.
Rothe says the last two years have been dedicated to nurturing and developing the new showroom, but he’d like to explore hosting luncheons and events in the space next year. As for what’s in store for the future of Lightform, Rothe says “just keeping a fresh unique approach to lighting, keeping our fixtures fresh, keeping our staff up to date on lighting trends, and keeping up with the times, and impeccable customer service and support.”
More than 30 years ago, brothers John and Aki Rahman moved to Phoenix from their home country of India and opened a wholesale rug importing business. Over the years, they added more furnishings categories and sourcing countries to their repertoire, and today the brothers own Indus Design Imports, a 50,000-square-foot wholesale warehouse chock full of one-of-a-kind pieces imported from around the world. That location has been a resource to designers and furniture retailers for decades, but in 2009, the brothers seized an opportunity to launch their own retail operation.
Keeping the Candles Lit
When the owner of Candle Gift and Factory Outlet, a handmade, hand-poured, hand-scented candle outlet dating back to the late 1980s, retired and sold the business, the Rahman brothers jumped at the opportunity to expand the wholesale business of Indus Design to include a retail component. They knew, however, that they had to keep the beloved candle operation intact.
“[The previous owner] was here for so many years, people grew up with those candles and remember going there as children,” says Gloria Schrilla, who manages Global Home. “That’s why it was such a lucrative business for the owner of Global Home to not let that die. It’s quite a business here. It’s very hard to come across hand-poured candles anymore.”
The result is a bustling retail operation with merchandise in the front and candlemaking equipment in the back — complete with the candle outlet’s resident candlemaker, who stayed on with the business after it was sold. Schrilla said customers travel from all over the Phoenix area and beyond specifically for the candles, and online orders still come in from customers who moved away.
Reuse and Recycle
John and Aki travel much of the year sourcing merchandise for the store, while Schrilla splits her time between the retail store and the wholesale warehouse, managing day-to-day operations of both.
The brothers grew up in India, so much of the merchandise comes from there, but other pieces from Indonesia, Hungary, China, Morocco and other parts of Africa also make their way to the store.
“What the owners will take pride in is that a lot of people in India recycle everything. Nothing gets thrown away,” Schrilla says. “Everything gets turned into something else and gets recycled, so they’re always looking for those kinds of items.”
The team at Global Home looks at everything that comes in and tries to give it new life.
“We do a lot of designing out of the showroom, where something comes in from India that he just thought was really cool and he didn’t know what it was going to become yet, but he just had to have it,” Schrilla says. “Then it comes to the showroom and we all kind of decide, ‘It could be this, it could be that,’ and then it turns into something else.”
Recently, floorboards from old Indian buildings became reclaimed wood tabletops, sitting atop metal bases fashioned in the warehouse. An Indian ox cart became a shelving unit. Baskets, water jugs, vases and birdcages became chandeliers and lamps. When we visited, an assortment of Hungarian wine jugs and other vessels were on display just outside the shop’s front door. Schrilla said John — the resident lighting expert — would eventually take those back to the warehouse to turn into lighting fixtures. (For more on how retailers can take advantage of one-of-a-kind items, see page 36.)
Shopping the Warehouse
Once a week, Schrilla, who is also responsible for the store’s merchandising, heads to the warehouse to search for things to refresh and restock Global Home’s inventory.
“Sometimes I’m not replacing the same item, and the one thing I find there changes the whole section of the store,” she says. “One piece there can inspire me to turn it completely upside down and start over.”
Although the furniture is all unique and one-of-a-kind, the reclaimed nature of most of it means there’s a lot of brown. Schrilla relies on pops of color from accessories and plants to brighten up the space, soften the wood tones and create distinct vignettes within the store.
While interior designers are “more than welcome to shop through Global Home and get a designer discount,” according to Schrilla, most opt to shop the warehouse. Seasoned local designers know Indus Design well, often bringing clients to the warehouse that has become something of a trade secret in the Phoenix area. But designers who are new to the area tend to find themselves in the retail store first.
“Generally if they are looking for a very specific piece that I don’t have in the store, then I will refer them to Indus Design or I’ll make an appointment with them and tour them through the whole warehouse,” Schrilla says. “It becomes a favorite spot because whatever you’re looking for is in that place. It’s incredible.”
Global Home, meanwhile, is a favorite spot of local customers looking for unique pieces for their homes. The store’s painted facade is inviting, as is the display of merchandise in the parking lot, visible from the street. And once a year Global Home and the neighboring antique store host an outdoor sale, bringing truckloads of merchandise from the warehouse to the shared parking lot for customers to peruse. With the combination of the packed warehouse and the owners’ affinity for travel and keen eyes for one-of-a-kind goods, there’s no shortage of product at Global Home and there’s no shortage of customers looking to scoop up their next unique find.