Published : Friday, October 9, 2015 | 12:03 PM
When the financial crisis hit, both David Brownlow and Yeu-Jye Chen found themselves laid off and not happy about it. The two had strong design backgrounds and together they thought they could really make the best out of their situation. So they put their heads together and decided the only way to do it was to jump in with both feet.
The pair started their company by working out of their homes and meeting up in the local coffee shop. Brownlow recalls; “We started quite hastily really and one of the bigger questions was—do we have enough relationship equity with the builders, developers, architects that we worked with over the years? Particularly as we were now outside the umbrella of the large companies were used to working for and on our own?”
“We had a few good supporters at the very beginning, four to five in particular that were really incredible for us and gave their endorsed despite knowing that we didn’t have a showroom,” Brownlow shares. They started out with samples in the trunk of their cars.
But Brownlow and Chen had noticed a shift in the industry, so the two persisted despite their struggles. Due to the financial crisis, everyone had been affected including the wealthy. Values had shifted and people were more conscience of what they were buying and who they were doing business. Although many were cutting prices, quality and in particular service they saw that they needed to do the opposite. They decided they would only work with high quality products to keep the design & craftsmanship high. In addition they would keep their overhead low so they could offer fair pricing and lastly double down on their service package so there was no doubt on who the customer would choose for their projects.
They also reached out to their contacts in Italy sparked new relationships and agreements and buying direct from those factories. They were a lean, mean, designing machine; “We were keeping overhead low but we were high in content.”
Brownlow knew; “Customers in this new economy demanded quality of product and service and would pay to have it”.
The company started picking up steam as they went, but it wasn’t until they landed a particularly challenging project that they had their real big break. Brownlow tells us, “We got this opportunity to work on a house in Beverly Hills that went on to break sales records. It was an amazing 11,000 square foot home of which we were asked to design and provide product for 28 in the rooms, including kitchen, bathrooms, closets, bars, libraries. “We actually closed the deal during a 5 hour meeting at a local deli….no showroom required” added Brownlow. It did however prove to be a true challenge for the pair.
They designed the kitchen, bathrooms and closets. They challenged themselves and achieved greatness. What happened next thrilled them.
“The project got a lot of press. Lots. It was on TV News & Entertainment shows, Magazines etc etc…..it was everywhere” Brownlow recalls. “We got a lot of exposure that way and somehow some of it trickled down,” he adds.
As though it was fate, Chen met with a friend during this time that clued him into a space the team could use for their first showroom. The team got to work, creating a bathroom display using fixtures from Italy and finally, they built their own office.
Before the team could event settle in, a space adjacent to their new offices opened up. “That’s when we started working with Molteni&C | Dada,” one of the worlds preeminent luxury furniture & kitchen companies, that are at the forefront of luxury Italian Design. They now have a Molteni &C | Dada flagship store in Old Pasadena that exclusively carries Molteni&C and Dada products, something few other designers can say.
“They came up with the concept, we loved it, tweaked it a little bit,” and that’s how their incredible “jewelbox” kitchen, closets & furniture showroom came to be. Trust us, you don’t know how cool these products are until you experience them first hand.
Now the team is on the verge of opening their newly remodeled adjacent spaces, featuring other great Italian companies such as Rimadesio (Doors & Furniture) & Antonio Lupi (Bathrooms) , with signage on its way and a grand opening date set. Their snowballing success has resulted in beautiful showrooms that you’ll want to wander through on lazy Sundays or when life is good and you want to treat yourself to the best.
But don’t expect Brownlow + Chen to slow down any time soon—the team has more interesting, incredible, unique projects in store that don’t stop with design.
Brownlow + Chen is located at 169 W. Green St., Pasadena. For more information, visit www.brownlowchen.com.