In the fall of 2017, after working as an interior designer for eight years, Lynn Makiej opened the retail store MAK & CO. with husband, John, in Andover, MA, one of Boston’s northern suburbs. The creative couple has used the space to welcome clients and showcase the furnishings and rare finds that Makiej often includes in her design work. “We like mixing new furniture with unique pieces that have a history and a story,” she explains. Simple, clean, inviting and warm rooms layered with accessories are her calling cards. “I mostly gravitate toward neutrals with pops of color or texture in small areas,” she adds.
Makiej believes the popularity of retail/design combo businesses shows that customers are coming back around to having a local experience. At MAK & CO., housed in the River Bend Mill, one of the area’s many restored mills, people can walk in and experience her work, not just see it in photography. “This helps our clients feel confident that we can make their space what they envision it to be…it’s a very inspiring space!” Makiej notes.
The couple first selected furniture lines when they opened the store. “From there,” Makiej says, “we found vendors for lighting, candles, European antiques, linens and dishware.” They even have men’s goods and a baby line. “Not everyone needs a sofa every day, so I also wanted to be the store where you could pick up a hostess, birthday or baby gift — or a little something new for your own home as well,” Makiej explains, noting that she chooses vendors that have the high-quality items she would want in her house. Grand beaded chandeliers, worn brown leather swivel chairs and classic velvet ottomans mix with cloches displaying petite botanicals, pillows with clever messages and sleek steel-legged marble coffee tables at the store, where the Makiejs hold evening events and welcome local artisans to sell their work.
Most MAK & CO. clients step inside for the store’s retail offerings, but about 30 percent seek design help. Offering both benefits everyone, Makiej says. Customers get to come in and enjoy the one-on-one experience of sitting with their designer and looking over fabric samples, accessories, lighting and rugs—often with a cup of coffee or glass of wine in hand. “Many people love something they see at the store but need help with how it will work in their home,” Makiej says. She enjoys helping clients find that sweet spot between their comfort zone and a little bit out of that comfort zone. With small-business customer service, MAK & CO. can offer clients a “test run” of items in their homes and provide a professional understanding of that critical concept in any interior design undertaking: scale. “We help people see what can really fit in their space,” Makiej says. “Many people order furniture that is the wrong size, especially if they order online.”
Another bonus of combining design and retail? Slow days don’t feel so slow. “The business has also been fantastic for the store,” Makiej says, “because having a constant flow of design work helps to boost slower sales days.”